Backpacking with a Toddler and 4 Words You Never Want to Hear

“I Want My Potty!”


My almost 3-year old has peed in the woods for over a year and been pooping among the leaves and dung beetles for at least 4 months now.  So setting out on a 3 day backpacking trip to the NC  Remote Spot, I had no worries about the going-to-the-bathroom-in-the-woods-issue.  But…

After backpacking all day, Skyla still hadn’t peed.  She hadn’t drunk much water so I didn’t worry too much about it.   When after having milk before bed and again when she awoke and still no pee, we knew we had a problem.  We basically had to coerce her to pee before we loaded up for another day of backpacking.  Through tears and examples by both parents she finally peed.  Alot.   Still no poop.

Rather than doing a play-by-play of that evening, the middle of the night, and the next morning’s activities, let me summarize by saying we ran through 4 pairs of underwear, both of her pairs of pants, a pair of tights, had to wash her in the creek, and ended up with underwear in the form of a plastic bag with legs cut out and stuffed with paper towels.

The worst part was not knowing if she had a bug (did we boil the water long enough?) or if it was more of an emotional issue.  I believe it was a combination of stressors, that not having her potty with us was just one in a string of small events and situations that led to her controlling (sort of) where and when she went to bathroom.

Moral of the story:   well, there are a few of them.  First, practice peeing and pooping outside MANY times before heading out on a backpacking trip where your access to fresh clothes, cleaning supplies, and fresh water may be limited.  Second, bring some wipes along.  Third, its worth the bulk and weight to bring a diaper or two along in your pack, just in case…



Filed under Outdoor Activities, Parenting, Toddler Traveling Tips

7 Responses to Backpacking with a Toddler and 4 Words You Never Want to Hear

  1. Lydia Flewelling

    Hi honey! Glad you guys are having so much fun. Do you use a special dehydrator? I got one and the layers are so narrow I’m not sure what I can put in there. Any advice? xo Lydia

    • Rebecca

      Hi Lydia! We use the Excalibur Food Dehydrator 9-tray version. It is a workhorse and very good quality. Because of the way it is designed, you can remove alternating trays for bulkier items.

  2. Jessica Patronis

    Oh, no! Poor baby and parents!! I know it is probably not something you could bring backpacking, but have you seen the My Carry Potty? We have one in the car for Lorelei and it is great. It is sturdy, has a handle, and seals closed in case you have to “pack out” the business. Lorelei has not ventured to piddle in the woods just yet, so we take it with us for picnics and such. Good luck. I hope she gets over that soon!

    • Rebecca

      We have begun practicing when it is not a do-or-explode situation. We have a portable potty seat, we just didn’t bring it because of weight and bulk. The one we use is the PRI Folding Potty with Handles. It sits over toilet seats so is great for restaurants, rest areas, etc and also folds up a purse or bag. We will likely bring it next time!

  3. Elysia

    what a great, funny, and helpful story. You guys are rockstar parents and our inspiration.

    • Rebecca

      Can’t wait to backpack with y’all and baby Miles! Best advice, do it sooner rather than later — backpacking with a 30lb toddler around is no easy feat!

  4. Rebecca

    I should have added that it was business as usual as soon as we got home. Happy Pooping!

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