Nature calls. No, not just the call of the outdoors that overlanders frequently receive, but spending so much time away from civilization means that eventually, you’ll have to “relieve yourself” without the luxuries of indoor plumbing. When that happens, what do you do?
Going to the bathroom might not be the most glamorous subject to talk about, but it’s definitely an important thing to consider for long, multi-day trips into the backcountry. If you don’t have the luxury of finding a bathroom, here’s how you “go” while on an Overlanding voyage.
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How to Go to the Bathroom Outdoors
Going to the bathroom outdoors isn’t a big deal. After all, people have been doing it for millions of years! But before you “go,” know that there is a right way and a wrong way to go to the bathroom outside. Here’s how to go to the bathroom while Overlanding safely and without disturbing the environment (or other people).
Pee breaks are pretty straightforward. They don’t require too much prep or any fancy techniques. Just make sure you’re at least 200 feet from any water sources to avoid contaminating the environment.
For men, it doesn’t get much simpler. Walk into the woods, find a nice tree or shrub, and let loose. Remember to bring hand sanitizer or a water storage container to wash your hands once you’re finished.
For women, peeing on the trail can be a bit more complicated, but it’s still no reason to avoid going on an overland excursion! Women have two basic options to choose from: you can use the classic, tried-and-true squat method, or you can use a female urination device (FUD).
If you choose option number one (the squat method), make sure you find a spot that slopes downhill. Position your feet horizontally on the slope, so the pee flows downhill instead of all over your shoes. There’s nothing worse than having to get back in your rig for another couple hours on the trail after messing up your shoes…
Pro tip: If squatting is hard or uncomfortable, try leaning against a tree for some extra support.
It’s also a good idea to find a spot with something absorbent like pine needles or sand. This will help to prevent splashback (which again, you don’t want).
Once you’re finished, don’t forget to wipe! Even on short trips, leaving moisture behind can lead to UTIs. It’s a good idea to carry toilet paper in your rig, but remember that you have to take it with you. You can’t just leave toilet paper in the woods. You can also use leaves in a pinch—just make sure it’s not poison ivy first!
As always, carry hand sanitizer or water and soap to wash your hands afterward.
Female Urination Device
Female urination devices (FUDs) are a wonderful invention for any outdoor-minded woman. They let you pee while standing up, in enclosed spaces, and even fully clothed! Truly a marvel of modern engineering.
While there are many different styles, they’re all essentially a funnel that you press against your body to direct the pee away from important items like your clothes and shoes and send it wherever you want it to go—whether it’s the ground or even into a bottle.
Even if you don’t always use a FUD, it’s not a bad idea to carry one just in case. It could save you a trip down from your rooftop tent in the middle of the night! Here area few of our favorite FUDs:
- Sunany FUD – Can over 7,000 positive ratings be wrong!? The Sunany FUD is a silicon funnel that forms a nice, comfortable seal around your body to prevent any leakage. The funnel comes with an extension tube that’s compatible with many different plastic bottles, so you can even pee in the car, tent, or any other enclosed space.
- SHEEWEE Extreme – One of the “OG” FUDs, the SHEEWEE is made with tough, durable plastic to withstand countless overland expeditions. It’s also collapsible and easy to store so that it won’t take up much space in your rig. The best part: you can use it fully clothed!
- Tinkle Belle FUD – For even more portability, the Tinkle Belle FUD is made of flexible silicone that not only makes a great seal, but it also collapses into a convenient travel case. You can even clip it to your backpack for an easy, on-the-go bathroom experience anywhere the trail takes you!
- Freshette – Another one of the “OG” FUDs, the Freshette is about as simple as it gets. Just insert the tube into the funnel, and you’re ready to go whenever (and wherever) nature calls.
- After the deed is done, wrap your FUD in cloth between uses and use water to rinse it out at the end of the day’s adventure. Using a little soap always helps, too.
Now that we’ve covered how to pee on an overland trip, it’s time to move on to number two: number two. All that delicious camping food has to go somewhere, and when nature calls, it becomes a bit more of a project than if you simply had to pee.
There are basically two methods to use when you have to poop while Overlanding. You can bury it in a cat hole, or as unappealing as it may sound, you can carry it out with you.
How to Dig a Cat Hole
- If you have time (meaning it’s not an emergency), digging a cat hole is probably the preferred way to do your business in the wilderness. Of course, since you have to dig a hole, it takes some prep, so it’s best not to wait until you really have to go. Here’s how it’s done:
- Pick out the right spot – Even if you bury your poop, it can still contaminate nearby water sources. So, make sure you’re in a spot that’s at least 200 feet from any water source, including ponds, rivers, lakes, or the ocean.
- Dig your hole – A good cat hole should be at least six inches deep and wide enough that you can “aim” properly. Always carry a folding camping shovel in your rig, so you don’t have to dig with your fingers.
- Get into position – For millennia, the tried-and-true squat position has proven effective for outdoor poopers. If you want a little more stability, dig your hole near a tree. Then, you can wrap your arms around it and lean back for a little more distance between your shoes and the mess. It might be a bit awkward, but it never hurts to take your pants off completely to make sure you can get a wide enough stance.
- Cleanup – It’s never a good idea to forgo wiping, even out in the wilderness. Carry a roll or two of toilet paper in your rig for such occasions. If you don’t have any, a leaf will suffice. Throw everything into the hole and then fill it back in with dirt. If you wipe with something non-biodegradable, like baby wipes, you’ll have to carry it back out with you.
- Wash your hands – Pretty self-explanatory. Going number two in the woods can be a messy situation. Make sure you’re clean with either soap and water or at least hand sanitizer before grabbing the wheel of your overland rig.
Proper Pack Out Procedures
Sometimes, it’s not possible to dig a cat hole. Whether you’re too close to water, in a public campground, or on rocky ground your shovel can’t penetrate, you might have to pack out your poop.
The benefit of the pack-out method is that you can do it just about anywhere. The (very obvious) downside is that you have to carry your poop with you…
If you’ve ever cleaned up after your dog, you already know how to perform the pack out method:
- Take care of business – Just pop a squat and do your thing wherever you’re most comfortable.
- Clean up – Use a plastic bag (or a camping-specific wag bag) to pick up your mess, just like you would for your dog. Put your hand in the bag like a glove, pick up your poop, and flip it inside out. Remember to throw in any toilet paper or leaves you used to clean yourself. Then seal up the bag.
- Pack it away – Pack your mess somewhere away from anything important. If you’re on a hike, let it hang from the outside of your backpack or in a separate pouch. If you have a rooftop storage compartment on your rig, that’s the perfect place to store your pack out. Just don’t forget to dispose of it when you find the appropriate trash container…
- Wash your hands – Always the last step of the process.
Using a portable toilet can really help when you’re using the pack-out method, but we’ll get into that in a bit.
Where to Go to the Bathroom while Overlanding
If you’re not so keen on squatting in the middle of the woods, there are a few options to make your outdoor bathroom experience a little more comfortable while Overlanding.
Public restrooms are everywhere! Your rig is going to need fuel, and most fuel stations have a bathroom. So, the chances are good that you’re going to come across a public restroom eventually, even on long overland expeditions.
Many national and state parks also have free bathhouses for travelers. Many times, even out in the middle of nowhere.
No matter where you go, there’s a pretty good chance there’s a public bathroom nearby. All you have to do is find it.
Built into Vehicle
Depending on your rig setup, you could incorporate a bathroom into your vehicle. Composting toilets and cassette toilets (a toilet with a small holding tank) are small and pretty easy to fit inside larger overland rigs or trailers.
Of course, this method does require some planning and can be expensive, depending on the setup you choose, but it does mean you can go to the bathroom anywhere from the privacy of your rig. Plus, it’s much warmer than going outside in the cold…
Portable Toilet Options
If you don’t want to build a bathroom into your rig but still want a comfortable toilet option on the road, you can use a portable toilet.
Portable toilets are collapsible or foldable toilets you can take with you on overland expeditions. When you have to go, unpack it from your rig, do your business, and put it back. It’s cheaper than building a bathroom into your rig and more comfortable than popping a squat in the woods.
Check out our favorite portable toilet options for Overlanding.
Leave No Trace
When you have to go to the bathroom while Overlanding, make sure you do it right and leave no trace. Leaving a mess behind can harm the environment, hurt animals, and be a nasty surprise for other adventurers. Just don’t do it.
Follow all the leave no trace principles to make sure the area is just as nice as the way you found it for people to enjoy for years to come.
When Nature Calls…
Going to the bathroom while Overlanding doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just make sure you’re away from any water sources, and be sure to clean up after yourself and leave no trace. For a bit more comfort on the trail, you can build a bathroom right into your rig or carry a portable toilet. Either way, when nature calls you, it doesn’t have to ruin your call to nature.
Enjoy the trail!