The case for carrying a pee rag while hiking

“Ugh,” my male hiking companion frowned. “What I don’t get is, why some people bother to bury their poop, and then leave the toilet paper exposed above ground?” I gazed past his shoulder at the umpteenth little “white blossom” we’d seen along this high-use section of trail.

“Silly old bear,” I said. “That’s not poop paper. That’s PP TP!”

Classic PP TP. Toilet paper is too often left on the surface, or really poorly buried, when women go pee.

Classic PP TP. Toilet paper is too often left on the surface, or really poorly buried, when women go pee.

It took him a minute because, like many men, he associates TP with poop and not pee. On the other hand, women in our culture are more likely to use TP with both pee and poop. Then he figured it out.

“Aw man, PP TP, well, why don’t the ladies at least carry it out?”

Carrying out your toilet paper isn't hard or gross. But, consider joining the pee-rag club.

Carrying out your toilet paper isn’t hard or gross. But, consider joining the pee rag revolution.

It’s true, leaving it by the trail is unacceptable. Packing it out is the best practice. But, let’s think about this. A well-hydrated woman using TP every time she pees, even just during one long trail day, suddenly has a lot of TP to deal with. On a multi-day trip, we are talking about a whole darn lot of toilet paper she needs to carry around and carry out. It could take a pretty big baggie. Perhaps some women hikers find this unappealing. Perhaps because TP is gross? Perhaps, because it’s a whole lot of trash? Read on, and you, too, can be free of this problem.

When I was a little whippersnapper in the backcountry, my instructor took all the girls aside and showed us a weathered old bandana.

She said, “Ok ladies, I introduce to you, the pee rag. You use it as your toilet paper over and over again.” “Ewww!” we all said, as if on cue. “No really, it’s not that gross. It’s a special color so you don’t confuse it with your other bandanas. Let’s just say, for example, it’s yellow.”

"Moonshine" smiling proudly with her pee-rag on her pack.

‘Moonshine’ smiling proudly with her pee-rag on her pack. Photo courtesy of Moonshine.

“Ewww!” we said. She pressed on. “You keep it in a special pocket. Every day, or as often as you wish, you rinse it with fresh water.” (Of course, you don’t wash it IN the water source. . . at least 100 feet away.) “You dry it in the sun, or by hanging it off your backpack as you walk. It never starts to smell like pee. It really works. Try it.”

Well, since our fearless leader hadn’t brought any TP on this trip, we were forced to try it.  And you know what, she was right. It’s really not that gross. Let’s face it. New pee doesn’t even smell much at all. It’s old pee that starts to smell. So, as long as you keep rinsing your pee rag, and give it a good laundering whenever you are in civilization, it’s actually quite inoffensive. Cleaner and better in my book than “dripping dry” or using leaves.

'Bubbles' takes in the Northern California views. Note the pee-rag on her back. Photo courtesy of Kale Scown.

‘Bubbles’ takes in the Northern California views. Note the pee rag on her back. Photo courtesy of Kale Scown.

Having peed along thousands of trail miles over 20 years, I’ve devotedly used a half, or even a quarter of a cotton bandana as a pee rag.  It fits in my pocket better than a full bandanna, it dries super-fast and appeals to my ultralight sensibilities.

It’s time for a pee rag revolution.

As discussions abound regarding carrying out your poopy toilet paper (which is a whole other subject and certainly has some valid support), the thought of filling up a baggie with PP TP may seem ridiculous. Enjoy a pee rag instead!

'Moonshine', one more time. She's a big fan. Ladies, we hope to see you sporting a similar bandanna hanging off your pack this summer. Photo courtesy of Moonshine.

‘Moonshine’, one more time. She’s a big fan. Ladies, we hope to see you sporting a similar bandana hanging off your pack this summer. Photo courtesy of Moonshine.

By Dana Hendricks

↑ Back to top