North Cascades Mountaineering

How to Pee Outdoors

You and your friends are driving to your favorite trailhead. You’re all loud and laughing, yet still  made it out the door on time. You even had time to grab a tall cup of coffee before heading out.

That coffee means that by the time you reach the trailhead, your bladder is right on the edge of discomfort and pain, and you really need to pee.

Your friends pile out of the car, and the guys casually step to the side of the parking lot, unzip, and experience almost immediate relief. After seeing, with a sigh, that there is no port-a-potty, you start maneuvering your way through the trees, wishing there were more undergrowth so you wouldn’t have to walk so far for privacy, nearly tripping over the tree roots, and you’ve developed this weird knee-clenching stride as you walk.

You finally find the right spot, squat, and are relieved—but not without collecting four or five mosquito bites on your exposed backside.

You return to your friends and start your hike, ready for the adventure and wishing it were easier to pee in the woods.

If you have to squat to pee, like most women, bathroom time can be an inconvenience or, sometimes, a major undertaking. Someone who stands to pee has it pretty easy—all they have to do is turn around, and until the stream starts flowing, no one even knows if they’re relieving themselves or just found a really amazing view on the other side of the parking lot. Doing the squat, on the other hand, usually requires privacy and some fancy balancing.

Following are some tips for how to pop a squat in the woods, complete with Leave No Trace and hygiene considerations.

1. Announce Your Intentions

  • Most of the time, if you say “I’m going to pee over there,” people will not look “over there.” This is an especially useful strategy for more open areas with few opportunities to find a private spot.
  • Alternatively, there’s a strong case for simply slipping away from your group and not drawing attention to where you’re peeing. The problem with this method is that your group may notice your absence, freak out, and start searching for you, stumbling upon you in the middle of the squat.

2. Pick Your Spot

  • Depending on your level of comfort with your companions, this might be easy or difficult. But most folks, if they know you’re doing your business, will respectfully turn away.
  • You don’t really have to go as far as you think, and you don’t have to be surrounded by bushes to find privacy. Even going behind a single tree can give you the cover you need.
  • Angle of the ground: Try to select a fairly flat surface for easier balance. If the ground is sloped, face uphill; your urine will flow down and away from you (but watch out for your boots…)
    • Pro tip 1: Pull your bottoms forward as you squat so they are clear from splatter.
    • Pro tip 2: If it’s not an urgent trip, pick a spot with a beautiful view—there’s no reason you can’t enjoy your pee trip!
    • Leave No Trace: Make sure you are far (about 200 feet) from water sources, campsites, and trails. Avoid peeing on plants, since animals will be attracted to the salt in your urine and may come to munch. Opt for pine needles, dirt, or rocks.

3. Cleaning Up

  • Toilet paper: If you’re out camping, you’ll have to pack it out in a plastic bag. Never burn toilet paper—it’s gross and, if you’re in a dry area, can potentially start a forest fire, like what what happened in Idaho in July.
  • Drip dry: This is a quick and easy method that works best when you’re just out for a short hike or a day at the crag. Do your business, drip off, give a little shake, and be on your way.
  • Pee rag: This is a bandana or towel you only use for wiping after you pee. Keep it tied to the outside of your backpack and, if you’re in a sunny area, it’ll dry during the day and will have little odor. Wash it off and let it dry when you get to a water source.
  • Be aware that if it’s raining a lot or humid, the bandana will have a harder time drying out and may start to smell.

4. Wash Your Hands

  • Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean it’s ok to walk around with pee on your hands. Use hand sanitizer or, better yet, soap and water from a water bottle or dromedary to clean up (don’t use soap directly in streams, lakes or other water sources).

Those are the tips and tricks for peeing outside. It takes a few steps, but it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience. Enjoy the next time you head out!

Questions? Concerns? More tips and tricks for doing your business in the woods? Leave a comment below!


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