For outdoorsy gals: an FUD nonreview

Warning: This post is a review, or as it turns out, a non-review of FUDs–female urination devices, in outdoor-industry speak. It’s about pee funnels. If you don’t want to read about the trials and tribulations of women trying to pee standing up in the woods or on a climb, stop here.

As I told my friend Sara, the Rock Climber Girl, someone has to do it. Love them or hate them, someone’s gotta talk about pee funnels.

The Freshette and the GoGirl, hiding in the bottom of my pack

The Freshette and the GoGirl, hiding in the bottom of my pack

I picked up an FUD known as the Freshette at REI over the winter. The Freshette was a recommended item on the Chicks With Picks packing list, and I figured it was time for me to learn how to use one of these, anyway. The pants I favor for both skiing and ice climbing, Patagonia Winter Guide Pants, sport removable suspenders, and I like ‘em. They help keep my pants up on days when I’ve layered lightly. However, the suspenders are not easy to remove. They fasten with velcro and are finicky. Thus, a pee funnel sounded like a better idea than stripping a jacket or two every time I needed to go.

FUD manufacturers like to tell you to practice in the shower first. This is a red herring. Peeing into an FUD in the shower is easy, because you were probably smart and removed all clothes below the waist out of fear. The only challenge is, well, peeing standing up, which I’ve learned feels totally unnatural (perhaps if you’ve done it enough, this goes away). You have to really talk yourself into it. For me, this goes against instinct far more than hauling myself up a wall of ice, even though we all know ice climbing is stupid.

What the FUD manufacturers should tell you is, practice in the shower all Pataguccied out: Wear your Capilene bikinis, baselayer bottoms and your Winter Guide Pants, with suspenders over your shoulders, and put your harness on, being sure to add some gear to the loops (weighs down the waistbelt, gets in the way). Boots are optional.

After a successful half-naked shower pee or two, I naively thought I was set for real-world funnel peeing. I was wrong. At CWP, I did battle with the clothing listed above and failed. If you don’t tilt your FUD the right way, I learned, the pee will spill out the back. Pants and zipperless, seamless baselayers make achieving a perfect tilt rather challenging. Take it from me, peeing on yourself at the bottom of an icy, shady canyon in January is a huge drag. At least my clothing dried quickly, but gah, it was really unpleasant for a while and wow does hot pee turn cold fast.

It’s enough to make a girl weigh her options: Risk peeing on yourself again, or bare your ass to the wind like you always have?

I chose the latter.

I’d given up on FUDs until we went to France, where I found myself in the middle of an otherwise male rope team on a glacier. I considered whipping out my Freshette, which I was carrying but not using. It was useless weight in my pack, heavy on my conscience, because real women, I knew, used pee funnels on rope teams. But I’d lost confidence in my FUD abilities. It was easier when I didn’t have the FUD option, when I had to squat. I think I might know how toddlers feel when they’re potty training now. This FUD situation was totally stressing me out. It was easier to squat with a harness on and hope I wasn’t over a snow bridge, because boy, that would be an awkward crevasse rescue.

Since my failure on the glacier prompted more funnel discussions with girlfriends, Sara thought of me when she saw the GoGirl display at Outdoor Retailer. (Isn’t that sweet?) She picked one up for me, and it was such a thoughtful gesture that I agreed to write a review (she reviews gear on her site). The GoGirl arrived not long after I came home from Chamonix, and I immediately threw it into my backpack and proceeded to carry it, alongside the defunct Freshette, out climbing at least six times without using it.

I didn’t have the nerve to risk climbing at Lumpy with pee on my capris.

Finally, two days ago, I was cragging up Boulder Canyon and nature called. I sighed. I thought of the review I’d agreed to write, and out of guilt took off my harness and dug the GoGirl out of the bottom of my pack. Unlike the Freshette, the GoGirl is soft and flexible–too flexible, if you ask me. It folded and buckled as I tried to maneuver it into place, and I fully lost confidence in it. Once again, I couldn’t commit.

So I’m sorry, Sara. Rather than writing an FUD review, I’ve written a psychological review of why I haven’t managed to master peeing while standing up–an ode to squatting, if you will. My hope is that other women will read this and feel they’re not alone in their FUD anxiety. Some women, I know, will even risk dehydration to avoid awkward situations, which is dangerous since it can lead to altitude sickness. Personally, I’d rather have people see my big white booty than end up dehydrated, but the point is, I’m not the only woman out there with issues, so lend your friends some words of support. For me, those words are ‘squat now, serenity now!’

(But better yet, if you’ve mastered the art of the FUD, please leave a comment and tell me how to work around all of that winter clothing sans stress, because it does still seem like a good idea.)

8 thoughts on “For outdoorsy gals: an FUD nonreview

  1. I love Freshette– give it another try. Really. Remove that pesky clear tube-y thing– you probably won’t need it. Stick that bad boy on and hold it up against you tight. I go out on the tractor on our farm all the time, etc, and sometimes in the cold don’t feel like baring my tail even though there probably wouldn’t be anyone looking (and if they did, hey it’s the country and chicks out here gotta go like anyone else, so who cares). Anyhoo, I SWEAR by both this one and the Whiz (sold by the UK but they ship to US and it’s inexpensive). The Whiz is durable and firm silicone and drips dry- no need to worry about it being leaky in your purse or backpack- and as you know the Freshette is super-awesome because it’s like a hard shell and won’t buckle if you hold it a little tighter by accident. I have the Go-Girl as well, it’s cool but not as much for tighter or semi-public going when you are a novice because it is very flexible and (imo) way bigger than it needs to be. I hope Go-Girl makes a hard-shell version in the future but I love what these companies are doing: making something kinda taboo into a normally accepted practice. Gets the chicks out there on the blue-collar road jobs, outdoor sports, and outta the potty lines (I personally think long lines in the ladies’ are due to 1. little kids in there with momma, 2. older ladies who have arthritis but feel they have to wear support hose under their pants with belts anyway, 3. that friggin time of the month, and 4. changing clothes (wtf, I’d rather them do it by the sink than make me wait in line). So yeah, I’m passionate about the right of women to take care of their needs as easily and quickly as men, whether they wanna stand up or prefer to squat. It sounds like with your hobbies it might be a good idea to give the funnel another ‘go’. Ahahaha I’m on fire….

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  3. I’ve been using a Freshette for ice climbing and rock climbing. Luckily I have Patagonia Mix Mistress ice climbing pants with a bombay fly (full fly from the front the the back waist band) With those marvelous pants I wear Patagonia’s long underwear, also designed with a crotch that opens fully front to back. I understand from a guide at Chicks with picks that slitting her older long underwear right along the same seam, front to back made no difference in how warm she felt nor did she feel drafts, so you have that option. When rock climbing I do not have a bombay fly and since I’m wearing just one layer it is easy to open the conventional fly or with elastic waist band of my usual pants, just shove the fabric down/aside and the Freshette fits fine.

    I suggest that all you women do what I did and pressure your favorite recreational clothing manufacturer to make bombay flies on their outdoor wear, particularly the pants designed for cold weather adventures. When I wrote to Patagonia because I simply couldn’t believe they would discontinue the Mix Mistress they said there simply wasn’t a demand for the bombay crotch. Furthermore they specified that Euro women definitely were not interested, which made it hard for them to continue to produce this style! If enough of us ask for it, they’ll bring it back.

    Meanwhile, another option that several Chicks with Picks guides have seamstresses put full crotch zips in their outer wear and find that quite workable.

  4. I wrote to Patagonia as well. If anyone else would like to help convince them to bring back Bombay Fly pants, here is the link to contact Patagonia.

    Thanks for the suggestions, I think I’m going to hand-altar my pants to just make things so much simpler. I mean, who wants to risk using a FUD and dribbling pee down her legs, OR expose her nice warm insulated butt to the freezing/windy/snowy elements not to mention male climbing mates, OR mess around with unbuckling harnesses, taking off top layers (for bib and suspender pants), and all that crud? C’mon clothing manufacturers, we need a better option! You’ve got paying customers here, now give us something worth buying!

  5. Fabulous post, and great comments! I used the Freshette to bicycle cross-country from Maine to San Diego, as well as to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and find it super-easy to go modestly by roadside or trail just by slipping it up under a bike-short or hiking-short leg. Also find it easy to pull down the waistband of tights as long as behind a tree. ;-D I lost my first Freshette hiking the Appalachian Trail, and was truly distraught, so now keep a spare. I’ve used the Whiz too, nice for drip-dry. I hear ya on the occasional misfire backwards, but most of the time it works great. The angle matters, so maybe that’s why it’s harder to use for rock climbing?

  6. Oh happy day. I’m not the only one. I thought there was something actually wrong with me. After practicing in the shower with my Lady J I thought it would be a breeze to pee standing up in the middle of a backcountry hut with a bunch of snoring Euros (all men expect moi) rather than brave the icy wind coming off the Pigne d’Arolla outside the Vignette Hut along the Haute Route.
    I tried. I did. But nothing came out. Even with my bladder screaming at me, and the high-pitched whine of the wind rattling the guy wires holding down the roof of the cabin, I still couldn’t make myself go.
    I braved the icy wind that night and packed my Lady J at the bottom of my pack. I haven’t tried it since. What a wimp.

  7. I recently bought a GoGirl because my boyfriend and I are hiking more, and sometimes a girl has to go, especially a girl with a 1.5L camebak. But I haven’t been successful with it. I keep hearing good reviews, but I keep getting wet pants.

    I felt a lot better knowing I wasn’t alone reading your post, though I do want to try to find something different.

  8. I do alpine climbing and get severe pee-stage fright when I have to pee while roped up with a bunch of dudes. I know some women have no fear when it comes to bearing your ass to a bunch of strangers and friends, but I literally can’t squeeze out a drop when put in that situation. I paid $50 at Rainy Pass Repair in Seattle,Wa to put in a zipper for my crotch. They were just Patagonia alpine pants, and had a normal zipper, but I wanted one way up in between my legs that I could just just insert the freshett the and pee without undoing my harness or bearing my butt cheeks. It surprised a lot of people that all I had to do was turn my back to them and be peeing- they would have no idea. It worked beautifully for my Mt. Baker and Rianier climbs. Unfortunately, my dang crampons put a bunch of rips in my special pants, and I am now looking for another pair, but I was hoping to find some women’s pants with this kind of zipper already in place. If I can’t find any, I will happily pay the extra money again, to Rainy Pass.

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