Off-grid living, well that’s the considered luxurious life for us split-shift preppers, and for a good reason too! We don’t even need to begin to go into the great details here, they are absolute givens this day in age. In our darkest closets and crevices of our psyche, a few of us may even semi-hope for a grid-failure (though that thought will dissipate quite rapidly once you put together that many, many human beings would be fated with doom were any such thing to happen at this very moment in time…). Today we will discuss about waste disposal and latrine building.
Onto less morbid things, though just as serious and somewhat problematic. Deciding (or by no choice of yours) to live off the grid comes with its dilemmas and predicaments, such as sanitation or hunting for food. One major thought that comes into mind is that of human waste management. At first a seemingly daunting, let alone smelly task that can actually be pretty uncomplicated with the proper prepping.
Once you are in the great “out there”, you will be completely detached from the city or town sewage system; goodbye seemingly-endless showers and sure-fire flushes (unless you had Taco Bell, nope, that may not flush; thank goodness you’re new off-the-grid diet is kicking it!).
Probably the last thought on your mind, but not something you’ll want to disregard for long, not that you could for long, ha. Nature is nature. This discussion is not only for those who choose to live off the grid, but also for anyone prepping for a human-caused grid failure.
Once set up and maintained, off-grid waste management becomes a thing of second nature.
Logically, the first place to start with will be:
Believe it or not, this is the fun part! Especially if you tend to enjoy a good, fun project and building with your own two hands. From extremely temporary and mobile privies to fully stationary latrines with moon-shaped cutouts for natural lighting, there are several options when it comes to hooking up your camp/home base with totally workable self-sewage setups.
A plastic, five-gallon bucket will do you great wonders on a fishing/hunting trip, camping trip, or grid-down emergency. To maximize the comfort of the Five Gallon Throne, a simple remedy came into existence a few years ago. Take a pool float noodle (that’s right, the one you can blow water through and use as the uncomparable water gun!), cut it to fit the circle that makes up the top of the bucket, then cut a straight line down one side, into the center opening. Now simply slide it over the rim of the barrel, and there you have it. One sits on that bad boy, and you’ll never squat on a camping trip again.
You can cut the bottom out, and place it over holes that you dig, with intentions of burying it, or you can line it with heavy duty bags and change it out periodically. While either way is not necessarily better than the other, it is extremely important to be wary of how and where you bury the “contents”. You definitely do not want to bury them near your water source or your main camp where the most cooking and resting occur.
The Old-Fashioned Outhouse:
Also known as a pit latrine (which sounds way cool), an outhouse is basically a deep hole with a floor slab over it, with a circular hole cut out for a squat or seated toilet and a shelter around it.
There are, of course, a handful of “safety” measures to follow while using/attempting to build a latrine… First of all, never dig a latrine uphill from any water source. At a minimum, a latrine should be two yards above the water table; and that includes the flood table as well. It should be at least fifty yards away from the water source. The outhouse and latrine hole should be sealed off when not in use. At minimum, the pit should be dug to five feet, with a width of around four feet.
Consider the fact that this thing will be used day and night, winter and summer, therefore the elements will play a major role in your “comfort”. Try not to build the latrine pit too far from the living quarters, if you can help it.
One important factor to bear in mind, for you smokers, is the fact that while human waste is breaking down, it is yielding an explosive gas (and you thought it was bad when it came out!); this gas is called methane. Yes, it will explode!
While lime, hay, peat moss and a few other organic materials can help reduce the smell and the flies produced by the latrine pit, never attempt to clear up the smell by dumping household cleaning chemicals into the abyss. This will quickly cause a chemical reaction, and you definitely do not want to find out what all that entails.
Also known as a composting toilet, a dry toilet is not the same as an outhouse. A composting toilet is the best way to take waste and turn it into an asset. A humanure toilet will take your waste, dry materials (such as sawdust, leaves, or wood ash), and composts it with straw at great heat to kill off any pathogens.
The assembly of a compost toilet can be as simple as balancing a toilet seat over a five-gallon bucket or handcrafting a wonderful piece of wood worked art.
Using a humanure toilet is just as easy as any toilet you have ever flushed. Be sure that there is a few inches of cover material (sawdust works the best) in the bucket. Rather than flushing(gallon upon gallon down the drain), simply cover all the waste with ample amounts of the cover material. Wood ashes, crushed leaves and peat moss will all work just fine as a cover material.
When the bucket is full, simply take it out to your outdoor compost bin. While building up your compost in the outdoor bin, be sure to use a good amount of straw (this will help you to keep your carbon/nitrogen levels in check). Allow the compost to cure for a year; and if you plan on using the compost on your garden or any sort of edibles, make sure that, for at least a whole week, it reaches a temperature of 122 degrees. This is to ensure that any potential pathogens will be destroyed.
Related reading: Survival Sanitation And How To Deal With It
Another cool fact about a composting toilet is the fact that the use of toilet paper (if that is an available option) can actually be extremely good for the entire process! It will help offset the liquids and speed up the composting process.
Ah, I have forgotten one thing, and surely you are stricken with dread and dismay at the very thought already: The Smell… Well, have no fear, for I can personally assure you that, so long as you use the right cover materials, the smell simply doesn’t exist. You’re bathroom, nor any other part of the house will smell like human waste. Keep in mind, too many liquids in the mix will begin to cause curious smells to arise!
Keeping It All Clean:
Toilet paper?? Splinterless toilet paper? Yes, that is what they would have claimed to you had you asked about this “paper” before the turn of 1800’s. The fact that toilet paper wasn’t really popularized until (semi) recent years should be of some comfort to you. This means that for an unfathomable amount of time before, there were obviously other wiping proficiencies.
The ancient Romans used sea sponges, while ancient Americans used animal pelts. Early American pioneers used newspapers and catalogs as well as corn cobs (just imagine that for a moment).
One of the best ways to wipe, is to collect green sagebrush, store it in an airtight container to soften it, and leave it by the toilet. A plus to this technique is the unique and sweet smell of the sage as well as its natural oil-like content. Moss is another natural remedy, though that may well be considered truly roughing it.
Using square cut outs of cloth will also do the trick. Sure, it will require a few extra steps and some time to keep that technique up, it is almost always worth the soft, smooth and gentle way it leaves your rump clean. At times it can feel more comfortable than a big fat roll of Charmin. Using a mini spray bottle in conjunction with a cloth square will surely give you the comforting feel of a French Suite restroom equipped with a bidet! Between the comfort and the saving of money, you may just never want to go back to crummy old toilet paper again!
The best thing about an off-grid setup with your toilet is the fact that you will be helping the world out by being less of an impact on the environment. No more wasting gallon upon gallon of water (I know you have seen those tear-jerking commercials of parched people of other countries), no more impacting nature by use of municipal sewage usage, among many other cutbacks.
We leave a sort of metaphorical footprint behind with every decision, choice and action we make. It is the ecological impression that we each make upon the natural world, be it for good or ill will.
Leaving behind the old way of the toilet, and picking up an even older methodology for latrine use, we can drastically reduce our environmental impression on our beautiful world (not to mention, by use of humanure, give back to the very thing that sustains us to begin with!).
I’m signing off (time to wipe! with sage leaves, of course!), stay sharp preppers!
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.