A Woman’s Guide To Backcountry Bathroom Needs

woman hikingWhen you’re first learn­ing to deal with your bath­room needs out­side, heed­ing nature’s call can feel uncom­fort­able, weird, or sim­ply too pub­lic. But it doesn’t need to be!

Pick Your Spot
Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, try to pee at least a few steps away from trails, camp­sites, and oth­er well-trav­eled areas. Duck behind a tree, bush, or rock for pri­va­cy, or open two car doors (the dri­ver and pas­sen­ger doors on the same side) to make a kind of impro­vised bath­room stall. To min­i­mize vis­i­ble skin, face toward oth­er peo­ple, not away from them. And remem­ber: if you’re trav­el­ing in a group, it’s total­ly rea­son­able to ask your team­mates to sim­ply look the oth­er way. Every­body pees, remember?

Once you’ve dealt with pri­va­cy, don’t for­get to keep safe­ty in mind: make sure you’re not wan­der­ing into any­thing dan­ger­ous (like an area that’s prone to rock­fall or haz­ardous plants, like net­tles or poi­son ivy.) If you’re wear­ing a climb­ing har­ness, it’s often pos­si­ble to shim­my your pants down with­out tak­ing off the harness.

Pop a Squat—or Don’t
To pop a squat, pull your pants all the way down—at least below your knees; prefer­ably all the way to the ankles. Squat back onto your heels, hold your pants out of the way, and let loose. Wash for splash­ing, and be care­ful not to pee on your shoes. (But don’t wor­ry if you do—it’s hap­pened to all of us.)

In some cir­cum­stances, you may want to invest in a pee fun­nel. Made specif­i­cal­ly for women, these are plas­tic or latex fun­nels that can be used stand­ing up, sit­ting down, with a climb­ing har­ness, or while wear­ing a back­pack strap. Many women use these to avoid sit­ting on dirty toi­let seats, pee into a bot­tle in a tent when it’s cold out­side, or sim­ply to be able to pee with­out flash­ing bare buns. Rinse your fun­nel after use, then store it in a plas­tic bag in your back­pack. Just be sure to prac­tice at home first—you’ll want to deal with the learn­ing curve in the show­er, not on day two of a week-long expedition.

Num­ber 2
To poop in the back­coun­try, you’ll either want to dig a hole (at least 6–8” deep and 200’ from trails or water sources) or car­ry a plas­tic bag. When in doubt, ask local author­i­ties (rangers, guides, etc.) for the pro­to­col in your area, which varies depend­ing on reg­u­la­tions, the ecosys­tem and cli­mate, etc.

Take plen­ty of toi­let paper, and make sure you’re in a place that’s shel­tered and com­fort­able. And remem­ber: don’t wait until you’re des­per­ate to go. You’ll have an eas­i­er time prepar­ing for the expe­ri­ence if you make the deci­sion early.

Keep Things Clean
Because of our dif­fer­ent anato­my (thanks, nature!) women are more prone than men to have uri­nary health issues on trips, includ­ing yeast infec­tions and uri­nary tract infec­tions (UTIs). To coun­ter­act this risk, do what you can to keep your­self clean—bring baby wipes for between show­ers and extra clean under­wear (and a Ziplock bag for the dirty pairs.) Always wash your hands if pos­si­ble, and car­ry a small bot­tle of hand san­i­tiz­er. If you’re set­ting up a camp­site, con­sid­er set­ting up a hand-wash­ing sta­tion with a water blad­der and some biodegrad­able soap.