There are just some things that are typically left unsaid, unasked, and avoided because we just don't typically talk openly about poo, periods and panties on a hike - Well except for me of course!
I love to talk about all the things most don’t. I’m here to share some of the most frequently avoided questions that people don’t want to ask, but all want to know the answers to. The human body is an exceptional piece of machinery and I’ve always been curious as to what, where and why. Let's explore some of the most frequently avoided questions from our years on the trails that you all secretly want to know about...
What If I need to poo on a hike and there’s no toilet nearby?
Let’s tackle the big one first, shall we? Typically, on a hike whether a day or overnighter, we carry a mini shovel – for this precise reason. You need to poo, best practice is to bury it. Human faeces carry many bacteria and viruses and can spread disease through fragile ecosystems. Dig a hole 15cm deep and fill it with your uh hum, crap. Ensure that you do this at least 100ft from a water source and its even worth checking the local national parks regulations as it can be a requirement to pack out your poop. Bag and tag.
Bushes provide great cover for popping a squat and generally others in the group will give you privacy and turn the other way. When we guide, I tell others to hang back if they need to clear their bowels or bladder – no one even knows other than the guide at the back and the hiker.
If you’re using wipes – these will need to be packed out as they will not decompose. Sounds more daunting than it is and, in my experience, guiding over the years – this is a very infrequent occurrence and my shovel has only been used twice. Ziplock bags are ideal for this purpose.
What if I get my period?
Menopausal ladies, take note. We’ve had ladies on our hikes revisit their periods after almost 2 years of what they thought was menopause. Lesson? Always be prepared and with the appropriate tools. Tampons and pads will not break down in compostable toilets and as such will need to be packed out also. Some national parks provide sanitary bins but don’t plan on it.
I personally use a Luna cup. They require less emptying, and are better for you and the environment just don’t drop it down the toilet when you’re emptying it! Others have suggested the period panties – just make sure that you have a waterproof laundry bag to store these in to pack out. I carry a hand sanitiser and toilet paper (the latter you can throw in compost toilets) to clean up any mess. I’ve got it down to a fine art though now.
I need to wee…Do you drip dry or wipe?
No toilet, no worries - If you’re going to pop a squat (ladies) there are a few options here as to whether you drip dry or wipe. A little jiggle will mostly get it done but if you’re after the dryness, then toilet paper is NOT to be left on the side of the trail. Other than polluting our environment and potentially threatening our wildlife – it isn’t pretty – so pack it out or use a pee rag. ‘What is a pee rag ?’ I hear you ask. Yep, they made a rag just for your lady bits to stay dry when you finish your business. Wipe and walk away with the rag hanging from your pack… your call. Personally, I drip dry – don’t overcomplicate it.
Why am I farting so much and why does it smell?
I love to talk about farts – probably because most people don’t, I find it liberating when people get past the giggles and explore what the gas is all about. Typically, on the pack hike weekends, food is freeze-dried – add high protein, fibre and fats of the snacks and our guts become gassy. Why? The increase in fibre feeds the gut microbiome (little bacteria living in our bodies) and these little guys produce the excess gas, that well must come out one end or another.
The change in food volume, type and timing can all interplay with our systems and produce more gas and subsequently the smell. By holding in a fart, we can risk further digestive discomfort and even end up with bad breath as the gas makes it way north…ekkk better out than in.. Just be kind when sharing a tent…
How do I clean myself with no shower for days?
Once you can get past the idea of no shower for a few days, the world opens us to you. Alpine hills and remote trails don’t offer 5-star facilities – rather 5 million stars. When we are nearby an Ocean, I love to entice the hikers in for a cold-water swim and freshen up more than just their senses. When we can’t take a dip, a wet wipe does the trick.
As we pack out ALL our rubbish, wipes included, the secret is to use one. Starting on your face – for obvious reasons yeah – freshen the face before moving onto the underarms. From here venture south – front first- then backside. Voila, you’re fresh. I use a little tin of no-pong deodorant for natural underarms relief or ditch it altogether and embrace my natural state. Sweat is after all a normal part of hiking.
I haven’t pooed in days- is this normal?
So many of our clients find themselves without the urge to defecate when on the trails. A number of reasons for this are with the excess energy our body is spending on hiking, it uses all it can before pushing waste products out. If you’re not hydrated enough, our bodies will squeeze excess water from our stools – meaning that it's harder to push out and you could perhaps be constipated.
It is also natural that our bodies are a little more ‘tense’ and the anticipation or even the thought of sitting on the compost loo can make the poo wait until the comfort of home… or a petrol station on the way home. The change in environment, food and energy expenditure all play a part here. Make sure that you are hydrated and if feeling discomfort, we suggest trying a miso soup. The warm, fermented drink can help to get things moving again.
Did you know that Poo is 75% water and 25% made up of bacteria, dead cells, mucous and insoluble fibre? So, making sure you are hydrated will help relieve any constipation. Don’t worry if you don’t poop as regular outdoors- this is normal too. Your bowel movements will return to normal within a few days of returning home. If not, see your Dr as something more serious could be happening.
I feel very sweaty in my undies- is this normal?
Ladies, one word of advice. Ditch the cotton under or the lacy sexy G-strings. Hiking isn’t for the sexy undies, leave them at home. Whilst many won’t see quality (aka expensive) underwear as a necessity, I can guarantee you that it is. Poor panty choice can land you with some major discomfort, chafe and even a case of thrush- both men and women are affected here.
Merino will be your best friend here; anti-odour (thank you), moisture-wicking, lightweight, breathable, and comfortable. Merino undies will be a small investment, but keep you dry in the most important of places. Blends are available but steer clear of cotton.
Hiking is a sweaty pursuit, ensuring that we have the appropriate moisture-wicking garments – particularly undergarments will mean you have a memorable hiking trip for the right reasons.
I hope you've found this informative, if so - share with someone you think will benefit. Do you have a curly question that you want to be answered? No topic is off the table, just get in touch and I am happy to address your queries.
Amanda is a Parks Victoria Tour guide, Personal trainer, nutrition nerd, and health & wellness coach who loves to talk about all the ‘gross’ things that generally make people squirm. Her father was unsuccessful in sending her to elocution school for little ladies, and such Amanda grew up a tomboy dissecting life with a curious mind and bare hands. She can be found barefoot at home or on the trails, in the kitchen whipping up something healthy, or guiding on the trails of an epic adventure. A mother to 3 adventurous girls, wife to Shan (who you'll have met on their tours) - Amanda loves to spend time with her family, outdoors by the fire with a glass of wine. Holistic Hikes aim to empower you to connect with nature,Seek the simplicity and support your holistic health with day hikes, weekend adventures and tours across Melbourne.