The Kula Cloth is a pee rag (also called a pee cloth) used by many female backpackers and hikers as a zero-waste alternative to toilet paper when you have to pee. While you can use a bandana for this purpose, a Kula Cloth is a purposefully designed and hygienic piece of cloth that takes this concept to another level of convenience and cleanliness.
What is a Pee Rag?
Before I rave about the Kula Cloth, it’s important to talk about why it’s a wise idea to use a pee rag/pee cloth in the first place. On my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2016, I started off with A LOT of toilet paper. A day or two into my hike, I started noticing many women had bandanas hanging off their backpacks and started asking why. I quickly learned about the concept of the pee rag as an alternative to carrying an arsenal of toilet paper in and then packing it out when done using it.
The idea is that you use the cloth to wipe when you pee, then hang it on your pack to dry and let the sun’s ultra-violet rays sterilize any bacteria. I thought this was just dandy and adopted it right away; I cut a bandana down to a small piece, and I tied a knot at the end so it would hang from my pack.
Why Use a Kula Cloth Instead of a Bandana?
The Kula Cloth is an antimicrobial pee cloth made of 90% polyester and 10% PUL on the face/picture side, and 100% polyester that is silver-infused on the back/absorbent side. The absorbent fibers are bamboo viscose, organic cotton, and cotton – all non-toxic and eco-friendly. It’s specifically designed to be in contact with the human body and antimicrobial, where a bandana isn’t created for that sole purpose.
Although I’d been content with my bandana as a pee cloth, I didn’t love it for a few reasons, and the idea of a better product intrigued me. Even with rinsing the bandana regularly while hiking, it still always smelled like urine. And if it got wet from rain, it was just a nasty piece of yuck hanging off my bag.
When I started my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019, I actually ended up ditching my trusty bandana pee cloth after 100 miles because I just couldn’t take the smell anymore. I decided to use the old-fashioned ‘drip-dry’ (aka ‘shaking’) method. I like this tactic because it’s fast, no fuss, and I can pee without taking my backpack off. However, even with the fancy, antimicrobial hiking underwear I’ve used, you never really get all the drips to dry and I don’t like the way wet knickers feel. And to be honest, the smell factor isn’t great.
Kula Cloth Features
This is where Kula Cloth stands out as a solid piece of gear. I was very pleased to not smell any urine odor after many uses over a few days. In terms of urine, there was no discoloration or staining at all when I used it because the black absorbent textile ‘wipe’ side is infused with antimicrobial silver.
A key feature is the waterproof ‘clean’ side (the side that has the picture on it), which means your hands don’t get wet and stay clean when handling.
I like that it can quickly snap to my backpack, which is way easier to do than tie a knot with a damp piece of fabric like a bandana. It has a double snap for privacy and cleanliness on trail; this means that if you use it when you have your menstrual cycle or you’re concerned about any visible body fluid, just snap it and the black usable side is enclosed.
I’m also a fan of how light it is – only 0.4 ounces. Now if you consider how much toilet paper can weigh and the space it takes up, that’s a valid trade-out.
There’s a reflective thread on the corner of the Kula Cloth, placed there so you can find it with your headlamp. When I up in the night to pee, it’s easy to locate.
Another perk is that it can still be used if it gets wet, such as in rain, when it takes on the character of a wet wipe.
How to Use a Kula Cloth
- Choose a spot to go that’s at least 200 feet from a water source.
- When you squat to pee, handle the print side which is waterproof to keep your hands clean.
- Pat dry with the black, absorbent wipe side. Make sure to keep the Kula Cloth entirely in the pee zone rather than wiping back and forth. It’s meant only for pee.
- Snap it to your backpack to dry either with the single-snap or double-snap option for more privacy and cleanliness.
How to Clean a Kula Cloth
When in the backcountry on a multi-day trip, simply rinse the Kula Cloth with water and hang it to dry on your pack or a tree. The website for Kula Cloth says it’s okay to use a couple of drops of a biodegradable soap (like Dr. Bronner’s), but I prefer to not use any soap in the wilderness. When I got home, I double-snap it so it won’t get snagged in the washer and used my normal detergent. It’s also important to keep it snapped when you put it in the dryer for the same reason, although I chose to hang it to dry. It’s recommended to hand wash if you can, to preserve the life of the product. Don’t use fabric softener or bleach!
The Kula Cloth is made for those of us intentional adventurers who are conscious about our bodies and the impact they have on the natural environment. Feminine hygiene and peeing in the outdoors shouldn’t be considered a taboo or dirty topic, and the people behind Kula Cloth have designed a legit and powerful piece of gear in an itty-bitty package.
Some of the top advantages of using a Kula Cloth:
- It’s better for the environment and supports Leave No Trace Principles.
- It’s cleaner and more sanitary for your body than the drip-dry method, which I
also find makes hiking underwear smell.
- It’s reusable!
- Anyone can use a Kula Cloth and you can take it on any type of outdoor
excursion, ranging from backpacking to a music festival.
- You don’t have to carry a huge, bulky roll of toilet paper if you pee a lot (like I do).
- It’s easier to pull the snap of the Kula Cloth off your bag than dig around for your
toilet paper and trash bag to store the waste in, which saves time.
- Your hands don’t feel gross when you use it because of the waterproof side.
- If privacy is a concern, you can snap up to conceal the black, wipe side.
- It doesn’t hold odors like other fabrics can do, meaning it’s more pleasant for you
and the folks around you.
The big selling factor though is I feel more clean and comfortable using the Kula Cloth than I do with a bandana or drip-drying. When I do backpacking trips, or even when on a day hike, having that feeling of cleanliness in areas that matter most can be a game-changer to me. Kula Cloth is made with advanced textiles intentionally designed for hygiene and being resistant to odors, which means it’s a high step up from using any old cloth. I highly recommend it if you want to care for your body and the land while hiking.
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