The Girl Beta Series: Pee

“If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis.” -Farm woman from Billy Madison

Photo: Betsy Dorsett

“Oh my God George.”

My friend grabbed my arm as I was getting ready to climb. “Look at my feet,” she said.

I glanced down. Her Chacos were soaking wet.

“What happened?” I asked.

She furrowed her brow and responded with one word.

“Pee.”

After an unsuccessful attempt at trying not to laugh, I asked how she managed to get pee all over her feet. She told me that the only secluded place she could find was a small space in between two rocks, but that the slope of the ground made her pee pool into a big puddle.

We were climbing in the Red River Gorge, and thankfully we crossed over a stream on our way back to the car.

“I hate peeing outside. I wish I had a penis,” she told me, swooshing her Chacos through the water.

Peeing outside is a necessary act for anyone who spends time outdoors. While there’s not much to it for the penis-yielding folks, the process can be a little tricky if you have a vagina. Many of us learn how to pee while camping, at the crag, and on multi-pitch routes through a lot of unfortunate trail-and-error moments, but there are some simple tips that can help us with the process. With the knowledge in this article and a little practice, you’ll find that peeing outside with a vagina isn’t so bad after all!

The Pee Stance

Most women choose to squat when peeing outside. I have found that this is the best (and only) stance that works. Pull your pants down to at least your knees, and squat down until your hips are hovering just a few inches above the ground. You may want to hold your pants away from the stream of your pee until you get comfortable with peeing in this position.

Choosing a place to pee

Once you’ve established that you’re complying with Leave No Trace principles (make sure that you pee at least 200 feet away from water, campsites, and trails) there are additional factors that will impact the location that you choose to go pee:

Privacy: Some of us are comfortable peeing in front of other people and some of us are not. If you like to pee in privacy, you can find a large bush, tree, or rock to squat behind. If you’re close to your car, you can open both the front and back doors to create a make-shift bathroom stall. You can also use a jacket to cover yourself, or simply ask your friends to look away for a moment.

Peeing on different terrain: Any person with a vagina who has peed outside knows how drastically the terrain can affect this experience. One of the major issues we encounter is splashing and pooling while peeing on certain surfaces. Here is a breakdown of terrain type and the environmental impacts that accompany them:

Grass and plants: While grass is usually the type of terrain most women seek out when they have to pee because it prevents splashing and pooling, it’s not always the most ethical choice. Pee has little effect on vegetation, but it’s best to avoid peeing on plant life because it may cause animals to dig up the soil in search of salts. If this is your only terrain option, you can dilute your pee with water to prevent wildlife from digging.

Gravel, sand, dirt, pine needles, and leaves: These surfaces are all good options for peeing. Not only do these soft surfaces provide us with protection from backsplash, but they’re also less likely to attract wildlife. However, it’s still best to avoid peeing on these areas if you’re in a very sensitive environment such as a desert.

Rock and other hard surfaces: Peeing on rocks is the most environmentally friendly place to pee outdoors, but it can also be the most difficult. Because of their hard surface, rocks can cause pee to splash onto our shoes when squatting down. To prevent this, widen your stance as much as possible and either arch your hips back (like a backbend) or tilt them forward so that your pee doesn’t shoot straight down by your feet.

Uneven surfaces and hills: If you find yourself in a situation where you have to pee on an uneven or steep surface, it’s helpful to place one hand on the ground for balance and stability. Evaluate the direction in which your pee will flow/pool and make sure to place your feet away from these areas. If you’re peeing on an incline, make sure to pee facing downhill. This will help with balance and also prevent pee from getting on your shoes.

Wiping

One of the other things that make peeing outside a bit more complicated for people with vaginas is the issue of wiping. It’s a good idea to wipe after you go pee because moisture in our underwear can cause bacterial infections. Many people choose to wipe with toilet paper or a baby wipe and then pack it out in a ziplock bag. Others prefer carrying a “pee rag” — a small towel or bandana that they wipe with. This is more common in the backpacking/hiking community but I’ve seen climbers use this method as well. If you’re using a pee rag, make sure you’re washing it and letting it dry it the sun regularly. You can also drip, shake, and air dry if you’re in a situation where wiping isn’t available.

Female Urinaration Devices (FUD’s)

Often used by women to pee in unsanitary bathrooms while traveling, women in the military, and women in wheel chairs, female urination devices can also be helpful while rock climbing.

FUD’s solve a few problems for climbers — first of all, they allow us to keep our pants on while peeing. This eliminates the issue of exposing ourselves to extreme temperatures or to the eyes everyone at the cliff. Secondly, these help us aim our pee in a certain direction, which is incredibly helpful on multi-pitch climbs and uneven terrain.

Make sure you’re really good at using your pee device before using it on a wall or even just standing outside. Using these devices without accidentally peeing all over yourself can be really tricky and takes practice. Before relying on your device to help you pee while rock climbing, practice in your shower (or somewhere you don’t mind having an accident). After you’re comfortable using it, you can take it on a climbing trip or even up a wall.

The Freshette is my favorite FUD brand. I use it while camping, climbing, and traveling. I like this brand the best because it’s really lightweight and didn’t require any practice to get the hang of it. It is slightly more expensive than other brands like the Go Girl, but I still think it’s the best option for climbing or camping because it’s so easy to use. Again, regardless of which brand you choose, make sure you practice using it before taking it on a big wall or else this could happen to you in Zion:

PS- The woman in this video wishes to remain anonymous :)

Peeing while multi-pitch rock climbing

Before I roped up for my first long multi-pitch climb, my partner taught me all of the basics: how to place and clean gear, a few different knots, rope systems and management, rappelling, anchor building, and verbal commands. I even sort of knew how to hand jam!

For the first few pitches, everything went smoothly. I was remembering everything I had learned — how to tie a clove hitch, what it meant when my partner tugged on the rope two times as opposed to three, and to stay hydrated. But then, around pitch three, I realized that there was one thing my partner hadn’t covered: I had no idea how to pee on a multi-pitch route.

Questions ran through my head: Am I supposed to hold my pee? How do I pull my pants down with a harness on? How do I make sure I don’t pee on the rope, my shoes, or the route? What about all of those tourists looking up at me?

When I got to the next belay, I asked my partner these questions. He smiled and replied, “I really don’t know what you should do about that. When I have to pee, I just unzip my fly, aim to one side or the other, and let ‘er rip.”

He didn’t forget to teach me how to pee on a wall — he wasn’t able to teach me how to pee on a wall, on account of he has a penis. Unsure of what to do, I held my pee for the rest of the climb.

That made for ten pitches of climbing, belaying, and harness hanging with a full bladder. When we topped out, I found a bush, peed for probably ten minutes straight, and swore that I’d never climb another route that was longer than four pitches ever again.

That proclamation didn’t last long though, and few weeks later I found myself psyched on a route that just so happened to be seven pitches long. However, I really didn’t want to have to hold my pee the entire time, so I asked other climbers with vaginas what they do when they have to pee on a bigwall. I got a few different answers.

Some of them told me that they loosen the belt on their harness, unclip their leg loops, pull their pants down, and aim as best they can. Some bring a female urinary device on the wall with them. Others told me that they don’t drink that much water when they’re on a wall so they don’t have to pee as often. A few women even told me that they wait until they’re on a big ledge, take off their harness, and pee while untied.

To me, all of these methods seemed either tedious, unsafe, or both. But the most common answer that I heard was a surprising one:

“I just hold it. And it sucks.”

If no one has told you this already, let me tell you now — you do not have to hold your pee while rock climbing! You also do not have to inhibit your liquid intake, loosen the belt on your harness, or bring a pee device with you. And most importantly, you should never, ever take off your harness mid-route (duh!) for any reason, pee included.

There is a way to pee on a multi-pitch route that don’t involve any trickery or life-risking. This surprisingly simple method came from gathering stories from other women and, unfortunately, a few trial-and-error moments.

Here’s how to pee on a multi-pitch route if you don’t have a penis:

1. Find a good place to pee.

Peeing on a wall can raise a few ethical eyebrows, but there is no denying that sometimes it must happen. To ensure you’re taking all the necessary steps in order to have a low-impact pee: do not pee under overhangs, inside of cracks, or other places where rain/sun cannot eventually flush your pee away. Also, try your very best to not pee directly on to the route, or on to people below you. You can do this by extending your daisy chain or personal anchor system and scooting yourself away from the route. If there are people directly below you, consider waiting until you’re at a point on the route that is off to the side. Ledges with grass and bushes are probably your best option when looking for a place to take a pee.

2. Once you’ve found a good place to pee, do NOT take off your harness, and do NOT loosen your belt.

You don’t even need to unclip your leg loops, but you can if you wish. On most harnesses, there is a small buckle in the back (usually right under haul loop) for this purpose. If you’re wearing pants with a fly, pull the waist out from under your harness before unbuttoning/unzipping.

3. From here, pull down your pants and your leg loops.

You will be surprised at how much the leg loops on your harness can stretch even if you don’t unclip them. If you’re on a ledge or at a good stance, you can squat down and pee as you would normally outside. But if you’re at a hanging belay or somewhere without good footing, here is your best bet:

  • Pull your pants and leg loops down to at least your knees, paste your feet against the wall in front of you, and aim your pelvis away from the route.
  • Tilt your hips back (like you’re arching your lower back or doing a backbend) to ensure that the pee isn’t going to shoot directly out in front of you, but rather in a downward direction.
  • Let er rip!

While simple and effective, this method can definitely be exposing. If you’re feeling pee-shy, I recommend using a female urinary device. You can store your FUD in your backpack or even clip it to your harness. If you don’t like FUD’s but still want some privacy, you can always ask your partner or other parties to kindly look away while you pee.

Another option: If it’s your partner’s turn to lead, you can pee after they’ve climbed the next pitch and are safely off belay. That gives you some space and privacy. Make sure that you communicate your pee plan with your partner before they start climbing.

If you’re somewhere touristy like Yosemite and don’t feel like exposing your booty to the summer vacationers on the Valley floor, you can open up a jacket or t-shirt and hold it behind your butt. Just make sure that you don’t drop it (or pee on it!). Some people have told me that they use their partner to hide their booty, but if you do this just try not to pee on them.

Peeing outside with a vagina can seem like a tricky, daunting, and embarrassing endeavor. But when it comes to peeing while rock climbing — either at the crag, on a multi-pitch route, or while hanging out at camp — you have the power to create a safe, clean, comfortable, and environmentally-friendly situation for yourself.

No penis required!


*Some of this article was orinigally published on Moja Gear.

If you found this information helpful, please consider making a donation of any amount to The Girl Beta blog series. 50% of all donations made from this post are being given to Planned Parenthood! Thank you!

What are some tips you’ve learned for peeing outside or while rock climbing? Tell us in the comments section!

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