How to Choose a Camping Trowel

Ultralight camping trowel on the ground

In this post, we'll take a look at:

In your hiking journey, the camp bathroom isn’t about bricks and tiles but a space where you answer nature’s call responsibly.

The essential tools for this wilderness etiquette are camping trowels – unassuming yet crucial.

From choosing the right one to using it in harmony with nature, let’s dive into the world of camping trowels and the outdoor bathroom experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Prioritize durability, weight, bright colors, and digging capability based on expected terrain and soil types.
  • Optimal length is around 6 inches to dig effective catholes for waste disposal. Consider ergonomic handles.
  • Care for your trowel by cleaning and sanitizing after each use to maintain function and prevent bacteria spread.

The Basics of Camping Trowels

A camping trowel is a small, handheld tool made for digging small holes, like catholes in the ground. These holes are crucial outdoors—they’re used to responsibly bury human waste, food scraps, and other biodegradable materials.

Ideally, proper catholes should reach a depth of at least 6 inches, coincidentally matching the typical length of most camping trowels, making them the perfect tool for measuring and creating an appropriate hole.

How to Choose a Camping Trowel

Close-up of an ultralight camping trowel in the ground

Selecting the right camping trowel is a critical decision for any outdoor enthusiast. In this chapter, we’ll delve into the key factors to consider when choosing a trowel.

  1. Price vs. Quality: Camping trowels come in a range of prices, from budget-friendly options to high-end models. It’s essential to strike a balance between affordability and quality. While it’s tempting to opt for the cheapest option, investing in a durable trowel can save you money in the long run.
  2. Weight Considerations: Find a trowel that balances weight and function, enabling efficient packing without sacrificing performance. Check out our TOP 5 Guide on the lightest trowels on the planet.
  3. Bright Colors: Opt for shades like vibrant orange, yellow, or even neon green. These colors stand out against natural backgrounds, making it less likely for you to misplace or leave behind your trowel.
  4. Evaluating Digging Edge and Soil Compatibility: A quality Leave No Trace trowel needs to be versatile enough to handle different soil types. It should be capable of digging through dense root networks, hard-packed soil, and even mud. Look for a trowel with a durable edge that can bust through tough conditions and lever out rocks when needed.
  5. Optimal Length and Handle Design: For an ideal Leave No Trace cathole, dig 6-8 inches deep using a trowel with a long handle and blade. Prioritize your comfort and ergonomics; choose a trowel with a specially designed handle for a secure grip and reduced hand and wrist strain.

How to Take Care of Your Camping Trowel

Trowels are straightforward tools. By caring for your camping trowel, you actively help preserve the wilderness and promote responsible outdoor practices.

So make sure to clean your trowel: after each use, it’s crucial to clean and sanitize your camping trowel. This not only helps maintain its function but also prevents the spread of harmful bacteria in the wilderness. Use water and a brush to remove dirt, soil, and any remnants of waste.

For better hygiene, think about using biodegradable soap. When cleaning your trowel, make sure to rinse it thoroughly, leaving no soap residue. As ultralight backpackers, we might not always carry soap, but we wash our tools periodically, especially when at well-equipped campsites.


In the wild, your camp bathroom plays a crucial role in responsible hiking, with the unsung hero being the camping trowel.

We’ve covered its basics and essential selection criteria. Your choice matters, influencing your ability to practice Leave No Trace principles.

Remember, responsible camping extends to caring for your tools, including your trowel. By safeguarding it, you actively contribute to preserving the wilderness and promoting responsible outdoor habits.

Interested? You can also check out our TOP 5 Guide for the lightest camping trowels on the market.


Do you bury toilet paper when camping?

Yes, while camping, it’s recommended to bury toilet paper along with your waste. This should be done in a cathole, dug to the recommended depth of at least 6-8 inches, to ensure proper decomposition and adhere to Leave No Trace principles.

Do you need a trowel for hiking?

Yes, carrying a trowel while hiking is highly advisable. A hiking trowel is a versatile tool that plays a crucial role in Leave No Trace ethics. It’s used to dig proper catholes for responsible waste disposal, ensuring minimal environmental impact. Investing in a quality hiking trowel is not only environmentally responsible but also ensures that you can follow ethical outdoor practices while enjoying the wilderness.

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At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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