The Art of the Bush Wee

Fellas, you probably don’t need to read this—for you, tinkling against a tree is a pretty simple affair!

However, you do need to know where to go. (Guys you might be more interested in dealing with Number Two’s so feel free to scroll down 😉).

We ladies, on the other hand, sometimes dehydrate ourselves accidentally, being too self-conscious about baring our bums to the world when we have to go.

Ladies please don’t do that! It’s not only uncomfortable but it’s also harder to hold on if it’s cold and even more disastrous if you have poor pelvic floor muscles!

Every now and then a trail will offer a public toilet, great for emptying bladders before you start your hike and for when you get back.

But a lot of the time you’ll just have to use the facili-trees!

So we’ve put together a guide on how to manage the Art of the Bush Wee!

woman peeing in the bush

The Art of the Bush Wee

  • Make sure you’re at least 100 metres away from camp, the cook area, trails and water sources to avoid contamination.
  • Choose soft ground, rather than hard ground. Soft surfaces, like grass and pine needles, absorb fluids more readily than hard surfaces. This will help reduce backsplash.
  • Keep your back to any wind for the same reason, to avoid splashback on your boots.
    -Face downhill if you can, or at least stand on flat ground.
    -If you leave your pack on, be sure to check for any dangling straps that may get in the way and get wet too.
  • Tie a jacket around your waist as a shield/screen for your back side.
  • Pull your pants only half-way down your thighs. If you let them go past your knees, they may get wet as well. It could also be a good idea to roll up the cuffs of long pants or tuck them into the top of your boots or socks.
  • The flatter you can keep your feet on the ground (heels down, butt down), the less likely you are to lose your balance, pee on your own feet, or pee on the shielding jacket.
  • Now you’re set for business; squat and do the perfect bush wee! The jacket around your waist will shield you from the back and, if you need a little extra cover, you can always drape another jacket or bandana across your knees.

Health Tip – Try to check the colour of your pee to make sure you’ve been drinking enough water, particularly on a long hike. If it’s dark yellow, you need more water. If it’s completely clear, you’re drinking too much. It’s important to stay hydrated, particularly in summer.

The Dry Off

Toilet paper doesn’t decompose as fast as you think it does and also goes against the Leave No Trace principles, so you’ll need a way to manage your paper waste if you choose to use it.

(Also see below for Number Two’s)

If you prefer toilet paper, just bring a few sheets but also a zip-lock plastic bag so you can pack away the used paper and take it with you when you’re done.

toiler paper left on the trail
Toilet paper left on the trail 😥

You could skip the dunny paper entirely and use some water from your water bottle to rinse off (this is actually quite common in many cultures). After the rinse, you can use a designated pee bandana to dry off, again utilising a zip-lock bag for storing til you get home and wash it, or if you don’t mind, attach it to a pack strap so it can dry off and air out.

Other Tinkle Options

If you can’t find soft ground to avoid splashback or there are too many “tickly” plants around making you nervous, consider peeing in a bag. Or if you’d rather not expose so much skin, use a female urination device which allows you to stand and pee like a bloke.

The Bag

A simple zip-lock bag has a wide opening so you don’t need to control your stream and you can hold it close to your body, although something like these disposable urinal bags have shaped collars for a better grip and less chance of a slipping accident.

With the zip-lock bag you can just empty the contents when you’re finished. The urinal bag contains granules that will turn your pee into an odorless, biodegradable gel. In a pinch you could reuse the zip-lock bag if you empty it carefully (on the same hike) but the urinal bag is only a one time use.

The Urination Device

Standing up to pee means you don’t have to remove nearly as much clothing. There are reusable devices like this one, as well as disposable ones like these. These are popular with young women who attend festivals where queues to the porta-loos are long.

You only need to unzip and pull aside underwear, then slip the device under your clothing snug against your skin, the cup and spout keeps your stream well away from your body. You then use the back edge of the cup to “wipe” the skin and remove any remaining drops.

festival queue 1

OTBT Tip – Members of Team OTBT have had experience with these and would highly recommend you “practice” using them at home first!

Number Two

This one’s probably more relevant for overnight hiking and camping. Generally when your mind and body are active on a simple day hike, some bodily functions can take a backburner ;).

But if nature is yelling then this what you do:

  • As with a Number One, you need to be at least 100 metres away from camp, the cook area, trails and water sources.
  • Choose soft ground to dig your hole as you won’t be able to dig very deeply in rocky substrate.
  • Dig a hole that’s 6 to 8 inches deep (this is called a cathole) using a small hand trowel.
  • Take care of business but try to limit yourself to just Number Two because according to Kathleen Meyer, author of “How to Sh*t in the Woods,” peeing in the same hole can actually preserve the poop.
  • If you’re using household toilet paper you’ll need to pack it out with you in a zip-lock bag (leave no trace). But if you’re using highly biodegradable loo paper designed specifically for camping, like Colemans, you can place it in the hole.
  • If you can, use a stick to stir things into the dirt because it’ll help speed up decomposition. (Put the used stick in the hole as well.)
  • Fill in the hole and disguise it to look like the rest of the surroundings. Don’t put a rock on top as this will slow down the decomposition.
cathole 1

We know this isn’t the easiest topic to talk about if you’re new to hiking so we hope you’ve found this informative enough that you’ve now got the art of the bush wee (and more) covered!

You also now have options; so decide on your bush wee preference and add the necessary equipment to your backpack and don’t forget to pack for Number Two’s if you’re hiking overnight or camping.

We know you love the outdoors (as do we!) and now you can do your bit to leave no trace and preserve our beautiful WA bushland!

Find your next adventure