Camping brings a lot of surprises. Sometimes, the nature of these surprises involves how to pee in an unfamiliar environment.
For men, it’s usually no problem. They can simply find a tree, unzip their fly, and go to town.
For women, however, it’s not so easy. It can be difficult to find a spot that offers enough privacy and convenience to do your business.
And what about wiping? Surely you don’t want to bring a whole roll of toilet paper with you, right?
Fortunately, there are some clever tricks and tips that can make peeing while camping—as a woman—much easier.
But first, let’s go over all the options you typically have with frontcountry versus backcountry camping.
If you’re frontcountry camping, use the provided bathroom facilities
If you booked your campsite at a campground, then you’re in luck—most have bathrooms onsite.
Although you’ll almost undoubtedly have to share these facilities with fellow campers and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be clean or fully stocked with amenities, you can at least count on being able to go to a private stall to do your thing.
If you’re backcountry camping…
There are no bathroom facilities!
Okay, not necessarily. But you definitely won’t have the same facilities you see at popular campgrounds.
Look for a thunder box or outhouse
If you’re backcountry camping in an established park or area, such as a national, state, or provincial park, then you can probably expect many campsites to have either a thunder box or an outhouse.
Thunder boxes are probably more common. Picture a wooden box with a lid.
When you lift up that lid, there’s hole that you can sit over to do your business. Simple as that!
Thunder boxes are usually situated several feet away from where the tent spaces are to allow for privacy and avoid attracting animals.
Many well-used campsites have signage or trails that lead to them.
Don’t count on them, though. You may just have to wander off into the woods to scout it out and see if you come across one.
Outhouses are less common, but we’ve seen them on some backcountry campsites.
Pro tip: Make sure to bring your own toilet paper. Biodegradable is always best.
Find a spot in the woods to pee
If there’s no thunder box or outhouse at your site, or you simply don’t want to bother using it to go number #1, you can simply pick a private spot in the woods to do your business.
When picking a spot, make sure it’s:
- At least 200 feet (or about 70 steps) away from camp, trails, and water sources
- Not in any thick vegetation so you decrease your risk of ticks, snake bites, and allergic reactions to poisonous plants
- On the downhill side of a hill or dune
- On dry, sandy soil that will absorb your pee
- Away from any wildlife trails
Once you find your spot and relive yourself, make sure to cover it afterward. Leaves and dirt work best, but rocks or twigs can also do the trick.
In terms of wiping, you have several different options:
Drip dry. Not the most hygienic option, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Biodegradable toilet paper. You can bury it after use and it will decompose quickly.
Standard toilet paper. You need to pack it out with you after use, or you need to burn as much of it as possible with a lighter and then bury the ashes.
Nature’s toilet paper. Leaves are fine as long as you can identify the species and confirm it’s not poisonous or allergenic.
Maple, oak, and mulberry are generally safe—although not very absorbent
A bandana or microfibre cloth. These are a quick and environmentally-friendly way to wipe—as long as you’re okay with carrying it around on a belt loop or back or your pack.
You’ll need to wash it with clean water and biodegradable soap after a day or two.
My new favourite choice is the “pee cloth”
I wasn’t always a fan of the pee cloth, but I converted a while ago.
I used to rely mostly on the drip dry method and sometimes nature’s toilet paper, but I quickly found that after a day of needing to hydrate a lot and relieve myself eventually afterward, not wiping properly left my underwear feeling moist almost all of the time.
On one of our canoe camping trips, which involved paddling a long and undeveloped stretch of the Lake Superior coastline, I found myself in trouble.
After five days of wearing a dry suit and not being able to bathe (because Superior is so cold, even in summer), I realized that the overly moist environment combined with a lack of airflow and cleanliness became a breeding ground for bacteria, which resulted in very itchy red bumps all over my crotch area.
It was a wakeup call, to say the least. I was forced to jump in the freezing cold lake and then I had to spend the following few days treating the area with Polysporin antibacterial ointment.
Mind you, it could’ve been a lot worse. It’s a very real possibility to get a yeast infection or UTI when camping due to sweating, lack of cleanliness, and constant moisture.
That’s why I’m now a strong advocate for pee cloths, or “fem-pads” as some people refer to them.
They’re basically microfibre cloths about the size of a hand towel that you can keep in your pocket and wipe with when you’re done peeing.
I have the Temoy 3-piece pee cloth set, which comes with its own storage bag.
You get three pee clothes—all of which have one super absorbent microfiber side to wipe with, and one water-resistant side to prevent your hands from getting wet.
They all have clips on the corner, which you can use to clip to a belt loop, backpack, or clothesline for convenience and to allow to dry.
The storage bag has one big pouch and one small pouch. The big one is for storing your clean, unused cloths, and the smaller one is for keeping the used ones separate.
As long as you can get over the idea of carrying around a pee cloth, it’s certainly the most efficient and hygienic way to pee while camping.
I’m a huge fan, and I’m never going back to drip drying or using leaves.
Two other options you have for peeing while camping
These aren’t exactly the lightest or most convenient options, but they can make peeing while camping a lot easier and more comfortable.
Use a female urination device
Female urination devices are basically reusable funnels that you can use to aim your stream without having to squat or pull down your pants.
They’re made of either plastic or silicone, and the funnel is shaped in a way that makes it easy to fit over your crotch area.
The idea is to hold a bottle at the end of the funnel, to catch your urine—making it a good solution to peeing inside your tent if it’s too cold, rainy, or inconvenient to go outside.
Note: Although the concept simple, it can take some level of practice to use this device properly.
Bring a portable camping toilet
Portable camping toilets are another alternative for peeing without worrying about how far away the nearest tree or bush is.
These are basically toilet seats with a container underneath, like a bucket or bag.
They can be emptied and reused multiple times and they’re much more comfortable than just hovering over the ground.
The biggest downsides? They take up space and they’re heavy.
Oh, and they’re probably pretty unpleasant to clean.
So if your main priority is to save as much space and weight in your bag as possible, then this might not be the best option for you.
But if comfort is a priority, then it can definitely offer some peace of mind knowing you can do your business in a somewhat civilized way.
You still have to empty them on a regular basis—at least daily, but more often if multiple people are using it.
You’ll need to head a spot at least 200 feet or 70 steps away from camp, trails, and water sources, and then dig a hole to dump the contents before covering the hole back up.
Peeing while camping doesn’t have to be such a pain
Let’s be honest—we’d all rather have access to a clean bathroom with a flushing toilet whenever we have to go, but that’s not realistic when we’re out trail hiking, backpacking, or at camp.
Camping requires making lots of modern sacrifices, and this is just one of them. But once you pick a method that works for you, it’s really not so bad.
I hope you found this article helpful and that you feel more confident about how to pee comfortably and efficiently while camping.
How to pee while camping FAQs
What’s the best toilet paper to bring camping?
Many people bring standard toilet paper, but if you can, aim to bring toilet paper made of biodegradable materials like bamboo.
It’s pricier, but it’s also better for the environment.
What do I do with my pee cloth when I’m done using it?
If you’re hiking or backpacking on the trail and have only used it a couple of times, you can simply use the clip to attach it to a belt loop or your backpack.
When you get to camp, optionally wash it with biodegradable soap and filtered water. Then wring it out and hang it on your clothesline to dry.
If you brought enough pee clothes to last your trip without needing to wash them, store your used pee cloths in a separate pouch from the clean ones.
When you get home, make sure to hand wash or machine wash your used clothes according to the manufacturer’s washing instructions.
Can I use wet wipes instead?
Yes, you can, if that’s what you prefer.
Wet wipes are actually a great way to stay clean—as long as you’re willing to pack out your used wipes or get biodegradable wipes and bury them afterward.
What’s the best way to pee in a tent?
If you plan on peeing in your tent, such as at night, your best bet is to get a female urination device that you can use along with a bottle to capture your urine.
This can be very tricky to do, however, so I recommend practicing a few times at home—perhaps over the toilet in case of any spills.
In a tent, it’s cramped, it’s dark, and it’s awkward—so the better you can get at using the device properly, the less chance of you have of accidentally peeing all over your sleep gear!
How do I wash my hands after peeing?
When you’re done peeing, simply use a biodegradable soap and filtered water to wash your hands.
Or if you want a faster alternative, bring along a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer to use in a pinch.
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).