Pottying in the Woods: Part 4 (Man, This Just Keeps Going!)

I promise we’re finally done talking about toileting habits of human adventurers. Before we wrap it up, you’ve got to meet the POTTY PACK.

In the last post I promised to put up instructions on how to make an emergency bathroom solution, so I give you the Potty Pack. This so-easy-we-all-should-have-thought-of-it setup is a good idea to keep in the car anyway. Would you like to be stuck in construction traffic on an interstate with a child who suddenly gets diarrhea and you can’t get off the interstate? How about at a gas station that hasn’t been cleaned since the Eisenhower administration? The Potty Pack is a lifesaver, in more ways than one.

My dear friend lives in Alabama and is a sales rep for a national company, and as such, spends much of her day in the car. Alabama is a lot of fun, but thanks to global warming, the winters are starting to really suck, specifically in February. Go back through the news websites and see what’s happening to the weather in that part of the country each winter, and you’ll see what I mean.

A couple of years ago, she was one of the lucky thousands who were trapped in their cars on a snowy, icy interstate. By trapped, I mean some of them spent two to three days in their cars. We were all literally watching our friend update us via Facebook on her phone, and let me tell you, it was completely surreal to be chatting with her via social media while knowing that she was cold, hungry, and trapped. It was a lot like someone trapped in the wilderness, except this person was in full view of thousands of other people and still couldn’t be rescued.

One of the chief problems was she was dressed for work, meaning a nice professional outfit and pretty shoes. There were exits within reasonable walking distance, but not for someone without sturdy shoes and at that temperature in a blinding snowstorm. There was also no guarantee that the businesses on the exits would even be open, so she could have literally risked her life only to find out they were closed.

NOTE: in this type of situation–interstate or wilderness–ALWAYS stay put! Rescuers can find you if you hold still, but if you go walking, you’re putting yourself in danger of not being found. If you’re in sight of your car, don’t leave it because it’s a good shelter and a big enough object for air rescue to see.

Later, my dear friend admitted that she was having to pee in giant soda cups that she had in her car, then dump the cups out on the side of the road. The first time she had to do it, of course it was awkward. Other drivers could see her! By the fourth time, she was rolling the window down to dump it, not even trying to be discreet about it.

Basically, you never know what could happen. Keep a Potty Pack or two in a compartment in your car.

Potty Packs are really simple: one giant ziplock bag, at least two smaller ziplock baggies, a few paper towels, a massive separated sheet of toilet paper, a small bottle of hand gel. If you happen to have a friend who works in a doctor’s office and can get you one or two of those disposable paper gowns, those are awesome for tying around your kids for privacy in the woods if they need it or for spreading on your car seat before this whole thing goes down. It’s not a terrible idea to throw one or two feminine hygiene products in there… you’re carrying toilet paper around with you, so why not?

Let’s break it down:


The big ziplock bag holds everything (duh), but it’s also the actual emergency potty if the above car scenario is happening and you don’t have a giant cup. For that matter, even if you did have the giant soda cup, I would use the ziplock bag if I’m in my car and one of the kids has a poop emergency. Line the soda cup (or other container) with the giant ziplock bag, making sure you fold the opening over enough that it won’t become contaminated and can still be zipped shut. For hiking, though, DO NOT POTTY IN YOUR BIG ZIPLOCK BAG! You’re going to need it in a minute.

The smaller baggies serve two purposes: TP into the woods, TP out of the woods. You can either leave one baggie empty to put the used TP in and put the clean TP in the other one, OR you can make up individual single-use baggies so that the clean TP comes out of one bag and goes back into that bag. Whichever method you choose for your small baggies should be determined by what you’ll be doing and for how long. If this is a full-day, sunup to sundown hike with lots of people, you’re going to want the single use baggies so that you don’t have to keep opening the yucky used bag and putting more in. At some point, it’s going to get full!

When I said separate the clean TP, I don’t mean into squares. If you unwind a giant hallway-length of TP then roll it back up, you can place the roll in the small bag and tear it off while it’s sticking out of the bag. VERY handy if you’re trying to hold up one of your kids, keep his shoes out of the poop, and keep your balance at the same time! The paper towels are for getting stuff off of shoes… it’s going to happen to someone, you know it. The hand gel is obvious.

Basically, this is a method for not leaving contaminated litter behind in a potty emergency while also not smearing used TP all over your backpack or picnic bag. Yucky TP in the smaller baggie, which then goes in the bigger baggie. If you’re like me and carry enough hand gel to fight ebola, it’s a good idea to squeeze a little on top of the used TP once you have it down in the small baggie… it will help fight odors.

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