04 December 2008

Ode To The Piss Bottle

Ode To The Piss Bottle

Ode To The Piss Bottle image

Carrying a piss bottle is a right of passage for any mountaineer, wall climber or alpinist. It shows you that you’re now climbing routes that are SO hard that even pissing requires special equipment. I can remember the first time I realized that that time had come, busting for a piss all night on a tiny sitting ledge, trapped in that terrible limbo when you know you have to piss because you can’t sleep, yet somehow your just asleep enough to keep kidding yourself you have. On that occasion I was rapped up so tight in slings, ropes, and my partner, that I dare’not move all night in case we both toppled off the ledge (more then one climber’s died taking a wiz). My first piss bottle was a Nalgene bottle, still one of the best piss bottles around – the question really down to whether or not you’re a 1litre man or a risk taking .5 liter user? Piss bottle technique is pretty simple: keep the bottle close by, piss in it without spilling too much, then either stick it down in your bag to keep your feet warm (why waste it?), or pour it out. When you’re sharing a piss bottle it’s very bad practice to leave the bottle half full for your mate. The use of a piss bottle brings with it many new skills; of which the most important is the ability to judge the fill level in the dark. Mistakes do happen, but on a multi day route who cares? Another skill, and perhaps the second right of passage, is the ability to piss while lying on ones side, something that sounds far easier then actually is. So if you’re yet to make the break through then here’s a breakdown of piss bottle technology.


In the beginning there is the Nalgene bottle, the training aid for future piss bottle adventures – with a wide mouth and crucial non abrasive plastic rim (a super cooled metal container could result in midnight calls for your mate help separate penis and bottle). It’s important to mark the piss bottle clearly, and in a way that can be identified by touch, after when you’re thirsty you might mistake it as warm Gator aid.


The problem with a rigid piss bottle is that it takes up a great deal of room in your sack. Another alternative comes in the form of the wide mouthed flexible bottle, which can be rolled up when no longer needed. The downside with these bottles is that they’re prone to leaks. A funny example of this is the storey of two friends of mine who spent 12 days up on the Grandes Jorasses on winter big wall. One of them brought all the hardwear, portaledge, food, stove, in fact everything, while the other one only had to sort out a piss bottle. The bottle he brought was a flexible one of mine that I’d left with him the month before becouse it was getting a bit ratty. As it would happen it was other other climber who got to use it first. Well hydrated he emptied his bladder deep inside his down sleeping bag, looking forward to a good nights sleep, when suddenly he noticed that liquid was literally pissing out of the bottle. At this point the other climber said “Oh yes I forgot to tell you…it’s got a hole in it…have you got some gaffer tape?”


The above problem can be easily overcome by simply using a new container each time, only this time the container is free. A typical foil or plastic backed cardboard juice container makes a perfect piss bottle, just cut a hole in the top, roll it up, and you’re away! When you get down just dispose of it. The only drawbacks are that you have to pour it away – that is unless you fancy balancing it between your knees all night.


At the end of the long road of piss bottle use there lies something as dreadful and unspoken as a Chilean ruby team eating the rest of their doomed flight over the Andes. If you get to this stage you must promise never to tell a soul, or else you’ll become a social pariah. This technique is the most simple, and involves pissing into your cup, pan or empty water bottle. Technically piss won’t do you any harm, in fact it may actually be good for you (well that’s what the Romans thought), but when it comes round to morning and it’s brew time you may not think of it that way. Oh yes, if you’re sharing a pan, and you piss in it, it’s best not to tell your partner.

*This is written from a mans prospective – but if any females are reading it, and have yet to figure out the black art ‘of pissing in the woods’ then get yourself a Lady J (if you want to give the whole issue a write up then I’d be happy to stick on the site.



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