The Flats, Ingraham Glacier, Mount Rainier – 10:00 p.m.
It’s the night before your summit push, and you’re lying in your tent wide awake. Your tentmate is fast asleep next to you. Adrenaline and nervous energy made it difficult for you both to settle down after dinner, especially since the Pacific Northwest sun was still well above the horizon when you turned in at 7:30 p.m. for the heinously early wake-up you knew was just around the corner. But after chatting for a bit, you eventually managed to drift off into a fitful sleep with the ever-present howl of the winds whipping across Ingraham Flats.
Fast forward to now. You lie there motionless, cursing yourself for being so diligent about hydration at dinner. Two hot drinks seemed like such a good idea at the time. I mean, who should have to choose between Cup O’ Soup and hot cocoa? Not you, that’s for sure. But why, oh why, didn’t you take just one more trip to the designated pee area before turning in for the night? Now it’s dark out, and the thought of getting out of your bag and putting on pants, boots, and two coats just to go pee in the freezing, blustery cold sounds as appealing as putting your head in a bucket of ice water. Not only that, but the gentle slope of the Ingraham Glacier (so perfect for those Instagram-worthy shots of Little Tahoma you snapped earlier!) threatens an ominous slide into the bottomless chasms that wait just below camp. It’s no wonder your guides said to shout to wake them up if you needed to leave the tent at night.
Then there’s option two, which you are seriously considering right now – lie here miserably for the next 2 ½ hours until it’s time to get up and go. You’ll just get ready really quickly and sprint out to pee before anyone else. Problem solved. Now to find a position to rest where gravity isn’t doing such a number on your perilously full bladder…
Just as you are about to resign yourself to your miserable vigil, you remember something – an empty Gatorade bottle that you drained on the drive to the trailhead the day before, stuffed in the bottom of your pack, and promptly forgot about until now. Now it’s your ticket out of this pee-less purgatory. You dig around in your pack for a moment and are able to quickly locate the item because of the duct tape you wrapped around it to distinguish it from your regular water bottles. Still inside your sleeping bag, you kneel over the uncapped bottle, making sure that it is stable and upright the entire time, insert your handy pee funnel between you and the bottle (those with male anatomy or with female anatomy and really good aim borne of practice can ignore the funnel), and in a matter of 39 seconds (you drank a lot of water, ok?), relief comes! Another 10 seconds, and you have the bottle capped and ready to be emptied in the morning at the designated site. You then happily snuggle back into the comforting depths of your sleeping bag as you drift off to sleep for 2 more precious hours.
Why We Love Pee Bottles and Pee Funnels
While a little tongue-in-cheek, the premise of this story is 100% accurate! Having pee bottle/funnel skills & supplies (as needed on the pee funnel) with you can be immensely helpful for several reasons:
- Safety. No stumbling around in dark, unfamiliar, potentially consequential terrain. Remember that safe, soft snow can freeze solid at night, presenting a slick and dangerous surface!
- Consideration of Others. No slamming shelter doors, unzipping zippers, letting cold air in (on entry and exit!). Your tent mates will thank you!
- More Sleep. Better rest means better physical performance, since dehydration to avoid peeing at night is not an option.
- Comfort. You never leave the warmth of your tent, don’t have to pull cold boots on, and get back to sleep quickly. Let’s be honest. We all sleep better with empty bladders.
As far as materials go, any wide-mouth bottle will do. Some like a 28 oz Gatorade bottle (lightweight!), which you can drink en-route to the trailhead and save empty. Some people use hard sided Nalgenes – preferred for colder mountains to avoid unwanted cracks. Others like to use the collapsible version, which can be very compact. If opting for collapsible bottles, we recommend at least a 1.5 liter capacity container! Whatever container you choose, just be sure you can tell it apart from your drinking bottles for obvious reasons. A duct tape wrap around the designated bottle is nice because you can feel the difference in the dark.
The Freshette is a purpose-built pee funnel, but any hardware store is likely to have something that will work, too. Be certain that whatever funnel you buy, it does not have any kind of filter in it. Filters can lead to an unpleasant backup and overflow situation. It’s nice to have a small hand sanitizer bottle somewhere accessible as well.
Skills are Learned
Most don’t arrive for their first climb proficient and comfortable with using a pee bottle and pee funnel. Practice with these items is critical before your trip! You do not want to use a pee bottle nor pee funnel for the first time time high on a mountain. If you’re short on time to get to the wilderness, the shower is a great practice venue. Unfortunately, we have seen many attempt to use a pee bottle and pee funnel for the first time with messy results. It is difficult and demoralizing to attempt to clean up a misfire.
With these tools and knowledge, you are officially ready to go forth and hydrate without fear on your next climb!