Essential Gear: The Pee Bandana

The pee bandana flying triumphantly on my pack in Dusy Basin

I hate smelling like pee. I mean, maybe that’s obvious, but I feel like as a woman in the backcountry there is this constant battle: Should I pack in lots of extra toilet paper and wipe after every pee, or should I just do a little booty shake for the marmots? How long do I need to squat here and air out to make sure that I won’t smell like pee on the second day of this trip? Or maybe I should just not drink so much water so I don’t have to pee as often. That last option is no good; hydration is super duper important when backpacking! So herein lies the dilemma: To pee or not to pee.

In search of a solution, I started a Facebook discussion a while back about those girl pee aids—you know, those pseudo-penises with a cute little pink (it’s for girls!) cup attached. The discussion was filled with comments lamenting the hazards of being a woman in the backcountry. At one point my friend Laurel, a former Outward Bound instructor, said she’d seen people use half a bandana as a pee rag and that it works great in dry climates so long as everyone knows what half a bandana means.

A pee rag. A PEE RAG! A rag with which to wipe your pee. SO good.

The pee bandana flying triumphantly on my tent guy lines in the Trinity Alps

That was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? A dedicated pee bandana. I immediately went out and picked up a bandana (yellow, of course) and cut it in half diagonally. Cutting it this way gives some good narrow strips to ease tying to the backpack and a big wide middle for wiping. Taking this simple little extra half bandana on trips has been the best gear upgrade I’ve done this year. I can actually hydrate myself without worrying that I’m going to be “wasting” so much toilet paper that I have to carry around. I can pee as much as I want and not smell like a port-a-potty by the second afternoon of my trip. Because the climate in the Sierra Nevada in summer is very dry, the pee bandana dries really quickly and doesn’t start to smell at all. If you don’t believe me, just ask Patrick. I made him smell mine at the end of a trip and he couldn’t detect any odor at all.

It’s the best, I’m telling you. THE BEST.

7 thoughts on “Essential Gear: The Pee Bandana

  1. Dude pee rags are the best! I started using them after a Wilderness First Aid course, and since then I’ve converted several people over, although far, far too many ladies think they’re gross. They’re fantastic, you stay clean, and you don’t. end up totally rank. I just use a yellow bandana and I wrote PEE on it with a sharpie so I don’t forget. And so no one else does either.

  2. I do the “pee-kercheif” as well. It also reduces risk of getting a UTI….which would really suck amongst the birds and bears. One person told me that the sun’s uv rays basically sanitize the material and kills any germs or bacteria. I’ve never had any issues, and no one hiking behind me has ever complained about the orange bandanna hanging off my pack crop dusting a pee smell.

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