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How to poop in the outdoors || Part 4: The backcountry bidet

Most tutorials about pooping in the outdoors end with a butt wiping, a cover up of the cathole, and a hand-washing, as I covered in Part 3 of this series. But I will finish with something less conventional: the backcountry bidet.

If you would rather watch than read, view the video embedded above starting at 5:18.

Motivation

Post-poop wiping with natural materials and/or toilet paper (TP) can achieve an acceptable level of cleanliness. I have been on many one- and two-night trips without feeling that this was inadequate.

But if personal hygiene stops there, nether regions never get “shower clean.” In particular, abrasives like dirt and dust, wiping material remnants, and fecal matter can remain in the zone. Flatulence can introduce more fecal matter between BM’s and cleanings.

The area will start to itch and feel, well, dirty. If not addressed, chafing will ensue, and escalate into “monkey butt,” a condition whereby red, irritated skin rings your butthole. Hopefully, your butt never looks as bad as this. Ouch.

In the long term, poor personal hygiene can lead to fungal infections. I have a personal experience to share on this one, but you’ll need to buy me a few beers before I go there.

Regularity

Personally, I perform a bidet usually every other day. But I’m not a prolific sweater, and I tend to hike in drier climates. If I were to backpack extensively again in a warm and humid climate like the Appalachians in the summer, a daily bidet might be warranted.

Backcountry bidet preparation

Find a private location away from water. Take with you:

  • Water bottle with 20-32 oz of water
  • Soap (optional)
  • Hand sanitizer or soap

If the backcountry bidet is new to you, it may be worth removing a pant leg or two. Obviously, underwear needs to come off, too, or at least be dropped to the knees.

Action

1. Designate your hands: one will be a dirty hand; the other, a clean hand. Commit to these designations until you’re done.

2. With the clean hand, tilt the bottle upwards and let water flow down your butt crack. Hard-sided bottles work best, but soft-sided Platypus bottles can work fine if held in a particular way. If you are using a squirt bottle, do not squirt “up” at the area, as this may contaminate your bottle.

Tilt the bottle upwards and let water flow down your crack. Scrub the area thoroughly; splashing is not sufficient.

Tilt the bottle upwards and let water flow down your crack. Scrub the area thoroughly; splashing is not sufficient.

3. While water is running down your crack, clean your butthole with your dirty hand. Splashing is not good enough. Scrub the area thoroughly.

If you would like to use soap, use it now. I have done the bidet with and without soap, and find no difference in the results.

4. If you used soap, rinse the area with the remainder of the bottle.

Cleanup

1. With your clean hand, squirt some hand sanitizer into your dirty hand. Conduct a one-hand wash.

2. Squirt again. Now do a two-hand wash.

3. Put your underwear and pants back on. And carry on with your day, now with a very clean underside.

16 Responses to How to poop in the outdoors || Part 4: The backcountry bidet

  1. Ted October 11, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Important topic, very informative video–great stuff as always, Andrew. Thank you.

    I’ve never really seen this addressed in the plethora of how-to-live-on-the-trail articles/videos, but my problem is that I can’t squat, period. Like a lot of people, I’ve got knee issues and I just can’t do it. I rely on finding ‘poop logs’ that I can use to hang my backside over to facilitate the call of nature. Above treeline, I’m often, ahem, shit out of luck in finding something to help me ‘assume the position.’

    While I can usually manage the going part, the cleaning part is difficult. The back-country bidet is really unworkable for us non-squatters, unfortunately. Wet wipes are an option, but they’re more to carry, more to pack out, and are really good at just adding moisture and fragrance to the problem.

    If anybody has good solutions, I’d love to hear them.

    • Jeremy October 11, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

      Ted, have you tried using webbing wrapped around a tree or boulder like a sling? Create a loop and slide it up to your arm pits and lean back. Great alternative to the squat and finding the perfect log.

  2. Used to be on BPL October 11, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

    In SoCal we are in a drought. How much water weight do you allocate for the bidet?

    • Andrew Skurka October 12, 2016 at 3:12 am #

      A full bottle.

      Regardless of drought, reserve this practice for an area with plenty of natural water. For example, pulling water from a flowing perennial Creek, fine; pulling water from a small seasonal tank, probably not helpful to other backcountry users and to wildlife.

  3. Carol October 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm #

    Good article Andrew.

    Ted, I’ve heard of ppl who take a lightweight stool/backless folding chair with them that has a hole cut in the middle of the seat. Would that help above treeline?

  4. Sam A. October 12, 2016 at 9:01 am #

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for covering the important but overlooked topic of cleanliness. Speaking of cleanliness – what about backcountry “showers” and “laundry”? Do you wait until you pull into a town, or do it on the trail after a certain number of days? If one’s on a group trip I assume the options are limited.

    • Andrew Skurka October 12, 2016 at 11:48 am #

      I rarely take on-trail showers, but I will splash-wash or go for a swim if I’m feeling particularly dirty.

      I was my hiking socks daily. I wash my underwear and hiking shirt every few days. Pants and outer layers can go longer.

      On a group trip everyone is in the same situation. Often I have designated a mid-day stop as a wash-up stop. Everyone finds a private place, or washes up in public if they are comfortable with it.

      • Randi Young October 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

        Andrew – I know that you don’t carry a bear canister, but for those who do — it makes a wonderful washing machine!

        • Andrew Skurka October 12, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

          Correction: I carry a canister when I am required to. Otherwise, rarely or never.

  5. Sean October 13, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

    I’ve seen some travel bidets that I’m curious if they work well. At 4 ounces they’re kind of heavy but I suspect a lot of that is the bulb container. You could probably replace that with a lighter weight bottle and have an option there. I’ve found a few high rated ones on amazon for around 12 bucks and am contemplating experimentation.

  6. Jeff October 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    I’ve used the “poop soup” method since I started backpacking, and I have an addition to your suggestion that I think might be helpful. If you can train your body that peeing comes after pooping, you can get up from your squat and soak the cathole. After stirring the poop is indistinguishable from the wet dirt. This is especially useful for preventing animals from digging up TP (if you choose to bury it); it is essentially all dissolved at this point. I imagine it breaks down significantly quicker this way too

    • Andrew Skurka October 17, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

      I had not thought of that, but that’s an excellent suggestion. It might require some muscle retraining, as I always seem to pee before I poop. Another possibility is to drop some water (if it’s in ample supply) into the hole, too.

  7. Karl Schmidt October 30, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    I’m a big fan of the trail bidet, I’ve used many systems and my favorite is still an extra platypus bottle cap with a hole in it.

    Here’s a video of me demonstrating on the PCT
    https://youtu.be/NDozH2xIKOI

  8. Nicolas November 20, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    I collected lots of pine needles on my JMT hike this summer. Bunch a handful together, break them in half and you have yourself two nice and SOFT brushes to do the “heavy lifting.”

    My brother however forgot to pack toilet paper for the first half of our trip, which meant that we went paperless from Langley to MTR, including the rather barren Miter Basin. That was not the most pleasant on trail realization. The going got easier after Whitney, but it was not ideal. We did use a wider U-shaped snow tent stake to dig cathodes in the rockier ground, so at least that wasn’t a struggle.

    Do you have additional tips regarding this specific scenario: over tree line, Eastern Sierra lunar landscape (and paperless)?

    I look forward to the 2nd ed. of your book. Any projection on when it will be coming out?

    • Andrew Skurka November 20, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

      Pretty limited options in the Eastern Sierra. I would probably go for twigs before rocks.

  9. Tim November 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    In humid and moist conditions monkey butt can develop and lead to uncomfortable itching. Wash daily with soap and water, especially after No. 2, and it will go away in a few days, although it will continue to itch for a while. For this I would recommend using Phytozine (look up on Amazon). It has tea tree oil and is anti fungal and relieves the itching. A small kitchen sponge with soap is useful and soft enough for cleaning the hind parts, with the “bidet” wash.

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