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What Is a Straddle Trench Latrine? How to Make and Use a Straddle Trench Latrine

When you’re in a survival situation, you must consider how to dispose of everyday waste. This means more than just food scraps and packaging.

To maintain a safe and hygienic survival camp, you must deal with human excrement. A trench latrine can help you sanitarily dispose of excreta.

Continue reading to learn when and how to construct a straddle trench latrine for survival purposes.

Straddle Trench Latrine

What Is a Straddle Trench Latrine?

A straddle trench latrine is a trench latrine that’s narrow enough to straddle and squat over.

Straddle trench latrines are especially useful in survival situations where multiple people need to share a restroom. The long and narrow design facilitates the ability to designate a spot for each person.

This style of latrine is not especially deep, so consider a different approach if you plan to stay in one place for more than a few weeks. The shallowness also makes it suitable for use in areas where the water table is deeper than five feet below the surface.

When to Use Straddle Trench Latrines

Properly planning your survival camp layout is key to preventing illness and injury. Sanitary waste disposal and building the correct latrine prevent cross-contamination, leading to life-threatening diseases like cholera, dysentery, and parasites.

Straddle trench latrines are suitable for use in soil that is neither rocky nor frozen. They should never be used in high water table areas where groundwater is near the surface.

Preparing for a Straddle Trench Latrine

Before you start digging your straddle trench latrine, select a spot that is distant from your primary camp. It should be around 200 feet away from any water sources, food, and sleeping areas.

How to Build a Straddle Trench Latrine

Digging a straddle trench latrine is straightforward and can be accomplished in an afternoon. To get started, follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Choose the Location

Before digging, you must locate an appropriate place for your latrine. It must be at least 200 feet from any water source or food storage area.

Once you select a suitable spot, ensure it is reasonably flat, so you won’t lose your footing. Clear away brush and leaves and level the area if needed.

Step 2: Dig the Trench

Use a survival shovel or paddle to excavate the trench. A straddle trench latrine should be about a foot wide or comfortable enough to straddle while crouching.

The measurements don’t need to be precise, just ensure it is at least one foot deep and allow four feet in length for each user.

Straddle Trench Latrine

Pile the excavated soil on either end of the trench so you can easily cover the excreta after each use. A one-inch layer of packed soil will minimize odor and prevent flies from spreading fecal-borne diseases to other areas of your camp.

Step 3: Add Optional Features

You have a useable straddle trench latrine at this point, but it might be uncomfortable. There are simple ways to spruce up the toilet to make it a more pleasant experience when nature calls.

The most basic addition you should add is reinforced footing. Lay flat boards along either side of the trench to improve traction and stability when squatting.

Do you have older adults at an increased risk of falling in your survival party? If so, construct simple handrails to improve safety.

There are two primary handrail styles. The first is a simple rope or pole parallel to the latrine about waist-high. Another option is individual lap-bar supports that cross the trench perpendicularly.

A toilet paper roll holder is easy to make with a stick and an empty tin can. Drive the stake into the ground next to the latrine, add your toilet paper roll, and cover it with an empty can to keep it dry.

Safely Using Straddle Trench Latrines

A straddle trench latrine can be reasonably comfortable, depending on which features you add. Still, you should be careful when using an open toilet to avoid embarrassing falls that might leave you ill.

Ensure you have sturdy footing and squat down over the trench with one foot on either side. If you installed a simple handrail or rope, grab onto it while doing your business to prevent slipping and falling.

Once you are finished, cover the excreta with a layer of soil at least an inch thick. To make this easy, leave a paddle or shovel in the pile of dirt you excavated to build the straddle trench latrine.

Shoveling Dirt

What happens when the straddle trench latrine is full? If you need to build an additional toilet, ensure you space it at least two feet away from the old one. Consider placing stones over the filled latrine, so you don’t accidentally dig there!

Complete Guide to the Straddle Trench Latrine

Now you know how and when to construct and use a straddle trench latrine. Explore our Hygiene Sanitation page to learn more about the importance of survival hygiene.