When you gotta go, you gotta go and being in the wilderness is no different. Yet, we girls get so, well girly, about having to pee in the woods.  As a long time pee-er in the backcountry, I have to wonder what the big deal is – women were peeing outdoors long before the invention of the modern day porcelain throne. Aside from making the world your toilet, peeing in nature is a great leg workout, is WAY more sanitary – public restrooms or a teenager’s bathroom anyone?, and the views are the best EVER!  But I know some of you are a bit uneasy about this and there is no reason to allow the fear of peeing in the outdoors (or on yourself in the outdoors) keep you from experiencing the amazing world we live in.  Here are some tips for the chics for when nature calls, in nature. These can apply to the guys as well, by the way.

1). Find some privacy.  A nice, large tree is an obvious choice, but what if you are hiking in a place like Grand Canyon – not many trees there! Then you need to find a low bush, rock, etc.  Or, get a group of friends to create a privacy wall for you.  Whatever you choose, do the squat test first and make sure from your viewpoint you are hidden – or ask a hiking friend to check if they can see you.  Oh, if you use the wall of friends option, be sure they have their backs to you (yes obvious, but you never know) and are far enough away so you don’t splash them, quickly making an enemy of your friends.  We’ll discuss the splashing issue a bit later.

2). Check for Dangers. There are many good locations for taking a squat in the backcountry, but there are also many bad locations. As there are way too many to name (and common sense will dictate much of that) here are some general rules.

  • Stay aware from exposed areas. I am not talking about areas where people can see your butt.  I am talking about areas that are close to ledges, edges and drop offs.  One misstep and you will be recovered by the local search and rescue team with your pants around your knees – not a great way to be remembered.
  • In the desert? Watch where you squat! Aside from sitting on a barrel cactus, which would make a great seat if not for all the needles, you do need to watch for those small cacti as well. Needles in the tush is unpleasant enough, but stepping on or brushing against one is not fun either. Not to mention that the desert has other prickly vegetation not in the cacti family – watch for Shrub Oak, Cat Claw Acacia, Mesquite, Palo Verde, etc.  These all appear to be great places to hide behind, but your clothing and skin will not make it out of your fantastic hiding place in one piece.
  • Watch for loose rock or soil, especially if you are on a slope. What’s there to say – a squat position is almost a tuck a roll position.
  • In a location with a lot of wildlife? When moving off the trail to find your spot, make certain your spot is not already being eyed by a bear or other cuddly critters.

3). Check for non dangerous obstacles. When locating the perfect bush, make sure you are at least 200 ft from water sources, trails, and campsites.  This also includes dried stream beds when possible – water does flow through more often than you might think (especially in the desert). For other Leave No Trace princles, click here.

4). Keep from getting yourself, and others, wet. No one likes a splasher – whether at the pool or in the woods. Once you have located THE spot, attempt to pee aiming down the slope so the urine flows away from you.  Peeing on a rock or hard soil, especially one angled back toward you is guaranteed to create over spray.

5). And then there is the position. Take your pants down a bit past your knees, and squat. Not strong enough to hold the position? Well, there are many exercises to get you ready BEFORE heading into the woods on your hiking trip – squats and lunges are awesome. But if you decided “Hay, who needs to train, hiking is the same as walking right?”, then aside from just struggling to make it through your hike, squatting to pee may prove to be difficult. With that, find a tree to hold onto (avoid the aforementioned vegetation if in the desert), a log you can sit on or a rock to lean your back against.

5.5) More about the position. You are squatting. This means proper squat technique – butt back past your heels, weight in your heels and knees behind your toes (if you look down and can see your shoe laces, that is a perfect squat). Hold onto you pants so they don’t drop and get wet and then just…go.

6). Dispose of the TP. Now what do you do about the dirty TP? If you chose not to drip dry, you have to carry it out. This is another Leave No Trace rule – you carried the TP in, you carry it out. Have a ziplock bag for your dirtys and take them in your pack with you.  Please do not dispose of toilet paper in the wilderness. It does not biodegrade all that quickly and if anything, just leaves a trashy mess if it rains or if the wind blows.  Do not bury, burn or hide it under rocks either.  There is no such thing as a toilet paper tree in nature so there is no reason or excuse you can come up with to justify not carrying out your toilet paper.

7). Peeing Assistance Apparati.  These are actually called “female urination devices” but I like my name better.  These are devices like the Go Girl or Pstyle where you get a reusable funnel so you can pee standing up. OK but…Okaaayyy. Many people use these and like them and they may be great to use in a public bathroom. I am not a big fan for use in the wilderness, mostly because it is one more thing to carry on a hiking or backpacking trip and I already do lots of squats. But other reasons include…

  • they take practice so whether you pee on yourself the first time you squat in the woods or your pee on yourself peeing in a funnel, what different does it make except now you have a funnel you peed on to carry with you (remember there is probably not a place you can wash it) and your hands have been peed on as well – aside from your shoes, socks, pants and underwear – perfect!
  • you pee faster and in more volume than the funnel can hold AND release – unless you have major bladder control and can control your stream – well that hands thing again.
  • once is is used, where do you put the pee soaked device? Squeamish about carrying dirty TP, how about a urine soaked plastic funnel as well? – just saying.

However, if using one of these devices makes you MORE comfortable to get out into the wilderness, then please use it!

This sounds like a lot to think about but it really isn’t.  You may not remember, but when you were first learning to use the toilet, I bet your head was spinning with all the things you had to remember! It just takes some practice and a true backcountry “so what” attitude.  So pack that travel roll of toilet paper and let’s mark our territory!