Despite years of recommending something other than a trowel for digging a cathole, NHTM has recently discovered that long time hiker and advice-giver Jim “Stank” Brandley has never actually dug a proper cathole.
|A selection of items with which Stank has definitely not dug an actual cathole.|
“Honestly, when I first started backpacking — and not carrying a trowel — I genuinely tried to dig catholes,” explains Brandley. “I’d try digging with my heel or a rock or a spoon or a stick or what have you. But I discovered that the amount of time between when my brain told me ‘you have to poop’ and poop actively coming out of me was way too short for me to dig a real hole with a stick. I started having to carry, like, five pairs of pants. Which more than offset the weight savings of not carrying a trowel.”
Instead, Stank settled on the compromise of telling people he digs catholes. “I discovered it’s way easier to just tell people you dig catholes than to dig a 6-8 inch deep hole with the heel of your shoe. I mean, six to eight inches deep? With the heel of my shoe? C’mon man. I’m wearing ALTRAS. They don’t really even have a heel.”
John Gordon, a trail maintainer in an area of the AT where Stank regularly backpacks, confirms his behavior. “If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘character is what you do when no one’s watching,’ then Stank’s character is ‘Drop Your Pants And Poop On The Ground.’ And then maybe cover it with some leaves.”
|Hikers who are concerned about trowel weight might want to think of|
a trowel as dual use item. Of note: Stank doesn't claim to eat food
with a tent stake or a stick. "That would be ludicrous."
Stank insists that despite never digging a cathole, what he does works just fine.
“I’ll, you know, scrape at the ground for a few seconds before I drop trou. Maybe make, like, a two inch deep divot. And then when I’m done I definitely cover it with a rock or something.”
(Gordon: “Yeah, he definitely does that.”)
“And I’m always considerate enough to be far enough away from the trail that no one will ever come across it.”
(Gordon: “I wouldn’t describe any of the poop rocks I’ve picked up while maintaining as ‘far enough away,’ but that’s just me.”)
Why not just carry a trowel? Stank explains.
“Listen, a Deuce of Spades weighs 0.6 of an ounce. 0.6 of an ounce! Do you know how heavy that is? I know you’re going to say it’s not very heavy at all. And it’s not. But when you consider that I’m never going to use it? It’s excess weight. It makes a lot more sense to claim I’m digging catholes with a tent stake I’m already carrying if I’m not going to dig a cathole anyway.”
Brandley went on to add that he also doesn’t carry soap or sanitizer and then stuck his hand in our bag of M&Ms.
So what’s next for Stank? Brandley recently bought hiking poles for use on his backpacking trips, and he’s excited. “I think they’ll really help take pressure off my knees, help me maintain a rhythm, and aid in balance on a lot of the uneven parts of the trail. Who knows? I may get one of those tents that uses hiking poles too. But mostly they’re another thing I can claim I dig catholes with, even though I think we both know that’s never gonna happen.”
Note: As always, thank you to my friends for letting me steal their names for articles. Especially Jim, whose trail name is not "Stank" and who definitely doesn't just crap on the ground.