Unlike bears, hikers have a choice in where to poop in the woods. The preferred method is the privy. Most shelters along the AT have this option. Typically they are 3 sided affairs built a few hundred feet from the shelter in the opposite direction of the water source. Most have a roof. All are very basic in nature: a crapper on a wooden platform placed over a pit. The views while sitting can be boring to quite spectacular. Bring your own toilet paper. When done, place a handful of leaves in the crapper to assist in the moldering process. Oh, and don’t pee in the privy because it inhibits the decomposition process (this takes some getting used to. Try it at home).
The other option is to poop in the woods like a bear. Dig a 6″ deep cat hole, squat, do your business, and cover when done. A tree or fallen limb can act as a backrest in some instances. This takes some practice but can be deeply satisfying.
Shelter sites without a privy have a designated waste field. Even early in the hiking season, improperly dug cat holes and loose toilet paper dominate these areas. Disgusting. I won’t eat/sleep/drink water near any of these shelters. In 2013, there was an outbreak of norovirus on the AT. Many suspect it was due to improper waste disposal near drinking sources.