It happens: You’re staying hydrated in the saddle, digging tyre tracks into some remote corner of paradise, when suddenly your bladder starts to protest every bump in the (non)road. Or, you’re discovering that thousands of kilometres worth of highway toilets are vile portals to hell, inviting you to trade self-respect for sweet relief. Or, you’ve pitched camp in the woods. In any case, when nature calls, you can’t always put her on mute and wait for an email.
“How ah, if you need to pee?” – When the conversation’s about roughing it out, I get asked this by everybody from coffeeshop uncles and aunties to respectable-desk-job friends (mom never asked, but I suspect it’s because she’s afraid of the answer). Yes it’s true; at some point, adventure will take you beyond the reach of modern sanitation facilities.
While the gentlemen already have a convenient aiming device from Mother Nature, it’s a little tougher for us ladies to unleash the kraken whenever the urge strikes. But as an accomplished outdoor-peer from an early age, I wonder what the fuss is about.
So to all of you who have ever wondered, here are some ground rules on how to handle it like the female Kim Jong Un of wild urination:
1) Find some cover.
Bushes, trees, your bike even. Sounds like common sense, but you’ll be surprised how hard this is to do in some parts of the world.
If you really have to drop ballast where there’s no cover, do it quickly, with your full-face helmet on and front-facing any possible traffic, for minimum exposure. Depending on the local culture, subjecting public eyes to your private bits will have consequences that range from crushing embarrassment (your own, mostly) to death by stoning. Or, the unfortunate shepherd who’s witnessed your naked bottom might be obliged to marry you in order to restore your dignity. Imagine having to explain that one at your next Chinese New Year gathering.
Thankfully in conservative Iran, gas stations and public restrooms were easy to find, all the way from the north to the south. Phew!
2) Pee downhill.
Be strategic about it and your boots will stay dry. Concentrate on the task at hand and don’t lose your footing! With your pants around your knees, now is not the time for a selfie, no matter how spectacular the view from your wilderness throne is.
At least our Asian heritage of squat toilets has already prepared us well with a lifetime of practice. If you’re one of those rare bikers with weak quads, brace yourself against a tree, or a really, really close friend. Adventure is supposed to test friendships anyway.
3) Don’t pee on hard, rocky obstacles, because #backsplash.
Grass, soil and sand are better for absorbing a multitude of sins. Also, don’t squat over an ant nest; they don’t appreciate being flooded out and will very quickly retaliate – and you won’t even have time to pull up your pants.
4) Don’t pee in caves or any stagnant, closed systems where nature can’t take care of your nasty leavings.
On that note, it’s pretty okay to pee into large moving streams; those are kind of like a massive flush system. Just not upstream from your friend washing the dinner plates, alright?
5) Don’t pee too near your campsite (or other people’s).
Aside from the risk of becoming your own sanitation hazard, the salt in your urine will attract wild animals. Opinions seem divided on that though; a fellow traveller once told me he pees in a perimeter around his tent because it warns large predators to stay away. Ehh… I’m not so sure that human urine can really derail the food chain, so I’d just avoid camping wherever there might be bears.
6) Don’t pee at shrines or religious artefacts.
Even if you’re an atheist. Do you want to take a chance on having a vengeful god smite your lawless ass?
7) Don’t leave your toilet paper fluttering around like funeral flags to human decency.
It’s an ugly affront to nature. If your tissues are biodegradable, dig a hole with your boot and bury them. Wet wipes aren’t, so take them away with you in a baggie. Better still, carry a small bottle of water and hand sanitiser so you can do away completely with toilet paper when there isn’t a disposal bin at hand. Why else would touring gear come with so many pockets?
8) Use props.
Some ladies pack a sarong so they can wrap it around for quick coverage of the Business. I’ve seen local women in rural Laos squatting contemplatively outdoors before walking casually away from their puddle – but then I hear that traditionally, they don’t wear underpants under their sarongs. For us, the logistics of wrestling with bulky riding pants and a long swathe of sarong fabric is quite likely to result in smelly, soggy clothes, so you’d better practice at home first.
Alternatively, if you’d rather wear a plastic kukujiao, the Internet is brimming with plenty of portable urinary devices that allow you to piss standing like a man, against a rock wall. From the awesomely-named “SheWee” to the slightly terrifying “Pibella”, there are also tons of online tutorials and user reviews to help you to make an informed selection. I’ve never tried one personally, because unlike a real kukujiao, you’ll actually have to carry your pee funnel around in a ziplock bag after flicking it dry – and that’s a little too much Nope for me. Also, using it requires much control and aim (yes, a tsunami can cause funnels to overflow), both of which I do very poorly at after long hours in the saddle. But hey, pee funnels still get a strong vote from Singapore’s solo vespa traveller, The Wandering Wasp, who used the Freshette quite happily all over barren mountain passes.
So there you have it, ladies – there’s absolutely no reason why the absence of porcelain thrones should stand between you and the big unknown.
Go forth and pee with fearless abandon.