When nature calls out on the trail: Personal urination devices for women
I love guiding AGC trips because we welcome all women into the out-of-doors and adventure travel, teaching a variety of skills to help them be safe, comfortable, and have fun in nature.
And, of course, nature calls while we are out on the trail, so it's important for AGC guides to teach Leave No Trace methods, including backcountry bathroom solutions! We know that sometimes a simple squat just doesn’t work. So, you might lean up against a rock or tree to relieve yourself. Our guides are great at demonstrating the concepts, (fully clothed), helping women feel comfortable with a little humor and open discussion.
The benefits of a PUD / FUD
Another option is to stand and pee with a PUD or FUD. Hmm… What is this? It’s a 'Personal Urination Device', which comes in different shapes and sizes. Also known as Female Urination Devices (FUDs) or pee funnels, they mean that answering the call of nature does not require you to sacrifice your dignity. FUDs are funnel-shaped plastic extenders that allow women to stand and pee, even while wearing pants, a climbing harness, or a backpacker’s hip belt. You hold the device close to your body, facing downhill, and away from the wind, to pee standing up. Especially if your pants have a fly, the big bonus is you don’t need to expose any body parts. And, a PUD is also great to use in public restrooms.
The devices can come in very handy during overseas adventure travel. I first used a PUD while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on an AGC trip in 2015. While climbing Kili we recommend drinking 4-5 liters of water every day. That’s a lot of water! So much is necessary because we lose more water than usual at high elevations by breathing the dry air, and our hearts and lungs work harder because of low air pressure, resulting in the need to get rid of more wastes through frequent urination.
This was my second time climbing Kili, and I had decided to make my constant peeing a bit easier. I brought a Freshette, a pink plastic funnel cup and tube device. It was the only gadget of its type for sale at my local outdoor equipment store and I found it very useful. It was easy to use, although not so easy to clean during our seven days on the mountain.
One of the other women in our group was the only other person to have a PUD. Unlike me, she had used it for years, and kept it clipped to the outside of her daypack in a little cloth bag, ready for use on all of her hikes. Her pStyle was shaped like a smooth trough; she said it was easy to use and clean.
FUD popularity = many more products to choose from
Fast forward to the summer of 2021! It appears that FUD’s have gained some popularity with the increase in women's backpacking trips -- today there are a number of PUD products available online, including disposable (i.e.: single-use cardboard) or reusable (durable plastic). I decided to do some more investigation into the current products available and so I read a number of reviews from the outdoor world, watched some entertaining videos, and did a test comparison of five different models, although I didn’t try disposable PUDs, or everything on the market.
With my current research concluded, my pros and cons are included below, listed in order of my preference, which you can use to narrow in on what option might be best for you based on the style of trip you are taking.
Pro: Simple, clean trough design is easy to use and comfortable. The smooth plastic can provide a “wipe” so no need for T.P. It is super easy to rinse with a splash of water and store in the cotton case, sold separately. I love the inclusive language on their website and the variety of colors.
Con: None for me.
$11.99 pStyle; $10.99 carrying case
Pro: Easy to use, and also designed to “wipe.” Super awesome directions and fun videos on their website encouraged me to get out there and try it! They provide a case/clip with the purchase and even donate profits to a nonprofit benefiting kids.
Con: I didn’t find the “fit” as comfortable as the PStyle. The plastic spout was a bit unwieldy and awkward to fold back for storage in the case after use.
Tinklebell – how to video
$27.50 includes case and clip
Pro: Easy to use.
Con: I found the tube (that slides in for storage and out to direct the flow) got “yucky” around the edges, and was awkward sliding it in and out.
Pro: Small and discreet, like a wide straw. Hard plastic was easy to clean. A reported favorite among ultralight backpackers.
Con: Perhaps I didn’t practice enough, but I just didn’t get the fit to work, so I ended up dripping every time…
Pro: Flexible and easy to pack
Con: Flexible and hard to control spillage. Not as easy to clean on the trail.
$13-$19 depending on options
Peeing on the trail – or on a big mountain like Kilimanjaro – is a bit personal, so my preferences may not be yours. But after all these years, I am going to go with the option to clip a pStyle to my daypack to use discretely whenever nature calls. Ponder your needs, preferences, do some research, consider when you would be using a PUD, and pick the device that will make the opportunity as easy and discreet as possible and help your time adventuring in the outdoors be even more comfortable.