Backpacking with a Pee Bottle

A guide to pee bottles for backpacking - why and how to use.

Updated on February 28th, 2021
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Some find peeing in a bottle disgusting and won't even consider it. Others find it to be a completely logical and efficient way to dispose of their urine in "more confined situations" - like being in a tent.

Are we for real? Um... yes, we are. Pee bottles have been used in the backpacking community for a long time and warrant some discussion. While not a complete necessity, they do have their benefits in certain conditions and for certain people.

Why Use a Pee Bottle, anyway?

1. No need to leave your sleeping bag. You don't have to get in and out of your liner, sleeping bag and tent. The entire process of getting out of your mummy-like sleeping setup to use the bathroom at 3 AM can be awakening in itself.

2. Avoid bad weather. Getting in and out of your tent in bad weather conditions is not fun and can be dangerous in extreme conditions. You might have to layer up with everything you've got in cold weather or cover up in the rain just to use the public facilities.

3. Can use it to keep warm. A pee bottle can be used as a mini hand or foot warmer in desperately cold environments. Lovely. 

4. Bladder problems. You might be one of those poor souls who has to pee several times during the night - this is the easy way without totally disturbing yourself or your partner.

pee bottleCredit: @campologist

Pee Bottle Options

No one wants to pack extra weight. There are plenty of ultralight DIY pee bottle options though that barely add an ounce to your pack. Try to keep them cheap and disposable. Note you might already be packing some :)

Water Bottles: Gatorade and Powerade bottles are great. You can also use a Nalgene or a Hydrapak Stash. They have enough capacity to hold what you will expel during the night and have a secure enough cap to prevent in possibility of a spill. They are more rigid, and therefore, a little less packable though.

Sealable Bags: A secure plastic bag - zip or screw top. Food bags likes Cook-in-Bag from Packit Gourmet, extra strength plastic freezer bags or a collapsible water bottle (like this Canteen) will do the trick. These bags are light, flexible and packable. A small sandwich bag is too small and liable to bust open - please don't use them. 

*For Women: Admittedly it is a bit more difficult to use a bottle in your sleeping bag. There are some devices that help channel the flow. However, gravity is typically the bigger challenge here.

See female urinal devices like the SheWee and the Freshette. Think of these like specialized funnels for the female anatomy. These allow women to stand, pee with zero (or minimal) clothing removal - just like the guys do. They offer numerous styles and are all reusable and washable.

A Few Last Tips

  • Make sure the bottle's mouth is, well, umm big enough. Keep in mind you will be half-asleep, lying down and in a sleeping bag. A secure mouth will help keep things clean. 

  • Keep it sanitary. Containing and storing urine can be a dirty business. Replace your bottle or container as frequently as possible... or wash it thoroughly as frequently as possible. 

  • Be sure to mark your bottle or keep it a well known spot in your tent... away from your drinking water. Don't want to get anything confused. I won't say it has never happened.

Chris Cage photo

About Chris Cage

By Chris Cage Chris launched Greenbelly Meals in 2014 after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail for 6 months. Since then, Greenbelly has been written up by everyone from Backpacker Magazine to Fast Company. He wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail and currently works from his laptop all over the globe. Instagram: @chrisrcage.
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