Because no one likes to pop a squat surrounded by piles of soggy toilet paper.
One day while on a road trip last summer, my family and I stopped for a picnic and a pee break. Heading behind some trees, I discovered clumps of soggy toilet paper littering the ground. Clearly other people had had the same urge as I. I walked further into the bush and encountered more. Soon I realized there was toilet paper everywhere.
While toilet paper does biodegrade in a fairly short time, it's still gross and unattractive. Its presence goes against the foundational principle of Leave No Trace, that we should leave nature the way we found it, with no evidence of our presence.But as so many women know, not wiping is no fun! We're not built quite like men, who can shake it off easily; there's a surprising amount of moisture that remains for us, enough to dampen underwear and make it feel not quite right for a good hour or so. Surely there's a better solution?
Enter the Kula Cloth, described by one hiker as "the most important piece of outdoor gear to come along in decades." It's an antimicrobial cloth designed to absorb residual urine – in other words, reusable toilet paper.
The design is clever. One side has black, dimpled, absorbent material for wiping, and the other has a waterproof print that, on a practical level, prevents you from feeling any wetness when using the Kula Cloth, and on an aesthetic level, looks far cooler than a random cloth or bandanna (which many women use on the trail).
According to its creator, the black cloth is "made from advanced silver-infused textiles that are purposely intended to be in contact with the human body. In fact, only one layer of our silver absorbent fabric replaces 3 layers of microfiber terry and 6 of french terry!"
There's a double-sided snap for hanging the cloth off your pack. This helps it to dry quickly and the sunlight will 'sterilize' it, but if you're grossed out by this idea, you can fold it up and snap it closed so that only the exterior print is visible.
The Kula Cloth is the brainchild of Anastasia Allison, a young backpacking instructor and gear-tester for Backpacker magazine. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and is a member of the brilliant Musical Mountaineers (whom I wrote about earlier this month).
Allison had a similar experience to mine, encountering large piles of toilet paper along the trail. She started using fabric squares as a greener alternative, but wanted something that looked more intentional – "something that she could feel proud to wear on her pack. She wanted it to feel like an actual piece of gear, not just an afterthought 'rag' or a scrap of cloth."
The Kula Cloth has been well-received by female hikers thus far, and I must say I cannot wait to put my own to use. It does not feel gimmicky or redundant in the least, but is something that intelligently addresses the multiple issues I always think about when popping a squat outdoors – whether or not I have toilet paper on hand, how I'm going to bury it or carry it out, how long I need to squat till I'm dry enough not to feel uncomfortable... the list goes on.
Women get it, trust me. This is brilliant. Learn more and order your own here.