5 Ways to Manage Bathroom Waste in a Survival Situation

One of the least appealing factors to consider in a survival situation is how to deal with waste. If not properly handled the waste situation can lead to serious hygienic issues in your home or camp so it is worth being familiar with a few basic options as to how you can manage bathroom waste in a survival situation.

managing waste in survival situations

Today we are going to break down some easy ways to keep the human waste under control in your home, bunker, or camp that will require minimal setup and complexity.

Hygiene is a huge part of proper survival discipline and will absolutely improve the longevity and quality of life for you and your family.

I know that in the instances I’ve gone into the brush for periods of time I’ve learned just how quickly bathroom necessities can become a priority and just how many of us neglect to consider that factor until it’s too late.

1. Dig a Cat Hole

Taking a page from our feline friends here, this easy method of waste disposal just requires a little bit of labor and a basic hand tool or two.

You start by selecting an area that is at least 200-300 feet away from any water source and dig a hole that is at least 8”-10” deep.

You perform your necessaries over the hole and throw in any leaves or toilet paper you might have used then fill the hole in with the dirt nearby.

Factors to Keep in Mind:

  • Location, location, location. Keep these cat holes away from each other, away from water sources, and away from food storage. Placing cat holes in areas that receive plenty of sun will help to speed up the decomposition process.
  • Take into account the different light levels at different times and make sure to keep safety in mind when designing your camp flow. It is too easy to stumble and hurt yourself with holes in the ground with menial light after having just awoken to handle your business.
  • Do not slack on digging deep enough. The smell could attract pests and animals to your location. The hygiene risk is also present should you fail to dig the hole properly.

2. Compost Toilets

Non-electric compost toilets have grown in popularity among survivalists, preppers, environmentalists, and tiny home occupants due to the fact that they do not rely on being on the grid, are safe for the environment, and solve the problem of dealing with human waste.

Many of the higher end models will require zero water to process the waste and have an efficient design in order to use minimal space.

There is no denying that these units tend to be a bit pricier of a solution to dealing with human waste but that investment can eliminate a serious issue to contend with.

Factors to Keep in Mind:

  • Zero water or electricity required to use this toilet. Great for off-grid situations where resources might be scarce.
  • Maintaining these kinds of units will require a basic understanding of composting. Atmospheric conditions may affect the composting process depending on your climate so understanding how to deal with it makes a huge difference.
  • The price point for these kinds of products can be higher than other options for dealing with human waste in a survival situation. Consider this to be an investment in a long term solution.

3. Garbage Bag on a Toilet

This potential solution is one to consider if you are bunkered and hunkered in your home or a house but do not have water services active.

Very simple set up, you just fit a garbage into a toilet bowl to catch your waste and remove it afterward.

A big advantage of this method is that it is minimal and has a simplistic set up

which can easily be used by anyone.

Factors to Keep in Mind:

  • You will need a decent amount of garbage bags or grocery bags to maintain this process. Those might not be in abundance in a possible survival situation.
  • You can combat the stench to a degree by sprinkling some quick lime, ash, kitty litter, or saw dust over the waste.
  • It is recommended to remove as much water as possible from the bowl, use a thick garbage bag, and secure the garbage bag effectively by using tape or clamps as well as the toilet bowl itself.

4. Dig a Latrine

Latrines have been used to handle waste eliminations for people in the wild, survival situations, and wars for many years and serve well anywhere that does not have access to running water or modern amenities.

This waste solution for survival situations is another simple one like the cat hole but requires a higher degree of labor than the cat hole. You will need a shovel or shovels to dig a large rectangle for people to utilise in a similar fashion as the cat hole.

A proper latrine should be at least 2 ft wide, 3 ft long, and 3 ft wide and should also be placed far away from any medical resources, food storage, water sources, and sleeping quarters. Make the latrine even larger if you are preparing for a larger group of people.

 Factors to Keep in Mind:

  • You can custom build some basic amenities such as rough toilets, privacy screens or partitions, and basic sanitation measures.
  • Latrines that are not properly maintained can turn into health risks for your camp.
  • Highly labor intensive but simple to create. This is a great solution for dealing with the eliminations of multiple people in a survival situation.

5. Use a 5 Gallon Bucket

5 gallon bucket

I prefer to focus on the cheap and simple solutions for any problem when it comes to possible survival situations so the 5-gallon bucket method for dealing with waste is another reliable concept to keep in mind should the need arise.

Start by taking a 5-gallon bucket and place a bag into it to catch the waste. At a bare minimum, that is all that is required. You can also further customize this option by adding a toilet seat, setting a few pieces of wood down in a v-shape to simulate a toilet seat, or if you have a toilet seat you can just fasten it to the bucket as well.

You don’t have to worry about having running water, electricity, or location as much using this method as you do not risk any water sources.

Consider it to be a bit of a prepper’s badge of honor to have had to use a bucket at some point.

Factors to Keep in Mind:

  • There are bags made specifically for dealing with human waste but if you do not have them then you will have to use normal plastic bags or garbage bags.
  • You can mitigate the smell by using ash, kitty litter, quick lime, or sawdust as needed.
  • Keep in mind that you will be required to regularly deal with bags of waste as the capacity will be limited and that the bucket itself will require consistent sanitizing to maintain proper hygiene discipline in your location.

Waste Management Video

Here is an interesting video that dwells on this topic:


This topic is one of the least appealing conversations to have about preparation and possibly survival situations but it is also one of the most important factors to address in order to maintain the proper level of hygiene in your camp.

I know, we all prefer to have conversations about the best guns, blades, and tools for survival situations but it would truly be a shame to have all the best gear in the world but to have your people fall due to lack of proper health and sanitation protocols.

Proper preparation includes investing the time to understand all possible threats to you and your family and addressing them in advance. Even the ones that are not as exciting to deal with.

Written by Joseph and Noemi Gonzales

Joseph Bryant and Noemi Gonzales are a dynamic duo that share a passion for firearms, survival education and gear, martial arts, and adventure. These two also have experience with hunting, training with firearms, various forms of self-defense, and preparing for potential worse-case-scenarios and work hard to pass this knowledge on to their two daughters. Read this duo's full interview here. Read more of Joseph and Noemi's articles.