How to Pee While Hiking

Avoid watering your shoes or causing a scene

Toilet on the summit of Mount Whitney in California's Eastern Sierra

Tony Rowell/Getty Images

Gentlemen, you probably don't need to read this—for you, urinating in the woods is as simple as unzipping and then re-zipping your fly. However, knowing where to do is important.

We ladies, on the other hand, sometimes dehydrate ourselves on purpose just to avoid the indignity of bearing our bottoms to the world when we have to go. Hey, ladies—don't do that! Try our patented "peeing in public" procedure instead:

  1. Tie a jacket around your waist as a shield/screen.
  2. Squat down, drop trou and take care of business. The jacket around your waist shields you from the back and, if you need a little extra cover, you can always drape another jacket, shirt or sweater across your knees.
  3. The flatter you can keep your feet on the ground (heels down, butt down), the less likely you are to lose your balance, pee on your own feet, or pee on the shielding jacket.
  4. Face downhill if you can, or at least stand on flat ground—when you're this close to the ground, peeing uphill is a lot like peeing into the wind.

We like this method because it provides some cover, even if you're in the tundra or a snowy landscape where no natural cover is to be had. It also shields your backside—however minimally—from bad weather if you're "going" in the winter.

Another option: If you're wearing shorts or a skort, you can simply move the intervening material aside and let fly. This takes some practice and might merit a half-squat for better aim... but it can be done.

Or use a urine director, a.k.a. "pee funnel." These are just what they sound like—a small funnel that you urinate into, with a tube that acts as an artificial phallus. Use it to direct the flow of urine safely away from your legs and shoes, or just take a minute to write your name in the snow.

If you'd like some other ideas for "pee poses," read How to Sh*t in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer—she has quite a few creative solutions to (and stories about) just about any potty problem you can imagine outdoors.

Where Should I Pee Outside?

Even though our method means you can pee just about anywhere, that doesn't mean you should. (Guys, this applies to you too!) As a general rule, poor placement of urine packs much less potential harm than poor placement of feces. Still, if the region you're hiking in offers specific directions as to where you should urinate, follow them. (For example, in some river canyons you may be directed to pee straight into the water.)

If you're in an area where animals may be attracted to the salt in your urine, try to pee on bare ground instead of vegetation. (Otherwise those leaves you just watered become a salty treat for the critters.) Barring these issues, you can usually go just about anywhere as long as you:

  1. Take a walk. Leave No Trace principles dictate getting at least 200 feet away from water sources before disposing of wastewater—which includes urine. Might as well grant the same safety margin to your campsite of choice.
  2. Use common sense. Don't pee in places where you plan to cook, sleep, or forage—or where you think others might reasonably do the same.
  3. Don't pee right on the edges of a busy trail or other high-traffic areas—the stink adds up!
  4. Try to avoid mixing urine and feces when you can. While it's not a major ecological disaster, the urine can slow down the feces' decomposition.

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is a grand thing—until you see it strewn about your favorite forest in little clumps. No doubt the hikers who left each clump thought it would never be noticed. Guess what: They all stand out, and when toilet paper deposits come in flocks it's downright disgusting.

If you must have toilet paper, bring a few sheets of it—but also bring zip-close plastic bags so that you can pack the used paper out with you when you're done. Better yet, skip the toilet paper entirely. Use a little water from your water bottle to rinse off. Or, if you're not shy, you can use a bandana to wipe/dry off and then tie/lash this "pee rag" to your pack to dry in the open air.

Or choose a spot to urinate that has some natural foliage you can use to wipe off. No need to peel the leaves off the plant—just tug a stem in your direction and do what you have to do. You are probably not the first animal to get your urine on that plant! (See above—as long as you're not in an area where critters can be expected to come along and defoliate anything you pee on due to the salt content.)

And, of course, make sure you're not about to wipe with an unpleasant plant like poison ivy/oak/sumac, stinging nettle, cow parsnip a.k.a. pushki, or devil's club.

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