Don’t Forget the Toilet Paper!

This goes for time spent backpacking through mountains as well as the wild world of foreign concrete jungles:

Never. Forget. The TP.

If you’ve ever been camping, traveling, or even on a road trip with me, you may not have been aware of the fact that if it came down to it, I’ve got you covered. And by you, I mean your back-crack. I never leave the comforts of home for a long period of time without toilet paper. Why, you ask? The simple answer is experience.

I first learned about bringing the commode commodity with me everywhere I went when I was in Thailand. The “toilets” there are sometimes as much as a regular throne that just doesn’t flush and sometimes as little as a hole in the ground or a bucket with a hose nearby. Many of the toilets I encountered flat out didn’t offer TP; instead, they opted for a different tool. You know the spray hose you can pull out from your kitchen sink at home? Picture that, but connected to the closest wall. Call it a shower for your shabooty or the poor man’s bidet, we were expected to use these to clean ourselves after doing the deed. Now, I’m not putting down the spray hose method of wiping (or do you even call it that if you use more of a garden hose wrist-flick form?), trust me, I learned to love these useful spigots! However, being the Western traditionalist that I am, I preferred to end with a courtesy wipe just to be sure I was clear for takeoff. Thus, I had to make sure to always have my own just in case the bathroom didn’t have any to offer.

Fly with me now to the other side of the world: South America. Similar to Thailand, some places in South America didn’t have any toilet paper for potty patrons. Alternatively, many of the public bathrooms would have a clerk standing out front selling sheets of toilet paper for a small price. Sometimes it was as little as a tenth of a penny per sheet but depending on where you were and how much of a Gringo you looked like, the price could easily rise to a dollar. Don’t even try paying for these rolls with larger bills, because the clerks will not have enough change for you even if they actually do. Avoid the problem completely by smuggling in your own TP so you don’t find yourself… ahem… shit out of luck.

It should go without saying that if you are going on an overnight camping, floating, or backpacking trip, you should obviously bring toilet paper, so I’m going gloss over that as already on the packing list. Nevertheless, many people do forget to bring TP with them on shorter jaunts such as day hikes or river runs. There have been too many times to count that I didn’t feel the urge at the trailhead, but partway down the path or paddle, my belly began to bubble. You never know when nature calls and it often does so while you’re trying to enjoy nature.

Okay, so you hate flying, you’re generally a homebody, and you will never be found digging a cat-hole in the woods or bartering for toilet paper with a bathroom attendant out front of a sketchy bus stop in Ecuador. That’s fine and I completely understand, but you must still heed my warning!

Take my final example of road trips; everybody loves road trips! I always have toilet paper or napkins in my car just in case it breaks down somewhere or, more likely, I am on the road and a natural disaster is brewing in my gut with no shelter in sight. I once had to make an emergency pullover for a friend while we were between stops on a winding mountain road. He had missed his chance at the last gas station and the next one wouldn’t be for another hour, but he had to go NOW. Prepared and properly equipped, I threw on my hazards, pulled over to the shoulder, tossed him a small roll of TP and dismissed him to do his duty/doodie in peace.

There is no more helpless feeling than finding yourself post-poo with nothing to wipe away your woes. Plan ahead and prepare accordingly by always filling your backpack, glove box, and pockets with paper. Your derrière and dignity will thank you, I promise.


SIDE NOTE: Don’t go to a third world country, or any foreign country for that matter, expecting to have the same bathroom options as we do in The States. Bathrooms in Japan look like sterile time machines. TP dispensers in Europe often use a dispensing method similar to Kleenex instead of rolls. In much of the world you don’t even flush toilet paper and rather toss it in a nearby wastebasket. A bucket may be commonplace when trekking in Peru and a toilet seat bandit is apparently on the loose in Colombia… Seriously though, I don’t think I sat on a single toilet seat in all of Colombia. Being the ingenious species we are though, you learn to adapt quickly and just use what is available or widen your stance.

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