How To Groove: The Poo, What, Where, Why, How


“It’s my firmly held belief that, if I am pooping outside, I am having an incredible day… or something has gone terribly wrong.” – Henry David Thoreau (probably)

The Groover: A Tur(d)gid History
Humans have been pooping for hundreds of years, but it has recently become more and more common for people to dookie indoors—door locked, fan on, phone in hand. We have forgotten how to deuce outside in the glorious light of day with our eyes open wide, scanning for predators and watching for inclement weather.

In the early days of multiday private rafting, the number of participants grew quickly. It became apparent that the biggest stressor on the natural environment from these trips was human waste. Therefore, in the early 1970s, river runners were required to adopt the practice of “pack it in, pack it out” in most remote river corridors.

There was a lack of dedicated equipment catering to rafters at the time. Most rafting gear was repurposed from military surplus stores, including the beloved rocket box (the big brother of the ammo can). These boxes had several features attractive to river runners. They were watertight, rigid, stacked efficiently together, and had strong attachment points to fasten them securely to raft frames. They kept gear dry and kept delicate foodstuffs from being crushed.

It made sense that rafters turned to rocket boxes when they were tasked with tanking their torpedoes. In the early days, people would simply sit down on the narrow edges of these rocket boxes to debulk. It would leave grooves on the length of their backside. This is where we get the name “the groover!”

Since the time of our forebearers’ Spartan struggles, groovers have become more comfortable and specialized. By following proper practices and setup guidelines, you can ensure that you and your crew experience heavenly heaves and transcendental tailings that you could never obtain on even the most pristine indoor porcelain perch.

The Necessary Items to Groove

Groover | You are going to need a groover. There are several different options available, but they all serve the same purpose: BMs in buckets. Make sure you get a system that meets BLM, NPS and USFS requirements. Most tanks accommodate 50-60 uses. Before you leave on your trip, do the math. If you think you need multiple tanks, take them. Never round down your estimation or problems will mound up.

Most modern groover systems have a relief valve. Make sure yours does as well. Hot days and expanding volatile gasses can equal a real mess. We’ve all heard the stories of excrement explosions. Don’t become a stinky statistic lost to the annals of river lore.

Lastly, clearly mark your groover as the groover and designate one raft as the groover mobile. This will eliminate an accidental ammo can swap—I’ll leave that scenario to the imagination.

Pee Bucket | Don’t pee in the groover! Pee is heavy, sloshy and can take up valuable space in the limited capacity of the groover. Always make sure pee ends up in the river. Dilution is the solution for pollution. Place a “pee bucket” (with a toilet seat) next to the groover with some fresh water in it to start. Pee buckets are extremely convenient for people with limited mobility, those who don’t want to get wet every time they leak, or nighttime users who don’t want to risk falling in the river.

Always use the pee bucket before you dump a stump into the groover. You may think you don’t have to pee, but you do, and you will. Again, don’t pee in the groover! After using the Pee Bucket, make sure you place your used toilet paper into the groover. Every morning, simply wash out the contents of the pee bucket in the river. It’s that easy. One last thing… Don’t plant pods in the pee bucket! You may think this is common sense. Personal experience has taught me otherwise.

Toilet Paper | Bring more than you think you’ll need. Keep it dry.

Hand Sanitizer | Have enough on-hand for one use per visit to the groover and/or pee bucket.

The Key | Put a bottle of hand sanitizer and a roll of toilet paper in a waterproof container (Ziploc bag, ammo can, Pelican case, etc). This will be the “key.” Place the key next to your main handwashing station in camp. Take the key with you every time you use the groover. You know what to do with the toilet paper. Use the hand sanitizer as an initial hygiene step before you pick up the key and take it back to the handwashing station so you can thoroughly clean up. The absence of the key beside the handwashing station will let anyone know that the groover is occupied.

Handwashing Station | Absolutely invest in a handwashing station. Norovirus and E-Coli are just waiting to ruin your good time. Don’t give them a chance. Implement rock-solid hygiene principles for your whole crew. As adults, we all learned how to wash our hands in 2020. If you don’t know how to wash your hands, find an adult. They will teach you.

A foot pump handwashing setup works best. A couple of stackable buckets and biodegradable soap complete the station. However, just because a soap claims to be biodegradable doesn’t mean you just toss it in the river. Check your local regulations for proper disposal of your gray water.

If you really want to take it up a notch, heat up some water to put in the handwashing station. This is an incredible luxury on cold early spring days or chilly mornings. As a bonus, it’s an extra incentive for everyone to wash their hands for just a few more seconds.

Groover Library | You may think this is a superfluous item, but by that logic, why bring toilet paper? Couldn’t you just use leaves, grass, or a handful of sand? What separates humans from the brutality of nature? It’s the ability to comfort ourselves in trying times with the words of those who have come before us. And what time is more trying than trying to tear one off into a glorified bucket? I recommend curating your own groover library in a small ammo can. Local, river-specific history books are always a great place to start.

WAG Bags | Sometimes you need to log an entry outside of normal business hours. When the groover is loaded in the raft underneath a pile of gear, bake a brownie in a baggie! Follow the clear directions on the WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gelling) bag, but make sure you read the instructions ahead of time. Don’t wait until you’re in a hurry.

The Three P’s
Now that it’s clear what is necessary for a complete groover setup, where do you put it? Luckily, you only need to remember the three P’s when it comes time to place your potty: Proximity to camp, Panoramic views, and Privacy.

Proximity to Camp | Proximity is the first “P” that needs to be considered. The groover should be far enough from camp that its use is only a sensory experience for one. Yet it should be close to enough camp, and the trail easy enough to traverse that anyone in your group can access it day or night. Consider placing small solar lights at cruxes along the path for nighttime convenience. Lights also ward away “Ghost Groovers.” Legend tells of mysterious creatures, who, having no groovers of their own, sneak into camp under the cover of darkness to unburden themselves.

Panoramic Views | Breathtaking scenery while completing mundane tasks makes the experience like none other! Take it all in as you let it all go. Why do we visit these beautiful places if not to enjoy them? Don’t limit your enjoyment by hiding the groover in a cluster of bushes.

Privacy | Someone wise once said, “You can’t get a lot of privacy out here, but you can give it to others.” If everyone operates under this mantra, you’ll never have to worry. A simple averted eye can provide others functional invisibility in the wild.

Strategic placement of the groover beside a bush or a boulder, combined with utilizing the Key, can ensure that no one is accidentally spooked while squatting. There will be the occasional raft floating by, but if you have ample views upriver, you can prepare yourself with plenty of time.

Sometimes there are no private places anywhere near camp. This is when you can practice GIVING privacy and/or get creative.

  • Don’t look at it!
  • Drape a sarong or towel over your lap to preserve your dignity.
  • Stack dry boxes or dry bags in between camp and the groover.
  • Erect two oars and set up an NRS strap clothesline. Hang sleeping bags or towels as visual barriers.
  • Purchase a portable privacy shelter if you want a sure-fire path to ultimate seclusion.

Go Forth and Groove!
Follow these guidelines and you’ll not only survive the experience of cutting rope outdoors, but you’ll thrive on the throne. If you do all these things and you STILL can’t manage to make a deposit after a six-day trip… take a pregnancy test when you get home because you may be expecting a child in eight to nine months. I’m not saying it happened, but it definitely happened.


Guest contributor Neal Wassmuth grew up scampering around boathouses and idolizing river guides in Idaho County, which contains 2.2 million acres of designated wilderness, dozens of bucket list paddling destinations, and exactly one stoplight. He is now planting roots in Moscow, ID with his wife and baby girl.