TP or not TP: that is the question
I was tempted to title this blog “On the Origin of Feces.” But first, I wasn’t sure many people would get it – readers of backpacking blogs being perhaps more attuned to Darwin Rakestraw than Charles Darwin. And second, I’m not really writing here about how poop originates but how best to put it to rest.
This is an uncomfortable topic for most of us, including me as I decide how to deal with poop while hiking in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina this spring.
Pooping is probably the most private thing we do in our entire lives, but it’s a fact of life on the trail as everywhere else. I remember reading a children’s book to my young sons: “Everybody Poops.” And that’s absolutely true: we all do it. So let’s take just a minute to talk about pooping on the trail … and more specifically, how best to deal with it.
How will you handle poop on your next long-distance hike? Will you take reams of TP with you? Will you rely primarily on wet wipes? Or will you rely on your hand, some soap, and maybe a conveniently placed rock or pine cone to bring a successful conclusion to the deed?
The full Skurka
I wish I had the confidence of outdoor athlete and backcountry expert Andrew Skurka: the prophet of paper-free pooping (and a repeat guest on the Backpacker Radio Podcast). Perhaps if I’m faced with exigent circumstances such as my TP getting soaked through, I will see the light and become a Skurka acolyte. I’ll use my water bottle – unmodified, stock Smartwater – as a bidet just like he does, then finishing up with some carefully sourced pebbles and a final sweep with my hand to eliminate all traces of the deed. After I’m done I’ll carefully wash and disinfect both hands. But for now, the Skurka Method is one bridge too far for me. I am still at least somewhat dependent on toilet paper.
A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)
Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.
And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.