Backpacking: Female Hygiene (outdoor bathroom tips)

11:19 a.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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I'm planning to take my wife on a backpacking trip for the first time in her life.  She's been wanting me to take her for some time now, but I've never really considered it due to some issues that (to me) seem to be less of an issue with guys.

So what I need are suggestions from other women or men who hike w/ women on the issue of Hygiene.  How do I best explain using the bathroom and keeping clean when on the trail for a couple days?

At the moment, my top three supplies will be extra toilet paper, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer... And as far as getting down to business goes, I'd typically sneak around till I found a tree waaayyy off the trail, out of site, then lean against it do my bidding.... but I need a little more advice and any other tips you guys/gals may have to offer from/for a woman's perspective.  Thank you!

12:00 p.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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i'd advise you to go to your local library and check out the book "Everybody Poops"

haha but seriously...everybody poops. If you're concerned about her menstrual cycle, it's pretty simple in my opinion. Most pads and tampons are riddled with chemicals to absorb fluid. They can't decompose, and are pollutants.

Have her bring an extra trash bag and as with everything else, leave no trace. She will have to pack that trash out like everything else.

other than that, I suspect biodegradable wet wipes or toilet paper, burying feces, and peeing off the trail are sufficient enough for a female as they are a male.

12:52 p.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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My wife likes to use the Sanifem? I think it's called. Other than that, it's not really that much different. Just bring a little more tp and some wet wipes and they are usually content.

12:58 p.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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Welcome to Trailspace, Kakarrot. That's nice that you and your wife will be able to go backpacking together.

Everyone, women and men, should read this:

Human Waste Disposal in the Backcountry: How to pee and poop in the woods

It also includes a section on "For Women Only"

My short list of bathroom advice is:

  • make sure she packs out any feminine hygiene waste, the same way you would with used TP, wipes, etc.
  • bring lots of wipes so she can keep clean as needed, along with a double bagged ziploc to store dirty stuff in
  • bring enough hand sanitizer that everyone can use it after every bathroom break
  • keep the clean supplies clean and the dirty stuff separate (don't cross contaminate)

Has your wife ever hiked, peed in the woods, etc? I ask because, frankly, I think it's no biggie to pee outdoors. I'd rather go most places outside than in a gross public bathroom.

But for some women (and probably some men) they've never done it and have never considered it. So, that might seem like a big deal, or not at all. So, where your wife falls on that spectrum would be good to know.

Is she worried about any specific aspects, or are you just being helpful and anticipating what she may need to know? If you're relaxed about it, she probably will be too.

Are you going in winter or in warmer weather? If winter, make sure her layers are relatively easy to get in and out of.

As for the backpacking trip, my totally unsolicited advice is to keep it fun and relatively easy her first time out. That way, she'll have a great time and want to do it again.

Good luck and good for you for thinking about this ahead of time.

1:35 p.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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As long as we're talking about this subject, I'm curious if other women care one way or the other about not being able to pee while standing up.

I ask only because I recently got a press release from a company -- -- that had seen a blog I wrote at OR about the GoGirl device. They wanted me to know about their new DVD that teaches women to pee standing up, without any devices.

Now, personally, I have never been bothered by this issue. I do not feel inadequate. Nor can I imagine myself watching a DVD to learn how to pee standing up. It struck me as not worth the effort for something I don't think is a big deal either way.

But maybe there are lots of other outdoorsy females who want this skill. I just don't know.

So, if you're female, and you have an opinion, please share it. I'm curious.

4:12 p.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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There's a product in the UK called the Sheewee that looks a bit smaller than the GoGirl. It is best to practice with it before taking it on a trip. In winter temps, it's convenient to be able to use a urine bottle inside a tent and the sheewee things work well with that method.

There are organic cotton tampons and sanitary towels (Natracare in the UK), which probably don't have any 'chemicals' added. You can carry one of those instead of an extra bandage, even if there aren't any females in your group (cotton wadding has lots of uses). On the other hand, be wary of making a tampon/towel from a wound dressing - it doesn't always work and hilarity/embarrassment may ensue.

You might want to add a plastic trowel to your list, even if you kick a hole/ use a rock yourself, others may prefer to dig a hole.

Having a tent which pitches outer first, with the floor rolling back, is good for people who don't like washing outdoors without tree cover or where the weather is crazy. If it is muddy, use your foam sit mats to squat on. Cut a piece from a packtowel to make a lightweight hand flannel.


9:58 p.m. on December 22, 2010 (EST)
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I haven't read it, but this one's an attention getter:

How to Shit in the Woods, 3rd Edition: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art [Paperback]

Amazingly, it's coming out as a 3rd Edition.  I never realized there could be that many new developments in that "art" :).  There's also a 2nd edition version still available.

Anyway, it was written by a woman, so one would think she might lend a better perspective than a male author, who might be aware of - but not intimately familiar with - any issues of concern specifically to women.



2:49 p.m. on December 23, 2010 (EST)
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I can't help it, must add some trail lore :)

6:32 p.m. on December 23, 2010 (EST)
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Bring extra stove gas, so you can warm water for her washing needs.  A sense of feeling clean can be a huge deal to women, but cold water can be a huge barrier to some; the additional fuel weight precludes most of this issue.  Daily clean undies and socks also goes a long way; bring enough or accept on trail washing will be part of the activities.  Castle soap or other bio degradable products can be used for all you cleaning needs.


4:55 p.m. on December 26, 2010 (EST)
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Another consideration is for her to carry"light days" feminine protection. They are absorbent, so they help wick sweat and other fluids. It's a nice back up in general.

1:23 a.m. on December 27, 2010 (EST)
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Thank you everyone for the many responses.


iClimb & bheiser1  thank you for the links for additional reading.  I'll have to check them out.

TheRambler  I will check out the Sani-Fem.

Alicia  It's not so much that she's worried about it, I'm just worried about it for her sake.  And in general, I'm a bit of a germ-a-phobe.  She has had to go to the bathroom outdoors on a couple occasions, but not by choice.  I just want to make it easier for her so that she has a pleasant trip and will want to go on another one in the near future.  Any tips from your personal experience will be much appreciated.  Also, we will be going in cold weather and clothing will be functional as far as going potty goes.

Pathloser  I do have a plastic trowel, just forgot to mention it earlier.


Leave No trace:  I respect and follow the leave no trace.  I even go so far as to disassemble other people's left behind fire rings and pick up their trash.  However, the one thing I won't do, is pack out used TP/wet wipes.  I'm sorry.  I know this is probably a biggy for some, but like I said, I'm a bit of a germ-a-phobe.  I usually burn what I can and bury the rest as deep as I can.  Someone earlier mentioned bio-degradable TP/wipes.  I'll be sure to start getting this to take on hiking trips.  My wife also uses panty liners on occasion, I'll suggest she brings those along.


Here's another question, you women, or husbands who hike w/ women, do you recommend just squatting behind a bush or leaning against a tree?  Please let me know about other tips you or others might have.  Thank you again for all the responses.

3:25 p.m. on December 28, 2010 (EST)
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 I even go so far as to disassemble other people's left behind fire rings..

 I think this can be more harmful in many places. In backcountry locations that see repeated and frequent campers, leaving an already existing fire ring will keep most from doing more damage by rebuilding it and or building more elsewhere.

In the southeast where re-vegetation is rapid, and dead wood & ground litter are abundant, many if not most people will build a fire. By destroying a fire ring in an established camp you are ensuring that those follow you will go dig up new rocks, and likely build multiple fire rings. By Leaving them at such locations people will use the one established fire location.

All that aside-

I usually  find a fallen log to use as a seat. The best ones have split trunk where the two boles are nearly parallel, and have moss growing on them.  This is the most comfortable for them. Just dig a good hole behind or below the log and fill it in when done.

9:36 a.m. on December 29, 2010 (EST)
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gonzan  As a side note: Most of the places I've hiked, I often find randomly placed fire rings scattered along the trail.  Rather than someone reusing a generally accepted camping spot, many will just camp at the most convenient spot along the trail.  If you do decide to camp in a random place along the trail, you should take apart your fire ring when you're finished and make the place look as though you were never there.  That being said, if I find a fire ring at a generally accepted camp site, I'll leave it; however if I find one that clearly shouldn't be where it is, I'll remove it.

9:38 a.m. on December 29, 2010 (EST)
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Any other thoughts/tips on bathroom potty routine in regards to females?  Thank you all for the information so far.

3:58 p.m. on January 4, 2011 (EST)
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As a female, my biggest issue is usually privacy.    Perhaps I worry about this more than most as I am usually hiking with a group of pre-teen and teen boys and men.  For day hikes, just knowing someone will help guard my privacy by steering others leaving the trail for the same purpose in a different direction is okay.  When we are going to be on the trail overnight, I carry an interior tent wall(it came with a multi-room discount store tent).  They weigh almost nothing and can be hung or draped as a privacy screen. 

3:19 p.m. on January 5, 2011 (EST)
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gonzan  As a side note: Most of the places I've hiked, I often find randomly placed fire rings scattered along the trail.  Rather than someone reusing a generally accepted camping spot, many will just camp at the most convenient spot along the trail.  If you do decide to camp in a random place along the trail, you should take apart your fire ring when you're finished and make the place look as though you were never there.  That being said, if I find a fire ring at a generally accepted camp site, I'll leave it; however if I find one that clearly shouldn't be where it is, I'll remove it.

Sounds like we're on pretty much the same page, Kakarrot :)

What burns my grits is when someone builds a new fire ring fifty feet from one that's already there.

3:10 p.m. on January 8, 2011 (EST)
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I find squatting to pee o.k. but prefer something to lean on or at least hold on to while doing it in the woods.  I have a device called the "Whizzer", a silicone funnel that lets me pee standing and this is great for backpacking (if I want to keep my pack on and have a fly in my pants) or especially winter camping so I may do it in a pee bottle rather than go out in the cold or heavy rain at night to empty the old bladder.  For peeing I also find it good to sit on the edge of a rock or stump and elevate my feet on another rock, stump or tree base with legs my legs stretched out .   This prevents me from peeing on my pants which are usually wrapped around my ankles.  If the pants are off the ground and away from the stream of pee they stay much drier.  lol  This sitting position feels funny at first but does work much better than squatting. You have one hand to steady yourself and one to make sure all clothing is clear.  She could practice at home by just sitting on the toilet and putting her feet up on a step stool or something like that.  I think pooping in the woods is the same for all of us.  If given a preference I would prefer to sit on a log with the old bum hanging over a bit and doing it this way.  The whole process is a bit sturdier if you know what I mean.  It would make for a smelly trip for all if ones balance was to fail and they fell into the cat hole!   If she doesn't want to pack in/out tampons or pads give the "diva cup" a google.  It is a silicone cup that works just great and very easy to use and carry.  Just some thoughts.


12:06 p.m. on January 11, 2011 (EST)
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We taught our daughter 'the fine art' by having her grasp a small tree for support and then just sit down and back until comfortable.  The main consideration being to get clothing out of the way.  Didn't take long for her to gain confidence.  Now and adult, she still prefers a couple of parallel logs that she can straddle. She also says that urgency usually doesn't allow for a good search of the best 'throne' so its good to have a back-up plan or two.

2:45 p.m. on January 11, 2011 (EST)
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We did this fighting fires in Idaho:

In places we expect to be for a long time and/or when the group is larger than three we will find two trees growing close together and tie a small log, a dead one with no bark if we can, to the near side of the tree to sit on as a bench.  On the far side of the tree we tie a similar log to use as a back rest.  Hang the paper and sanitzer on a limb inside it's ziplock baggie, unless you are worried about rodents lining their nests with it.  Our fire crew all found this to be sufficient for our needs.  When you leave remember to retrieve your cordage and throw the logs far away.  The only thing that caused arguement is how high to make the bench.   

2:17 p.m. on January 19, 2011 (EST)
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There's a product called the Whiz Freedom my female friend uses, it repels liquids and folds easily but retains it's shape.

World's first and #1 hydrophobic, anti-bacterial and eco-friendly female urine director.

"The Whiz freedom™ - for when nature calls" - enables women to pass urine wherever and whenever they choose.

For the sports enthusiast, leisure user or individuals with various medical conditions, its uses are unlimited. The Whiz freedom™ (or Whiz®) is also suitable for all ages — toddlers to the elderly and infirm.

The Whiz® means no more waiting, squatting, holding on or hiding. The device is highly hygienic, liquid repellant, anti-fungal, bacteriostatic, spill free, easy to use, small, flexible and externally positioned. It can be used sitting or standing, indoors or outdoors. It's simply held against the body- once you start, nature's gravity does the rest.



3:58 p.m. on January 19, 2011 (EST)
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I use the light day pads when hiking and change them out 2x a day. That means I can keep my undies "clean" and not have to bring a bunch of changes for a multi-day trip. Wet Wipes can be a little irritating for me. I usually find some natural ones in the health food store that don't have as much perfume or chemicals. Other than that, I wash when I can and am really ready for a nice shower when I get home.

10:12 p.m. on January 19, 2011 (EST)
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I'm a female from New Zealand.  I would far rather piss crouching down, and don't know what all the fuss is about.  I think it might be an attempt by some marketers to sell stuff by making people feel insecure.  Why would any woman want to piss standing up?

9:46 p.m. on February 26, 2011 (EST)
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In our tramps in India, Pakistan, Nepal there is little privacy above timberline and most of the group were men.  The men have had no worries of embarrassment and just let fly (hopefully down wind).  My wife and daughter if needing privacy, would wear skirts (or pull out a wrap around) that would cover most skin on a squat.  Also if skillfully done, no body would be the wiser to what was going on.

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