June 02, 2008

Going "Off-Road"

[By Crabby]

Here at Cranky Fitness we are big fans of hiking, at least when we're not feeling petrified of lions, tigers, and bears.

Hiking is fun! Hiking is healthy, both physically and psychologically.

You can see wildflowers and redwood trees and pristine lakes and craggy mountains! You can see streams and birds and rabbits and frogs and coyotes!

But one thing you rarely see much of out in the wilderness?

That's right: Toilets.

You know how earlier we ran a post complaining about various aspects of public restrooms? (This being such a high-class blog). Well, depending on where you go hiking, there often aren't any to complain about.

Some people have capacious bladders and for them this is not a big deal.

Other people are male and for them it is not a big deal either (at least most of the time).

Still other people are small-bladdered females and even for lots of them it is no big deal. The gals who don't fret about it inevitably seem to find a convenient spot behind a rock or a bush or whatever and take advantage of their natural surroundings. They're back on the trail in a couple of quick minutes, feeling not only relieved but downright perky.

I am not one of those easy-going, no-fret-peeing sort of gals.

I hate going "off-road." Yet I do enough hiking that the "I'll just hold it 'til we get back" approach is not always practical.

Here are my tips for those who are not "naturals" but do like to go hiking enough to find yourself in distress.

How To Pee in The Wilderness if You Are Shy:

Before the Hike:

1. Be conscious of fluid consumption. Glass or two of water? Good idea--you need to stay hydrated! A triple latte followed by a 64 ounce Diet Pepsi? Not quite so good an idea.

2. Remember to pack Kleenex. (Those of us with allergies already have wads of used tissue in every pocket, but those of you don't have to blow your nose every ten minutes throughout the day may need to think ahead).

During the Hike:

3. Note the First Signs. Anywhere from 3 minutes to an hour or two into the hike, you may notice subtle signs of bladder accumulation. Sure, you don't have to go yet, but you realize maybe you could.
Crabby? It's Nature calling on Line 1.

4. Start Hunting for a Place Immediately. This is important, because ideal peeing spots tend to occur only when you don't actually need them. Waiting until you're desperate will virtually guarantee a lack of opportunity. If you want to magically turn a jungle full of humongous trees and thick brush into a sparse flat desert, just try looking for a place to pee in private.

5. Consider and Reject the First 5 or 6 or 40 Places You Find. Reasons for rejection can include: too far from the trail, too close to the trail, too steep, too slippery, too muddy, proximity to poison oak or poison ivy, not hidden enough, not hidden enough, not hidden enough, not hidden enough, not hidden enough.

(Note: the ideal place is so obscured from view that an entire squadron of Boy Scouts could pass within 6 inches of your little spot and not even notice. )

6. Keep in Mind Trails Have Two Directions. Have you ever done this? You bushwhack a few hundred yards through dense forest and finally find that perfect spot only to start to crouch down and realize that the trail has wound around and you're completely visible to people coming the other way?

7. Finally, Pick a Place and Hunker Down! Either because you've (a) found the perfect spot or (b) reached a state of desperation that makes any sort of cover acceptable.

8. Post a Lookout, if you have a companion. Make sure they are willing to throw themselves bodily across the path of approaching hikers if necessary to keep said hikers from viewing you in your Most Private Moment.

9. Remove the Kleenex from your Pocket BEFORE Squatting. Otherwise, you may have to stand up again, in a state of undress, in order to extricate it. And you will want to take care of business as speedily as possible, because "assuming the position" will guarantee either approaching hikers, or at least noises that will convince you that the aforementioned squadron of Boy Scouts is well within range.

10. Make Sure your Shoes are Not Positioned Downhill from the Rest of your Body. Do we need to explain why this is true? No, we do not. You are all aware of the laws of gravity.

11. Attempt to Commence Peeing.

12. Relax! Note that often urination will not commence if you are stressed about it. Try to forget that you are in a peeing outside in broad daylight and that people could come walking into view at any moment and that seconds count.

13. Repeat Steps 11-12 for as Long as Necessary.

14. Hooray, Successful State of Bladder Emptiness achieved!

15. Realize you Have to Stand up Again with your pants around your knees until you can wrestle them back on properly. Was the rock you are hiding behind always this short? Why was dropping down so much easier than standing up?

16. Put used Kleenex in your Pocket, since leaving it on the ground seems awfully eco-unfriendly. Important: note which pocket is the "bad Kleenex" pocket. Forgetting and then later recalling after you've blown your nose on it is not a pleasant experience.

17. Return to Trail, Smug and Relieved and Happy. You are a True Outdoorswoman Now!

(Note: There are actually products designed to aid in this process. However, I've never tried one because (a) I'd have to think ahead and order one, and (b) for some reason they scare me).

Does anyone else struggle with this particular Off Road Activity?


  1. I've had to do this a lot in the past, especially on excavations. The one thing I would suggest would be to bring a ziploc or other small plastic bag with you in which to place the 'used' kleenex. Helps to avoid confusion and inevitable gross-out moments.

  2. do not be ME as Ive been known to dehydrate myself before hiking in an effort not to have to go while out (doesnt work as well when the WHILE OUT is a 10 day back country camping trip...) as I always need to go (TMI) & second xenias ziplock suggestion for the packingout of the used tp.


  3. LOLOL! What a great post! Excellent job, and you gave great tips.

    As you know, I hike a whole, whole lot, and I tend to be one of those no-fret peeing sort of gals.

    But that said, I pee myself half to death before I go out for a hike so that hopefully I won't have to go. Because I carry a big backpack, there's considerable logistics involved in a nature-call. :)

    You're 100% correct about finding a balance between being hydrated and overdoing it. And one thing I've found, particularly on long hikes, is that my propensity for peeing goes down the more I sweat, and on long hikes, I sweat plenty! :)

    But you're right, if you start thinking you've gotta go, it's wise to go ahead and scout out a good place, and I'm 100% in favor, too, of posting a lookout! :)

  4. I've never done hiking but your post is very funny -- I think it is something I will remember to think about if I do go on any long walks in the future, just the humour of the post will remind me (water consumption? check. Liquids? check. Tissues? double check) !!!

  5. I've got plenty of experience in stalking the Wild Bush Pee and you've totally nailed it.
    I don't bother with tissue in the wild. TMI? TDB!
    There's a product called "Freshette" that allows women to urinate standing up. It's a cup with a plastic tube. I've used it in broad daylight and it's handy though relaxing enough to use it can be a challenge. It also helps if you are full to bursting when you use it. You'll need to have some form of cleansing wet wipe for your hands afterward and you'll need a plastic bag for it.

  6. The plastic bag is a terrific idea!

    The Bag Lady also has a shy bladder, but has also had to use nature's restroom. If you forget your plastic bag and the idea of putting the "used" kleenex back in your pocket grosses you out to the extreme - do as she does and bury it with your foot - you can usually scrape enough dirt over it to cover it and it will disintegrate quickly - remember how fast it fell apart when it got wet? (Necessitating use of a handiwipe....)

    The Bag Lady also has tried the Freshette and is here to attest that it takes a LOT of practice and patience to learn to pee standing up....

  7. Good useful stuff here. This advice is also useful if going on a long bicycle ride.

    All I know is that if you run out of kleenex, do not use anything that even slightly resembles poison oak leaves.

  8. p.s. Is it just me, or is Blogger acting up today?

  9. I love camping, but this particular issue always causes a bit of panic. But then I ask myself, which is worse: Passing out due to dehydration and being eaten by bears — or being caught with your pants down and making it out alive (though possibly scarred for life)?

  10. I would also add to your list of recs "Be aware of the surface on which you are peeing." This comes from many years of peeing in splashy asphalt alleys while in college (come on! I was, like, 19!) Altho I must admit, while in Israel two years ago for the most fantastic trip of my life, I gott rashed one night at this sing-along pub called The Gonke and wound up using MY HUSBAND as a lookout as I peed on the holy streets of Tel Aviv. Not a highpoint in my life. Classy.

  11. I don't much like the peeing outside thing myself. But compared to a recent experience, this is practically desirable! I just got back from Cairo (woohoo!), and my very first day there, I went for a camel ride at the pyramids. I figured I should go to the bathroom before a couple hours on a camel. So I go to the bathroom and it's one of those hole in the floor things. Only it's covered with bathroom nastiness and about 100 flies are buzzing around it. Um, no thanks, I don't really have to go that badly.

    Peeing out in the woods sounds positively heavenly in comparison.

    (and, btw, that wasn't the norm in Cairo, but it was my very first day there so it had a BIG impact)

  12. Hahahaha!
    My hiking around the Grand Canyon North Rim a couple of weeks ago, WHILE carrying a little person in my stomach who seems to tap dance right ON my bladder... Epic, I kid you not.

  13. Kleenex, ziploc bag and handgel and all is well on a hike.
    I grew up with a dad who told us that if we had to go, just find a hedge and go, and if people were rude enough to stare, you should smile and wave and they'd be WAY more embarrased than me. I rarely run into people when hiking so it's never come up. I do have friends who have issues with it though...and it makes me envy guys in the wilderness. But you make do. When you gotta go you gotta go...:)

  14. I remember seeing a device at REI that allows us girls to pee like a man. I think it involved a funnel-type device. And it looked slightly less comfy than an athletic cup (although, having never worn an athletic cup, I can't say for sure).

    I went camping in Yosemite while pregnant with our second. Our first was 2. Sleeping in a tent, on the ground, with two other people while pregnant? Not good. Add to that, the nearest restroom was 1/4 mile away, in the woods.
    I did a lot of watering the ground on that trip,lol!

  15. LOL! This post is too funny and so true! I have had this experience many times while hiking! It always seems like I have to go to the bathroom MORE times when its most inconvienient!

  16. On this one canoe trip, we had to spend the whole week peeing in the bush. On the last day, we were lucky enough to camp at a place that had an outhouse. However, on closer inspection, the outhouse was so disgusting that we were all PREFERRING the bush! Funny how your standards change in those situations...

  17. When I'z gotsta pee, I'z gotsta pee. whether against tree, rock or merely a squat in the field. My biggest problem tends to be my 2 dogs who must stick their noses in and investigate the operation.

    What makes things easier is to wear a skirt. A nice flowing elastic waist skirt with pockets. Nothing to pull down, everything hidden. Consider a good hiking skirt. They are cooler than shorts in the summer.

    ofcourse when I peed in a "hole in the floor" toilet through the wooden deck of a rocking ship in Singapore harbor I was much more concerned about keeping the dress up around my waist (clean and dry) than anything else.

  18. Way too funny! Reminded me of all the times we traveled in Kenya while living there and looking for those private places. Believe me, in a country with one of the highest population growth rates in the world, that ain't easy!

  19. The whole toilet issue is one of many reasons I detest hiking and camping. (Along with lack of hot showers and electric coffee pots.) If I die and go to Hell, I will be on a never-ending hiking and camping trip.

  20. Ha Ha !! Very good stuff, Crabby!!

    I'll save it for when I come back next life as a woman!

    I plan on writing about my doing 10 hour operations without a break in a "Dr's secrets post."


    Dr. J

  21. Ah yes, the big toilet worries! When I was training for the Avon walk, that was one thing we always checked on the trail first - where the toilets were! On the actual walk they have porta potties set up every two-three miles. Smart folks, those Avon walk planners!

  22. For your next post you need to tackle how to do a #2 in the outdoors:) I do all right with the peeing (downhill) but well, let's just say I need help.

  23. Very funny post Crabby! I hate peeing out doors! I've always had bad knees so the squat position is agony for me. I guess I will have to get one of those aids if I go on a long hike.

  24. Hi Crabby,

    Amendment to #16, carry a small plastic sandwich bag for used tissue. ;)


  25. Dude this post is awesome. I'm a pro at peeing outdoors. I love hiking but I've got a miniscule bladder. I'll pee just about anywhere... I once had a wonderful pee on the edge of a cliff in Big Bend overlooking miles of mountains. I've also done my share of late-night urban "hiking" that's required the need for outdoor peeing talent, usually required to do the vast quantities of booze that led to my being outdoors and full of urine at 3 in the morning.

    Peeing outside is easy. I'd like to hear some tips on #2. =)

  26. Love this post! As a leader for the outdoor club at my college, I definitely did my fair share of this. One of the best techniques I've found for avoiding knee pain is to find a small tree (something you can wrap your hands around) and hold onto it while leaning backwards--a lot of your weight will be on your arms, which makes it easier. Yep, this whole issue is something we leaders spent a lot of time talking about....we were a special bunch! Can't wait for the follow-up on troweling!

  27. Very funny post. We've done our share of peeing on bushes and hubby has been known to leave a cycling glove on the side of a mountain for "intestinal meltdown" while riding.

  28. And REALLY beware of ground-nesting bees and wasps! That happened to somebody I was hiking with once. There are spots where you really don't want bee stings.

    As a city kid who got late into the outdoor thing, this book was a life saver:
    "How to shit in the woods" by Kathleen Meyer.
    I am serious.


  29. I love hiking too. My personal solution is to "hold it" for the duration of the hike. Oh, it doesn't matter how long the hike is; it could be 2 miles or 10. The solution doesn't waver.

    I HAVE used nature as my toilet in the past, and I find it helpful to check for any spiders or bugs. If said insects are in close proximity to my person, I resort to "holding it." Also, carrying along hand sanitizer keeps hands relatively clean after using the portable bathroom tissue. :)

  30. Yes, Hoop! The tree-clinging technique is great for aging knees.
    "Treehugger--I do not think that word means what you think it means." :-)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky, where I learned to pee in the bushes about a year after I learned to walk

  31. I wasn't able to use "nature's bathroom" until I got into cycling. You learn really quick under those conditions! When there's a line for a nasty, smelly port-a-can vs go right now behind some bushes, you learn to use the bushes, trees, a handy ditch, or whatever.

    I created a portable bathroom/changing contraption that consists of an old sheet with a drawstring. Get in, tie around your neck, then do whatever you need to do. It's great for changing clothes or...er...watering nature, if you're someplace where you can't take cover.

  32. Thank you! We're heading off to NC for a week of hiking with the whole family. I'm going to keep your list in mind as I try to explain the whole tinkling on the trail process to my prissy little girl. If I can keep her focused on the the rules, kleenex and ziploc baggy, maybe she'll get over her horror at behaving like an animal. By animals, I mean her older brothers, who are always thrilled to wiz behind a tree or rock.

  33. I have traumatic childhood memories of wet socks. Well maybe not traumatic.. but it's enough to make me avoid peeing outdoors if I can. I'm more of a potty animal. ;)

  34. Yes, the trail has two directions issue, plus if you are in a more open environment (a dry river bed) there you are shielded on one side but fully exposed on the other.
    I guess I'm at that age where I look for cover but ya know, if you gotta go, and do, the hike is so much more fun.

    And on hot days you do sweat out more and should keep drinking water and stay hydrated. I have actually had to go, gotten hot and done a lot of sweating, and apparently sucked the fluid back up and out my pores, LOL!

    #2, always dig a hole first, it needs to be buried down a ways. It's not often, but we do wilderness camping now and then, and there is NOTHING, no porta potties, no water, no cell phone reception, nada. Carry tissues or you will need to find grass and wad it up. And the hand gel.

    FUNNNY POST!!! And great comments, everyone!

  35. Too funny . . . now where's the bathroom, you made me laugh so hard I've gotta go NOW!

  36. My advice: learn to pee standing. Here's how:

    Step 1: stand facing downhill or stand on a flat surface.
    Step 2: if wearing zippered pants, unzip fly and take crotch of underwear to side. If wearing pants with an elastic waist, lower the waist of underwear and pants in front (don't pull pants all the way down). If wearing a skirt (this is recommended for beginners), lift skirt in front and either lower waistband of underwear or pull crotch of underwear to side.
    Step 3: use both or just one hand to spread your labia and pull up. I recommend using both hands to start out with because it offers a greater amount of control.
    Step 4: begin peeing hard and then back off a little bit to minimize drips and spraying. End hard.

    I recommend practicing in the shower and at home before you attempt in public. It took me about five months to learn it and now, two months later, I have mastered it. Just so you know, you will fail the first few times you attempt it (that's why you try it in the bath first) but whatever happens, NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER because the frustration and clean-up is ALL worth it. If this helps, you might consider that the amount of time it takes you to learn it is less than the amount of time it takes for guys to. Just always THINK POSITIVE and imagine how awed people will be by your talent. When they waste time scrambling to find toilet paper and a place to hide, all you have to do is turn away from prying eyes and cooly relieve yourself without exposing any more skin than men do (less, in fact because nothing sticks out. Even if people see you from the side, they will not see anything important!). Have fun, keep dreaming, and above all, THINK POSITIVE!


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