Here are top tips on all the questions that usually baffle those planning cold weather camping – you might be planning an arctic or polar expedition, or maybe just a short hiking and camping trip. In this article, I speak with experienced cold-weather experts to answer the important questions that are hard to find answers to. How do you go to the toilet in the Arctic, how to manage your period and the all-important question… many knickers to pack?! Practicalities on using the toilet and managing personal hygiene in extreme weather – with little or no facilities – can be confusing, especially with so little advice about it online. There’s no one right way, as long as you are practising Leave not Trace (leaving natural spaces as you found them). So, use this blog to learn from others and find what works best for you. This article is 1 in a 3-part series designed to help anyone planning an extreme weather adventure. Make sure you also check out:

Before we start….

If you are new to this blog, I’m Bex Band – a full-time UK adventurer and founder of the women’s adventure community, Love Her Wild. You can sign up to my newsletter here. Also check out my recently published book Three Stripes South, all about my first big adventure hiking the length of Israel. If you have any questions, please do use the comments box below. And for ongoing tips and inspiration on camping and adventure, make sure you follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Wendy Searle

Wendy Searle carried out a solo expedition to the South Pole in 2020. She has completed Polar Expedition training with Hannah McKeand and in training for the South Pole crossed the Greenland Ice Sheet. You can follow Wendy on Twitter and Facebook.

Any advice for going to the toilet in the snow on extreme weather expeditions?

I’ve tried she-wees and other brands. In the end, I just squatted and got on with it, even in a mixed group, you just get used to it. Pooing – I’d recommend going in the morning – before everyone sets off for the day. You can dig a decent hole to provide some protection for you and from the wind, do it as quickly as possible and carry on with the day. Sometimes we built a communal latrine, but I wasn’t keen. Some people used a sort of pebble of snow as a wipe, but I couldn’t quite make it work! I used tissues and then had a good wet wipe wash every few days (keep your wet wipes in smaller packs and close to your body so they don’t freeze before you use them).

How did you manage your period camping in the snow? 

I got lucky as I didn’t have one while I was away! I was dreading being on my period be honest and there’s no helpful answer. I’m debating going on the pill and taking back-to-back packets for longer expeditions so I don’t have a period. I can’t see how you’d manage it any other way with the long days, the mixed groups, the complete lack of privacy and the need to carry all your waste.

How many pairs of knickers did you pack?

One! Not entirely gross as I had merino wool adventure knickers and a daily-use liner. I might take one spare pair for longer trips. If I needed some ‘lady time’ in the tent of an evening for a wet wipe wash, the boys just looked the other way!! The guys have it so easy! We all had pee bottles in case you needed to go for a pee in the night – no way was I going out! It was an effort a contortionist would be proud of to pee in a bottle (with funnel) in the middle of the night, sharing a tent with two guys, not falling over or spilling any! They pretended to be asleep but I knew they weren’t……..

Lucy Shepherd

Lucy Shepherd is an adventurer who has a love for snow. She has completed a number of expeditions including spending 10 weeks in Svalbard. You can follow Lucy on Twitter, Instagram.

Any advice for going to the toilet in the snow on extreme weather expeditions?

When you need it, go or it will make your life a misery! Privacy isn’t really a thing.. Once you’ve accepted that, it’s not a problem at all!

Bring a pee bottle for the nighttime so you don’t have to get out of your tent (Nalgene canteen is best – practice first!) and remember to screw the lid tight and put it down your sleeping bag o avoid it freezing!

Keep tissues in every pocket and a zip lock bag to keep the used ones.

How did you manage your period camping in the snow? 

I usually try to avoid having them whilst away as I run the pill to prevent it from happening but when I don’t, keeping a bag in your jacket to dispose of tampons and the like it the best way. Then having one main bag to then put them in. When it’s cold, in full-blown arctic conditions, these things are easier to deal with. I have friends who use moon cups as it’s easy to wash (just use some hot water from your thermos flask) and less rubbish to think about.

How many pairs of knickers did you pack?

1-week expeditions – 1 pair.

4-week expeditions – 3 pairs.

6-weeks or more – 4 pairs.

Doesn’t sound much but panty liners save the day here! The ones that are thin and only have the green packaging are the best for space and weight efficiency!

Jo Bradshaw

Jo Bradshaw is an experienced expedition leader who is working towards completing the seven summits for Place 2 Be. She has climbed Denali and is now in preparation for an Antartic Expedition – climbing Antartica’s highest peak. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Or donate to her cause here.

Any advice for going to the toilet in the snow on extreme weather expeditions?

Don’t make a big thing out of it! We all have to pee and poop, we all have bottoms and everyone will see yours (and everyone elses!) at some point during the trip so best thing is to just get on with it. There will be a designated poop place but for pee’ing it’s timing your need to go with when you have stopped. The trouble is with snowy trips they can often be very cold and exposed to arctic conditions so, as mentioned above, it’s all about good personal admin and being quick if you are out.

Don’t be tempted to drink less water though in a bid not go have to pee because you are just setting yourself up for trouble. One last thing, bring a large pee bottle for your tent but get used to using it at home before you go!

How did you manage your period camping in the snow? 

I had terrible problems with my periods a few years ago so took advice from my Doctor and had a coil fitted (which all sounds very mechanical!) but that solved my issues. I still take tampons and liners with me as a back up as altitude and tough exercise does weird things to your internal workings. There are many studies and lots of advice in the ether on this subject and Women’s Adventure Expo are running a project called MMiEPP – Managing Menstruation in Extreme Environments Project and collating information from people in the field and those who have been there and done that. Worth taking a look. Again, it’s something that we have to get on with but a good chat with your Doctor on alternatives is a good call.

How many pairs of knickers did you pack?

As Squash Falconer says ‘if your knickers are right then everything is right’ and I definitely adhere to that thought when weight limits are not restrictive. However, for Denali I took 4 pairs of pants for a 21 day expedition but took wet wipes too. Alas, once again, you just have to get on with it. We are all going to smell and you know that you’ll have a shower at the end of it. I just made sure that I stayed as clean as I could with the limited supplies that I had. The more kit you carry, the heavier the pulks and packs and the harder you are going to make your expedition. I’m all for making things as easy as possible so had to sacrifice clean pants! On Everest, I took loads as we were able to. It all depends on the specific expedition!

How to go to the toilet in the arctic

Seanna Fallon

Seanna Fallon is a passionate fundraiser and blogger. She joined an all-female team to attempt to cross the Finnmark Plateau right in the heart of winter, facing temperatures as low as -32. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Any advice for going to the toilet in the snow on extreme weather expeditions?

I was so worried about this, but it really isn’t as scary as you might think. Even when it’s really cold, you’re only exposed for a short amount of time, and you just deal with the fact that your nether regions are a bit nippy.

At camp, we dug a communal hole for the toilet, where we just squatted and peed, buried our poo and burned the toilet paper with matches (which can be awfully difficult when it’s windy). 

In the day when we were skiing along, we’d just step off the trail and go. I’m a massive prude, but you quickly lose your inhibitions around other people being nearby. I’d highly recommend expedition salopettes with a flap at the back so you don’t have to take off all your layers to get the straps off.

At night, when it got really windy and cold, sometimes we would pee in the porch of the tent and bury it. 

How did you manage your period camping in the snow? 

I was lucky not to come on my period while on the expedition (in fact it came on about an hour after we got off the plateau and indoors, so my body must have known). I had expected to though. I’m a Mooncup user, and my plan was to warm my hands up as much as possible before changing it and then cleaning the cup with a little bit of hot water or some wet wipes (which need to be defrosted in your sleeping bag with body heat)

How many pairs of knickers did you pack?

I took 2 pairs of merino wool boxers, and then as a backup, I had 2 pairs of breathable Chafree pants. I brought the backup because it seemed unthinkable to only have 2 pairs of pants for 2 weeks, but I didn’t need the extras at all. I wanted to be in wool boxers all the time because they’re so much warmer, and yes, my first pair were a bit gross when I changed them on day 7 but it was really fine. Besides, it’s too cold to strip down to your underwear regularly, and I stayed in the same Armadillo Merino Wool base layers throughout.

Thank you, Wendy, Jo, Lucy and Seanna for taking the time to answer these questions! Check out my full kit list from my Arctic expedition. You may also want to check out the vlog from my adventure (things didn’t quite go to plan!):

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And for any women reading this….I set up Love Her WIld – a women’s adventure community….we organise exciting adventures all over the world for you to join. Find out more – check out our private Facebook page.

5 thoughts on “How to Go to the Toilet in the Snow!

  1. Brilliant tips from Lucy, Jo and Seanna. What illustrious company I find myself in. The Love Her Wild Polar trip could become a regular thing! 🙂

    1. I think a regular arctic trip is a must…no where quite like it on earth!!
      Thanks for your input Wendy 🙂 x

  2. Goodness. Wool knickers sound amazingly warm, but what do you do if you’re allergic to wool? I don’t think I could cope with the scratchiness of wool in my knickers!!

  3. Hi Bex, I’ve just come across your blog and wanted to say thank you SO much for the well written detailed posts.

    Having all the experiences & advice from all ladies including yourself on your trips has been so insightful to read through and really reassuring, especially from a woman’s point of view!

    I’m heading to Finnmark come February and then onto Svalbard/Newtontoppen for a ski tour later on in the year (first time doing anything like this in the arctic) so your posts, videos & tips are so very handy 🙂

    1. Ah, thanks so much for your kind words Nicole. I really appreciate you letting me know it’s been helpful. Your adventures sounds amazing….good luck!! 🙂

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