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These Are the Things We’d Retrieve from a Trailhead Toilet

People keep falling into outdoor latrines while rescuing lost phones. Our editors list the belongings they would fish out of an outdoor crapper—and which ones they’d leave behind.

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It’s the conundrum every hiker has contemplated in 2022.

 No, not whether you’d rather trek the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s whether you would ever, under any circumstances, climb into one of those disgusting trailhead toilets to retrieve a lost item. This question was first thrust upon us in April, when a woman fell into a pit toilet in Washington State while trying to recover her cell phone. The question popped up again last month, when Vice investigated an image circulating on Reddit of a man who appeared to be stuck in a concrete latrine. Most recently, outdoor podcaster and author Steven Rinella added an Instagram take, commenting on a photo of a woman climbing into the bowl of an outdoor privy. She too was chasing a phone, and Rinella, a former Outside contributor, opined that he would “absolutely” do the same thing.

 To find out what the employees at Outside Inc. are made of, we asked them straight up: Are there any items in your life that are worthy of such a nauseating recovery mission? And which belongings would you cut bait on and allow to disappear forever into the pit of horror?

Maren Larsen, Podcast Producer

I’M GOING IN

  • My best axe
  • The book I’m just getting to the good part of
  • My favorite houseplant (a five-foot fiddle-leaf fig named Figgy Stardust)

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • Freeze-dried backpacking dessert
  • Pit Vipers
  • The last roll of toilet paper

Frederick Dreier, Articles Editor, Outside 

I’M GOING IN

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • Car keys (I’d rather walk home)
  • My unread emails 
  • All the world’s supply of Coconut LaCroix 

Emma Veidt, Assistant Editor, Skills, Backpacker

I’M GOING IN

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

Adam Roy, Executive Editor, Backpacker

I’M GOING IN

  • Zpacks Duplex (look, those things aren’t cheap)
  • SPOT satellite messenger (how else will I call for help from inside the toilet I’m stuck in?)
  • My three-year-old son 

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • Jetboil (I’ll just cold soak my meals, thanks)
  • Bear spray (being inside a bear’s stomach > being inside a pit toilet)
  • Somebody else’s three-year-old son

Alison Osius, Senior Editor, Outside

GOING IN

  • Cell phone. (The editor of this listicle said I can’t say “cell phone” because it’s too obvious. Tough: my whole life is in there.)
  • Engagement ring. (It’s more than one hundred years old! Wedding ring: Eh, I could easily sneak in a substitute.)
  • Prescription eyeglasses. (Needed for night driving, especially when you’re speeding toward a shower after going into a trail toilet.)

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • Headlamp, even my cool new one
  • Nalgene bottle (they don’t grow on trees, but it’s close)
  • Watch (I never buy good ones anyway)

Christopher Keyes, Editorial Director, Outside Inc.

I’M GOING IN

  • My two non-teenage kids
  • World War II compass from my granddad
  • Baseball signed by Yaz

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • My one teenage kid (“Let’s see who’s so independent now.”)
  • Cell phone (The editor of this listicle said I can’t say “cell phone,” because it’s too obvious. Tough: I’m his boss.)
  • My overrated Chacos

Isabella Rosario, Assistant Editor, Outside 

I’M GOING IN

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

Andrew Weaver, Senior Business Editor, Outside Online

I’M GOING IN

  • Recently purchased engagement ring intended for S.O. at end of trail (though, after going into the latrine, chances of “yes” response may drop)
  • Volume of poetry written by me in late middle school (retrieval for security reasons only—cannot risk discovery by another human)
  • Cremation urn containing ashes of any immediate family member

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • Overpriced Ray-Ban sunglasses I swore I wouldn’t buy after losing last pair of overpriced Ray-Ban sunglasses
  • Tickets to friend’s upcoming community theater production
  • That one houseplant my partner won’t admit is dead

Sierra Shafer, Editor in Chief, SKI

I’M GOING IN

  • My dog, Auggie (when did I become this person?)
  • Anything that requires a trip to the DMV or Social Security office to replace
  • A framed copy of my first writing paycheck, for $30 (to remind me why I do this sh*t)

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • Granola bars
  • “Risk,” the board game 
  • My fantasy football team

Steve Potter, Digital Editor, Climbing

I’M GOING IN

  • My partner
  • Anything my partner drops in there and wants back
  • The threadbare Miguels Pizza sweatshirt I bought on my first climbing trip in 2004

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • My 401K, since there’s nothing much in there anyway
  • My mother’s mini-Australian shepherd, who, though cute, has decided my bed is a wee-wee pad
  • The next door neighbor who, though old and frail and nice enough on other subjects, staunchly refuses to turn their billion-lumen garage light off at night

Zoë Rom, Editor in Chief, Trail Runner

I’M GOING IN

  • My dog, Bowie
  • Whatever book I’m currently reading
  • My half-done New Yorker crossword puzzle

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

Alex Heard, Editorial Director, Outside

I’M GOING IN

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

  • Half-empty bottle of Evan Williams bourbon (if it’s full, I’m going in)
  • Ziploc bag containing my “good change” (roughly $15 of nickels, dimes, and quarters—no pennies!)
  • Slack merch

From 2022