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pee rags....good or bad?

I like to hike, A LOT.  I also try and do a few backpacking trips each year because it involves my favorite activity (you guessed it, hiking!)

I know a lot of women who backpack a lot use pee rags instead of toilet paper.  I think it's a little bit gross but I do see the benefit of not having to pack out the paper so I'm considering giving it a try.  I've heard the sun will somehow remove the bacteria/germs but I don't know if that's a fact.

I'd love to hear others thoughts on this topic.  Do you use a pee rag, do you like your pee rag, do you have to wash it off or do you just let it dry?  What's the best pee rag material? 

To pee rag or not to pee rag, that's the question!

29 Replies

Urine is sterile when it comes out, but the dead cells and whatnot in it can lead to bacterial growth when allowed to sit and, ahem..."ferment". 

I have never used a pee rag -- to be honest, I had never even heard of the concept! Fascinating way to reduce environmental impact. I'd suspect using a synthetic microfiber cloth would be preferable to a natural textile...easier to clean, easier to dry quickly. 

So I would like to comment on this 🙂

Urine is indeed sterile...before it exits your body. However, lets take a deeper look here. Each of us has what is called "Normal Flora" - These are organisms that are normal to "us". So urine is sterile only in a personal sense.  For example - if you have a urinary tract infection, your urine carries all those things that would make your skin crawl if you saw it under a microscope. Is it sterile? Yes - because it has not left your body yet.

Urine stile carries everything we don't need. So if you have a pee rag, and you leave it on your bag - the no longer sterile urine will touch things that it comes in contact with.

How many of us has seen a "pee rag" that has fallen off on trail? You ask yourself when you see that hanky "is it...or is it not?" The good hiker would pick it up - for conservation and for courtesy. However a pee rag lost on trail is just as bad as dropping food and/or anything else.

If you use a pee rag - make sure it is secure...and wipe that bag when you get off trail...or that pee of yours will be on every single trip there after!

I'm not a fan of a pee rag.....used TP can be repurposed to help light your campfire @ trails end.  And, theoretically, it's biodegradable if you must get rid of it (bury).


Don't bury TP--pack it out!!  If you don't use a rag put your TP in a baggie until you get to a trash can.  How to Sh*t in the Woods is a great starter book for how to deal with our  waste.

Thanks for the book recommendation! 


At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.

Because of COVID-19 and the whole "TP" issue, I've been using fast drying dish type rags at home and just washing them out with soap and water in the sink and reusing them (they dry very fast). I've saved my "TP" stash from disappearing during the "stay-at-home" orders and it has worked very well for me. I use TP only for #2. I have only been to the store twice in the 6 weeks now that I've been off work. And I still do NOT need any TP...thank God. I don't even want to think about what life would be like with no TP. :^) LOL

That being said, this topic caught my eye today because I've never thought about it for camping. However, I have been researching portable toilets recently because all of the campgrounds in WI sound like they will require people to have their own bathroom in order to go camping this summer.  I'm really missing friends and getting together with them as I'm sure everyone else is. Prior to the pandemic, we already had 3-4 camping trips booked for the 2020 summer months. Now we don't know if we can go and a lot of the good portable toilets are sold out. The book suggestion might help me; however, I'm probably not going to be in the woods if we are just car camping. Does anyone know of a good way to make your own bathroom right at your camp in a campground? I'm looking for something inexpensive (but better than the whole 5 gal pail idea) because I'm hoping these new campground rules are temporary.... ???? "hoping & praying"???

As a lab assistant that works with urine almost everyday , I can tell you that urine is NOT sterile lol. Nothing in an open surface area on in the body is ever sterile. Bacteria is everywhere my friend. There is a threshold of 100,000 bacteria spores per ounce of urine I believe is the correct the measurement. So please stop telling people urine is sterile. 

So glad this topic came up.  Please don't ever bury toilet paper.  The trails are littered with toilet paper.  And NO ONE wants to see a mound of TP on the trail where people have made a habit of doing their business.  It ruins the beauty and the purpose of getting out of the city.  Just don't be lazy.  If you must use TP, pack it out!  All that being said, I also use a Kula Cloth.  It's infused with silver anti microbial threads on  the absorbent side and waterproof on the other side.  I also have several of them.  One for the "front" and one for the "back".  And they are simple and easy to clean once you get to camp/restroom/home.  They also snap easily onto your pack.  

I use one, the Kula Cloth, and love it so much I have many!! One for my adventure truck and one for bicycling (I don’t like moving things back and forth). This little cloth is amazing, is made with silver fibers and when exposed to UV light kills any bacteria. I hang it off my backpack, it also folds up for discretion when hiking with others. Literally one of my essentials! Look it up online.