Peeing outside at night – an expert’s guide

So far with this blog I’ve steered clear of giving advice. After all, I’m learning every step of the way, so it would be disingenuous to tell anyone else how to go about preparing for a thru-hike, nonetheless how to hike the hike itself.

However, I feel like a week is plenty of time to become an expert in peeing outside at night, especially for someone like me, who has been perfecting her strategy twice nightly.

This guide is best directed to fellow women, although men could benefit from it as well. If performed properly, it should take about an hour and a half to two hours.

Not all of the guidance in this post is taken from personal experience. I’ve also probed other women hikers on the trail for their input. I’ll leave it up to the reader’s imagination to wonder which elements I’ve had the pleasure of validating myself.

Upon waking up at three in the morning, one should lay there weighing the costs and benefits. Yes, you have to pee, but it is 20 degrees outside with a wind chill of one degree; and you are effectively harvesting your body heat in your sleeping bag. Then again, you’re starting to get goose bumps, and you know that your body is wasting heating energy to keep the urine in your bladder warm.

Try to fall asleep but wake up about an hour later.

As the minutes pass, be sure to repeat the following to yourself, “I’ll just go back to sleep.” In your attempt, you will undoubtedly hear your neighboring tent dweller sawing logs with a chainsaw. You will have profound thoughts about suggesting Breathe Right strips to him in the morning. “He’d probably really appreciate that. I’m such a thoughtful person.” And variably you’ll consider calling his name in the dark and kicking his tent. “Yeah, that might stop him long enough for me to fall back asleep. Then again, he might think I’m a bear and freak out.”

Undoubtedly a topic for a follow on post about making friends among your fellow hikers, be sure to tease him mercilessly about his snoring the following day.

Fiiiiine, you say to yourself. Realizing sleep will not return, force yourself into a seated position still cocooned in your sleeping bag like a Glow Worm. After another fifteen minutes of dozing vertically, you should muster the energy to reach into the foot of your sleeping bag where you stored your puffer jacket and cleanish camp socks (you’re not wearing these layers because you realized after a couple of nights that you’re warmer without them on).

Getting the socks on will be fairly easy, if a little cumbersome since you are required to remain head-to-toe encased in your sleeping bag during the process. However, be warned: The puffer jacket, on the other hand, demands every ounce of will power to put on as you must half unzip your sleeping bag for this to work.

Once on, don’t forget to struggle with your sleeping bag liner since you forgot to pull it from around you before donning the jacket. You’ll feel strangled and imprisoned by the liner when you attempt to move.

Don’t panic. This is normal.

Grab the liner at your waist, and pull as you simultaneously shake your head vigorously back and forth to release it from up around your shoulders.

At this point, there is no turning back. Your sleeping bag is rapidly losing stored body heat, so there is no point in delaying. You must next unzip your tent, slip on your crocs, and stumble to the tree five feet away – 10 feet if you’re looking to maintain a little dignity.

Or, if you lost your sense of shame the first time you realized that the main topics of conversation around you for the next several months will include chafing and bowel movements (men…lots of men everywhere), feel free to pee directly within the area outside of your tent but within your rain fly. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s 20 degrees out there and a toasty 25 degrees in that rain fly. Those five degrees may feel vital at 3am, and besides, nobody will know.

For you ladies with products designed to help you pee standing up, take care not to wear gloves while peeing. I know your hands will smart from the cold, but the risk of fumbling and missing your target are too high. Trust me. Seriously. Don’t risk it.

Once you have assumed the position, turn your headlamp off and do what you need to do.

This next step is very important. Don’t forget to look up. The stars are beautiful and infinite. Appreciate your good fortune.

Upon completion, stumble back to your tent, strip off the jacket and socks, and shimmy back into your liner and bag.

Once you’ve warmed yourself up again (I suggest shivering for about 15 minutes in a fetal position), spend the next two hours listening to the symphony of snores and murmurs and rustlings about from your fellow tent dwellers. And remember that when the sun rises shortly, you’ll look back on this and laugh. It’s going to be another wonderful day.

Meandering on,


PS. For good measure, I’ve thrown in a couple of random photos. I’m still working to figure out how to put photos among the text with my WordPress app.

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