Nobody likes dealing with stomach issues, but they can feel even worse when you’re not at home.
One common issue campers tend face is constipation, which can be extra uncomfortable in the great outdoors.
Given that camping involves a lot of manual labour and physical activity, any discomfort you might feel can make every little task feel impossible.
It can also make it harder to get a good night’s sleep, putting you at risk of sleep deprivation when you should be enjoying your trip.
Why do we get constipated when we travel?
If you’re one of the many people who feels like they always get “backed up” whenever they go on any kind of trip whatsoever, you’re not alone.
Here are some of the reasons why this can happen.
Your routine has been shaken up
Your body becomes accustomed to your daily routine, and any disruption in that routine can affect your digestive system.
Considering that camping can involve extreme changes due to the lack of modern amenities, you may find that you’re:
- Eating vastly different foods you’re not used to eating
- Eating at different times of the day (earlier or later)
- Eating more or less frequently than usual
- Eating bigger or smaller portions than usual
- Working physically harder than you’re used to
- Sleeping more or less than usual
You’re not hydrating well enough
When you’re camping, you might not drink as much water as you usually do because you’re so busy doing everything else.
Dehydration can lead to constipation since your body needs water to keep your stools soft and easy to pass.
Drinking less water can cause your poop to become dry and hard, making it difficult to go to the bathroom.
You’re feeling anxious or stressed
Traveling and camping can be stressful—even if you’re having fun.
There’s a “mind-body” connection that can cause your body to react to your thoughts and feelings (and vice versa), which explains why stress and anxiety can hinder your normal bowel movements.
Beginner campers, people who don’t like camping, and people who plan overly ambitious trips (such as a long backpacking trip) may be more prone to experiencing constipation due to the extra amount of stress they may be feeling.
You don’t feel comfortable using the bathroom facilities
While camping, you might have to share bathroom facilities with other campers, use an outhouse/privy, sit on a “thunder box,” or dig a hole in the ground.
These are not exactly luxurious options.
This can be made even worse if you’re feeling like you’re in a rush to get the job done so you can get camp chores done or go do an activity.
If you hold in your bowel movements due to the lack of proper facilities, it could lead to constipation over time.
What you can do to prevent constipation while camping
If you’re worried about becoming constipated while camping, there are some things you can do to make it easier on your digestive system and stay regular.
Here’s what you can do.
It’s all too easy to get swept up in the camp chores or fun activities and forget to drink enough water.
By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Plan to bring a big water bottle that you can easily fill with clean, filtered water and drink from.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to bring at least one gallon (4 litres) of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and hygiene needs.
If you’re not bringing your own water, you’ll need to find out where the campground drinking water sources are located.
How much water you’ll actually need will depend on your level of physical activity and the weather.
Eat fibre-rich foods
When creating your camping meal plan, avoid processed and packaged foods as much as possible.
Aim for a balanced diet that includes fibre-rich foods like vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fruits.
These foods can help you stay regular when camping since they contain soluble fibre which helps your body absorb water to keep stool soft and easy to pass.
Some healthy and portable snack options to bring with you include:
- Dried fruits like apricots and figs
- Nuts, seeds, and trail mix
- Whole grain crackers and granola bars
- Canned beans and vegetables
Limit your consumption of dehydrating drinks
If you do plan to have some of these drinks, keep it to a minimum—and be sure to balance it out by drinking water before, during, and after drinking it.
When camping, opt for water, fruit juices, or low-sodium soups to stay hydrated and maintain healthy digestion.
Moving your body can help to stimulate bowel movements.
It doesn’t have to be strenuous—even walking can be enough.
Plan a hike, go for a swim, or participate in group activities like frisbee, volleyball or badminton.
If you don’t feel like doing anything too physical, yoga, and stretching can also help to get your bowels moving.
Get enough sleep
Sleep plays an important role in digestion and can affect your bowel movements.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can make it more difficult to go to the bathroom.
Be sure to prioritize a good night’s sleep while camping.
Bring extra supplements and medication
If you’re prone to constipation, consider bringing along some over-the-counter aids like fibre supplements or gentle stool softeners.
If you have an existing condition that causes constipation, like IBS, or take any medications that may contribute to it, talk to your doctor before leaving for your trip.
You may need to bring along some extra medication or special dietary supplements with you to help manage your symptoms.
Consider alternative toilets
If you don’t feel comfortable using the bathroom facilities, or there are no bathroom facilities, consider bringing your own pop-up toilet kit and setting it up in a discreet spot.
A kit like the Fun Essentials portable toilet kit can provide a comfortable space for you to take care of your business in peace and privacy.
And because it’s yours, you don’t have to worry about other people’s germs or cleanliness.
Just be sure to pack out any solid waste so that campsites are kept clean and undisturbed.
Remember to relax!
Worrying about getting constipation before a trip won’t do you any good.
In fact, it will only create unnecessary stress and anxiety, which is bad for your gut.
If you’re really worried about it, consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor before the trip.
Depending on your personal health and medical history, they may be able to recommend some specific dietary changes and other tips that can help you remain regular while camping.
As a recap, here’s a quick rundown of what you can do to ensure a constipation-free camping experience:
- Maintain a healthy water intake by aiming to drink an ounce for every kilo (2.2 pounds) of body weight each day.
- Adjust your water intake according to your activity level.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol.
- Eat high-fibre foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Avoid foods high in fat and low in fibre.
- Stay active by walking, hiking, or engaging in other physical activities while camping.
- Get a good night’s sleep to help maintain your body’s natural rhythms.
By following these simple tips, you can focus on enjoying your camping adventure without the discomfort of constipation.
Remember to always listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).