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Going to the Bathroom Outdoors: Your Options When Nature Calls

Roofnest Team

Feb 22, 2024

Outdoor bathroom|||Public Lands
This post has been updated on 6/24/2022. During the course of the pandemic, and especially in the summer of 2020 when many states released stay-at-home orders, the volume of visits to our public lands rose exponentially. Public Lands WIth this dramatic increase the amount of vandalism, trash, and unsanitary conditions has also risen to the point where many campsites have been forced to shutdown. At least 5 dispersed campsites in Colorado alone are currently closed. One leading cause prompting closures: human waste. With fewer campsites open, the problem is only getting worse. This makes the inconvenience of going number two an even greater concern as the only solution is to pack it out with you. Thankfully, there are cassette toilets that bring modern convenience to the rescue. Checking out of civilization to escape in nature for a few days is our favorite way to refresh and reset. But there are few aspects of modern life that we sometimes miss when we’re out camping, hiking, climbing, and backcountry skiing. And out of all the creature comforts we sacrifice when we go exploring, number one (and number two) on that list is a toilet. Let’s face it — going to the bathroom out in the wild isn’t always comfortable. This can be especially true for women, who don’t have the leisure of staying vertical when they’ve gotta pee. And although guys may have it easier when it comes to going number one, having to go number two when you’re camping with friends can put a grimace on the face of either gender. But that’s no reason to stay at home. There are ways to make going to the bathroom in the outdoors relatively clean, easy, and dare we say, comfortable. From female urination devices to portable camping toilets, below are best practices and devices that will help you feel properly prepared the next time nature calls.

Peeing in Nature: A Woman’s Guide

Women have two general options for peeing outdoors: You can go with the classic squat, or you can make use of an FUD (female urination device). A female urination device is essentially a funnel. You pee into the big part and a tube extends down so you can direct your urine somewhere else. No squatting. You can even use them in the middle of a climb. FUDs are especially helpful when you’re up climbing on a cliff face or stuck in a tent in the middle of a blizzard. But they’re also stellar if you’re camping in a hard shell roof top tent. You can take care of business from the top of your vehicle, without having to climb down during the night. Whatever route you take to relieving yourself, here are some tips for each.

Tips for Peeing without an FUD

  1. Bring your pants and underwear down to mid-thigh level — this will help prevent any splashback.
  2. Go into a squat so your urine will stream downhill, rather than back onto your own shoes. Assume a wide stance.
  3. If squatting is difficult or uncomfortable, find a tree to lean your back into while squatting for extra support.
  4. Look for a spot that will absorb liquid quickly to minimize unwanted splashing (all splashing is unwanted, by the way). Pine needles are particularly absorptive.
  5. Wipe! Leftover moisture can lead to UTIs. If you’re just out for a day, you can bring your own toilet paper and use that, but remember that you need to pack it out with you.
  6. For longer trips outdoors, a better alternative to toilet paper is a pee rag or “pee-kerchief.” This is essentially a piece of cloth that you use in lieu of TP. Kula Cloth makes an excellent anti-bacterial pee rag. Hang it on the outside of your backpack so it can dry quickly, and remember to wash it as often as possible.
  7. If you don’t have toilet paper or a rag, you can use leaves (just make sure you know what poison ivy and poison oak look like), clean water from a squirt bottle, or snow if there’s any handy.
  8. Sanitize. Always pack a little bottle of hand sanitizer and use it after going to the bathroom to prevent spreading germs to your fellow adventurers.

Tips for Peeing with an FUD

Here are some tips for taking advantage of the wonders of an FUD:
  1. Get a quality FUD that actually works! The Freshette, Pstyle, SheWee, and Pibella are all highly reviewed FUDs that form a solid seal and pack lightly.
  2. Before you hit the road, practice with your FUD in the shower. Each product can be a bit different, so you’ll want to know you can nail it on the first try and avoid a mess out in the middle of nowhere.
  3. Press the wide end of the funnel to your body so it forms a complete seal.
  4. Point the tube away from you and downhill.
  5. Wrap your FUD in some old scrap of cloth between uses.
  6. Rinse it out with water at the end of each day.
  7. Wash it with soap and water when possible.
Lastly, if you’re camping in the middle of a freezing cold snow storm or heavy downpour, you can always pee into a bottle! Use a big wide-mouth Nalgene and clearly label it to avoid any unfortunate mis-sips. It’s a bonus if it’s collapsible so you can pack it in and out more efficiently when it’s not in use. However you decide go, be sure to always pick a spot that’s at least 200 feet away from water sources to avoid contaminating the environment.

How to Go Number Two in the Outdoors

There are three ways to deal with poop in the outdoors:
  1. Bury it ina “cat hole” (not always an option in cold weather or narrow trails);
  2. Pack it out with you (which is sometimes required); or
  3. Travel with a portable camping toilet (great for roof top tents, car campers, and drive-up camp spots).

The Cat Hole Method

This method is recommended for killing odors, minimizing the spread of germs, maintaining a clean environment, and keeping curious wildlife away from your campsite. With this approach, you better not wait until it’s an emergency — you have to dig a hole, which is going to take at least a few minutes.
  1. Find a spot that’s 200 feet from water sources (you don’t want to introduce contaminants to the environment) and 200 feet from camp (you don’t want to introduce contaminants to your friends’ shoes or noses). The ideal spot has soft soil, and is right by the base of a tree that you can use for support.
  2. Dig a hole that’s at least 6” deep and wide enough to aim for. You’ll need to travel with a lightweight camping trowel (aka a tiny shovel) for this part.
  3. If your hole is by a tree, face the trunk and wrap your arms around it, then lean back so your bottom is over the hole. If there’s no tree, then go into a wide-legged stance. If you’re expecting splash back (what did you eat last night?), then you might want to de-pants entirely. Awkward? Yes. Better than the alternative? Definitely.
  4. Wipe with either leaves or all-natural toilet paper. Toss your wiping medium in the hole and then cover your tracks by filling the dirt back in. You can use baby wipes, but you’ll have to pack those out with you, in which case you should have a Ziplock bag handy to put your used wipes in.
  5. Clean your hands well with hand sanitizer.

The Pack Out Method

If you’re in an established camping area or private land, the pack out method may be your only option. The great thing about this approach is that you can do it anywhere. The not-so-great thing about it is that you have to pack out your poop. The method itself is pretty intuitive:
  1. Take care of business as you will, then pick it all up like you would clean up after your dog on a walk. A plastic bag works as a glove, then a big sealable Ziplock as the disposal bag. There are also bags made for this express purpose that have an absorptive gel to better contain your droppings. Here’s a ready-to-go kit that has everything you need »
  2. Remember to pack out your excrement, toilet paper, and the plastic bag you use to pick it all up with. You can hang bags from your backpack or tie them up in a plastic bag and stow in a separate pouch within your pack, then throw it in the trash when you get back to civilization.
  3. As always, be sure to sanitize after going.

The Portable Toilet

There are many different portable toilets on the market, but the simplest is essentially a 5 gallon bucket with a plastic toilet seat that snaps onto the top. The kit comes with bags that lock into place and contain a little odor-killing powder to make the whole ordeal nice and tidy. They even make ones that actually flush! You can’t hike around with one of these, but if you’re camping in a Roofnest, you can easily stow one of these in your car. That alone might be a reason to invest in a hard shell roof top tent — no more digging holes every time nature calls.

More Camping Tips

Alright, the dirty work is done! But there are still a lot of other challenges when camping, like prepping food, staying warm and dry, avoiding bugs, and getting clean. Here at Roofnest, we’ve got all the tips you need to rough it in style. Read our guide on 10 genius camping hacks »