Bears Do It! Assembling Your Hiking Sanitation Kit

Bears Do It! Assembling Your Hiking Sanitation Kit
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Staying clean on the trail is a challenge. Leave No Trace means packing out toilet paper and wipes. Yuk! With this simple setup, your all-purpose hiking sanitation kit, you will ditch the TP and baby wipes forever on your back country adventures.

This 120-gram (4 oz.) kit is actually a lot more than a fancy French bidet for the thru-hiker and can be assembled for under $20. Nothing quite like pressurized water for cleaning the nether regions and everything else.

A 500ml “laboratory safety squeeze bottle” provides the water pressure connected to a short-as-necessary latex rubber tubing (3/16” surgical grade). Finally, an elastic wristband must be fashioned to position and holds the tip of the hose near the tip of your fingers. Traditionally, this would be your left-hand.

Your right-hand provides the water pressure. A single squeeze will empty about a third of the bottle. At that point, you should be well on your way to a clean butt, but…

The squeeze bottle will need to be re-inflated in order to get out more water. This requires some dexterity and experimentation in the user interface. With my left hand temporarily immobilized, I have had great success using my right hand with the help of knees and underarms to loosen and retighten the squeeze bottle or alternately detaching and reattaching the hose from the bottle. Re-inflating the squeeze bottle is a thing, a necessary thing.

The second squeeze of water through the hose might involve a drop of Doctor Bronner’s soap on my fingertips (almond never peppermint!). By the end of the second squeeze, my bottom is squeaky clean.

Next, I wash my hands, starting with my left. With the hose detached from the squeeze bottle, I can wash my hands with a drop of soap and a fine, pressurized stream of water. A full 500 ml squeeze bottle is generally sufficient for the whole process.

I also carry a 104-gram Sea-to-Summit camp shovel. This is the heaviest and most expensive component of my sanitation kit. There are many alternative backcountry trowels. I might drop this from my kit and use sticks, stakes, poles, and hands for digging cat holes.

The squeeze bottle by itself without the rubber hosing is useful for cleaning every other part of your body—feet, underarms, genitals, hair—everything in half-liter increments with frequently refilling for bigger projects. I also use the squeeze bottle to rinse out my eating container and spoon. A thin stream of pressurized water works wonders for cleaning up breakfast and dinner bowls.

I generally don’t filter water that goes into my squeeze bottle. I also never drink from the squeeze bottle. I rinse down the hose and the shovel with the squeeze bottle, which I then store separately from the squeeze bottle in a wet bag. Never use the squeeze bottle for cleaning near a stream or lake, but when occasion arises, the squeeze bottle also functions as a squirt gun to hose down other hikers on hot days.

500 ml squeeze bottle             50 grams

Latex rubber hose (3/16”)       40 grams

Sea to Summit Shovel            104 grams

Doctor Bronner’s Almond Soap,        16 grams

Sea to Summit Waterproof Bag,        16 grams


William Grassie is an interdisciplinary scholar, academic entrepreneur, social activist, and accomplished author. During his school years, he hitchhiked some 30,000 kilometers throughout North America and Europe. He has worked as a newspaper boy, night watchman, farm hand, house painter, dish washer, janitor, caretaker of multiply handicapped children, apprentice in a ceramic studio, camp counselor, computer consultant, real estate manager, and general contractor, among other jobs. Billy received a B.A. in political science from Middlebury College, and then worked for ten years on nuclear disarmament, citizen diplomacy, conflict resolution, community organizing, and sustainability issues in Washington, D.C, Jerusalem, Philadelphia, and West Berlin. He completed a Ph.D. in Religion from Temple University, where he wrote a dissertation on "Reinventing Nature: Science Narratives as Myths for an Endangered Planet" (1994). He has taught at Temple University, as well as at Swarthmore College, Pendle Hill, and the University of Pennsylvania. A recipient of academic awards and grants from the American Friends Service Committee, the Roothbert Fellowship, and the John Templeton Foundation, Billy served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow in the Department of Buddhist Studies at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, Sri Lanka in 2007–2008. He is the founding director of the Metanexus Institute, which promotes scientifically rigorous and philosophically open-ended exploration of foundational questions. Metanexus has worked with partners at some 400 universities in 45 countries and publishes an online journal. He has authored "The New Sciences of Religion: Exploring Spirituality from the Outside In and Bottom Up" (2010) and a collection of essays, "Politics by Other Means: Science and Religion in the 21st Century" (2010).