How to avoid constipation while camping

by | Apr 25, 2023 | Health & safety

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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.

A man holding toilet paper while walking toward an outhouse.

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?

A woman with her hands on her stomach.

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

A charcuterie board served while camping.

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

A person holding a water bottle.

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

Camping gear all over the ground.

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

Bathroom facilities in a national park.

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.

The presence of other campers, unsanitary conditions, biting insects, and cold or wet weather can make it difficult to relax and go to the bathroom when you need to.

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

A toilet paper roll on a tree in the forest.

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.

Hydrate regularly

A man drinking water from a water bottle in hot weather.

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.

If you’re backcountry camping, you’ll need to either boil your water first or filter it using a gravity filter, water bottle filter, or tablets.

How much water you’ll actually need will depend on your level of physical activity and the weather.

You’ll need to increase your water intake and replenish your electrolytes when you’re more physically active, especially in hot weather.

Eat fibre-rich foods

A man holding a granola bar.

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:

Limit your consumption of dehydrating drinks

A plastic cup of beer on a cooler at a campsite.

Alcoholic drinks like beer and wine, and caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda, can cause dehydration and contribute to constipation.

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.

Get active

A man wearing hiking shoes on a trail.

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

A man trying to sleep inside a tent.

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.

That means making sure you have enough room in your tent for your sleep system with a comfortable sleeping bag.

If you suffer from back pain, consider trying a camping cot or air mattress that’s designed with extra comfort and back support.

Bring extra supplements and medication

A person holding a pill supplement.

If you’re prone to constipation, consider bringing along some over-the-counter aids like fibre supplements or gentle stool softeners.

For example, Benefiber gummies are an easy-to-take dietary supplement that come in different fruit flavours.

Even though we’ve never experienced constipation on a trip, Ross and I always bring some ex-lax with us—just in case.

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

A portable toilet inside a tent for privacy.

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!

A woman relaxing at a campsite with a hammock.

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.

Happy camping!

Next up: How to pee while camping (a guide for women)

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About Us

Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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