When Nature Calls

How to Pee in the Woods, a Guide for Girls

This is asked often!

If using a privy, it’s pretty much just like at home, just no flushing.  Don’t count on there being TP, always have a personal stash.  Check for spiders and mice, and leave the door open if possible!

Wearing a skirt (not skort) with leggings allows freedom of pulling underclothes out of the way while the skirt keeps the buns covered.  This is really great in winter when undercover is at a minimum.

Method One, The Freewheeler:
Pull panties/pants down to your knees-no further. Plant feet wide enough apart to avoid the spray and give good balance, then squat. The aim here is to pee between both feet and a little back, just level with the heels. Practice in the shower first. Not exactly dinner-party conversation, but it beats hiking with a warm, wet sock.  And a little later a cold, wet sock.
Don’t pee on vegetation, urine can damage or even kill plants.

Peek before peeing to be sure the flow isn’t going to hit a rock, which can cause much splashing!

If having to use nature to wipe, look for wide deciduous tree leaves.  In winter, grass or snow will work.  Avoid using plants along the trail (because it makes the area look bad to be defoliated) or any vines, many can cause irritation, not just poison oak/ivy.  If the leaf has white sap, DO NOT USE IT.

DO NOT put used TP under rocks or logs.  This is home to many little bugs and it keeps the TP from getting rained on so it will be under that rock for months, even years.  Dig a hole and bury it or else pack it out.

Method Two, the PUD
Personal Urination Devices are all the rage and with good reason.  Now girls can pee standing up!

The basic gist is the same and each device has its own little perks and drawbacks. No more pulling down pants.  Or taking off packs or doing much more than get the required 200 feet from the trail and water and weeeeee.  Holding it firmly against the body will create a seal and the pee won’t go out the end and might backflow over the top despite your best efforts to keep that from happening.  Ask me how I know…  A good option is to get the funnel firmly in place, start up and then tip it down a tiny bit to release the vacuum and ‘ta-da!’ no problems!  Try at home a few times so confidence is high. Advantages include using less toilet paper.  The funnel sheds water, just have to blot it and pop it back in the bag.  A rinse at the end of the day and it’s good to go. After many different device tries, I suggest the pStyle because it does not create the aforementioned vacuum, it’s rigid enough to use one-handed and is soft enough to use as a squeegee, so a quick blot with TP or a pee rag and you are all set.

An alternative to  TP for peeing is a pee rag which is just that-a rag used to wipe after peeing. It dries between uses if stored clipped onto the back of a pack.  Silk, an old wicking material shirt cut into strips or something else very fast drying is best. The sun does a pretty good job drying and sanitizing, there’s no odor, just throw it in the wash now and then!
How to Poop in the Woods:
The most common way to deal with poop is to bury it.  First, be 200 feet from the trail and from water, then dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep to bury the poop.  This can’t be dug with the heel of a boot or a stick, use a proper trowel. When finished, wipe and bag the TP. (in some places (like wet, woody areas) it’s okay to bury the paper, too because it will break down. Ask if unsure of the local policy).  Put some of the dirt back in the hole and then stir it around with a stick.
Leave the stick poking out and fill in the rest of the hole.  In high-use areas, finding a stick poking up is a good indicator to skip digging just there.
Some areas bagging poop is the only option, the environment is simply too fragile. Above the treeline, don’t dig because it will kill tiny plants.  There, it’s left on the surface. Each park will have their own guidelines, follow them.

In a hurry or helping a younger kid with no aim? Poop first and then dig the hole and roll it in with a stick. Use the ‘prop against a log’ method or face a small tree, grab it for balance and squat or free squat no-hands, though that’s hardcore!

Keep poop trash totally separate from food trash.  Some people use a little bleach in the used TP bag, or borax or even baking soda. A tablespoon or so is enough.  Use doggie bags for individual trips and maybe wrap the bigger TP bag in duct tape or use a black odor-free bag like for used coffee grounds to really ID that it’s non-food.  It will still need to go in with the food and toiletries if bear bagging is required, so a sturdy bag that does not leak odors is really vital here.

Encourage youngsters to pee and even poop in the yard before heading out on a trip that they will have to go in the woods. Some kids could not care less and some panic or are embarrassed and try to hold it until back in civilization. It’s scary having the most private bits out there for any squirrel to see!

Finally, checking in on what’s coming out is a good way to check in on what a working body needs. Dark/smelly urine or trouble pooping? Up water intake!  Mushy?  Get some rest and eat some fiber-which seems like an odd idea, but nuts and dried fruit will keep things moving and firm things up.

To keep UTI’s at bay, keep that system flushed.  Drink plenty of water, don’t hold it (a wide mouth jar in the tent at night can be a big help in wet or cold weather) and keep everything as clean and dry as possible.  Clean hands well after using the bathroom (poop to mouth is the leading cause of backcountry diarrhea) and at least once a day, use wipes or turn a water bottle into a mini bidet and squirt clean water on the nether regions to keep things hygienic.  Wearing wool panties instead of synthetic or cotton will keep the swamp effect minimal.  Bamboo is a good alternative and can be far less pricey than wool!

A couple of other tips I have picked up: dig your morning poop hole at night as part of setting up the campsite the night before so there’s no hassle the next day when groggy.  It’s nice to scope out for a private spot with easy to dig soil without the pressure of finding one NOW.

Before you poop, open the tops of soap and sanitizer bottles to lessen contamination and grab the bottles with a TP square.  A little forethought can go a LONG way toward keeping yourself from getting sick.


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