We wear a pack out into the wilderness and walk for miles. We climb mountains and brave bad weather. But when nature calls, it holds all of that up. I am going to share the easiest, trail-tested ways to manage this personal task quickly. Check out How to go to the Bathroom in the Woods for what comes prior to the wiping.
Straight-up Toilet Paper
Whenever the roll in your bathroom gets down to about 1/3 of the roll pull it out of the bathroom. Wiggle the cardboard insert until it comes out, squish the TP, and stick it in a resealable freezer bag (don’t get the regular bags, they tend to leak more easily). Your toilet paper will be lightweight and dry.
As far as leave no trace ethics… if you can stand to pack the used goods out, please do and double bag it. I have a zipper pouch on my pack where I always put it. If you can’t stand it then please bury it deep and 200ft off the trail. Animals may try to dig it up and it’s gross to come across used toilet paper laying in the trail.
Pee Like a Man
Use a thin bladder control pad in your underwear so that after you pee, you just shake the drips off and pull up your underwear. It’s fast and you will be dry and smell free all day. I like this method for day hiking, but it works all right for overnights and short backpacking trips. I used this for my 300 miles on the Appalachian Trail but have since come to appreciate The Bandana Method.
The Bandana Method
The first time that I ever heard of someone doing this, I thought they were crazy and that it would never work. It is simple though and it was still comfortable in the rain, when it was soaking wet. After you pee, shake off the excess and wipe with a dedicated bandana. Tie the bandana on the back of your pack to dry. Your pee is pretty sterile so don’t worry about contamination.
Three Choices for Poo
I usually bring a small roll of toilet paper or I cut paper towels into small squares for this but leaves actually work quite well. If you run out of toilet paper or want to save weight in your pack, then you will be glad to know you can use leaves. You have to be careful about which ones you choose. They should have large leaves of a comfortable texture. Avoid poison ivy.
The choice of the above methods is extremely personal. Try things and find out what you like the best. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to face it with a sense of humor.
On the side of Camel’s Hump, Alpine Florist had her first backpacking trip and a little pee pee surprise. She went off to relieve herself off the trail, so I figured I should use the break to go too. I headed into the woods, pulled down my hiking pants and squatted. Behind me came a yelp, almost causing me to fall over. I turned around to see what happened and right behind me was Alpine Florist, hidden by only a thin bush. Having looked up while she was going to the bathroom, she was surprised to find my little, white butt right in front of her. I have no idea how we didn’t realize that we were peeing right next to each other, but we had to laugh.
When you drop your wiping bandana in the mud, or forget your toilet paper at home, you have to laugh. Enjoy your beautiful surroundings and remember that the amount of time you spend going to the bathroom in the woods is relatively small compared to the possible enjoyment. No more bathroom talk for a while, I promise. Happy spring hiking!