The bathroom facilities rank at the top of our frequently asked questions, especially among women. We hear you ladies! Taking care of business in the Grand Canyon is undoubtedly different from what you are used to at home but can be simple once you know the drill. From those of us who’ve spent years on the river, here are our best “call of nature” tips and tricks specifically for women. We hope it helps reduce unnecessary pre-trip anxiety so you can get onto enjoying the trip of a lifetime!
We’ll start out with the most basic need – urination. You need to stay hydrated, so if you’re doing things right, you’ll need to pee frequently. All liquid waste needs to go into the river. During the day, you have a few options. If you’re on a motorized raft, one of the best places to go is actually at the back of the raft. I know you’ll think it sounds crazy, but trust me on this one. Just ask the guide if it’s a good time to come back to the motor well and use the facilities. If so, you’ll make your way to the back of the boat. The guides will show you how to position yourself and the best strap to hold onto while you go. You’ll be behind the guide and all the gear, so it’s actually quite private.
If that suggestion has you cringing, don’t worry, we have a few other options. You can always request a pit stop – if you have to go, someone else probably does too! The guides will find a beach and pull over so everyone can get off the boat. The guides will direct men in one direction and the women in the other. One quote you might hear is “you don’t FIND privacy in the canyon, you GIVE it”. Most beaches don’t have much cover, so we tell the ladies to “face danger”. In other words, once you walk a few feet down the beach and wade into the water a bit, face towards the group. When you squat and pull down your pants, no one can see a thing but your smiling face. This move is much easier if you’re wearing a two-piece swimsuit or sports bra and underwear.
For the really shy folks, there is always the “checking the straps” method. You can just wade into the river right next to the raft while holding the straps and go through your shorts. A couple of bobs in the water for a rinse cycle and you’re all set!
We bring individual ‘pee buckets’ for your use in camp. If you have to go #1 in the middle of the night you can use the pee bucket instead of walking all the way down to the river. Then in the morning, you empty it out in the river… simple! The guides will show you the sanitation procedure.
For that “other” need, check out our “Number Two with a View” blog.
It’s wise to plan for your monthly cycle on the trip even if you aren’t expecting it. The guides do have a few supplies for surprises, but it’s best to have your own stash. Some guides use the “Diva Cup.” It can have a learning curve, so be sure to try it out a few months before your trip to see if it will work for you. If you’d rather use tampons, bring several small Ziploc bags and a pack of baby wipes. Keep it all in your day dry bag so you can access it whenever needed. When you change during the day, wrap your trash in the baby wipe, put it all in the Ziploc, and dispose of it in the trash on the raft. Just be sure your trash goes deep into the boat trash bag. Since you’ll be getting wet frequently, sanitary napkins are not a practical option.
Insider tip: Skirts/dresses are really comfortable for women to wear – especially at camp. Having a skirt is like wearing your own privacy curtain. A sarong held by a friend can also create additional privacy – especially when you need to change a tampon during the day.
While we’re on hygiene, I thought I’d also mention that I love packing my biodegradable soap, a small comb, and some hair detangler spray in a Ziploc bag and keep that in my day dry bag. It’s usually warm and sunny on the beach while the guides set up lunch and that can be a great time to bathe. Often, we try to avoid pulling into camp when it’s super sunny and hot, so I don’t always like to get cold and wet at that time of the day. Doing it at lunch gives me time to warm up after a cold, refreshing dip in the river. I use a baby wipe on my face, armpits and feet at night before bed.
Don’t hesitate to contact the office and ask if you have additional questions. There are several ladies in the office and we are happy to help explain things.