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A Female Hiker’s Guide to Peeing in the Woods


Photo by Nick Scheerbart


Being a female hiker involves frequent situations where you wonder if your bladder can actually explode.  I have sipped cautiously from a Nalgene while my male hiking partners liberally gulp their water. I hold it, knowing when I leave the park that there will be a gas station. This works at least moderately well for day trips. Backpacking, however, firmly requires a multitude of uncomfortable trips to the large tree at the edge of camp.


First thing is first, know where to pee. I have witnessed a grown woman pop a squat less than a foot from her tent, directly beside the trail.  Instead of flashing every member of your camp and all passing hikers, try a more hygienic method. A general rule to follow is going about 150 feet from the trail or campsite, or about 50 to 60 steps.


Find a spot remotely covered by trees and underbrush.  Do not get too picky. No matter the spot, you will worry if you somehow hiked to the edge of another trail. Take your shovel (a hard plastic or compact metal) and dig a hole four to six inches deep. Digging a hole turns into hacking apart tree roots until they turn a bright, angry orange. Stick the blade in the ground nearby and place the toilet paper around the handle.


Popular hiking brands like to make their pants inflexible, reducing you to a few inches of squatting space. Accept now that some amount of pee with end up on your boot and know to invest in the waterproof pair.


Frantically swivel your neck around like an owl while in the act of peeing. This insures awkward eye contact in case your biggest fear does indeed happen. Peeing as forcibly as possible is an unavoidable side effect.


With your pants re-zipped, pound the T.P. with your shovel far into the hole. Slide dirt and leaves over it while considering the odds that another hiker may happen to choose this exact spot in the future. Also wonder how long it takes toilet paper to decompose. These random thoughts help time pass until you rejoin the other hikers.


Peeing in the woods is never a glamorous or remotely comfortable aspect of backpacking.  All we can do is laugh it off and refuse to let the awkwardness keep us inside on a sunny weekend.

"You can tell how smart people are by what they laugh at." -Tina Fey
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