An Article From The Half Ass Expeditions Guide to Winter Hiking
by Sophie Bertin, female HAE member, fan, and cybah-spaced but not quite half-assed mountain correspondent.
Well, as Timur said, we all have to go sometime! And while reading his article describing the procedure of how to take a dump with snowshoes on, I couldn’t help but notice that, although the guys at HAE have the best of intentions in providing information on winter hiking, they lack the expertise of women when it comes to certain things. And since Timur suggested that a female reader could perhaps provide some insight on how to relieve oneself in the wilderness from a woman’s perspective, I have taken it upon myself to write this article to help potential female hikers out there on how to “take care of business” in the great outdoors.
So here goes….
To us women of the wild, relieving ourselves in the woods can be a particularly daunting task, in any season. Some male readers who might be reading this article out of curiosity may be surprised to find out that to us women, emptying our bladders in the great outdoors is an even greater challenge than it is to take a dump there. This is mainly due to the fact that we’re not equipped with the same type of plumbing as our male counterparts. However, with a little ingenuity and some help from the about-to-become-not-so-pristine wilderness, it’s possible to master the art of outdoors bladder relief and crapping, ladies’ style. Here are a few tips that will hopefully make this task a little easier to manage…
Finding just the right spot
Relieving oneself in a backwoods privy is certainly strongly advised, as any Park Ranger will tell you. But everybody knows you just don’t want to go in there. Even those who have never actually ventured into an outhouse will somehow get that gut feeling telling them to slowly back away without making any sudden movement, just as to not stir up any shit. Besides, a backwoods privy may not be readily available when you get the call of nature. For example, the section of the AT which goes through New Brunswick, Canada, has but a limited number of latrines (as far as I know), so we hikers are pretty much left with only one option anyway. Fortunately for us, deforestation almost seems to have become a trend, and much like the forests in Maine, a large portion of New Brunswick’s forests have also been picked and logged… So the wilderness ain’t so pristine anymore, now is it… As well, the seasons in New Brunswick, riddled with extreme temperatures, also allow for very effective decomposition of fecal matter. And if it makes you feel better, you can also dig a hole in the snow – or in the ground, depending on the time of year where your outdoors adventure takes place – where your “package” is expected to make landfall. Then, simply bury your “treasure” and you can be on your way. So there, maybe now you won’t feel so guilty about leaving your mark on the mountain…
Prepare the area
Now, aside from finding a “secluded” area to relieve yourself, far from camp and from the trail, you’ll want to select a spot where there is a fairly accessible tree of at least 4 inches in diameter. I won’t go into detail about the tree here, as I will provide more in-depth explanation later on. Suffice to say, a tree can sure come in handy. Trust me on this one; I speak from experience. If you think the peanut gallery will be relentless if you take your dump too close to camp, imagine if they see you walking back to camp with urine- or crap-soiled garments. It’ll blow into an all-out riot. Guaranteed.
Preparing the area is similar for women as it is for men. Let’s refer to Timur’s advice on the matter: “First, find the ‘blast zone’. This is the area you’ll aim the contents of your colon. I like to make a hole in the snow with my snowshoes where my stool is expected to make landfall. Pack down the surrounding area so you have a firm spot to squat. You don’t want to post, sink into the snow, whilst you do the deed.” Also, as indicated by Timur, dislodging the snow from the surrounding brush (in the case of a winter hiking/camping adventure) is also recommended to avoid your butt getting snowed on while you take a crap. And I totally agree. Once again, referring to Timur’s advice, it’s best to drain the bladder first. In my case, this is inevitable anyway; somehow urine always finds its way to the outside world first. This is likely the case for most women, but I wouldn’t know for sure; that information is just too personal and I really don’t want to know anyway.
Lean on me…
Ok ladies, it’s time to take your position! One thing I do know is that for us women, urine has an uncanny ability of finding its way to our inner thighs and flowing down right into our pants and/or dripping onto our footwear if we’re not properly positioned. And at sub-zero temperatures, you definitely don’t want that to happen. This is because as we all know, unlike men, for women it is considered very unsurvival-like behavior to void your bladder while standing in an upright position. And even when you think you’ve got the right position all figured out, accidents can still happen. In this case, leaning your lower back against a tree can help; you’ll be able to crouch down low enough to avoid an unwanted urine shower all over yourself and your clothing, while staying very well balanced. The ideal position for ladies is if you can get to a near-sitting position as to avoid having your mid-section vertically aligned with your feet, and you’ll also want to keep your feet as far from the target area as possible. At this point, it is advisable to lean your lower back against that tree you found upon selecting your spot; in this case, think of the tree as if it were the back of a chair. That’s pretty much the position you should get into. You could also try just grabbing onto a branch instead and try to keep yourself steady that way, but I personally prefer the added stability of leaning against a tree. Ideally, you should keep your feet parallel or with toes pointing inward. The thing is that if your feet are not properly positioned, chances are you’ll empty your bladder right on your footwear and/or snowshoes. Also, you’ll want to spread your feet as far apart from each other as possible (at least 12-14 inches apart) without losing your balance, especially if there’s no snow cover. One reason for this is that as we all know, urine flows from much closer up front compared to crap, and we ladies don’t have that handy hose that men have to direct the flow a few feet away. The other reason is because in the absence of snow, even if you can avoid emptying your bladder all over yourself, you can be a victim of what I call the “splash effect”. Indeed, since us girls can pretty much only aim downward and because we’re so close to the target area, splashing is inevitable. So it’s best to keep your feet as far from the target area as you can, and not crouch down too low. This is why leaning your lower back against a tree can help you keep your balance and avoid an unwanted spraying. Obviously, because urine melts snow pretty much on contact, the “splash effect” is basically eliminated when it comes to winter hiking/camping adventures.
Don’t forget the essentials!
Toilet paper should be on the top of the “essentials” list that you pack for your hiking/camping adventure (closely followed by haebars and booze, of course). Some hikers will also bring along moist wipes to finish the job, but that’s optional. I guess it pretty much depends on your butthole’s natural ability to neatly cut its own crap, or perhaps it has to do with the crap’s consistency. You may not need to use moist wipes, but personally I say it would be best to play it safe and bring some along just in case. The only additional advice I can give on toilet paper is perhaps to buy biodegradable toilet paper made of recycled materials, but then again, I personally think regular toilet paper will biodegrade just fine on its own, just like your crap will eventually biodegrade on its own.
Just freezin’ our asses off
At this point the only thing standing between us girls and relieving ourselves is those pants. Unlike men though, I would advise against lowering your pants down to your ankles. This is because of the position we have to get into in order to relieve ourselves; since we do have to spread our feet apart considerably in order to avoid peeing all over our footwear/snowshoes, we can’t have that area obstructed with pants, which would hinder our movements. Fortunately for us, it’s possible to do our business with our pants pulled down slightly above the knee. This is much appreciated at sub-zero temperatures. That’s right ladies, we pretty much only need to freeze our asses off to take a dump in the snow! So go ahead, grab your toilet paper, get ready, and let it all out!!
One last bit of advice.
Well… now that I’ve covered the basics, I have very little to add, because the rest of the procedure (i.e. the wipe, pull up / tuck in, the cover up, etc.) is more than adequately described in Timur’s article on the subject. Whatever else I would write would not do justice to his knowledgeable advice. So the best thing I can do is to strongly suggest that you go ahead and read Timur’s article (and everything else you’ll find on the HAE website!) if you haven’t already done so. Not only is it all very entertaining to read while also being informative, but the HAE team provides detailed information and almost graphic descriptions that leave absolutely no room for doubt. None.