- Squatting over public toilets may be worse than sitting: expert
- How can I help you?
- But first…is the toilet even the dirtiest spot in that restroom?
- Can you Get an Infection from a Toilet Seat?
- Luckily a Healthy Body has Some Natural Protection!
- So What Can You Do to Minimize your Risk
- The Question of Cover or Hover!
- Keep your Microbiome Strong
- Don’t Obsess!
- Is It Bad to Squat When You Pee?
- When Nature Calls in Nature – A Girl’s Guide to Peeing in the Wilderness
- Women – Why Do We Pee When We Squat?
- Why Do We Pee When We Squat?
- 14 Ways to Pee Outdoors for Women (yes, I’ve tried them all)
- Yes, I’ve tried them all.
- Squatting Styles
- Getting Clean
- A Note On Modesty
- Happy Adventuring
- Read Next
- Free Packing List!
- More Backpacking Resources
- Share the Adventure
- 6 Struggles of a Girl Who Always Has to Pee
- Where Squat Toilets Exist
- Issues with Squat Toilets for Female Travelers
- Before You Go
- Best Methods for Using Squat Toilets
- Wipe and Flush
- Extra Tips
- Female Urination Devices 101 | How to Use
- Options for Peeing on the Trail
- How to Use a FUD?
- Pee Funnel Considerations
- A Few More Tips
Squatting over public toilets may be worse than sitting: expert
It’s something every girl can relate to…the delicate art of hovering over a public toilet seat.
Desperate to avoid any contact for fear of picking up nasty germs, the thigh muscles are engaged and put to good use.
But should we really be that terrified of the germs? And is the leg workout really necessary?
Dr. Primrose Freestone, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Leicester, said human poo does carry “a wide range of transmissible pathogens.”
Among them, she listed campylobacter, Enterococcus, Escherichia coli, salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus, streptococcus and Yersinia bacteria as well as viruses such as noroviruses, rotavirus and hepatitis A and E, just to name a few.
“So of course, there is always going to be an infection risk in encountering fecal matter,” she wrote for The Conversation.
But just how serious is the risk when it comes to public toilets?
The good news is, Freestone assures us it is “very unlikely” that you could catch one of these bugs from letting your guard down, and relaxing to sit on the toilet seat.
“Most intestinal diseases involve hand-to-mouth transfer of bacteria as a result of fecal contamination of hands, food and surfaces,” she said.
And there are two more things protecting us.
The human body comes complete with a layer of good bacteria and yeast that “functions as a highly effective protective shield.”
And then there’s the immune system, which Freestone describes as being “ferociously good” at protecting against nasty bugs.
Freestone said: “So there’s no need to squat over the toilet bowl.”
In fact, she warned, it could “actually cause injury or increase the risk of infection.”
Women’s health therapist, Brianne Grogan added: “The problem with ‘hovering’ over the toilet when urinating is that the muscles of your pelvic floor and pelvic girdle — your hip rotators, glutes, back and abs — are extremely tense.
“This pelvic girdle tension makes it difficult for urine to flow easily, often requiring you to push or ‘bear down’ slightly to make the urine come out quickly.
“Frequent pushing or bearing down to urinate can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse.”
And the stress of having to hover, ever so slightly above the toilet seat, can mean you don’t empty your bladder properly.
As a result, it can increase the risk of urinary tract infections like cystitis.
So it seems, putting in the legwork to squat rather than sit is just a waste of time and energy.
If you’re still wary, Freestone said it pays to always carry a packet of antiseptic wipes, to give any public loos a quick once over before you do your business.
And she added, when it comes to the bathroom, the toilet seat might be the least of your worries.
A 2011 study found that when the toilet is flushed, microbes quickly settle over a wide area, covering the toilet lid, floor and toilet paper holder.
That’s why it’s always important to shut the lid and get out of the cubicle, and sharpish.
Freestone said: “And of course, not everyone washes their hands after a toilet visit.
“So it’s highly likely that the main exit door handle will be contaminated.
“To avoid recontaminating your clean hands when you leave a public toilet, use your elbow, coat sleeve or a tissue to open the door.”
Freestone had one more word of warning…leave your mobiles behind when it comes to a toilet stop.
Research has shown 75 percent of people use their phones on the toilet.
But a study has found they are up to ten times dirtier than a toilet seat.
“So maybe it’s time to stop worrying about the cleanliness of public loos,” Freestone added.
“And time to start worrying about the cleanliness of your phone.”
DESPERATE for a wee, you feel like all your prayers have been answered when you stumble across a public toilet.
But then, horribly, it appears that – many, many – people have stumbled across it before you.
3 Should you squat or sit?Credit: Getty – Contributor
Still, needs must, and you go – hovering delicately over the bowel and not breathing in.
But now we can reveal that squatting over a WC could actually be BAD for your health – because it can cause your pelvic organ to prolapse.
And your body actually has a really strong immune system, which means you’re unlikely to contract illnesses from loo seats, even if they are grim.
Primrose Freestone, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Microbiology, at University of Leicester, speaking to The Conversation, told how most people carried around up to a kilogram of microorganisms, largely in their gut.
3 You could always do this…Credit: Getty – Contributor
They comprise of bacteria, fungi, viruses and sometimes parasites and make up around a quarter of faecel matter – meaning that everytime you use a public loo, there is a risk of catching a bug.
Weeing in public
But the risk isn’t serious, Dr Freestone said. “Developing an infection from your bottom sitting on a toilet seat is very unlikely, as most intestinal diseases involve hand-to-mouth transfer of bacteria as a result of faecal contamination of hands, food and surfaces,” she said.
“Human skin is also covered by a layer of bacteria and yeast which functions as a highly effective protective shield. Underlying this is your immune system which is ferociously good at protecting you from ‘dirty’ pathogens.”
Her views were back up by women’s physical therapist Brianne Grogan who, writing in the Express, said: “The problem with “hovering” over the toilet when urinating is that the muscles of your pelvic floor and pelvic girdle – your hip rotators, gluten, back and abs – are extremely tense.
“This pelvic girdle tension makes it difficult for urine to flow easily, often requiring you to push or “bear down” slightly to make the urine come out quickly. Frequent pushing or bearing down to urinate can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse.”
3 Toilets are hotbeds of germsCredit: Getty – Contributor
Dirty door handles
Dr Freestone warned that one of the ‘hottest’ areas for invisible faecal germs was a public toilet’s door handle.
She told The Conversation: “Dirty toilet seats might not be your biggest concern, given that a 2011 study found that when the toilet is flushed, microbes in descending water droplets quickly settle over quite a wide area – including the toilet lid, door, floor and the toilet paper holder.
“Of course, not everyone washes their hands after a toilet visit. So it’s highly likely that the main exit door handle will be contaminated.”
Wash your hands
She said: “The key to complete protection from toilet associated germs is correct hand washing. Washing your hands thoroughly removes dirt, bacteria and viruses which prevents potentially infectious microbes spreading to other people and objects.”
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How can I help you?
You enter the restroom, scanning the environment to assess just how dirty it might be. Then you typically pick the stall at the far end thinking it will be more private or less utilized (research confirms this!), push open the door with a grimace on yourface, hoping for the best.
Often-times you’ll find an unflushed toilet, used seat covers still half on the seat (sometimes even wet!), pee on the seat and other unsanitary looking remnants from the previous occupants.
You likely then do one of three things. You either decide to “hover” over the seat and not touch anything. Or you do some toilet seat cleaning and then cover the seat with a toilet cover or tissues.
And hopefully you don’t decide to just hold it! (which some of you likely routinely do!) Holding it when you need to go puts a lot of strain on your pelvic muscles which can cause you problems down the road, so let’s remove that as a third option, please!
So which one do YOU do most often…hover or cover? And what is the real risk from that public restroom experience?
But first…is the toilet even the dirtiest spot in that restroom?
Before we set our “yuck” focus entirely on the toilet, let’s consider that the toilet seat isn’t necessarily a worse bacteria petri-dish than the restroom floor is. Do you put your purse, backpack or child down on the restroom floor? And I hate to tell you that if the toilet seat scares you, do some research on the bacteria found on a typical kitchen sponge!
A lot of research has been done on this question of, “what is the dirtiest spot in a typical public restroom”, and the toilet is not the worst offender in terms of where all the “bad” bacteria can be found. Restroom floors, sinks and sanitary napkin disposal bins are also highly contaminated with both urine and fecal matter.
Coliform bacteria (feces related…can I hear another “yuck”!) were found more than 50% of the time at three sites: sanitary napkin disposal bin, the floor in front of the toilet, and the drain of the sink basin.
E.coli was most commonly found at the sanitary napkin disposal bin in the same study.
So maybe your dread and concern about toilet seat hygiene is more mental than physical! LOL.
But having said that, it is still true that the toilet seat – and stall – has a variety of bacteria present. So let’s talk about the risk for your contracting some type of infection from sitting on or being near that toilet seat.
Can you Get an Infection from a Toilet Seat?
It used to be that people viewed urine as completely sterile…is that what you thought?
So the avoidance of sitting on toilets in public restrooms has been more related to the “yuck” factor for most people versus their being concerned about contracting infections.
But more and more we’re learning that urine contains all types of bacteria related to an individual’s microbiome. For example, we know that certain sexually transmitted diseases, such as trichomonas and chlamydia, can colonize in the urinary tract. So that pee you find on your stall’s toilet seat…could it contain some of that live bacteria?
The general consensus on this from the medical community and research is that your risk of getting an infection from sitting on a toilet seat is really small. So catching infections such as herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus, for example; or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, trichomonas and chlamydia would be incredibly unlikely. Most of these bacteria die off quickly in the environment and you would have to have immediate exposure to the bacteria, as well as a cut, abrasion or break in your skin on your butt exactly where the bacteria was on the seat.
Peed-upon seats are not as risky as those having some type of fecal matter on them. And unfortunately, fecal matter can be invisible to the eye. In fact, research has shown that the bacteria in fecal matter can be literally propelled into the air when a toilet is flushed! Once the toilet is flushed, and most of the water has left the bowl, there is an airborne mist containing microscopic poop particles that can be released into the air.
So how does one fend these exposures off?
Luckily a Healthy Body has Some Natural Protection!
Your body is naturally protected by two systems in this case!
Having a strong immune system is one protective system, and your skin – as a barrier to bacteria penetrating inside your body – is the other. Regarding the skin, though, note that if the exposure is directly to the vulva, vagina or rectum itself the risk of infection is greater than just touching the skin of your buttocks. The membranes of these areas are very absorbent.
So you could – given the right conditions – be exposed to bacteria from someone’s urinary tract left in their pee on a toilet seat, and have that absorb into your vulva (if your vulva came into contact with the pee). Once absorbed the bacteria would likely start to colonize due to the warm, moist climate in your “down under”. Again, a very small risk.
But as a doctor I think we should take the view that this risk may be growing over time as we see more and more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Now if you were to catch an infection it may be more difficult to treat. There are many studies that show antimicrobial resistance can be significant. And studies that show different types of people are at greater risks for different types of bacteria resistance.
For example, one study found that the most common bad bacteria found in urine samples of menopausal women was E.coli (Escherichia coli), which was found in 65.5% of the samples taken. And shockingly, when this bacterial infection was treated with the popularly prescribed antibiotic, ampicillin, over 40% of the bacteria were resistant to the antibiotic. And resistance of all the bacteria found in the urine samples was higher in postmenopausal women!
So what does this mean? Even though the risk of infection is low, the impact of the risk could be great if the antibiotic used for treatment doesn’t work well on the particular bacteria. This is another great reason we should all minimize our antibiotic intake and eat food that doesn’t have antibiotics in it.
So What Can You Do to Minimize your Risk
Research has shown that your initial impression of how clean or dirty a public restroom is does have an impact on the amount of bacteria likely to be found there. In studies, when people have thought the bathroom looked dirty, more bacteria were found. So, if your impression is that a public bathroom is filthy take more caution!
Also, the first stall as you walk in the restroom is typically the least used.
And hate to tell you but women’s restrooms contain MORE bacteria than men’s restrooms! Likely due to the fact that we often have small children in tow or using the bathroom stall next to us (and please, don’t leave your kids’ mess in the bathroom! I was always very diligent in cleaning up after my little ones…as a doctor and woman who dreads coming across such messes, I just couldn’t leave things in a “yuck” state.)
The Question of Cover or Hover!
If I am in a public restroom and need to do a Number 1, I typically hover.
Check out my travel video on hovering
A good hover requires strong pelvic muscles, another reason to do your Kegelsregularly.
If I need to do a Number 2, I take the time to clean the toilet seat and cover it. I also don’t flush (unless it is automatic) until I am ready to leave the stall so that I am out of there should any microscopic poop particles be flying through the air.
If a toilet is particularly gross I may opt to take a seat cover and use that to flush the toilet…or if REALLY gross I have been known to flush with my shoe.
I then always wash my hands (like doctors are trained to do!). And may use a towel or my own scarf to open the door of the restroom (again, depending on my perception of “clean”).
And by the way, I try not to rush it as well. Many women tend to rush as we’ve trained ourselves that we need to (because the kids are waiting, or whatever). Rushing and forcing urine or poop creates pressure, and pressure is not good for our pelvic floor health.
And frankly, the most important thing I do is to keep my microbiome strong so that my body can fight off any invaders.
Keep your Microbiome Strong
We all have a population of good and bad bacteria in our gut…referred to as the gut microbiome. Antibiotics, stress, poor diets, environmental toxins…and so much more can affect the balance of your microbiome, and researchers are showing that the microbiome can affect our immunity, our overall health, and even our brain health.
In order to have the greatest immune health our microbiome needs to be strong, which means the good guys need to be in control of the bad guys and there needs to be a very diverse population of bacteria overall. We have some 100 trillion bacteria and the more diverse our individual microbiome is the stronger our immune system. The vast majority of bacteria – some 97% – are beneficial or benign. All the afore-mentioned things like overuse of antibiotics can kill off populations of different bacteria, reducing your microbiome diversity and making you more susceptible to infections and disease.
So I do not use antibacterial soaps for this reason. While good hygiene, such as hand-washing, is important…let’s not all dip ourselves in antibiotics and other chemicals with the goal of being as sterile as possible. This results in more bacteria becoming resistant to such antibiotics, and also makes our own microbiomes behave differently (and not as effectively in terms of our immune health). I like to use healthy cleaners around the house, including my DIY toilet cleaner, and citrus-based cleaning products which help protect my family from infection but don’t kill off other bacteria!
Don’t eat antibiotics in your food, either! Eating meat with antibiotics in it is also something you should consider not doing! I purchase organic foods so that my family does not get antibiotics, hormones and other toxic chemicals that directly impact our immune system and overall health.
Eat healthy foods that support a strong immune system, get your vitamin D, get enough quality sleep…all will help your body’s immune system to fend off germs of all kinds.
The final note on this topic is that it isn’t something to obsess over! Like I mentioned earlier, the sponge in your kitchen has a lot of bacteria as well. Another big one is your desk at work! So why doesn’t all of this bacteria kill us? Thankfully our immune systems protect us from a great deal, so take care of your immune system!
As a mother I have tried to follow the guideline that germs can be good! The more we expose ourselves to everyday germs the more our immune system can deal with them.
What do YOU do in public restrooms? Any tips for my community? Let us know!
Is It Bad to Squat When You Pee?
Let’s face it, there are certain times when you’d rather hold it than sit on a gross toilet seat. Whether it’s a dirty bathroom at the bar or a road trip without a rest stop in sight, sometimes you just need to squat while you pee. Despite it being a pretty good workout for your legs (although you’re definitely sacrificing your form in these cases), are there any risks involved in choosing to squat instead of sit? Or are you only reaping the rewards of avoiding unknown germs? Urologist Matthew Karlovsky, M.D., drops some surprising truths about this super-common practice that many women are forced to adopt behind closed doors (or nearby bush).
First, you should know that there are two types of squatting that can occur. (And no, neither of them require a kettlebell-we’re looking at you, goblet squat.)
There’s the kind of squat you have to do when you’re in the middle of nowhere with a full bladder. This squat is unobstructed and maybe even goes lower than when you sit down, as there’s no fear of touching a grimy unisex toilet.
Then there’s the “semi-squat,” says Karlovsky. This is when you’re hovering over the toilet seat to avoid butt-to-seat contact at all costs. Some women may even pee like this all the time, whether for the quickie workout or for germaphobe reasons. (No judgment.)
Karlovsky explains that fully squatting (let’s call it the outside method) is preferred-if you really must squat-because your pelvic floor muscles and bladder are more relaxed in this position. But with the semi-squat, bad bladder habits can form and secondary problems can occur over time.
The semi-squat pose is never a good option, Karlovsky explains, because you’re using your pelvic muscles in a way that is not natural. “You are training your muscles to not relax,” he says. “After many years, the bladder can become weaker.” Peeing in this position often means you’ll retain urine, which puts you at higher risk for urinary tract infections-not to mention the disconcerting feeling of always needing to pee.
While it’s hard to choose between sitting on a nasty-looking public toilet seat or getting a UTI, Karlovsky explains that everyone is different and problems may never occur from squatting. But next time, instead of risking it, why not try to develop a different habit: Take a few seconds to lay down some protective toilet paper and just take a seat, girl.
- By By Justine Hall
When Nature Calls in Nature – A Girl’s Guide to Peeing in the Wilderness
1). Find some privacy. A nice, large tree is an obvious choice, but what if you are hiking in a place like Grand Canyon – not many trees there! Then you need to find a low bush, rock, etc. Or, get a group of friends to create a privacy wall for you. Whatever you choose, do the squat test first and make sure from your viewpoint you are hidden – or ask a hiking friend to check if they can see you. Oh, if you use the wall of friends option, be sure they have their backs to you (yes obvious, but you never know) and are far enough away so you don’t splash them, quickly making an enemy of your friends. We’ll discuss the splashing issue a bit later.
2). Check for Dangers. There are many good locations for taking a squat in the backcountry, but there are also many bad locations. As there are way too many to name (and common sense will dictate much of that) here are some general rules.
- Stay aware from exposed areas. I am not talking about areas where people can see your butt. I am talking about areas that are close to ledges, edges and drop offs. One misstep and you will be recovered by the local search and rescue team with your pants around your knees – not a great way to be remembered.
- In the desert? Watch where you squat! Aside from sitting on a barrel cactus, which would make a great seat if not for all the needles, you do need to watch for those small cacti as well. Needles in the tush is unpleasant enough, but stepping on or brushing against one is not fun either. Not to mention that the desert has other prickly vegetation not in the cacti family – watch for Shrub Oak, Cat Claw Acacia, Mesquite, Palo Verde, etc. These all appear to be great places to hide behind, but your clothing and skin will not make it out of your fantastic hiding place in one piece.
- Watch for loose rock or soil, especially if you are on a slope. What’s there to say – a squat position is almost a tuck a roll position.
- In a location with a lot of wildlife? When moving off the trail to find your spot, make certain your spot is not already being eyed by a bear or other cuddly critters.
3). Check for non dangerous obstacles. When locating the perfect bush, make sure you are at least 200 ft from water sources, trails, and campsites. This also includes dried stream beds when possible – water does flow through more often than you might think (especially in the desert). For other Leave No Trace princles, .
4). Keep from getting yourself, and others, wet. No one likes a splasher – whether at the pool or in the woods. Once you have located THE spot, attempt to pee aiming down the slope so the urine flows away from you. Peeing on a rock or hard soil, especially one angled back toward you is guaranteed to create over spray.
5). And then there is the position. Take your pants down a bit past your knees, and squat. Not strong enough to hold the position? Well, there are many exercises to get you ready BEFORE heading into the woods on your hiking trip – squats and lunges are awesome. But if you decided “Hay, who needs to train, hiking is the same as walking right?”, then aside from just struggling to make it through your hike, squatting to pee may prove to be difficult. With that, find a tree to hold onto (avoid the aforementioned vegetation if in the desert), a log you can sit on or a rock to lean your back against.
5.5) More about the position. You are squatting. This means proper squat technique – butt back past your heels, weight in your heels and knees behind your toes (if you look down and can see your shoe laces, that is a perfect squat). Hold onto you pants so they don’t drop and get wet and then just…go.
6). Dispose of the TP. Now what do you do about the dirty TP? If you chose not to drip dry, you have to carry it out. This is another Leave No Trace rule – you carried the TP in, you carry it out. Have a ziplock bag for your dirtys and take them in your pack with you. Please do not dispose of toilet paper in the wilderness. It does not biodegrade all that quickly and if anything, just leaves a trashy mess if it rains or if the wind blows. Do not bury, burn or hide it under rocks either. There is no such thing as a toilet paper tree in nature so there is no reason or excuse you can come up with to justify not carrying out your toilet paper.
7). Peeing Assistance Apparati. These are actually called “female urination devices” but I like my name better. These are devices like the Go Girl or Pstyle where you get a reusable funnel so you can pee standing up. OK but…Okaaayyy. Many people use these and like them and they may be great to use in a public bathroom. I am not a big fan for use in the wilderness, mostly because it is one more thing to carry on a hiking or backpacking trip and I already do lots of squats. But other reasons include…
- they take practice so whether you pee on yourself the first time you squat in the woods or your pee on yourself peeing in a funnel, what different does it make except now you have a funnel you peed on to carry with you (remember there is probably not a place you can wash it) and your hands have been peed on as well – aside from your shoes, socks, pants and underwear – perfect!
- you pee faster and in more volume than the funnel can hold AND release – unless you have major bladder control and can control your stream – well that hands thing again.
- once is is used, where do you put the pee soaked device? Squeamish about carrying dirty TP, how about a urine soaked plastic funnel as well? – just saying.
However, if using one of these devices makes you MORE comfortable to get out into the wilderness, then please use it!
This sounds like a lot to think about but it really isn’t. You may not remember, but when you were first learning to use the toilet, I bet your head was spinning with all the things you had to remember! It just takes some practice and a true backcountry “so what” attitude. So pack that travel roll of toilet paper and let’s mark our territory!
Women – Why Do We Pee When We Squat?
Why do you pee when you squat?
For some of us women, we not only have the curse of a chipmunk bladder but also have issues of leakage. Again, aside from the FUPA article, this is pretty much the least talked about thing ever.
Related – Guide to Building a Perfect Booty
No one wants to talk about their peeing habits or their loss of bladder control while on a machine, for various reasons. I know the mental anguish can be quite embarrassing, and then there’s all that pee. On a bench. You had to wipe up. In front of everyone.
However, if it’s happened to you, then you want some answers, like… Holy god, am I a freak of nature? Or… Why me?
You are not a freak of nature. As far as the why me… Ask yourself this: why not you?
There are several different reasons you may pee when you squat. Here are some.
Why Do We Pee When We Squat?
Reason #1 – Overactive Bladder
When you have an overactive bladder, you basically have a strong urge to urinate that you cannot control. About 33 million Americans struggle with an overactive bladder.
Holy cow! Women are more affected than men due to pregnancy and pelvic floor weakening due to pregnancy.
Symptoms of an overactive bladder
- Uncontrollable need to urinate frequently.
- Involuntary loss of urine.
- Have to urinate often.
- Waking up at night more than once (well, if you don’t drink a liter before bedtime – thats pretty standard).
Some of the symptoms can be controlled. If you are drinking a lot of alcohol or caffeine, this can be a factor in an overactive bladder.
Caffeine is a diuretic and makes you urinate. Taking meds that increase urine production, urinary tract infections and bladder stones can cause an overactive bladder as well.
Basically, the muscles that control bladder function start to act involuntarily and hence you pee on a machine before you can get to the gym bathroom.
Lifestyle changes can improve an overactive bladder (alcohol and caffeine reduction and don’t chug two liters before going to the gym) and almost mitigate these symptoms unless…
Medical causes of an overactive bladder
- Stroke and nervous system problems
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Diabetes and bladder stones can cause an overactive bladder. Men with an enlarged prostate can experience an overactive bladder.
Reason #2 – Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Well, urinary tract infections are just that – infections. UTIs are caused when bacteria reach the bladder through the urethra, which is the tube that connects the bladder to the outside world. Women are more prone to UTI’s because of their short urethra.
- Wiping wrong (you know who you are, ladies).
- Loss of estrogen after menopause.
Each of these makes it more likely that bacteria will travel through the urethra to your bladder.
What to Watch For
Urinary tract infections can actually be a killer. As a nurse, I have seen people die from UTIs that go untreated. Bacteria can get to the kidneys and the bloodstream if it isn’t treated with antibiotics.
Once it goes into the bloodstream it is called sepsis or urosepsis. It is extremely hard to treat when you have sepsis and can affect other organs and structures.
Reason #3 – Stress Incontinence (SI)
Don’t cough. You know what will happen… Yes, a flood.
Some of you reading this totally understand why someone would wear a pad 24/7 even when not on their menses. Intuitively, us women know that when a sneeze is coming on, we do what? We cross our legs.
Yes, because most women that have had children or have been overweight, or basically have lousy pelvic floor muscles, know that we are going to pee any time we cough, sneeze, laugh too hard or squat.
Causes can be weakened pelvic muscles, previous pelvic surgery, problems with the muscles in the bladder, or problems with the urethral sphincter. The increase in abdominal pressure when we cough or sneeze causes pressure on the bladder and if your muscles are weakened, urine is expelled. This can happen with squats, abdominal exercises or any other exercise that causes you to “bear down.”
Things you can do to improve stress incontinence are Kegel exercises. Pretend like you are stopping the flow of urine midstream. I do this while I am driving and stopped at stop signs.
What? no one can tell unless I am making a weird face…
Weight loss is another way you can improve stress incontinence. Decreasing the intra-abdominal pressure that weight loss brings helps tremendously. Take it from a former fluffy girl, it happens a lot less than it used to.
Timed voiding. This means you record when you pee and it gives you an idea of your bathroom patterns so that you can pee when you know you usually do.
This goes hand in hand with bladder training, in which you stretch out the intervals at which you go to the bathroom by waiting a little longer before you go.
If the above doesn’t give you relief from SI, then the next step is a device that is inserted into the vagina called Pessary. It’s a ring that puts pressure on the urethra that keeps it where its supposed to be, hence decreasing urine leakage. This is one step before surgery is needed.
If your pee is free-flowing once you started bearing down to squat, just spitballing here, but you may need surgery. This is, of course, the last resort. There are side effects of surgery like infections as well as it can cause worsened incontinence or an inability to urinate.
How to Differentiate Between UTI, OAB, and Stress Incontinence
Usually, pain. Pain upon urination is likely a UTI. However, some people never even know they have a UTI, so then what? Well, smell your pee. No, don’t hunker down and smell it – It should be pretty malodorous all on its own. Also, the color may be dark and cloudy. This would indicate UTI.
So, if you have a UTI, get treated for god sakes. Antibiotics and something for bladder spasms will likely take care of the issue unless it has traveled to the kidneys. Speaking with a physician and getting the right antibiotics are key. This will likely take care of your “squat and pee” scenario.
However, if you have OAB, hold your horses. If you don’t have any serious disease process, then you need to think about other stuff, like lifestyle changes. Stop drinking a liter of coffee in the morning to get you going. Don’t drink water like it’s going out of style at like 10 pm and wonder why you wet the bed.
Stress incontinence is a bit different. Many things will improve stress incontinence. One being, lose weight if you need to. Do Kegel’s if needed. If it gets bad, bladder training and surgery may be needed.
These are usually a last resort and honestly, I don’t know too many women that would squat or do abdominal exercises if they know they are going to be in a sea of urine when they do.
Well, unless they are way hard core, and for you ladies out there that are, kudos to you! Just squat in the last squat rack so I don’t have to smell it, will ya?
14 Ways to Pee Outdoors for Women (yes, I’ve tried them all)
8K Shares Does this look like a lady who’s embarrassed to pee outdoors? Nope!
Yes, I’ve tried them all.
I just got back from some amazing bicycle travel in a remote region of Patagonia. It was like a backpacking trip on two wheels: spectacular, peaceful, and wild.
I carried days’ worth of food in my panniers, camped alone beside empty gravel roads, and saw very few people. Once accustomed to the solitude and self-reliance I felt strong, calm, and capable.
I realized things had gotten a little weird, though, when I finally spent a night in a hostel in town. When nature called, I actually felt annoyed that I needed to leave my room and walk all the way down the hall to pee in a real toilet. Just peeing behind a tree or wherever would have been so much easier.
Good news, I’m home now and house broken once again, much to my husband’s relief. But this experience inspired me to round up all the techniques I’ve ever used to pee outdoors when there’s no toilet around for miles or days. As a hiker, trail runner, bicycle tourer, occasional climber, and off-the-beaten-track traveler, I’ve had plenty of practice.
The main thing I want you to take away from this, assuming you are a woman (guys, read on with extreme caution), is that peeing outside as a woman is no big deal.
The sooner we get comfortable taking care of our universal bodily functions without shame or disgust, the sooner we can fully enjoy getting wild in the great outdoors.
Why let fear of peeing outside get in the way of enjoying views like THIS??
Before we talk about how to get clean, which is probably what you really want to know, let’s first talk about positioning.
This is how most of us first learned to pee in the woods. Pull your pants down, feet hip width apart or wider, squat all the way down (hips below knees) and do your thing. Can be challenging with tired legs, inflexible hips, or certain types of pants.
If you have trouble balancing in a deep squat, try to orient yourself with toes pointing slightly downhill; your hips and calves don’t need to be as flexible this way. This also helps the pee run downhill and away from your feet.
Tips for clean execution (these apply to many of the other methods below too):
- To minimize splashing your feet and legs, get lower and move your hips further back.
- For even less splash, dig a small hole or aim between rocks or logs.
- If it’s windy, figure out which way it’s blowing and make sure you’re not angled sideways to it (been there).
- Don’t dribble, commit. It’s more likely the stream will go straight (instead of dribbling places we don’t want it) if you let it out fast.
An improvement on the classic variation: find a rock or tree trunk to rest your back against, or a tree to hold on to in front of you. Takes some weight off tired legs, doesn’t require as much flexibility. Less chance of falling over.
Ideal also for going #2, but that’s a whole different post for another time (or just grab yourself a copy of this classic and informative guidebook).
Another solution for those who can’t get comfy in a full squat: squat only halfway down, pushing your hips as far back as possible while leaning your torso forward.
Can be splashy if you don’t get low enough or don’t push your hips back far enough. All bets are off if it’s really windy.
No Squat / Trail Runner Style
The quick and dirty option, literally. We trail and ultra runners are not exactly known for our cleanliness and class when we’re on the run. Sometimes just not puking on our shoes (or anyone else’s) is a victory.
If you’re running or hiking in short(ish) stretchy running shorts, simply pull the crotch aside, spread your legs a little bit and go. If you’re running in a trail race it’s totally normal to do this just a few steps off the trail as others run by (it’s polite to face away from the trail).
Potential hazards: Pee running down your legs, dirty running shorts. Not recommended for multi-day trips.
No time to stop for a pee break, this is a race!
Traveler Sarong Style
I learned this from the local ladies while traveling in West Africa. We used it for quick road-side pee breaks in crowded areas.
Hikers don’t usually carry the required big piece of fabric and don’t hike in such crowded places, so it’s not that useful for backpacking. But if you do some off-the-beaten-track travel you might thank me later. Obviously this works best in areas where it’s culturally acceptable and common.
Face away from the area with the most people. Lean forward a bit and drape a big piece of cloth over your butt and around your waist, like you’re wrapping a towel or sarong around your hips after a swim.
As you squat down with the cloth covering your butt, lower your pants and wrap the cloth closer around you. You should end up in a classic squat with the cloth covering all the critical bits.
Guy Style (Female Urination Device / Pee Funnel)
This is a flexible funnel that allows you to basically pee like a dude. I bought a GoGirl a few years ago and thought it was well designed, but I rarely feel a need for it on outdoor adventures and therefore it’s failed to find a regular place in my bag of tricks.
However, some women swear by them. Outdoor blogger Meg of Fox in the Forest has an awesome pee funnel overview right here, including some crucial tips on how to use it (it’s definitely possible to get it wrong, with unfortunate results). I can imagine it being super useful if you do a lot of rock and alpine climbing trips.
The only time I use my GoGirl these days? Peeing into a bottle. Don’t judge. When you’re waiting out a dust storm in a yurt at Burning Man, a snowstorm in your tent on an alpine climb, or a night of stealth sleeping in your car in an urban area, you’ll understand.
Safety is the top priority on the wall, but a climbing harness does complicate things. Here is an excellent overview of peeing in the middle of a rock climb. It’s pretty much what you’re probably picturing. She also recommends a pee funnel as another option.
Now that we’ve covered squat styles, let’s get down and dirty with the details of how to clean up.
Toilet Paper: Pack it out!!
Many newbie backpackers use toilet paper. I did when I first started. But spend enough time outside and you might start to get tired of TP, especially since it’s awkward to carry around a big bag of used TP on long trips.
If you do use TP – which is perfectly fine – be sure to PACK IT OUT. No one wants to see your used toilet paper and you do not want to contribute to turning this beautiful planet into a dump.
Even buried toilet paper takes forever to break down and animals can dig it up. Just pack it out in a ziplock bag.
Air / Drip Dry Method
Just what it sounds like. Basically, you just shake around a bit and wait for the drips to stop.
If you don’t feel quite clean enough afterwards, supplement with one of the other methods below. If you do use this method I would make sure you’re cleaning thoroughly each night on a multi-day trip, either with baby wipes or water, and rinse your underwear each night.
And for the love of all that is clean and good, invest in some breathable stink-proof merino wool underwear.
While we’re on the subject of getting clean, if you’re in the mood for luxury these “shower wipes” are amazing. Yes they’re more expensive than regular baby wipes, and they’re marketed to guys, but they really get the job done. Start with your face and work down.
Natural Materials Method
I’ve used this method a lot while backpacking and trail running. The great outdoors is basically full of natural toilet paper. In order of effectiveness (least to most): smooth leaves, fuzzy leaves, rocks, wood, particularly dry and porous wood.
Potential hazards: poison oak (know your local flora!), splinters (just kidding, but be gentle).
Let’s be honest, drip drying or wiping with rocks can leave things a bit less than pristine down there. If you’re on a lightweight backpacking trip and only have one or two pairs of underwear, especially in an area without plentiful water sources at camp each night, it can be hard to keep them clean.
For short trips I used to bring a stack of those little pantyliners that you can use for light days on your period. I would wear one per day, remove it each night after cleaning up with water or a baby wipe, and pack the used ones out in a plastic bag. It worked well but I wouldn’t want to carry enough of them for a longer trip.
Pee Rag Method
This one is popular with long distance thru hikers. Simply wipe with a bandanna and then attach it to the outside of your pack so it can dry.
Seem gross? Just remember, urine doesn’t usually contain dangerous germs like poop can (anyone else ever had giardia?). If you let the bandanna dry in the sun and wash it periodically on a long trip, there’s nothing to be squeamish about.
Squirt Water Bottle Method
I discovered this after putting the pieces together from two recent adventures: travel in Southeast Asia (where toilets have squirt hoses instead of toilet paper) and bike touring (where I was carrying a typical squirt-nozzle water bottle in my bicycle bottle cage).
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this… While squatting, squirt water onto yourself, then optionally follow up with any of the methods above if you want to feel drier.
Important: squirt from the front / above if you intend to also drink out of the water bottle! Experiment with the angle, you’ll get it eventually.
You can also make this work with a hydration pack hose, but personally I always bring one of these collapsible water bottles when backpacking. They make this method easier, and I also like them for brushing teeth and drinking out of in the tent at night (no risk of rolling over onto my hydration pack nozzle and drenching my sleeping bag).
Left Hand Method
If you have water with you but no squirt bottle, this works well if you can get used to it. It’s perfect for hikers, long distance cyclists who don’t use bottles, adventurous travelers, and basically a substantial portion of the world’s population.
While squatting, hold a water container in your right hand. Make a cup with your left hand and pour some water into it, then splash it against yourself.
It takes a bit of practice but works well once you get it. As with the pee rag, it’s not actually a major sanitation issue, but why not wash your hands or squirt on some hand sanitizer before eating.
In countries where this is normal, it’s even used for #2. I cannot say I’ve made my peace with that yet, but more power to those who have. Travel etiquette tip: this is also why it’s considered rude and gross to eat, shake hands, or basically touch anything with your left hand in those countries.
Skier / Snowboarder Method
Have you ever needed to sneak off into the trees mid-run? Then you know how this works. A handful of snow is all you need. Brrrrr…
Snow on the Tahoe Rim Trail in August – perfect!
A Note On Modesty
I was raised to value modesty, so for a long time going to the bathroom outside made me really tense. What if someone sees?!! But as I’ve gotten older and a bit more comfortable in my own skin, I care less.
Of course I make an effort to not be blatantly visible or very near the trail (pro tip: beware of switchbacks). But if I’m obviously trying to hide and someone sees me anyway, guess what, they don’t have to look! And if they do, well, that’s weird but I can deal.
It’s also perfectly acceptable, when adventuring with friends of any gender, to simply ask them to look away. You don’t need to waste valuable time and energy bushwhacking to the perfect spot half a mile away from your hiking party. Sometimes that’s not even possible or safe.
Just request a little privacy to “use the ladies’ room” and then find the best spot you can. They’ll understand.
Not a lot of cover out here, so just walk a little ways off the trail and ask your hiking companions to avert their eyes.
While some of this might be TMI and not every method will sound appealing, I hope it’s at least convinced the ladies out there that you have plenty of options.
Don’t hold it, don’t intentionally dehydrate yourself, and don’t stress. If you’re out in nature when nature calls, just take care of business and get on with your adventure.
Since you seem to be an outdoorsy lady, you may also enjoy these other resources:
- How to lighten your pack for more comfortable backpacking: things to try leaving at home next time, how to minimize food and water weight, and where to find the best lightweight gear.
- Hiking in trail running shoes: why the majority of experienced thru hikers don’t hike in boots, and whether you should try it too.
- Backpacking clothes to lighten your load: how smart clothing choices can shave pounds off your backpack weight and keep you more comfortable outdoors.
- Using a menstrual cup: how to almost completely forget about your period on the trail or at home
- More hiking and backpacking resources for outdoor adventurers.
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About the Author
Hi, I’m Alissa. My goal is to help people like you explore our planet with skill, care, and curiosity. Whether it’s backpacking, day hiking, trail running, skiing, or mountain biking, you can usually find me on a trail somewhere beautiful. Learn more or say hi.
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I haven’t updated my blog recently because I have been sick most of the month. The first week I was kind of focused on my fetishes, but then my computer broke and it took me about a week to get another one that was working normally. Luckily my new computer is much faster than my old one and my speech typing software now works at maximum speed so I am able to catch up and write a lot more. But then just three days after I got the new computer set up I was in the hospital for a week due to my recurrent stomach problems. So very depressing month. But I’m getting back to updating this blog.
I haven’t really had any significant new desperate experiences. But I have noticed that after I get back from the hospital, possibly because I am mildly dehydrated, as soon as I start drinking liquids again, I have noticed that I tend to have to pee a lot more and much more quickly than usual. So for the first few days after getting home my desperation has been more rapid. But now I think it is dropping off and has returned to normal.
I did have one mildly desperate experience at the movies. Luckily it turns out my movie theater is still going to be there, it is just going under new ownership. I decided to use up some of my free movie passes which would be no longer good once the new ownership takes effect. I went the day after getting home from the hospital. Since I also had a free soda coupon I decided I would use that up as well. But of course soda makes me have to pee much more quickly than the water that I normally get. So by the time the movie was over I was pretty full in the bladder area. There wasn’t much of a line, but damn did I have to pee and it felt good. The best things are worth waiting for!
But more recently I was chatting with another girl about desperation and she was telling me how she has frequently pop a squat outside. That was when I mentioned that I didn’t really know how to squat or hover and was always discouraged from doing so. Since my mom always taught me that it was rude to hover over the seat because you would get pee all over it, I was never taught to hover. And since I wasn’t allowed to pee outside I was never taught how to squat. As I mentioned, in my family if the girls had to pee they would have to wait for a toilet or just hold it in.
This was never really much of a problem because I have never really been an outdoors person. I have also always been fairly clumsy and have hardly any sense of balance. I have actually tried to hover over my own toilet but find I really cannot properly aim like that. Female anatomy was not designed for urinary efficiency. I have also just tried squatting and pulling my pants down but without actually peeing. I find that as soon as my knees begin to bend I start falling backwards and just cannot get a good sense of balance. But like I said, I really don’t go outdoors much, so not being able to squat isn’t really a major problem for me. But it did get me thinking that in an outdoor situation with other women that would allow them to have a tinkle when I would be unable to. So I decided I would try and write a fictional story based around that premise. So here it goes. Remember, the following story is fiction, including character names that I don’t want to mention the names of anyone I really know in my blog. I’m pretty much just going to make up the names as I go along.
Yeah let’s begin.
My friends and I were going to spend the day hiking in the woods. They assured me that they would be bathrooms available throughout the park, so I didn’t get worried and figured it would be better to stay well hydrated. To put it in the most simple of terms, I didn’t spare on my liquids that day.
After about two hours on the road we finally arrived at our destination. By then I had been really packing on the liquids and was looking forward to getting to a restroom. As soon as we arrived we went swiftly to the restrooms. Unfortunately they were out of order. My bladder cringed when I saw this. “Don’t worry,” Jane said, “I’m sure that there is another restroom around here. But if there is and I guess we could always just pop a squat behind some bushes.” She said that so casually. I never told her that I didn’t know how to squat. So I just nodded in approval, while secretly being nervous that we wouldn’t be near another bathroom for quite some time.
We began our hike through the woods. Although I had to pee, scenery of nature helps me to distract attention from my bladder. So for the next hour or so I managed to ignore my need to go to the bathroom. But then we came across a last thing that I wanted to see – a long trickling stream ending in a waterfall.
“Wow, look at that waterfall!” Shouted Jimmy. “Look at all that water just cascading over the falls like that. Nature is amazing isn’t it?”
“You know,” said Jason, “all this water makes me have to pee.”
I could feel the punch to my bladder when he said those words.
“I don’t think we are nearing the bathrooms,” I said.
“We’re in nature,” he replied, “this whole place is like one giant bathroom.” And with that he ran over to a tree and began to let loose with a powerful stream of urine. I squeezed my legs together reflexively as I tried to turn away.
“I think that I have to take a piss as well,” said Jimmy as he began to let loose with a stream of his own.
I silently moaned to myself before turning to Jane and whispering, “I hope we find the bathroom soon. I don’t think I can take anymore of this.”
“Yeah,” replied Jane, “if we don’t find a bathroom soon I might have to stop and pop a squat.”
I simply nodded and smiled, still not ready to admit the fact that I was unable to squat to pee.
We continued hiking for another half-hour. The guys were walking in a much more brisk pace than we were. I could see that Jane was getting increasingly antsy as well. I was stopping every couple of moments to grab myself hoping that no one would notice.
“I am bursting,” Jane whispered to me in a strained voice.
“So am I,” I whispered back as I crossed my legs.
“What’s the matter girls, can’t keep up?” Jason shouted.
“We’re fine,” I shouted back as I slowly hobbled forward.
“Well let’s keep it up,” said Jason. “I think that we are about 2 miles away from the next visitors center.”
2 miles! Those words echoed in my head like the sounding of a gong. There was no way I was going to last 2 miles, but I just had to hope that we would.
We continued to walk for about another 15 min. when Jane finally stopped and leaned against a tree.
“What’s wrong?” Shouted Jimmy as he walked towards us.
“I think I need a bathroom break,” said Jane.
“So do I,” I said as I leaned up against the tree next to Jane.
“I guess we should give you girls some privacy,” said Jason.
“Shall we?” Jane asked me as she took my hand. I nodded and we began to walk off to find some privacy. After we had gotten out of the sight of the guys off the trail Jane began to look around. “Looks like the coast is clear,” she said. “We stand lookout for me?”
“Sure,” I said. That was when Jane went over behind a rock, pulled down her pants, squatted against the rock and let loose with a loud stream that I could hear trickling onto the leaves below. I was about to explode. Jane pulled up her pants, came over and patted me on the shoulder and said, “okay you’re up.”
“What you mean?” I asked.
“It’s your turn to go to the bathroom.”
I gave her an agonized look.
“I can’t squat out in the woods like that!”
“I don’t know how. And what if someone sees me!”
“It’s really simple. You just squat down, take a tinkle and I will stand guard.”
“But I can’t!” I was practically in tears at this point.
“But don’t you have to go?”
“Well what are you going to do?”
“I guess I will just have to wait until he get to the visitor center. Please don’t say anything about this to the guys.”
Jane nodded and we walked back to where the guys were.
“Feeling better?” Jimmy asked.
“Yes,” I lied.
We continued walking for about another half-hour. By then I was so full that I feel I could barely walk straight.
“Is everything all right Jill?” Jason asked.
“Oh I’m fine, I’m just getting a little tired.”
“Don’t worry,” Jimmy said, “we should be back to the visitor center and another hour.”
Another hour, I thought to myself. There was no way I was going to make it. “Excuse me a second,” I said, “I just want to tell Jane something in secret.”
Jason and Jimmy walked away and gave us some privacy.
“What’s wrong Jill?” Jane asked.
“I’m about to wet myself!”
“What do you want to do?”
“I’m just going to go run into the woods a minute. Do you think you can keep the guys busy?”
Jane nodded and I ran off into the woods using the excuse that I think I dropped something but I should be right back.
After a minute or two I came to a clearing. I looked all around and didn’t see anyone coming. Here goes nothing I thought. I slowly bent down and took off my shoes. I could feel the cold and wet floor on my bare feet. My heart began to beat rapidly. Was I really going to do this? I guess I had no choice. Slowly and carefully, I pulled off my pants and panties and placed them on the rock next to me. I could feel completely exposed wearing nothing below my waist. I carefully spread my legs as far apart as I could go and let loose with a furious stream of urine. At last, blessed relief! I was so relieved that I just closed my eyes and stood there half naked for a minute basking in the fact that I managed to pee outside. But when I open my eyes I saw a group of hikers coming my way. They looked me right in the eye and I screamed.
As soon as the others heard me scream they came running and there I was buck naked from the waist down with everything on display.
“What’s wrong?” Said Jason as he approached.
“Why aren’t you wearing any pants?” Asked Jimmy.
All I could do was blush and shrugged my shoulders. “I guess I should learn how to squat.”
That’s the end of my story. I was thinking of making it longer but I need to go to sleep now. I was thinking of having it be another of my favorite stories – embarrassed nude female where someone stole my pants. But I think that this story was good as it was, and still pretty embarrassing. That is what I always thought that I would probably try doing if I were really desperate outside. Most likely I would just be able to hold it and be in extreme discomfort, but as a last resort I would probably just have to completely undress, or at least undress below the waist in order to pee and then put it back on and hope that no one sees. But I really don’t spend any time outdoors, so I feel pretty confident that this story is going to remain fiction.
Well I hope you enjoyed. I probably should get back to my more serious writing as I had a very unproductive month due to my illness and computer problems. I will and as always with recent links that I have come across since my last update.
PS-If the paragraph spacing is not correct in this story it was not intentional. I type this up in a document pad and then copy and paste it into my blog. I have noticed when does that it tends to disregard the way I spaced it. I really don’t know how to fix that though, but it should still be readable hopefully.
http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/badaily/2011/08/im-sick-of-single-bathrooms-in.html (Single user bathrooms don’t make sense.)
http://ketchupwiththefrys.blogspot.com/2012/05/field-trips.html (Sounds like my schoobus field trip-zillion kids, 3 stalls and 487 women in line LOL.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWx3t6ROOgs (Full committee hearing on potty parity. Fairly good argument especially about being conditioned to hold. Also showed a 1:1 ratio doesn’t account for urinals.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uZAgzUqicU (Part 2 of above. Makes the good point about how we use the bathroom 200,000 times a year but most buildings were built when women weren’t in public much.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGFQl88Yxm4 (Part 3.)
http://ladyboomer.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/penis-envy/ (Makes the case the penis envy is really about peeing envy. The envy isn’t for a penis, just the ease it gives to peeing.)
http://goldenwater.info/2m9KWt/pissing-women-penis-envy-piss-fun-bladder-holding.html (Women peeing.)
6 Struggles of a Girl Who Always Has to Pee
We all have that friend who has an irrationally weak bladder; the one who can’t make it to the next bar without stopping at a Starbucks or McDonald’s to use the restroom. Unfortunately, in my group of friends, that person was always me. Whether it’s with my friends, family, or boyfriend, I was always the one that everyone was weary about giving that extra drink to, the one who always knew exactly how long it takes before that morning coffee passed through my system. If you’re like me, you understand the struggles that come with being a girl who has to pee every five minutes. Here they are:
Coffee is our biggest frenemy.
We love coffee. We need it in the morning to function. Make it a grande. However, we’re also hoping that we can make it through our 10AM meeting without disrupting our boss’ presentation by leaving the room…five minutes after it started. It’s our best friend and our worst enemy, depending on the situation.
We don’t know if we can handle an 8+ hour road trip.
“Are we there yet?” is usually our opening line to, “Where’s the closest gas station?” Our friends hate us for adding an extra hour to our drive to the beach due to unwelcomed bathroom breaks. Sorry guys, but we wanted to make sure we were hydrated.
We are the epitome of “breaking the seal”.
It’s Friday night and we’re ready for a night out on the town with our friends. Low and behold, after one beer, we already have to pee. Our friends are about to make our move to the next bar, but we need to make sure we go again before walking twenty blocks downtown. The line to the Women’s restroom wraps around the wall. There goes our buzz.
We know the sign says “Customers Only”, but can we please just use your restroom?
That store has a sign that says that the restroom is only for customers, but they’ll make an exception for us because we’re girls, right? Nope. Cut us some slack. We’re not going to make a mess, we just have to go. Still no? Okay, how much is a bottle of water? This store just made $2.00 off of my weak bladder. You’re welcome.
What do you mean you don’t have a restroom?
How does an establishment serve food and beverages, but it doesn’t have a bathroom? We finally found the closest sandwich joint and of course, it’s a hole in the wall shop with no bathroom. Tell me, Mr. Guy at the cash register, which bathroom do YOU use?
We really don’t want to resort to breaking the law, but…
Yes, public urination is a felony, but when you have to go, you have to go. We have to make that agonizing decision of “How badly do I really have to go?” Unfortunately, sometimes we’re at that point, usually intoxicated, when we can’t take another step without letting a drop slide. When it comes down to it, we have to pop a squat and go with the flow (literally)
It truly is a struggle being that girl who has to pee after every sip – Kudos to those of you who have strong bladders and can hold it in until you’ve arrived at your destination. For those of us who can’t, we’re busy doing the potty dance and breaking the law.
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Squat toilet on Thai train (photo by villadavida)
I remember the first time I encountered a squat toilet on my travels.
It was in a small bar in Verona, Italy where I studied abroad, and the first thing I did was stand there in disbelief for about five minutes before I could get to the realization that I had to squat to pee in this Western country’s bathroom.
I was still new at this overseas travel thing and thought that only the bidet was a unique toilet experience I would have to encounter in Italy.
I learned a lot that semester — especially about the art (or the tragedy) of using squat toilets, and that knowledge has grown through months of travel in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
In my Woman’s Guide to Using Squat Toilets, I lay out some of the facts, questions, and tips I’ve acquired concerning squat toilets and the female traveler.
Squat toilet in the Middle East (photo by goldberg)
Table of Contents
Where Squat Toilets Exist
Squat toilets are quite prevalent around the world.
They may be rare in North America, but travel to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America and parts of Europe, and you will quickly be introduced to an experience or two of using a squatter.
Popular tourist destinations will tend to cater to the Western traveler with hotels and expat locations installing the sitting style toilets.
Issues with Squat Toilets for Female Travelers
The main problem for women attempting to use squat toilets is the risk of getting urine on you and your clothing — especially a pant leg.
The risk is combined with the stress that comes from having to use new muscles in your legs to use the restroom.
Unlike men, who only have to squat for half of their squat toilet encounters, women will have to squat for 100% of them.
It can make even the best of us shaky afterward, and I’ve heard many a girl fear that they might fall over (or in!) a squat toilet because of it.
Spare toilet rolls are always necessary (photo by jdm1979uk)
Before You Go
There are a few things I like to have with me before venturing into a squat toilet: toilet paper, a light backpack, hand sanitizer, and a Ziploc bag.
If you know you will be traveling in areas with squat toilets, it is best to have these items with you at all times.
1. Toilet Paper
Toilet paper is not a necessity in some cultures.
Instead, you might be given a hose or a bucket of water, or the toilet paper stock might not ever be stocked.
Toilet paper or a pack of tissues can save a girl a lot of trouble.
A light backpack might seem like a bit much, but there are stuffable daypacks that can fit in your palm.
Throw one in your purse because when you get to a squat toilet with no coat hooks and a dirty floor, you’re going to want a place to hold the stuff on your body without getting in the way of “business.”
3. Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer is a no-brainer. This is always in my bag — even when I’m not traveling.
4. Ziploc Bag
A Ziploc bag is for the times there is no trash can in your toilet, and you’re in a country where you can’t flush paper.
If you are a paper-all-the-time kind of gal, then pop in the Ziploc bag until you can find a proper trash can.
How to use a Japanese squat toilet (photo by tamaiyuya)
Best Methods for Using Squat Toilets
The basic rules for using squatters are as follows:
Roll your pant legs up to your knees to minimize the risk of splashback hitting the bottoms.
Place your feet on the foot grooves on the side of the toilet hole.
Pull your pants down as far as you can comfortably go (preferably to the knees), but this will vary with the type of clothing you are wearing.
Squat to the point where you can squat no more. Just like the limbo, you’ll want to go as low as you can go to get your stream as close to the bowl as possible.
Shoot for the hole as hitting anywhere else on the bowl has a higher chance of causing splashback.
Wipe or rinse according to what’s on-hand.
Many women claim that they can only get by in a squat toilet if they take off the bottom half of their clothing completely.
Unlike men, it is harder to control the stream, so a woman might occasionally shoot sideways or get a splash from the toilet on their pant legs.
If you do remove your clothing, you will need to find a hook or place to hang it to keep them off the often questionable ground.
This is where a daypack can save the day — giving you a place to keep your belongings off the ground while also staying out-of-the-way unlike a side sling purse or bag.
Trust me — been there, done that!
Wipe and Flush
All squat toilets are created differently, so in one location, you might have an actual flush toilet, and in another, you might have to scoop buckets of water into the bowl to clean it out for the next user.
One location might use toilet paper and expect you to place the paper in the trash bin, while another might cause you to rely on a water hose to wash your backside down after use.
Just remember to do what you do in accordance with the local criteria.
Other cultures are more accustomed to this position. Practice before you travel. (photo by gregwalters)
Practice a squat before you go to destinations where squat toilets reign supreme.
Do squat exercises to build up the leg muscles that will be in use.
A disposable female urine funnel can be very helpful for the traveler that can’t seem to master squat toilets on her own.
These are relatively inexpensive and can be tossed in the bin after use.
- Toilet Tips by Journeywoman
- The Art of Squatting by Girl, Unstoppable
- Exercises for the Squat Toilet by Perceptive Travel Blog
- Squat Toilet Misery & Mastery by Female Travel Underground
- G Adventures for small group tours
- Skyscanner for researching flights
- Hostelworld for booking hostels
- Airbnb for renting rooms and homes
- Rail Europe for train passes
- World Nomads for travel insurance
Last Updated on July 5th, 2019
Since the 1990s, a number of designers have sought to help women go to the bathroom standing up. Some are little devices that look like funnels (with terrible names like Whiz Freedom and Pee Pocket), which have primarily been used by hikers and backpackers to pee more easily outdoors. In the mid-90s, a Malaysian company called GBH created a beautiful female urinal concept for public bathrooms, separated by privacy partitions, but it never took off. In 2011, Co.Design covered the launch of a urinal called Pollee, that is long and thin, allowing women to straddle it or semi-squat. It even comes in different configurations depending on how much privacy women prefer.
The architect Gina Périer recently debuted the latest of these devices: a new female urinal called LaPee.
Périer’s portable urinal system is specifically designed for women to squat and pee at outdoor music festivals. From the top, it looks a little like a boat propeller enclosing three little circles. It has no doors—much like a man’s urinal—but it is specifically designed for the way a woman uses the bathroom. The walls are designed to cover a woman’s lower half when she squats (whereas if a man used it to to pee while standing up, he would be exposed). LaPee is designed to meet industrial standards for cleaning, so it can be treated exactly the same way as men’s portable urinal systems—making it easy for rental companies to incorporate it into their planning. And in case it wasn’t clear that LaPee is for women, it’s pink.
Beyond efficiency, Périer offers another argument to add in favor of letting women pee standing up: they can make communal urinating a social affair! After all, men have the ability to have entire conversations while they are standing in front of urinals. Why shouldn’t women be able to look each other in the eye while relieving their bladders? “It has room for 3 women,” Périer told a blog called Girls Are Awesome. “They can communicate without breaking intimacy.”
How many of us really want to have conversations while peeing? I asked a few men about whether they enjoy having conversations at the urinal, and they all said no. Sure, they have all done it at some point or other, but it is not a life experience they particularly cherish. Then again, perhaps we’re missing out on something because of our cultural mores when it comes to bathroom habits. Children, for instance, are not inherently shy about talking while using the toilet. In fact, some of them kind of enjoy it. At my daughter’s preschool, all the 2- and 3-year-olds are being potty trained. In the bathroom, there are three tiny, toddler-size toilets, which the children use three at a time. The teachers at her school tell me that going to the bathroom is a fun, social experience. The kids sit on the toilets, tell each other stories and jokes, then wash their hands and go out into the day.
Maybe, when given the option, we might rediscover the joy of having a chat while taking a pee. But given that designers have been trying for so long to get the female urinal concept to take off, it remains to be seen whether women will take to open-air peeing any time soon.
I used to assume that all girls who did outdoor things were comfortable peeing in the outdoors.
That was, however, until I went camping with my good friend Natalie.
We were hanging out around the fire in Algonquin Park when Natalie excused herself to go pee. When 10 minutes had gone by and she still hadn’t returned I started to get worried she might have fallen down a hill or something. A few minutes later I was ready to go on a rescue mission for her when she finally emerged from the pines. Natalie calmly explained that it always took her a while to pee in the woods because she had to get her shoes off, then take her pants and underwear off.
I was shocked. “Why do you take your pants off?”
She seem surprised: “So I dont pee on my clothes. Don’t you take your pants off?”
This post is a quick tutorial dedicated to Natalie and all of the other Natalie’s out there to help you avoid peeing on yourself while at the same time keeping your pants on!
HOW TO PEE IN THE WOODS (and not on yourself) IN 4 EASY STEPS:
STEP 1: FIND A GOOD SPOT
Try to pee downhill.
If you are peeing on a hill, escarpment or side of a mountain, always position yourself facing downward. Even if you are on flat ground, you can usually find holes, dips and valleys to position yourself near. If you pee uphill or onto a rounded mound of dirt, the pee will make a stream that somehow will always head right for your feet.
Find an area clear of obstacles.
Imagine holding a spoon under a running water: The water hits it and sprays where the spoon is pointing. This is exactly what will happen when your pee hits the leaf of the bush you are squatting behind. And again, somehow the leaf is always positioned to splash your stream back towards you or your feet. Before you start to pee, look and make sure you are aiming onto the ground and not onto concave objects.
You don’t have to go so far away.
Yes, squatting with your butt hanging out is not the most flattering position to be seen in. But finding that perfect, ultra-private, super secluded spot is not worth falling off a cliff or getting lost in the woods over. Don’t be embarrassed! Most guys will barely walk 5 feet away from you to pee so why are you hiking a mile? To get some privacy, you don’t have to walk completely out of sight, you just need to block the line of sight from your butt. Big rocks, bushes or wide trees work well. Or just ask your companions to turn around for a moment. For technical details on how far away from rivers, etc to pee check out: http://www.backpacker.com/gear/ask_kristin/193.
PLEASE don’t pee…
- on hiking trails
- at the base of rock climbs
- on campsites
- in caves
STEP 2: GET YOUR CLOTHES OUT OF THE WAY
Pull your pants and underwear down so that when you squat they sit around mid-thighs to knees. It is harder for the stream to clear your pants if they are around your ankles and you are more vulnerable to tripping and losing your balance. Also, the further down you pull your pants, the more fussing it takes to pull them back up and the longer your butt will be exposed.
After you squat (see below), put one hand between your legs and grab the underwear and pants that are there (in the line of fire). Pull them up toward your belly button and out of the way! This leaves one hand free to hold on to something for balance or for quick wiping.
STEP 3: THE SQUAT
Get into a wide stance for balance (and gets your feet out of the way). Squat down as low as you can, like you are sitting into a chair. Squatting down low is better than “hovering” your bum in the air (like over a dirty toilet seat) as it allows your pelvic floor muscles to relax fully so your bladder can empty completely. You can use your elbows on your upper thighs for support if this this hard to hold. AIM (yes, you too can aim) your stream by tipping your pelvis down or up.
STEP 4: THE SHAKE
After you are done, wave your hips a little in the air to shake any lingering drops off. I don’t like carrying toilet paper into the woods, so I take a few seconds like this to “air dry.” I highly recommend this method. If you prefer to use toilet paper, please please please pack it out with you.
For any rock climber girls out there, check out Steph Davis’ blog post How to Pee in a Harness Not on it at:
Female Urination Devices 101 | How to Use
A guide to peeing in the woods and the best female urination devices.
*WARNING Gentlemen*; this post is only intended for the ladies 😉
© Julia Sheehan (@juliasheehan)
Ask any woman on the trail about peeing in the woods, and they will tell you, the challenge is real. Women have to be discreet, so they are not baring their naked butt to everyone on the trail. They have to be careful that they don’t pee on their shoes or drop to squat in a bed of poison ivy. And then there is the hygiene part when they encounter dirty toilets and port-a-johns. Yuck!
Women, don’t be discouraged and certainly don’t let peeing in the woods keep from getting outside! There is more than one way to pee! Don’t like squatting? Then stand. Not comfortable carrying around TP or leaving it behind? Then consider a peedanna. Not sure what these are? Read on to learn out the different options you have for peeing in the woods
Options for Peeing on the Trail
Use Toilet Paper: Squatting in the woods is self-explanatory – just pick the right spot, drop your drawers, squat down and do your business. Wipe if you need to, just don’t leave any toilet paper muffins behind. Pack out the TP or at least bury it in a cathole. Keep in mind that cathole TP will take a long time to degrade, and should only be used as a last resort.
Drip Dry or Leaves: Some women eschew the TP and opt to drip dry, but that only works for a short time. A pantiliner can help wick up moisture, but that’ll only buy you so much time. If you drip dry on a long hike, you inevitably will start to smell like urine. The dried urine also may irritate your skin. Other people prefer the leaf method and wipe with a nearby leaf to wick away extra moisture, but you have to be careful that you don’t get dirt, debris or other unsettling materials in your private area.
Peedanna: Growing in popularity is the peedanna, a handkerchief that is used for wiping. Think of it as a permanent toilet paper rag. When you are done using it, you hang it on your pack to dry and air out. With a pee rag, you don’t have to deal with soiled TP, but you do have to wash it occasionally with soap and warm water, so it doesn’t get nasty.
Female Urination Device (Pee Funnel): Squatting may be the most common way to pee in the woods, but it is not the only way. Many women have turned to a lesser known option – the female urination device, also known as a pee funnel. Though they are available in a myriad of shapes and sizes, these devices share a standard feature – they all allow women to pee while standing up. Most FUDs are reusable and made of flexible silicone or hard plastic. Some are disposable and made of a cardboard material that folds flat for discrete storage. All are meant to be carried in your pack and used when needed on the trail.
How to Use a FUD?
With a FUD, you merely unzipper your pants, and move your underwear to the side or pull it down from the front. You then place the FUD over your private area and get a tight seal, so there is no leakage. Then you must relax and start peeing. Be mindful of controlling your flow, so you don’t overflow the funnel of the device. Once you are done, you just rinse the FUD with a bit of water from your water bottle to clean it. Then shake it dry, pop it back into its storage pouch and place it in an easily accessible part of your pack.
Pee Funnel Considerations
Comfort and Ease: Women start using a pee funnel because it is convenient. Instead of stripping off layers of clothing or removing climbing gear, they can merely stand near a tree with their pee funnel and urinate standing up. It also provides some modesty when hiking or climbing in mixed company.
Weight: Pee funnels come in all shapes, sizes, and weights. Some are rigid plastic and hold their shape which allows you to position them under your clothing. They won’t collapse in midstream which reduces your chance of peeing all over yourself. Because they cannot be folded, they will take up a fair amount of space in your pack.
Other FUDs are made with a flexible silicone that can fold up into a small container. This flexibility is great for storage, but they can easily collapse and lose their seal if you squeeze them too much. Comparison shop to find the best model for your backpacking needs.
Cleanliness: Cleanliness in the backcountry is challenging, but oh so necessary. You need to keep yourself and your FUD clean and dry so you don’t smell like old urine or, even worse, develop a nasty infection. Most pee funnels are made from materials that shed urine, but you still should run water through the FUD to remove any remaining pee. Dry it before putting it away inside your pack or air dry it by storing it in a breathable bag on the outside of your backpack.
A Few More Tips
Squatting comes naturally, but standing while peeing takes some practice. Use the FUD in the shower and on short hikes or climbs, so you know how to get the best fit to prevent a leakage. Don’t wait until you are 20 miles into the woods to find out you can’t use the FUD without peeing all over yourself. If one type of pee funnel doesn’t work, try a different style of FUD. And remember to pee downwind, so you don’t get splattered.
Leave No Trace: It goes without saying. Whether you squat or stand up, you should follow leave no trace principles by peeing at least 200 feet from a water source, trail or campsite. This keeps a safe distance between your waste and others who are walking the same path.
Style: Hard plastic
The Freshette is a hard plastic funnel with a retractable tube that makes it more compact than the one-piece pee funnels. It has a broader funnel portion which provides ample room for peeing without overflowing the device, but this size can make it bulky to pack even with the retractable tube.
See on amazon.com
Style: Hard plastic
The SheWee is a rigid funnel made of hard plastic that repels urine. It is narrow, making it lightweight and easy to pack. Your aim has to be good because the funnel is on the smaller size. Flow control also is essential, release too much too soon and you may be soaking in your own pee.
See on amazon.com
Style: Hard plastic
Unlike the Freshettte which uses a large funnel to direct your pee, the Pibella has a very narrow opening that is designed to cover only the urethral area. The same narrow design that makes it highly portable, also makes it challenging to use. You need to practice a lot to find the find correct position to catch the flow.
See on amazon.com
Style: Flexible Silicone
Similar to the Freshette and Go-Girl, the LadyP is made from flexible silicone and has a sizeable cup that gives you room for error. The FUD also has a handy loop that you can use to hold the device securely while using it.
See on amazon.com
1st Defense Industries Lady J
Style: Hard Plastic
Designed and marketed for women pilots, the Lady J has a large cup with a small spout that connects to the Little John portable urinal, also made by 1st Defense. The small size allows you to pee with a minimal amount of exposure, but the spout is too short to use alone. You really need the urinal there to catch the pee before it falls on your pants.
See on amazon.com
The Whiz Freedom
Style: Flexible Silicone
The Whiz is an offshoot of the Whiz CleanCatch, a urination device used in the medical field to catch midstream urine samples. The consumer FUD is made from a firm silicone that repels urine and includes antibacterial and antifungal agents. The Whiz funnel is on the smaller size and needs to be placed correctly. Similar to other smaller FUDs, you need to slow your flow. On the plus side, the small funnel folds nicely and includes a pouch so you can store it discreetly in a side pocket.
See on amazon.com
Style: Hard plastic
The Pstyle bucks the trend by ditching the funnel and using a half-pipe shaped FUD to collect and direct pee. The hard plastic allows you to make a firm seal so you don’t leak and the form factorlends itself to wiping off those last remaining drips. The only drawback? It’s a bit on the bulky side.
See on amazon.com
Style: Flexible Silicone
Go-Girl is probably the best known FUD and can be found in the camping section in Walmart stores around the country. The silicone funnel is flexible, so you can shape the device to provide a relatively large urinal. Because it is wide, you may need to pull your pants down further than is comfortable, especially in mixed company. Because it flexes so easily, you need to be careful not to lose your seal when you adjust your grip. It folds easily back into a compact tube that can be used to store it discreetly in your pack.
See on amazon.com
Price: $7.49 for a 4-pack
Style: Flexible Silicone
A flexible and foldable pee funnel, the Meeno stands out because of its price tag — a mere $7.49 for a 4-pack. It has a wide funnel that can be compressed into a storage pouch and is both hydrophobic and antibacterial.
See on amazon.com
Pee Pocket (disposable)
Price: $3.99 for a 3-pack on thepeepocket.com
The Pee Pocket is a collapsible funnel that is made from leakproof cardboard. It folds flat making it easy to toss in your pocket before nature calls. Once you are at your “watering spot”, the Pee Pocket pops open into an oval-shaped funnel that you can use and then dispose of when you return home.
Price: $7.99 for a 10-pack
Similar to the Pee Pocket, the SaniGirl is a collapsible pee funnel made of water-resistant cardboard. It unfolds into a triangular shaped funnel and comes in two sizes – a larger one for women and a smaller size for young girls.
See on amazon.com
By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. She can be found on New Hampshire and Maine trails, leading group backpacking trips, trail running or alpine skiing.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.
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