Ask the Blonde Coyote: Where the Heck is the Bathroom?!

Home sweet home at Borah Peak, the highest mountain in Idaho

Home sweet home at Borah Peak, the highest mountain in Idaho

I’ve been getting so many lovely, thoughtful, inquisitive emails from people and I’m sorry to say it’s become impossible for me to answer all of them. Most of you want to hit the road – for a long weekend, for a few weeks or months and some of you want to go full nomad. I’d love to help each and every one of you set yourselves free, but if I spent that much time at the keyboard answering emails, I wouldn’t be living the kind of life I want to be living. Selfish, yes, but therein lies part of the secret to my free living success.

Wilderness trumps wifi any day.

Wilderness trumps wifi any day.

My solution to this ridiculously flattering conundrum is to start answering some of these queries on the Blonde Coyote: Hey Blonde Coyote, I love your trailer but where the heck is the bathroom?!

A bathroom is not a problem. This is a problem.

A bathroom is not a problem. This is a problem. Actually, it was fine. When camping in grizz country, I take everything out of the kitchen and put it all in the Rover at night. It takes me about five minutes and I sleep much more soundly. I’ve never had a problem with bears camping, but my Subaru was once ransacked by a family of raccoons. What a mess!

This is one of the most common questions I get about the trailer. There is no bathroom. Actually, Egon gave me a bucket, but I’ve never used it for that purpose; I use it to store random things like plastic bags, my extension cord and laundry detergent. I was a backpacker long before I was a road tripper and digging a “cat hole” has never been a big deal for me. In fact, I find it way more sanitary than pit toilets and most public restrooms.

When boondocking, it’s essential to practice Leave No Trace principals. There’s nothing worse than pulling up to a sweet free campsite and finding feces and toilet paper in the bushes! Cat holes should be dug at least 200 feet from water, trails or campsites. Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep – I keep a garden trowel in that bucket for this purpose – and do your business (hovering is good for the legs!) then rebury the hole. I always pack out my toilet paper by wrapping it in tight wads with clean tp and sealing the wad in a plastic bag. You can read more about the proper LNT waste disposal procedure here. My previous post on Leave No Trace boondocking is here.

Misty morning hike near Granite Creek in western Wyoming

Misty morning hike near Granite Creek in western Wyoming

Hello, I stumbled upon your blog recently after I caught the wanderlust bug. I plan to live on the road/camping around the US (as you do) for a year after I return from the Navy. I was wondering what you do for hygiene. Do you rinse off in creeks? Have a portable shower? Or save bathing for when you stay in a hotel room?

The short answer is: none of the above. Most RV parks will sell showers for around $5 and a lot of towns, especially mountain towns, have a YMCA/ rec center/ public pool. I rarely have a problem finding a shower and usually get one every 3-4 days. My longest stretch without one on the road was 11 days in southern Utah and that $3 shower at the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab was a downright religious experience.

I do often wash up in creeks, especially my feet and lower legs, which are always filthy and I never turn down a hot springs soak. I will sometimes take a hot water sponge bath in the trailer if I’m feeling icky, but I have way too much hair to wash in a solar shower. Fortunately, the nice thing about having really long hair is that I don’t need to wash it very often. Once a week is fine and my hair is healthier for it.

Granite Hot Springs in western Wyoming

Granite Hot Springs in western Wyoming

What’s the best way that you have found to do laundry on the road? I don’t plan on using laundry mats at all. My thinking so far is a bucket with a screw on lid and let it soak on the way to the next destination. Stopping at a rest area sink for rinsing. And hanging on a line at camp to dry.

I guess that might work, but it sounds like a lot of work and a potential mess. I do laundry at a laundromat every two weeks or so, usually on the weekend when all the weekend warriors are clogging up the trails. I can wash almost everything, including bedding, in two loads so it’s not that expensive. I don’t own anything white, delicate or high-maintenance and it all gets washed on warm or hot. Last year for Christmas, some friends gave me a Scrubba wash bag, which can wash a few items at a time using very little water. I’ve been using it in between laundry days for socks and shorts, and it works very well.

Got a question for me? You can email me at theblondecoyote@gmail.com.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Ask the Blonde Coyote: Where the Heck is the Bathroom?!

  1. chris339 says:

    Great post! One addition on the cat hole. I have a dog who like to eat people poop (ick). I’ve found if I roll a basketball-sized rock over, I can dig a hole under that, and he can’t get to it after I roll the rock back into place. Of course, that only works in a rocky area. ;)

  2. beachman says:

    Great post and fun to read!

  3. Lavinia Ross says:

    Cat hole…well said! Yes, more sanitary than many public restrooms I have been in.

  4. dianaed2013 says:

    Like the photos and reading your experiences – how wonderful to go on the road but you are quite right not to spend time on the computer – doesn’t go with the image of freedom!

  5. Upriverdavid says:

    Ah! Granite Hot Springs..I loved it there, it is a springs not to be missed if in the area. I had a 20′ trailer and filled my water tank, only to find they had pressurizied water system with flush toilets at the campground. Plenty of places to boondock all the way up the dirt/gravel 11 mile road. Thanks for the photo giving me a memory flash-back.
    David

  6. knotrune says:

    I’d have thought it was better for the environment to put the toilet paper in the cat hole, surely it is biodegradeable? Doesn’t the plastic waste end up in landfill? I try to keep my plastic use down, though I’m sure you use less than me – it’s not a criticism, I’m sure you know way more than me! Just an honest question. Love your blog, somewhat jealous of your lifestyle, but I could never aspire to it as I am disabled.

  7. Kristin says:

    I was wondering the same thing about burying the toilet paper? Won’t it decompose in the ground? Thanks for sharing – good information to know!

  8. Love reading your stuff

  9. Pingback: Ask the Blonde Coyote: What do I need to hit the road? | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

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