I remember the first time I had to pee outdoors. I was eight or so years old, and the reason I remember it is because it didn’t go well. There was just pee, everywhere. On my sandals. On my ankles. Everywhere. I had zero technique and all of the embarrassment. The shame of this utter failure clung with me, and from that day forward, I avoided peeing outdoors at all costs.

I pulled this avoidance off rather impressively for many years. Then one day as a 20-something, the moment came where I realized I was going to have to finally face my fear. I’d be in the backcountry for a week. There was no way around it. At this point, my nervous mind not only turned to thinking through the fine art of the squat, but also to the methods for keeping dry and tidy down there.

Few things irk me more when I’m in the wilderness, taking in the beauty of nature, than to have my view suddenly interrupted by wads of disregarded toilet paper. Unfortunately, it’s something I’ve been encountering more and more as a larger number of people discover the wonder of the great outdoors.

And—I get it, ladies. It’s a familiar feel. It keeps you dry. It helps you feel clean. It’s a bummer to lug around after use. It’s easy to imagine it’ll just quickly decompose. However, these excuses don’t get us out of fulfilling our duty to these special public lands. It is our job to leave no trace, to keep these views just as pristine and glorious as we find them.

So, we need to break the taboo and start talking openly about peeing outdoors. We need to discuss our options. And, if you haven’t found it already, we need to introduce you to the power of the pee rag.20160430_111505

When I was finally ready to redeem 8-year-old me’s past outdoor pee attempts, I hopped on the internet right away for guidance. I was quickly met by an online community of supportive women offering their tips and tricks. The internet can be a great thing.

After reading Trinity Ludwig’s blog, “Female hygiene: a backcountry guide and tips,” I was pretty much sold on trying out a pee rag for my upcoming backcountry trip.

A pee rag is a small piece of fabric that you use to give yourself a little dab after peeing to dry those lingering couple of drops. The pee rag is then conveniently strapped to the outside of your pack, or to the top of your kayak or canoe, to dry and disinfect through exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Once home, just toss it in the laundry and it will be clean and ready for use on your next trip!

The pee rag has many benefits. It is lightweight, convenient, great for a variety of both short day trips and multi-day adventures—and, since it’s reusable, it doesn’t get left behind to litter our trails. It is a great way to both stay dry and easily fulfill our promise to tread lightly on our Mother Earth.

Some may approach the pee rag concept with an initial reaction of “yuck,” but I think if you give it a try, you’ll quickly find it to be the solution for which you’ve longed. It dries quickly, and it’s not like it’s taking in much moisture to begin with, so I really haven’t found it to be any yuckier than the very clothes I wear while adventuring. Plus, I feel confident that if 8-year-old me could see me today, she’d feel pretty empowered by the whole thing. With pee rag in tow, I have become an outdoor peeing champion.

So, give it a try, and then spread the word—power to the pee rag!

Additional tips, tricks, and suggestions for using your first pee rag:

• I use an XXS Sea to Summit Tek Towel. I like its durability, absorbency, soft feel, and handy snap-closure loop for attaching to my pack. Others use bandanas, old t-shirts, or a variety of other fabrics. Find what works best for you.
• Traveling with a man? Give him a head’s up on your pee rag—or be prepared to look over and find him using it as an oven mitt for the pot that’s boiling your dinner’s spaghetti!
• At the end of the day, hang it on branch—proudly mark your campsite, let your pee rag fly!
• If you decide the pee rag isn’t for you, and choose to stick with toilet paper, that’s fine! Just please, please, please make sure you pack it out.
• Check out Snowqueen & Scout’s blog on peeing in the woods for additional pros and cons of using the pee rag, as well as for many other outdoor peeing options.