Pee Bottles and Shee wees: A Guide to Using Them on Kilimanjaro
Pee bottle

The ensuing features of pee bottles could be extrapolated to adventure activity beyond Kilimanjaro, since urination in cold conditions will always be technically challenging. The general need to minimize clothes removal is shared with skiing, and mountain scenery and false summits might well induce lower urinary urgency thresholds. Many climbers and guides doing technical climbs in Alaska and the Himalayas have employed pee bottles for protection in their tents at high camps dug into ice ledges. Urinalysis has confirmed that renal concentrating ability is not impaired by altitude so the physiological necessity for frequent micturition is unchanged. Any normal individual interested in the techniques of alpine physiology can easily use the necessary anthropometric tables to confirm that percentile uric germplasm and insulating body fat do not place him in a special thermal tolerance category requiring separate normative studies. With this in mind, the authors welcome reports and further research using the principles outlined here to advance the state of the art in urine containment and disposal in high cold environs.

Benefits of Using a Pee Bottle

Urine storage comes into the forefront once again when considering the handling of human urine in a urine diversion system. Since humid faeces putrefy urine, it is imperative that urine is stored in a separate container for at least 6 months. If urine is to be used in agriculture, it must be stored for at least 6 months to allow time for any pathogens to die off. Pee bottles provide a safe and secure storage facility for urine that is easily sealable and transportable to a storage site. If urine will be stored in an underground pit or container, it is a simple matter of pouring it in. Stored urine must not come into contact with storm water, streams, rivers or any other watercourse as it may adversely affect aquatic life, or eutrophicate water bodies promoting the growth of nuisance weeds and algae. Therefore, it is important to note the point of urination and the pathway in which urine will take into reaching its storage site. Urinating directly into a pee bottle near the tent removes the risk of urine spilling and travelling into unwanted areas. The gravel at both Machame and Barafu has very poor absorptive abilities due to its nutrient poor status; any urine spilt onto the gravel will sit on the surface and will most likely be carried into water courses by runoff. High absorption materials such as hygiene products and toilet paper should also be avoided, as their burial may promote a nutrient spike in soil upon their eventual discovery and disintegration.

Nalgene Canteen

Convenience and Time-saving

Because of the time and hassle-saving convenience of pee bottles, many climbers may choose to shorten a day’s hike by drinking fewer fluids. This, of course, is not hygienic and may increase the risk of acute mountain sickness, but some climbers may feel that saving time or energy inside a tent is more beneficial than saving time or energy on the trail. For those with keen mountain objectives, taking a pee bottle may revolutionize the way they approach mountaineering.

A great amount of research and technology has been used to develop products to assist men who suffer from urinary incontinence. Systems have been developed using condoms (external catheters) which connect to leg bags. These men, as well as men who use prostate medications to shrink the prostate and pass urine more freely, no longer have to leave their tents at inconvenient times. Since urinary incontinence bothers many men between the ages of 50-70, a Kilimanjaro climb using a leg bag system may be an attractive option to those who do not want to let bladder control problems put an end to their climbing days. Using a catheter and leg bag overnight in high altitude presents too many risks of infection and blockage due to highly concentrated urine and inadequate fluid intake.

Preparation for a Kilimanjaro trip is harder than the trek itself. Packing and repacking gear can be very time-consuming. Typically, trips to the latrine begin with finding shoes, assembling the outerwear, and then finding a flashlight. The actual hike to the latrine can often use up more than 10 minutes – this is a conservative estimate. Pee bottle users can remain in their tent, quickly take care of business, and then get back in their warm sleeping bag. Never having to find shoes, outerwear, or a flashlight! The beauty of it is that the pee bottle can also be used during terrible weather, in high winds, in the middle of the night, and on small tent platforms. This is a convenient time and hassle saver, particularly for female climbers who have to hold it all night and 10 minutes before leaving camp in order to find privacy on the trail.

Hygiene and Environmental Considerations

Environmental impact can be thought of in terms of both local and global perspectives. At the most basic level, disposal of urine around camp areas often results in unsightly yellow stains on the rocks. Urine, like detergent, contains high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, and when added to a pristine alpine tarn, can induce an algal bloom due to nutrient enrichment and eutrophication. High altitude alpine lakes are often several thousand years old and have very delicate, low-nutrient ecosystems that can be disrupted by very small amounts of pollutants. Globally, there is also the issue of fuel consumption and air pollution. The primary reason for climbing Kilimanjaro has shifted from a wilderness expedition to an Uhuru Peak-oriented travel experience. This has led to an enormous number of climbers on the mountain, resulting in very crowded conditions and heavy environmental impact. These climbers, and their porters, require large quantities of firewood and other biomass fuels that are obtained from the montane forest. This deforestation has led to soil erosion and loss of habitat for many species. Wild urine is a potential pollutant to water sources throughout the mountain with the risk of spreading diseases to both humans and animals. Reduced fuel consumption at lower altitudes with the use of a Pee Bottle could potentially help to slow deforestation of the mountain.

First of all, let’s consider the health hygiene issue. There are numerous sources of possible contamination in a mountain environment. It is a well-known fact that high altitude climbers are at risk for a variety of exotic bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. The CDC has an excellent resource for identifying health risks specific to the region you are visiting. One category of disease that is often overlooked is that of skin infections. Because urine is a good medium for bacterial growth, having it around in liquid form increases the risk of getting a skin infection if one were to have an open sore and come in contact with the contaminated area. With the use of a Pee Bottle, one can immediately zip the urine into a storage container that essentially eliminates any chance of spilling or leakage into a sleeping or eating area. A secure container of urine is also important for individuals with medical conditions resulting in increased urinary frequency to help prevent against accidental spills from sudden strong urges to urinate and disorientation at night.

How to Use a Pee Bottle on Kilimanjaro

First, there are five major types of bottles that work well for peeing while in a tent. They are the collapsible bottle, the screw-top Nalgene, the wide-mouth Gatorade-type bottle, the 32 oz. soda bottle, and the military style 1 qt. canteen. The collapsible bottle is the lightest and most compact, and thus, least likely to be left out of your backpack on summit day. Any of the screw-top bottles are good because the screw-top makes spillage less likely during a bleary late-night operation in a dark tent. A wide-mouth bottle is mandatory for men or for women who have a hard time hitting the target; you are essentially making a pee-bottle urinal. It’s hard for even the most avid and well-trained female pee-bottle user to hit the smaller target of a Nalgene bottle without creating some amount of spillage. If the wide-mouth bottle is the urinal, the 32 oz. soda bottle is that big gulp soda cup you get at 7-11. The overflow simply will not be contained within that cup or in this instance, the small mouth of the Nalgene bottle. Women should plan to use two 32 oz. bottles or some other nearly equivalent volume in two smaller bottles. The 1 qt. canteen is the least preferable option, as the cap inevitably gets lost on the mountain and retrieving a replacement cap is not a task that can be easily accomplished in Tanzania.

Choosing the Right Pee Bottle

When choosing the right pee bottle, it is important to consider several factors. Firstly, if you decide to use a bottle with a wide mouth, the likelihood of spillage is much higher. This will be particularly risky when using the bottle inside a tent. Having a bottle with a cap will reduce this risk and keep stored urine sterile. Nalgene bottles are a popular choice and are available in a variety of sizes up to one liter. They are relatively cheap, durable, and their wide mouth makes for easy use. However, the wide mouth also increases the chance of spillage. Gatorade-style bottles are quite wide but also have an adequate size opening. Given that many people like to urinate frequently in small quantities while on the mountain, these bottles may be a slightly better choice than Nalgene bottles. It is possible to purchase specifically designed urinal bottles. Medically, these are often recommended to people who are bedridden. They have a male and female adapter and a screw top with a closure that ensures it is leak-proof. Often they come with a handle to allow for easy carrying, which may be useful if there is space to hang it from the outside of a pack. This kind of bottle is likely a very safe option, although a bit excessive. Any mountaineering store will have a variety of sizes of fuel canisters that are suitable. These bottles are quite durable and have a very small opening with a screw top closure. They are probably the safest option in terms of spillage, but given their general use in storing liquid fuel, it is not advised to use this bottle for any other purpose due to the risk of contamination. Take a bottle that is just large enough to store the amount of urine you anticipate passing in a whole night. A larger bottle will be heavier than necessary if it is not filled, and there is less risk of spillage with a bottle that has only a small amount stored in it.

Finding a Suitable Location

Various bold travelers have experimented with peeing off the side of their sleeping pad inside their tent, but mountaineering lore is rich with disaster stories from this practice. With the combination of yawning sleeping bag openings and predictable aim challenged by the difficulties of peeing in the dark while in a reclined position, it is only a matter of time before gravity and urine’s uncanny ability to find the smallest opening in a protective barrier will combine to introduce the lines of longitude and latitude in your Mapquest to a warm, golden equator. So now with the decision made to exit the tent for relief, your task is to find the most convenient, least frigid, and discreet location possible – potentially a tough order in a storm.

The perfect location can make all the difference in your success when using a pee bottle. One important rule is not to use your pee bottle inside your tent. Although tent exteriors generally don’t leak without significant pressure, no tent is completely impervious in a sustained rain or snowstorm, and Murphy’s Law holds that when a pee bottle is knocked over, it will spill into your favorite boots. It will also be tempting to use an open mouth wide bottle from inside your sleeping bag. Consider this image in your mind: it’s a frigid alpine night and you are warm and comfortable in your bag, but nature calls. With temperatures well below freezing, the shock of cold air on warm skin should provide enough aversion to keep you dressing to leave your tent to pee. If you are wearing socks and boot liners, you may choose to leave them inside your bag to maintain the warmth and comfort for your feet; these items, however, often serve as pee bottle collection devices at some later point when you change into them in a befuddled state after running low on fuel climbing a cold and rainy day.

Proper Disposal and Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning the pee bottle at home, someone chose this marginal but consistent piece of advice: “Just run it through the dishwasher a couple of times. Then it will be clean enough to put flowers in.” This advice can be confidently stated as coming from someone who has spent too much time under the open sky. A more reasonable and health-conscious solution is to rinse the bottle with boiling water, repeating the process several times. If you discern a lingering odor about the pee bottle, a weak solution of chlorine bleach or baking soda and water may be effective in removing the smell. Remember to exercise caution with the chlorine bleach, as it could react with other cleaning substances to produce harmful fumes. Finally, no matter how the bottle is cleaned, it is recommended that the urine be emptied down a household toilet, as the concentration of salts and other chemicals in urine could still be harmful to plants and soil.

You are accountable for your waste on the mountain, and it is essential that proper disposal of urine takes place. It must be poured into the hole-in-the-ground latrines or the common use areas around the campsites (please ask the guides or the porters precisely where). Urine attracts bugs, and the salts in the urine can harm the soil and plants if poured directly onto the ground. That is it. If you have followed all of these instructions, I can assure you that you will neither be constipated nor horribly embarrassed for inadvertently exposing yourself to your fellow trekkers. The peebottle technique is a safe, efficient, and fundamentally decent method of dealing with a distasteful Kilimanjaro necessity.

Tips and Precautions

Another chance to use the bathroom facilities occurs during the night. We provide a toilet tent and portable potty for all of our climbs. However, some clients may find that these facilities are too cold or far away in the middle of the night. This is another situation where a pee bottle is an excellent idea. You do not have to leave your warm sleeping bag to relieve yourself. And since staying hydrated is crucial at altitude, you may need to do this more than once during the night. In the morning, make sure to label your bottle so that it is not confused with drinking water.

While urine is sterile, urinating on Kilimanjaro is an extremely good way to get a urinary tract infection. The weather on the mountain is generally cold and wet. Going outside to use the bathroom means that there is a good chance you will get cold and wet. The combination of the two greatly increases your chance of infection. It is much better to urinate in a bottle and be cold for a couple of minutes than exposing yourself to the elements. Also, consider bringing hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean.

1. Staying Warm and Comfortable

Make sure the bottle is distinctly different from your drinking water bottles. This can be achieved by storing your drinking bottles inside your tent at night and your pee bottle outside at the foot of your tent. It’s not recommended to store it inside your tent.

A simple and effective solution is to carry an empty water bottle designated specially for the purpose. It’s very important to get into the habit of filling this up before you go to bed because trying to do it in the middle of the night when you are half asleep can often end in disaster. Also, make sure the lid is very secure. On a few occasions on our last trip, we’d wake in the morning with a bottle full of urine with a nice yellow snow patch next to it, evidence that some animals had been testing their luck.

In the daytime, it will be relatively warm and may even get quite hot. But the higher you climb and the more tired you become, the harder it will be to keep warm. You’ll be surprised at how cold it can get, particularly at night when you are laying there not moving much. The thought of getting out of your warm sleeping bag to go outside into the cold is not very appealing and can often be enough to deter people from peeing regularly through the night.

2. Maintaining Privacy and Etiquette

Finally, as funny as it may seem in the context of this whole discussion, it is best to never discuss the use of pee bottles or urinating with people you do not know very well. It is a topic that many people find off-putting and disgusting, and it is generally not an image you want to convey yourself with to others. It can even be seen as a taboo by and in some cultures. By maintaining discretion and good manners with your pee bottle use, you will earn the respect of your fellow climbers and the staff.

At high traffic areas around the mountain, such as the summit and other major camps, it becomes increasingly important to find the most discreet and sanitary spot. Remember, the goal is to preserve the beauty and serenity of the mountain for everyone else and leave a minimum of impact.

On occasion, it will be misty, foggy, or a full blizzard, and there will be no visibility at all. While this may seem like the ideal situation, it is not safe for travel and probably not suitable for peeing outside of the tent. Imagine how surprised and possibly disgusted a fellow climber could be if he finds out he came within inches of stepping in a puddle of your urine while he is preparing his tent site! In the event of poor weather, it is still best to go out of camp and find a spot that drains well away from the camp or find a sheltered spot quite away from camp and pee in a way that you can cover the area with rocks. A good guideline is to imagine you are a cat; just like burying your business in a litter box, your aim is to leave no trace. This approach will maintain good sanitation and prevent pollution of water sources.

Instead, try to discreetly find a spot slightly away from camp that is out of sight. A small bush or rock can often provide adequate visual cover, and remember you only have to be hidden from one angle to preserve your modesty. If it is at all practical, ask your assistant guide to help you set up a toilet tent. They are usually quite experienced at finding the best location and setting these up. By covering it with a fly, they can offer very good privacy, and you will only need to peek out of your sleeping bag and crawl a few meters to a much more dignified solution.

When using a pee bottle, it is critical to consider the privacy of others in your group, and the porters, cooks, and guides who are working nearby. Pulling your pee bottle out in front of everyone and using it openly is very poor form and shows considerable disrespect. No one is going to be comfortable if they see you doing this. It is unnecessary exposure and can lead to embarrassment and could potentially damage the relationship you have with the staff and other climbers.

Climbers who are ascending Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Rwenzori, Ol Doinyo Lengai and Mount Meru are advised to consume between four to five liters of water per day. This substantial amount of water aids in the process of acclimatization. However, the drawback of drinking such a significant quantity of water and taking Diamox is the frequent need to urinate – an occurrence that may happen numerous times during the night. This situation can be quite inconvenient, as it entails putting on outerwear and footwear, leaving the tent, and locating the toilet each time. This is where the utilization of a portable receptacle for urine becomes beneficial.

What should you look for in a pee bottle?

It is crucial to prioritize capacity when selecting a pee bottle. Opt for the largest option available to minimize the frequency of emptying it. A 16 ounce bottle is too small, while a 32 ounce bottle will suffice. However, a 48 ounce bottle is the optimal choice. Additionally, ensure that the bottle has a wide opening to facilitate easy and splash-free urination. An excellent option is the collapsible Nalgene Cantene, featuring a large opening, ample capacity, and a visible water level indicator. Unlike hard bottles, a collapsible Nalgene can be rolled up and conveniently stored in small spaces when not in use. To avoid any confusion with regular water bottles, it is advisable to clearly label the pee bottle. Nalgene water bottles can be found at this location.

How do you use a pee bottle on Kilimanjaro?

To ensure a tidy process, any method is equally effective for collecting urine as long as you avoid creating a mess. However, we have a suggestion for you. Firstly, make sure to have your headlamp turned on to provide ample illumination. This will enable you to see what you are doing. Secondly, it is considerate to position your body away from your tent mate, who is hopefully asleep, to maintain their peace and comfort. Kneel on the ground and find a stable stance where you can position the bottle below, allowing you to urinate into it. It’s worth noting that our clients are accommodated in spacious three-person tents, however, they are limited to two occupants, ensuring sufficient space to maneuver. Prepare in advance by keeping a tissue, wet wipe, or handkerchief nearby to promptly clean up any stray droplets. Once you have relieved yourself, ensure the bottle is tightly sealed and securely placed in a location where it won’t be accidentally disturbed or damaged. In the morning, dispose of the urine either away from the campsite or in the designated public toilet. Alternatively, you may pour it into the portable toilets we provide. However, be mindful that emptying multiple bottles simultaneously can strain the toilet’s capacity, so kindly consider disposing of the urine elsewhere whenever possible.

Can women use a pee bottle?

Shee weeLadies can use a urine funnel, which is also called a “she wee.”The funnel is put under the body to make a tight seal, and the pee flows into the bottle.

You can also use this to go to the bathroom on the road without showing your behind. To use while standing, take the funnel out of its case and place it against your body. Point the needle down and away from you. Try it out at home before you go to Kilimanjaro. As they say, practice makes perfect.

You can get the Sani-Fem Freshette Feminine Urinary Director at REI for about $23.


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