When you’re planning your first multi-day river adventure, it’s common to have a little anxiety about using to the restroom on the river. The good news is you have nothing to worry about! Using the bathroom on a multi-day rafting trip is super easy, and not too different from what you’re used to at home. Let’s break down the details and clear up any questions, so all you have to focus on is getting excited for your multi-day river adventure!
How to Pee on the River
Where to pee:
“The solution to pollution is dilution” is a saying you’ll probably hear out on the river. Leave no Trace ethics, along with Forest Service and BLM requirements, dictate that all urine must make it into the river. While you might be more comfortable ducking into the trees, this is a no-go on the river. Approximately 10,000 people raft the Main Salmon River every year, and the Owyhee River has no limit on the number of private rafters, so you could imagine the smell that would result from everyone peeing on the land and the animals this would attract! This is why we pee in the water – so it gets diluted as it goes downstream, and leaves the camp clean for the next rafters to come.
During the day, there will be pit stops so you’ll have ample opportunities to take care of business. If we’re between pit stops and it’s an emergency, just let your guide know. At a pit stop or at camp, you can head down the beach to find a little privacy. Note – don’t go on a mile-long hike to find a good spot; scrambling over rocks is not a good idea. Just head +/- a few feet from the boat, find a spot to stand/squat at the water. If you feel like you’re too close to the group, just remember that everybody has to pee at some point – it’s normal and no one is looking!
How to pee:
For fellas – just turn away from the group and aim into the river. For women, we recommend wearing separates, like a two-piece swimsuits or sports bra and board shorts. This will make peeing into the river easier. There are a few different methods you can use –
- Simply head a little way away from the boat, drop your shorts, and squat.
- You can wade into the water near the boat, hold on to straps on the side of the boat.
- You can opt to bring a female urination device, such as a shewee or pStyle, which allows you to pee standing up, though we only recommend this if you’re used to using one and have practiced!
Another helpful item for women is a kula cloth, which is a reusable antimicrobial pee cloth. If the words “drip dry” make you cringe, this is a must-have. It reduces waste, and promotes good hygiene! You can wash it in the river at the end of the day with biodegradable soap.
How to Poop on the River
The Groover: Every day the guides set up a portable toilet, colloquially known as “The Groover,” as soon as we get to camp, and it’s the last thing to get put away morning. The camp toilet is a metal vault with a toilet seat on it. We always set up the groover for privacy, in a discreet location and a privacy tent, usually with stellar views of the river.
“Why is it called a groover” was probably your next question. The original groovers were just metal ammo cans with no toilet seat, so it left grooves in your butt. Let’s be collectively glad that someone had the good sense to add the toilet seat!
The Key: “The key” to the groover is placed in a designated spot at the beginning of the trail next to a hand-washing station, so when you need to go, just grab the key and head to the spot. The key is an ammo can with toilet paper, so don’t forget to grab it! If the key is gone, that means the groover is occupied, so just wait at the hand-washing station for the person before you to return with the key. There might be a line for the groover in the morning – totally normal!
The Pee Bucket: At the spot, you’ll find a pee bucket next to the groover. It’s there for a reason – don’t pee in the groover! Liquid gets dumped into the river, so you’ll want to pee in the pee bucket. Also, don’t put toilet paper in the pee bucket, since TP can’t go in the river. And DEFINITELY don’t poop in the pee bucket! If you think it’s a close enough call that you might actually poop in the pee bucket, we would rather you use the groover.
Hand Washing: Just like at home, ALWAYS wash your hands after using the bathroom! The handwashing station at the beginning of the groover trail has both soap and water – everything you need to make sure your hands are clean.
Nighttime Groover: Always make sure to take a stroll to check out the groover trail while it’s light out, so that you don’t get lost if you need to head up there after dark. Keep your headlamp easily accessible so you know where it is when you need it! If you’re not keen on taking the stroll to the groover to pee in the middle of the night, we provide mini pee buckets that you can keep right outside your tent. You’ll dump it directly in the river in the morning!
If you happen to be on your period while on your river trip, it’s no big deal! For those using tampons, you’ll want to create a little period pack that contains zip lock bags and plenty of baby wipes. You can even put opaque duct tape on the zip-locks so they’re not see-through for your used trash. If you don’t want to make your own, you can purchase an an outdoor travel menstrual kit – a ‘Go With Your Flow Pack.’ You’ll be able to keep your supplies handy during the day, in your provided day dry bag. When it’s time to change mid-day, you can wrap the trash in a baby wipe, put that in a Ziploc and dispose of it easily, discreetly, and sanitarily trash once we get to camp.
Another great option is a reusable menstrual cup, like the Diva Cup. These collect menstrual flow rather than absorb it, which is great because it offers up to 12 hours of leak-free protection. When you need to empty it, you can use your water bottle to rinse the Diva Cup over the river. That said – don’t try it out on your river trip for the first time – it’s not for everyone, and it can take practice to get used to it. Try it out in advance the few months before your river trip to see if it works for you.
Note – pads are not the best option for river trips since you’ll be getting wet!
Additional Tips –
- If you have a question, ask! Chances are, your guides have heard it before. Everybody poops, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of!
- Work on getting yourself on a poop schedule before your rafting trip, so your body is used to taking care of business during camp hours.
- DO NOT try to go the whole trip without pooping – it can turn into a serious problem. DO NOT try to drink less water so you pee less during the day. If you have to pee a lot, it’s completely fine and normal. Flirting with dehydration in the wilderness is no joke. These two things can turn into medical emergencies in the wilderness – don’t let your shyness ruin the adventure of a lifetime.
- Most importantly – Enjoy the view! A multi-day river trip is without a doubt one of the best views you’ll ever have while taking a poop. So enjoy it