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What Is a Slit Trench Latrine and How to Make One

If you ever get lost deep in the woods and nature is calling, you may need to know how to dig a slit trench latrine. This type of latrine is not particularly wide or deep, which makes it handy for situations where you don’t have a lot of room.

Keep reading to learn more about how to create and use this variety of latrine.

Slit Trench Latrine

What Is a Slit Trench Latrine?

A slit trench latrine is a narrow latrine created for outdoor use, mainly in emergency or makeshift situations.

The slit trench is similar in its shape and size to another variety of latrine, the shallow trench latrine.

While it used to be relied on in the military as one of the more common latrine varieties, it’s no longer a latrine type that’s typically used.

How to Make One

There aren’t very many steps for creating a slit trench latrine, so making one isn’t an exceptionally difficult task.

The first step is deciding on a safe spot to start digging. Importantly, you should be sure to find a location that’s greater than 100 yards away from all water sources so that contamination isn’t a possibility.

Digging a Slit Trench

To begin digging your latrine, use any digging implement you can find. A shovel or trowel is probably ideal, but you can really use anything that will break the ground effectively.

Finally, make a rectangular shape in the ground no deeper than six inches. Once you’ve finished digging according to these dimensions, your slit trench is ready to go!

How to Use One

Just like most natural latrines, you can squat or straddle the trench with each of your legs to effectively use the slit trench.

If this position isn’t as doable or comfortable for you, you can also try leaning against a supporting material like a branch, a log or a plank. Just situate the support perpendicular to your body and make sure that it’s sturdy enough to support some of your body weight.

When to Make a Slit Trench

Historically used during combat for soldiers, the slit trench latrine was typically four feet long, two feet deep, and one foot wide.

However, there are some survival situations in which it may be helpful for you to build a slit trench in a slightly smaller form.

Survival Situation

Generally speaking, this type of latrine may be useful for you if you’re in the woods and need somewhere with a small surface area to defecate.

Specifically, it’s a good choice compared to other portable or natural latrine options if you don’t have a lot of space to dig a wide hole.

Dos and Don’ts

There are a few things to keep in mind when digging and using a slit trench latrine. Being mindful of these factors will ensure that you keep yourself safe and that you keep other people and wildlife who might encounter the trench safe as well.


  • Cover up your trench with loose soil after using it. Doing this will reduce the smell and may also decrease the chances of attracting bugs or of spreading disease to animals that could come into contact with the trench.
  • Dig it at least 100 yards away from any nearby water sources. As previously mentioned, creating your trench too close to a water supply introduces the possibility of contamination. This could make you and many other organisms sick from drinking that water!
Covering a Dirt Hole


  • Make the trench deeper than six inches. For the purposes that you need it, digging the latrine any deeper than that is unnecessary and could impact the soil negatively.
  • Dig the trench so wide that you can’t straddle it. This will make it impossible to use!
  • Place any materials in the latrine that might be harmful to the soil or other aspects of the environment. It’s best to stick to the latrine’s intended purpose so that it doesn’t cause more damage to the surrounding area than is absolutely necessary.

Learning How to Use the Slit Trench

Now that you know all the key information about how and when to use a slit trench latrine, you have the skills to be able to dig one in any emergency situation.

Want to find out more about other forms of hygiene and sanitation while out in the wilderness? Check out our Hygiene Sanitation page for more resources!