SHTF LATRINES: How to Poop when the water stops

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So once again this is not a subject that most people want to talk about, that being pooping.

Nowadays most people don’t give a second thought to their bowel movements other than simply finding the nearest gas station when you have a bad breakfast burrito.  We forget what a modern miracle this is, that within a few minutes in most places there is a place that will take your waste and flush it away out of sight.

Now many of you live in a city, or at least a semi-suburban sprawl with city water.  What would happen if that water got shut off? What would happen if the city could no longer supply that water, or it would be unpredictable, off for days?  Now certainly it would be a high priority in a collapse scenario for the government to provide the basics, that being electricity and water along with food, however we cant rely on them doing so.

Latrines are old tech, but necessary to keep human waste from becoming a massive threat to your survival.  In the coming weeks I will be publishing a post on a why hygiene and sanitation is so important, i will leave the in depth detail on this subject for then, that being said leaving human waste around is not just a smelly issue, but can and will kill you if you are not careful.

Here are different types of Latrines.



Dig a trench to these dimensions.

  • 1 Foot Wide
  • 2.5 Feet deep
  • 4 Feet Long

You can dig it as long as you want, but the concept is simple.  Place some boards across the edge to give the person some good footing.  As each person needs to use the bathroom have them go to the nearest edge and squat and use it.  Once they are finished cover that area with dirt and the next person will go right next to that spot in the trench, and so on.  leave a shovel at the trench for use in covering it up.  In Iraq we used this style of trench but cut out a hole in a lawn chair or wooden box (we used ammo crates), once you cover up the area with the excretion, move the box over the next open spot and leave it there.



This is more for the outhouse style of latrine, you can build whatever “Box” or “Privy” that you want to.  There are plans for a Privy in my Prepper Resources Page which you can copy or modify to your needs.

The Hole is dug to these specifications

  • 2 Feet Wide
  • 3.5-7.5 Feet Long (Depending on the size of the box)
  • 1 Foot Deep (1 Foot deep for each week of expected us Plus 1 foot of dirt cover, so 2 weeks would be 2 feet for use, 1 foot for  dirt cover, total 3 feet)

You will not want to dig this more than 6 feet due to caving in of the walls, so for long long term use, you will need to dig more holes and move it.



This is for use in areas when high ground water levels or a close to surface rock prevents you from digging a deep pit.

You will want to pile up a mound of earth with at least 6 feet wide and 12 feet long is formed and you can then place the latrine box/privy on top of that.



This can be used for the aforementioned rocky surfaces are present or if you live in a urban area.  You can build a privy or latrine box as normal, but leave an open space or build a door that allows access to underneath the seating area.  If located within a building, you should try to leave the door or access area open to the outside.  Place a pail underneath each (if applicable) seat and empty as needed

Dispose of the waste by burning or burying it.

If by burning you will want to dump it in a hole or a burn barrel and fill it with some diesel fuel, light it on fire and stir often to make sure it burns well.

If by digging, dig a pit and dump it in, covering with dirt carefully to keep from allowing any unexposed waste from attracting flies or exuding its natural smell.   If you have ample supplies of lime, toss that in to keep the smell down.


The main thing is to keep the waste from attracting flies that will end up giving you dysentary.  I can attest to the fact that this is not only a not fun experience, but could be deadly.  While i had it (overseas in Iraq) I passed out due to dehydration and had to be given three IV’s before I woke back up, it lasted weeks and I was using the bathroom about 14 times a day; i never took off my boots or pants because I was constantly going to the bathroom all day and night with about 30 seconds of lead time!  I wrote a post about Treating and preventing Cholera you should read, as the rehydration treatment is the same.



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