It has been exactly one year since my family’s first camping trip, and like the pain of childbirth that eventually fades, I have just now summoned the courage and fortitude to try it again.
Thankfully, my husband and I are capable of learning from previous experiences, and we made some serious adjustments that eased the discomfort of the first time; mainly, we packed less, left earlier, and practiced setting up our borrowed tent in advance.
Though I made sure to get a tent site as close as possible to the toilet facilities, walking even a few hundred feet at 2 a.m. is a hell of a lot farther than the bathroom attached to my bedroom at home, and it’s not climate controlled either. Hot or cold, drizzle or downpour, these are the conditions in which one must travel to pee.
There is nothing about being a man that interests me… except for the ability to pee standing up. What I wouldn’t give for a little hose that shoots urine far away from my body in relative privacy. I once passed a car in the emergency lane on the interstate and saw an arc of piss shooting out of the open door; two boots on the ground… the son-of-a-bitch didn’t even have to get out of his car seat.
And for the average woman, squatting is really an emergency-only choice. First of all, privacy is difficult because the need to pull down your underwear, as opposed to opening a zippered hidey-hole, gives you a 360 degree area of vulnerability. And you can be pretty sure that the stream force from such a low vantage point to the ground is going to cause some blowback on your ankles and feet.
So for this trip, I explored my options for a temporary toilet.
Now, the campground bathrooms were close enough that I never intended to pound one out leaving skid marks; no, this would not be a facility for poo. Those once or twice daily procedures would take place in the plumbed toilets provided at the campsite, and the vast majority of the 10 to 12 daily urinations would also take place in the permanent toilets.
What I was looking for was a place to corral my 1 or 2 pre-bedtime relaxation pees, the occasional middle of the night one, and perhaps the first one of the day before brushing my teeth.
For a thrifty person on her second, and quite possibly last, camping trip, I was not interested in spending a lot of money.
At the top of the line, you have portable toilet systems like this:
At a cost of $130 or more, I didn’t need anything this fancy since I never intended to poop in it.
If it is something that I, at some point, am going to have to empty and clean, I would rather shit in the woods. Literally. Once I poop, I don’t want to ever have to deal with it again. Before I clean any sort of receptacle, I would prefer to kick dirt and leaves over it like a bear.
There is also the bag style, which for little more than a wire coat hanger frame and toilet seat, I think is a little pricey for $80. The reality is, if my thigh muscles were strong enough, I could just shit in a Walmart bag for free and this is way too much money for a simple place to pee.
Then, there is the simplest of toilets – a bucket. Which, as a chamber pot, is just what I needed, but it was still $20. That’s not a lot of money over time, but for a one-trip use, I felt I could do better. How you ask? I could make my own!
A simple 5 gallon bucket from Walmart? $4.
A previously used pool noodle from the garage? Free.
A late-night pee bucket? Priceless.
I can’t tell you how much more comfortable my tent stay was with my beloved pee-bucket. As I reclined for the evening, I didn’t have an anxiety attack wondering if it was going to rain, and whether I would have to pee before or after it started. This was the best investment I have ever made.
Now, of course I didn’t tell my husband that I had made my own personal toilet. He wouldn’t have been down with it since he carries his urination apparatus around attached to his body and doesn’t know what we women have to endure.
I had just placed it in the corner, with toilet paper beside it and a trash bag attached to the handle, when he entered the tent.
“Oh, HELL no, you are not using that thing in the tent!” This is why I don’t tell him anything I’m doing until it is too late. It’s his own fault that I keep him in the dark half the time.
Of course I used it, several times, in fact. I also emptied and rinsed it out every morning. For our return home, I cleaned it with a sanitary wipe and dried it with paper towels. You should have heard my husband and daughter. You would have thought I was cleaning a biohazard waste tank.
And this from my daughter, who enjoyed her own 2 a.m. pee, without having to hike up the hill and dodge webs with spiders on them as big as a baby’s foot.
A day after our return, I am saying “never again,” but perhaps in another year, when the pain of sleeping for two nights on the cot-from-hell subsides, my family and my pee bucket will once again venture into the woods.
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