DoC's advice for freedom campers: 'Make your own poo tube'

  • 24/01/2018

Open defecation is a widespread problem in developing countries, where it has significant public health effects. Every year, over 200,000 children in India die from serious diseases caused by faecal contamination.

It's become a growing problem here in New Zealand, due to the number of freedom campers using the countryside as a "giant toilet."

"Proper disposal of human waste is important. Leaving human waste in natural areas can result in contaminated water supplies and soils, and lead to diseases such as Giardia," the Department of Conservation (DoC) says.

"Human faeces carry harmful micro-organisms that easily contaminate water sources. Cold climate areas in particular slow the decomposition process and accentuate the problems of human waste accumulation."

Visitors are using the area's wilderness "as a giant toilet" with faeces and toilet paper found scattered around several reserves, Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult says.

Locals were becoming furious at coming across faeces in reserve areas and didn't want to take their families there anymore.

And last year a French freedom camper was videoed doing her business outside a Dunedin business.

Fortunately, DoC has advice on what to do when you're caught short without a public toilet.

DoC's guide to disposing of human waste where no toilets are provided:

Make your own poo tube

"Go to a plumbing or hardware shop for large diameter PVC pipe and ends. Attach screw caps to each end.  Glue one end shut and tape on some webbing for easy carrying," DoC advises.

"Use paper or other biodegradable material to wrap waste before depositing in tube. Your tube will be durable and reusable."

DoC instructs people to use the 'fish and chip' method by depositing waste onto paper or in a biodegradable cornstarch bag then rolling it up (like 'fish and chips') and place it carefully in the tube.

Buy a poo pot

"Basic poo pots are available from some DoC visitor centres," it says.

"Each pot comes with cornstarch bag liners, hand sanitizer and instructions for use. Lids can sometimes come off so you may want to carry it inside plastic bags in case this happens."

Dig a poo hole

"Dig a shallow hole for human waste; but not just any hole, anywhere. Choose an appropriate place to dig the hole," DoC advises.

  • Hide your hole. Keep human waste well away from waterways. Dig shallow holes at least 50m from water, tracks and campsites. Select a site where other people are not likely to walk or camp, such as next to thick undergrowth or near fallen timber
  • Dig a sunny hole. If possible, dig your hole where it will receive plenty of sunlight as the heat helps decomposition
  • Disguise your hole. After depositing your solid human waste, don't forget to cover it with leaf litter or other natural materials
  • Share your hole with friends. If camping with a large group, agree on a single toilet place and dig a hole deep enough for the group for the length of your stay

Toilet paper

  • If you have to use paper, use only plain, unbleached, non-perfumed types
  • Use toilet paper sparingly
  • Do not burn toilet paper, as this can result in wildfires. Bury paper in your shallow hole or carry it out with you in a plastic bag
  • Try using natural materials such as bark or leaf vegetation (non-prickly!) or snow instead. Natural 'toilet paper' is as sanitary as processed toilet paper and blends back easily into the environment