Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How To: Pee and Poop in the Woods, a Guide for Girls

How to Pee in the Woods

Surprisingly, I get asked this often.

Method One, The Freewheeler:

Pull your panties/pants down to your knees-no further. Plant your feet wide enough apart to avoid the spray and give you balance, then squat. The aim here is to pee between your feet and a little back, just level with your heels. Practice in the shower first. Not exactly dinner-party conversation, but it beats hiking with a warm, wet sock.

Don't pee on vegetation, you can kill plants with your pee powers.
If you have to use nature to wipe, look for wide deciduous tree leaves, grass or snow will work. Avoid using plants along the trail or vines, many can cause irritation, not just poison oak/ivy.

Method Two, the PUD

Personal Urination Devices are all the rage-and with good reason.  Now girls can pee standing up! This was the only reason I wanted, very badly, to be a boy when I was a little.  No squatting!  I use a P-EZ, but they are all pretty much the same-a funnel.  In fact, several women I know use the small oil changing funnel you can get for a buck in the automotive section.   They don't squash down to pack, but they won't crumple under use, such as if you needed to keep on your gloves and couldn't control your hand pressure as well.  Or if you are wearing lots of layers you have to keep out of the way, it's handy to have a sturdy funnel. (update, I have since moved to this myself after a collapsing funnel left me hiking in my spare undies!  I still carry my PE-Z in my every day bag in case I encounter a gross public toilet.)

The basic gist is the same and each device has it's own little perks and drawbacks.  You don't have to pull down your pants, either.  Or take off your pack or do much more than get the required 200 feet from the trail and water and weeeeee.  Don't press it up against you too tightly, it will create a seal and the pee won't go out the end and might backflow over the top.  I get mine in place, start her up and then tip it down a tiny bit to release the vacuum and-no problems!  Try at home a few times so your confidence is high.

The advantages are huge, and you use much less toilet paper.  The silicone funnel sheds water, you just have to blot it (maybe) and pop it back in the bag.  A rinse at the end of the day and you are good to go. 

An alternative to  TP for peeing is a pee rag which is just that-a rag you use to wipe after peeing. Clip it to the back of your pack to dry!  And, use silk or something else very fast drying. Cotton just does not shed the moisture quickly enough.  You still need TP or wipes for pooping.

How to Poop in the Woods:

The most common way to deal with poop is to bury it.  First you need to be 200 feet from the trail and from water, then dig a hole 6 inches deep to bury the poop.  When you are done, wipe and bag your TP. (if you are in a wet wooded area, in some places it's okay to bury the paper, too because it will break down, ask if you are unsure of the policy where you will be hiking).  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 you don't want to dig just there.
Some areas you simply have to bag your poop and take it with you, the environment is too fragile. Above the treeline, you don't dig because it will kill tiny plants.  There you leave it 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.

You can use the 'balance on a log' method from above or face a small tree, grab it for balance and squat or free squat no-hands, though that's hard core!

An aspirin in the used TP bag will help with the smell.  Keep your poop trash totally separate from your food trash.  Some people use a little bleach in the used TP bag, or borax or even baking soda. A tablespoon or so, you don't need a whole bunch.  Wrap your 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 you bear bag.

Encourage your youngsters to pee and even poop in your 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 you are back in civilization. It's scary having your most private bits out there for any squirrel to see! If you have never tried it yourself, you may want to practice at home as well.

Checking in on what's coming out is a good way to check in on what your body needs. Dark/smelly urine or trouble pooping? Up your 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.

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