If you are new to hiking or haven't put much thought into it you may have heard that many females carry a pee rag, like a Kula Cloth, on the trail. While this may sound somewhat gross it is good for cleanliness and to help you carry less other gear.
What is a Pee Rag? When you are hiking you have limited access to toilet paper, if you wish to stay clean then a pee rag is a perfect option as it is reusable allowing you to clean before heading off. This way you have way less toilet paper you need to carry for the trip as it is bulky and unneeded.
Lets dive in and talk about whats the need for a pee rag on the trail and why having it can be helpful to someone looking to generate less waste and to carry less. Then we can discuss the option of not wiping at all, this does get asked a bit, and why that is even considered.
When you are just getting started hiking you may begin to think about what to do when you are faced with the inevitable issue of needing to pee while outside and not near bathrooms or a port-a-potty.
So then how do you pee while hiking? You need to find the right spot first which is going to be at least 200 feet from the campsite or water source. If a slope make sure you are uphill and if windy that you are upwind, then you would typically squat and pee.
Why do you need to be 200 feet away you may ask? Well this is to ensure you don't pollute the area, the water source, and to keep the areas with traffic free from harmful bacteria and to help avoid spreading sickness.
What you need to get over is that toilet paper is necessary for you to pee and clean up, what I would suggest instead is that you want to look at a pee rag instead to help cut down on waste along with fast access to it when the need strikes.
While many have suggested the option to drip dry when having to go to the restroom on the trail this may not be healthy or helpful for most. The issues with this will center more around skin irritation due to the leftover moisture.
Many places outside the US don't feel the need to wipe after peeing instead letting their underwear absorb anything that is left, for most in the US this seems beyond crazy but it is natural!
Men have no need to wipe after they pee as they have little extra that is typically shaken off before zipping back up, there is nothing other than maybe a drop left to collect in the underwear.
There are many reasons why choosing to use a pee rag can be beneficial to a hiker, we have a few we wanted to focus on here to provide you some pros to a pee rag.
One huge benefit of a pee rag is that it is located on the outside of your pack so it is available at a moments notice without having to break down your pack and find the toilet paper.
This could be something that is not cleaned leads to a UTI or chaffing, both of which are a big halt on your hike continuing. When you are hiking you are already a sweaty mess and this added with toilet paper could end up in a mess where the pee rag is a simple wipe and go.
If you choose not to wipe and do a drip dry you will probably not notice at first but when you are out there for days they do start to add up and the smell will be noticeable.
Additionally the extra moisture can lead to issues with infections or chafing and other problems related.
This may be one of the biggest benefits to using a pee rag as you don't have the same amount of trash generated. Most the time in the wilderness you pack out what you pack in, which means carrying all that used toilet paper over the entire trek!
Just as with good there is always drawbacks to most items also, almost nothing in life is only good, here are what women listed as their cons to a pee rag.
For shorter duration hikes this will more than likely not be an issue for you, as you go longer, like 4+ days between cleaning off the pee rag you will slowly start to have the smell grow.
The other option would be to use water along the trail to wash it out thoroughly more often, obviously after you filter the water to make sure it has no pathogens in it also.
There will be people who say that using the same rag over and over again is less clean, this is partly why things like the Kula Cloth specifically treat with an anti-microbial.
The big thing people will speak on is that being outside of the backpack means they are exposed to UV light and this kills off the bad stuff, this may be true for many hikes but in a place like the AT you will be in a green tunnel.
This seems like a no brainer but since it isn't located with your clothes it could be missed when you are doing other laundry, I would just make sure that you prepare to grab it before laundry time and put in with the clothing so as not to miss it.
Kula Cloth is a leading gear vendor who provides you the option of a pee rag that also has anti-microbial silver added to ensure this helps you to stay as healthy as possible.
They are easy to use with a quick snap option to connect to your backpack with ease. Many have described this as "The most important piece of gear to come along in decades" for women on the trail.
If you want to see instructions on how you can use a pee rag then you can check out the Leave No Trace blog.
While for many it may take a little adjustment over the normal toilet paper use in a normal life, the pee rag is an amazingly helpful piece of gear in keeping you from carrying TP and is quicker to use than TP.
I would say if you don't know much about it then read more from the Kula Cloth blog and learn why and how they make them and you will come to find out that it is a perfect way to keep clean on the trail.