• When the Privy is Closed

    Taking care of business in the backcountry.

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COVID-19 means that the best way to spend our time may be outdoors right now. COVID-19 also means that the privy may be closed: our sudden population (or overpopulation) of outdoor and backcountry spaces means that the trail and land managers are overburdened. It's a matter of simple practicality to lock the outhouse and save the expense and workload involved in stocking, cleaning and disinfecting the outhouse. 

However, this doesn't eliminate our need to eliminate. Especially now that the outdoors is seeing so much use, we need to be stewards of the environment. Things will get shitty, fast, if we are not.

Number One: How to pee in the woods.

First of all, you need to get out of the campsite or off the trail, away from any water sources, at least 200 feet. This ensures that your urine will absorb and dilute before it pollutes the groundwater or stinks up the campsite. Don't be the person who leaves their TP on the ground--the slang for this is "white roses" and the cool kids never leave white roses for anyone to find because cool kids are not disgusting like that. Either drip dry, bury your TP, pack it out, or use a pee rag like the ones at Kula Cloth. Grossed out at the idea of a pee rag? Don't be. Kula Cloth is made with quick-dry, anti-microbial fabric and is 100% less disgusting than white roses. Will I get a small commission if you click through and buy one? Yes, but don't let that stop you. These are seriously awesome.

Number Two: Start digging a hole.

You'll still need to follow the 200ft rule, but now you are going to need the lightweight trowel from your backpack--they are like $3 and you can get them anywhere. Dig before you reach for your belt buckle, because sequence is important for keeping your trowel clean. Make sure all your waste, including TP, lands in an 8" cat hole, and cover it before you leave (you can zip back up first). Don't even bother carrying the moist wipes with you: they don't biodegrade well and you're just putting poison in the ground. You don't want to do that to Mother Nature, do you?!

Number Three: Aunt Flo

My fellow menstruators, we need to get our act together. Even when the privy is open, you can't just drop your sanitary products down there. Tampons and pads biodegrade even more slowly than hygienic wipes, and the unlucky soul who maintains the privy has to remove them (!) as part of the routine. Let's not do that to our fellow humans who are already working hard at a thankless job. We have two choices, because only playing indoors during our periods is not a choice. We can pack out our waste or we can use menstrual cups.

Packing it out surprisingly not awful. Depending on the length of your expedition, you'll need to choose a container. I've gone as small as a quart freezer baggie and as large as a coffee can. If you want to give your trash a little privacy, hit your container with some spray paint or wrap it in duct tape. Put in a spoonful (or a few) of baking soda or drop in a couple of tea bags to address moisture and smell. Now, when you're done with TP or tampons, they have a comfy home in your backpack or ultra vest.

Menstrual cups are a great fit for daylong adventures. Their capacity means that most of us will not have to think of them at all until we return to civilization and that shiny plumbing it offers. You can rinse a menstrual cup over a cat hole on longer expeditions, dramatically reducing your waste volume. So long as you are traveling with the means to clean the cup appropriately, you can use it for the duration of your period out there in the woods. On the verge? Some cups, like this one from Intimina, collapse and store in a compact case.

A closed privy is no license to make a mess out there! COVID-19 has brought more of us out onto the trails, which means that our stewardship needs to be flawless for the greater good. A little moment of preparation guarantees a pristine wilderness experience for everyone.

Categories: adventures



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