A Primer on Peeing Outdoors

| June 2, 2014 | 32 Comments

How to Pee in the Woods
Ed. note: This guest post is by Kathleen Meyer, the bestselling author of How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art. But that book is about #2. Here are her tips for #1.

Those of us setting out to recapture something of the success our way-back ancestors had in the wild beyond often have to overcome a list of modern cultural fears. There’s the fear of large terrifying beasts—as in, meeting a grizzly coming off lent, or disturbing a psychotic rhino. There’s the fear of smaller biting, stinging, and slimy things. Perhaps snakes, jellyfish, poison ivy, black shoe-sucking mud, or scorpions. There’s the fear of sneaky quicksand and getting lost. There’s dropping into cavernous holes and slipping off escarpments, and of course drowning, even in puddles (no kidding, we hear the reports).

But to top it all off, there is the nagging situational fear of weeing down our legs, yellowing our socks, turning our boots rancid, and enduring the many abominable prickly things that get stuck in our underwear—not to mention our most tender cracks and crannies—which together can lead to pervasive, unhealthy states of dehydration to keep from having to pee.

To conquer an outdoor fear, we must accept that feeling freaked is okay, while understanding that though our rational risk thresholds naturally will be different, staying at home doesn’t eliminate mishap. Then become as schooled and prepared as possible, and utterly determined not to let fear run our agendas.

As for the real danger of dehydration . . . I’m compelled to jump in here and offer a few hints on elegant tinkling. It’s been my specialty, my career, practically my sole purpose in life. Here’s the skinny:

Introductory Technique

To keep your feet high and dry, thereby avoiding direct hot streams as well as secondary splatters: don’t squat. Perch. On a rock or log, with your feet propped up on another rock or log. Tuck your tail bone down, scoot to the front edge of the seat, and then rock your pelvis forward. Shove your britches past your knees, and fire away.

Advanced Course

Stand-up peeing. How many times have you caught yourself coveting the stance afforded by the waggling male urethra? Mild cases of penis envy are common among outdoor women. And yet—who knew?—with a few adjustments, stand-up peeing is well within our grasp. Women in developing countries grow up with the skill, even while wearing skirts. Author and adventurer Robyn Davidson hiked with her camels across Australia … in a skirt. Loose-fitting shorts can serve the same function. And there’s an alternate strategy on underwear—ditch it. After that, the general technique amounts to this: With one hand, pull shorts (and panties, should you insist) to the side of your crotch. With your free hand, forming the Peace sign, lay one finger on either side of your labia minora, and effect a slight lift, for optimal direction. Practice in the shower. If this feels a little too creative for your tastes, move on to the next section.


Oh, Glorious FUDs!

Female urinary devices (or “directors” or “feminine funnels”) are available in a variety of materials, shapes, and even fashion-coordinating colors. Some come with attachment hoses (in different lengths) useful with bulky winter clothing or for stormy nights when you’d rather not tip-toe out of the tent. Choose washable-reusable, or disposable. My favorite for cross-country skiing is the Shewee Extreme, with its 5-inch extension, in a pink so hot I can’t lose it in a foot of powder. (You might also want to invest in a pair of undies or hiking pants with a discreet women’s fly-front.) Meanwhile, pop an FUD into a zip locking bag and . . . you’ll be off and exquisitely going.

Category: Hiking & Backpacking

About the Author ()

Kathleen Meyer is the author of the international bestselling outdoor guide "How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art," now in its 3rd edition (available in paperback and eBook, and just being released in audio book by Tantor Audio). For further hints see Chapter 6: “For Women Only: How Not to Pee in Your Boots.” You can find contact information for FUDs and accessories on “Poo & Pee Product Links” at www.KathleenintheWoods.net.

Comments (32)

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  1. gaildstorey says:

    Once again, the great Kathleen Meyer saves the day! I’m a fan of the Sanifem Freshette urinary funnel with its 5-inch extension, and used it hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to excellent effect. I confess I had a meltdown when I lost it hiking the AT, and exclaimed to the merriment of my companions “I’ve lost the one thing that really mattered to me!” So I’m all the more grateful for Kathleen’s suggestion of the peace sign should my new one go missing.

    • Kathleen Meyer says:

      Hi, good woman! I think it’s time to plan a trip. All this posting is way fun, but I’d rather be taking in a long view of mountain ranges with you. Oh, by the way, do you rent out your wacky lamp for official author photos?

  2. joonthego49 says:

    omgosh you made me laugh! it makes so much sense to use a log or rock, you can find one, for that position. I have a sheewee but find it a hassle as you have to get all set up and then go but it works very well.

    • Kathleen Meyer says:

      I agree, there are a lot of times when it’s just easier to do what come naturally. I’d rather crawl out of a tent in any weather than pee in a coffee can or use a FUD with a hose.

  3. I still favor the squatting method–just practice at home (in the shower) so you learn how much to squat, and at what angle, so that you don’t pee on your shoes or down your legs. Also avoid peeing on hard packed ground or flat rocks — pee splatters!

    And as far as not wanting to go out at night in the cold, I have re-purposed a large yogurt container so that I don’t need to get out of my tent. Only mishap I have had with the container was when I kicked it over in the entry vestibule of our tent on Kilimanjaro — luckily the yellow liquid froze before morning :-).

  4. Pam says:

    You can also find a log and sit on it mid-thigh, letting the nether regions hang over the side opposite your boots. The log protects your clothes and boots. I’ve also found that you CAN squat if you’re careful to pee on something soft. (Never pee on a rock. LOL)

    • Kellygirl59 says:

      I agree totally about never peeing on a rock Never on any hard surfaces as your pee will splatter on your shoes and ankles

      • Kellygirl59 says:

        By chance one time I discovered that if I pee on small flowers or a clump of grass it keeps the splatter away. Water like a creek is great to pee in. Don’t have to worry about where your pee is going to go.
        On the beach dry sand works great too.

  5. Kathleen Meyer says:

    Pam, thanks for the pointer. That’s usually my technique for pooping rather than weeing. Squatting has always been an issue for me—I was born, I swear, without a balance gene. But I’ve become proficient at hang one bun on a rock. (Never pee on gravel—the smell sticks around forever.)

  6. Jane Lewis says:

    I found the bright one pictured in your article in Scotland. (I call it my “pink penis” – in private). Can’t hike without it.
    We were in our VW Westfalia camping in Florida this winter and I had forgotten to take it and found a rather large, but effective, correctly shaped orange funnel in the automotive department of Walmart.

    • Kathleen Meyer says:

      How clever of you! And, yes, once you get practiced in all the little techniques with funnels, it’s hard to part with them.

  7. jfmolly says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind being a witness to the first 2 methods.

  8. Martha says:

    African women (and many others, I’m sure) have long perfected the art of peeing standing up. It is a valuable skill that does not leave you with a pastic thing (if you happen to have it with you) that has urine on it. Wearing skirts that aren’t tight make the process easier. I appreciate the article- although skills for pooping in the woods in a hygienic and private matter is often more critical. Thanks!

    • Kathleen Meyer says:

      Both skills—when lacking—keep many women at home. Sometimes, one embarrassment is all it takes to curtail further outdoor adventures. In my years of commercial whitewater guiding, I stumbled into so many women in excruciatingly contorted poses (and usually behind the first bush out of camp) that empathy inspired my beginning impromptu classes, on the spot.

  9. udigumgal says:

    Mt. Zirkel,12,126 feet. Nothing but rock, no trees and windy, SERIOUS wind! Nothing graceful about relieving of oneself in those conditions! Funny and challenging at the same time, sort of like life! Beautiful view though…………..:)

  10. Kathleen Meyer says:

    Ha! It’s those beautiful views that keep us out there weeing.

  11. jeannemeeks says:

    Who knew it could be so complicated. Funny lady. I still prefer the squat, frequently with a small sapling in front of me to pull myself back up to a standing position.

  12. Kathleen Meyer says:

    Ahh, the branch or tree assist! My wise ancient uncle taught me that one, though not for peeing. I’ve used it often. One universal caution (which, Jeanne, you have mastered): Know your branches—some will crack and leave you on your back.

    Thanks for sharing . . .

  13. Blondie says:

    I feel that part of the trouble with peeing anywhere other than a porcelain throne is the fear of being seen and the fear of people knowing what you are doing. Conquering that fear will lead to successful backcountry urinating.

    • Kathleen Meyer says:

      How true. We’ve even been trained to tinkle down the SIDE of the porcelain bowl so no one can hear us through the powder room door. Perhaps in the backcountry, we can more easily accept ourselves as just one in a long line of wildlife, and be one with the animals.

  14. Kellygirl59 says:

    Over the years I had to pee outside many times. The most annoying thing is the splatter that can get your shoes and ankles wet.
    By chance one time I had to pee and squatted down over some small flowers. I didn’t know the flowers were under me until I looked to see where my pee was going. I noticed I was peeing on a clump of small white flowers. Finished I stood part way up to wipe. I noticed my shoes and ankles were dry.
    When I pee outside I find some small flowers or a clump of grass to pee on. If there is a creek I always pee in it.

  15. Lynne says:

    Funny article.
    I learned to to do the bush thing when I was young. My dad made pitstops for us on the side of the road or highway.
    I remember, first check out the area for animals or snakes and big bugs, then squat with feet kind of spread as far as you can balance good. And ALWAYS…..pee so that it runs downhill ! Don’t pee on flat ground or it will puddle. Use a stick to draw a
    line or small trench In the dirt for the flow. It helps.
    Definitely pee on dirt or small grass… less splash.
    Remember to bring toilet paper..or you will have to ” shake it off.” 😉
    Lynne N.

  16. Nancy says:

    Hey Kathleen,

    This is a great article, I don’t think women share tips on this enough! It’s unfortunate, but in the beautiful wilderness of northern california, I have seen my fair share of abandoned toilet paper in the woods, strewn about as if someone thought it would magically compost itself. I do think it’s worth mentioning that toilet paper should be packed out! Hiding it under a leaf, or just in plain sight is not going to do anything to make it go away, and it completely ruins the experience for the next person down the trail. I’ve followed my asian sisters and decided to use water to clean so I’ll never have to pack out, but for people who are new to the outdoors and prefer their TP, I think it’d be good for them to take note! (And to realize that it’s always good practice to pee at least 200 feet away from a water source, so that you don’t contaminate the water that other hikers may be using to drink.)

    • Kathleen says:

      Thanks for your response. The water wipe! Great for the wilderness crap when you are not packing-it-out. As for the 200 feet from a water source, that is more for pooping and bathing and washing clothes. Pee is generally sterile, and, in fact, when camping on some rivers we’re instructed to pee right in the river, not on land.

  17. Kim says:

    I looked up a recipe for the best no bake bars, and ended up here reading a post about how to poop outside.

  18. Kathi says:

    Any thoughts on how best to pee while sitting in a kayak?

    My advice: use a nice green leaf instead of TP. Just make sure it isn’t poison ivy. LOL

  19. Kellygirl59 says:

    The funnel things are not for this girl. After you use it how do you clean it and you have to store it. It’s squatting over small flowers or plants and peeing on them for this girl.

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