The first time I heard about women hanging a pee rag on the outside of their pack, waving their golden offerings to the great sun gods of the Pacific Crest Trail, I confess I raised an eyebrow – or maybe two. If this is the first time you’ve heard about this method of wiping in the wilderness, you’re probably doing the same thing.
What is a pee rag?
A pee rag is a piece of cloth, ranging in size from 15 cm for a ‘dabber’ to the traditional bandana size at around 55 cm. They replace a woman’s need for toilet paper and are designed for wee… not poo!
They’re made from a variety of fabrics, the most popular being bamboo, microfibre or chamois, due to their quick-drying and super-soft qualities. In its most basic form (and where they originated from) they’re a cotton bandana.
For the pee-rag aficionados, there are some fancy designs and accessories such as clips and loops sewn in that allow you to hang them on your backpack. And yep, there’s a super-niche cottage industry that has sprung up to manufacture and sell them.
What the… ick!
Yep, that’s why I raised my eyebrows. I’ve never been one for using toilet paper for #1’s when I’m out in nature, however after a couple of days of ‘shake and dance’ or ‘drip dry’, our lady-gardens can start to get a bit… well, manky. Apart from the smell, the remaining wee (especially if you’re a bit dehydrated) can be quite strong and I start to feel like I’m getting a UTI. The chances of chafing also increase – ouch! The greater the number of days between opportunities for washing (yourself or undies – if you’re on a tight grundy-packing budget) the worse it gets.
So, I’ve been thinking. I’m moving towards using doggie-poo bags* for my #2s in the bush (we do it in the snow, so why not elsewhere?) as a way of trying to minimise my impact in the outdoors, so for those of us who do use TP, a pee-rag seems a great environmental choice.
Oh and healthy urine is sterile until it leaves us (and low microbial afterwards), so when I got thinking about it, I realised it’s all a little bit in my head… and the heads of people who see the rag and go, “Ick!”
How to choose one
A dark colour with a pattern is a good choice to hide any evidence or discolouration. And if you’re wondering, yes… you can use them during your period. There’s a good run-down on that (cough) issue from the Kula FAQs.
How to use a pee rag?
The first rule of pee rag is: pee rag is not for poo. Just use it the same as bog roll and it’s a good idea to wipe front to back.
Some of the fancy custom-made types are dual-layer, with one side being waterproof to keep your hands and pack wee-free as you proudly display (I mean, air dry) your rag in the sun. The concept is that the sun not only dries out your cloth, but the UV rays help to sterilise it.
Don’t forget to wash your pee-rag every few days on the track, either in clean drinking water or just-boiled water. And chuck it in the washing machine with your other hiking gear when you get home.
* double bagged, knotted and sealed inside a rigid tupperware-type container or traditional poo-tube.