For weeks early on in the country’s coronavirus quarantine, many of us walked down our grocery stores’ aisles with optimism, only to be left disappointed by empty shelves. At the dismay of your backside, you may have asked: Is there really not even single-ply left?
At first the toilet-paper shortages were frustrating, albeit mildly amusing. That wore off quickly, leaving many in search of a solution. In much of the world, that solution is the bidet, a time-tested cleaning device that’s only recently entered the American consciousness in earnest. By now you’ve probably heard many things about them: they’re the affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to toilet paper, the spa experience for your bum that you never knew you wanted, and another example of how our country is behind the times (pun intended). These devices, from the simple to the über-fancy, easily attach to your toilet and blast your nether regions with water instead of leaving you to smear your bum with processed trees.
Most bidets are fixed to your home plumbing, but several companies make travel versions that you simply fill with water wherever and whenever you need to use them. That got us thinking about whether we’ve been missing out on a better solution for backcountry bathroom breaks. In the woods, you’re often using leaves, a stick, a smooth rock, or toilet paper on your backside, and accepting those as your only options. Could a travel bidet change the game for outdoor pursuits?
With a little extra time on our hands, we decided to test one out.
Our subject was the Tushy Travel, a portable model from a company that also makes bidets for your toilet. The 11-ounce collapsible plastic and rubber contraption is readily mistaken for a reusable water bottle and comes attached to a key chain for transport. The design is pretty basic. Simply expand the bottle, fill it up with water, turn it upside down, and it’s ready to go. A pop-up nozzle has three holes that direct the spray. Users position it near their bum and squeeze the easy-grip bottle to, as the company states, “turn your poopy b-hole into a sparkling clean booty” and “wash your travel turds away.” There’s no charging or batteries required. The Tushy Travel comes in black, white, and teal and costs $29.
OK, but does it actually work? I spent two weeks using the Tushy Travel and am still on the fence about it. While the brand’s on-toilet bidets can generate a strong stream of water because they’re connected to your home’s water pipes, the Tushy Travel is limited in its cleaning powers because its force is generated by you squeezing the bottle. So in instances that necessitate, say, multiple wads of toilet paper, the Tushy Travel doesn’t quite have the force or water capacity to take care of those situations. (Many travel bidets are recommended for babies, the elderly, the bedridden, and new moms).
That said, if you’re dealing with a relatively clean drop-off, or if you simply peed, then a travel bidet like this one can adequately remove residue and help clean your downstairs. And even for messier situations, the Tushy Travel does a good amount of the work for you, reducing the amount of toilet paper you need (or minimizing the number of passes you have to make with a rock or a leaf) and leaving you feeling significantly cleaner afterward. This is great when you’re camping, because you have to pack out all your bathroom trash.
It’s definitely awkward (but possible) to avoid spraying water everywhere, even indoors, but a quick round of practice is key. As with using a pee funnel for the first time, I highly recommend taking the bidet’s spray function for a practice run in the shower to dial in your aim before you do it outside where the stakes of getting your pants wet are higher. This also enables you to gain the confidence you’ll need to use it in the wild where there are variables like wind and poor lighting.
While I can’t in good faith recommend hauling a travel bidet up Denali in your sled, it’s definitely worth considering as a supplement to your kit for car camping, music festivals, or other exploits where weight isn’t a concern and hygiene is important. Being able to poop comfortably in the woods (in a cathole or wag bag and following Leave No Trace principles) and clean yourself up afterward is a fundamental skill for overnight outdoor excursions. And anything that makes going to the bathroom more pleasant improves the whole outdoor experience.
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