Tips For Peeing, Pooping & Periods in the Outdoors!
Peeing, pooping and periods outside ... yes, it means diving into the dazzling subject of body fluids, but, no, it's not as scary as it may sound. With a few easy techniques, plus some groundbreaking (we apologize for the bad pun) gear, these normal bodily functions can be easily managed while in the great outdoors.
PEEING - Use a Kula Cloth!
To use a Kula Cloth, simply squat to pee like normal (or you can use a pee funnel if that's your thing). Use the antimicrobial absorbent side of the Kula to clean up any residual moisture. Do not wipe from front to back like you might with TP — Kula stays entirely in the pee zone. When you’re done, snap your Kula Cloth back on your pack, and you're ready to go! Enjoy not feeling disgusting from drip drying and/or having to pack in/out a bunch of toilet paper.
While we’re on the topic, we’d like give a little plug for our friend Mandy over at Purple Rain Adventure Skirts! Using a skirt to hike not only makes relieving yourself in the woods easier, but it also allows for tremendous air flow in the nether regions, helping to prevent chaffing and urinary tract infections.
POOPING - Follow Leave No Trace Practices!
Carry an appropriate amount of TP in an ultralight dry bag. In the same bag, add an empty Ziploc and (if needed), a tiny bag with a few wet wipes (optional, we personally like Action Wipes).
Follow Leave No Practices, which means pooping at least 200 feet away from any water sources and trails. Be sure to dig a cat hole 6-8" deep to bury your poop.
While ultralight trowels are now readily available, if you’ll be in terrain with soft enough ground, a good way to cut down your pack weight is to either use a tent stake or a rock to dig your hole.
Pro tip: you can dig the hole AFTER you poop and just use a branch or a rock to scoot the goodies into the hole and then bury it.
Some places allow the burying of toilet paper, but we prefer to pack everything out — this is where the empty Ziploc that you've packed in your dry bag comes into place. Put your dirty TP and wet wipes (BTW, never bury a wet wipe, always pack those out!) in the empty Ziploc bag and carry them out with you and dispose in a trash can when you get home.
If you find yourself feeling 'wobbly' while pooping/squatting, it can be helpful to hold one shortened trekking pole to keep your balance so you don't topple over and have a disaster. It also works to sit on a log or rock, hanging your cheeks off the edge.
If you’re on an extended trip, it can be very helpful to perform a backcountry bidet. You can do this by adding a squirt bottle top to a flexible water bottle (like a Platypus brand), or look online for a special bidet top called a Culo Clean. Pair this with a tiny dropper bottle of Kula Clean Soap (or any biodegradable soap). Then, squirt your butt liberally with water, lather with soap, and rinse thoroughly. Make sure that if you are using a backcountry bidet, you are doing so at least 200 feet away from a water source.
PERIODS - Menstrual Cups Are Your Friend!
We highly recommend using a menstrual cup like a Diva Cup or an Intimina Lily Cup! Menstrual cups are super easy to use but practice BEFORE you attempt to use one on a backpacking trip! They require zero packing in/out of traditional period products like tampons or pads. Plus menstrual cups only need to be emptied 2x per day — once in the morning and once before bed.
Handle menstrual blood the same way that you would when you poop — bury the blood 6-8" in a small cathole. When you go to empty your menstrual cup, it is helpful to have a small dropper bottle of soap so that you can rinse/clean the cup as well as wash your hands.
If you have no desire to try a menstrual cup, you can definitely use pads or tampons (using applicator-free tampons reduces weight and bulk). Be sure to carry along an extra trash bag so that you can pack them out. In addition, since the smell of menstrual blood can attract critters, be sure to store any used tampons/pads in your bear canister or hang them in your food bag. The ideal option would be to keep your used tampons/pads contained within an OpSak bag, which is an odor proof and reusable plastic bag.
Another option worth considering is period panties like Thinx. These super thin, lightweight panties are designed to hold up to 2 tampons worth of blood. We particularly recommend them for lighter flow days or as a backup in case of leakage. If on an extended trip, you can easily rinse them out, just remember to keep soap (even biodegradable soap) out of water sources and allow for extra drying time.
We do know many women who either use birth control or IUDs to prevent their period while outdoors. We also know women who plan their excursions around their menstrual cycle. We don’t personally take these approaches, but we also recognize the importance of feeling comfortable and confident while in wild places. For more on these topics, check out the link to the Backpacker Magazine article below.
More Resources on How to Handle Peeing, Pooping and Periods Outdoors …
- Ultimate Guide To Eco-Friendly Female Hygiene Outdoors by The Walking Mermaid
- An Outdoor Women’s Guide to Handling Everyone’s Favourite Time of the Month: Your Period by Wilderness Scotland
5 Easy Ways to Deal With Your Period in the Backcountry by Backpacker Magazine
A quick note: this post was written with everyone who has a vagina in mind, no matter your pronouns.
Using a kula cloth on the Camino de Santiago and it’s great! Very sad to see how much TP is along the trail. Sure the farmers whose land is often being used don’t appreciate it either.
Use dog poop bags to pick-up the used tp, wipes, and other materials. Tie the bag, then store it in your trash bag to carry out.