(Fellas be warned this one is just for the ladies)
The first time I snapped my brand new Kula Cloth to the outside of my pack I did not anticipate so many quizzical expressions and countless questions from fellow hikers.
“It’s a what?”
"A pee rag, yes, I said pee rag."
The truth is I’ve been using a pee rag for quite a while. Perhaps my bandanna cut into fourths and tied to the outside of my pack was better at hiding in plain sight than a high-quality piece of explicitly engineered gear sporting a badass unicorn graphic.
So What’s a Pee Rag?
My fellow females, did you know that it is possible to go completely TP free on multi-day outdoor adventures? Before you wince or mutter “that’s gross,” hear me out.
A Kula Cloth used in conjunction with a backcountry bidet like a CuloClean means not having to open that same nasty Ziploc you’ve been using the entire trip for waste paper created by your various replies to nature’s call. You know, that Ziploc that you’ve touched multiple times with dirty hands? The one you have to store inside your pack. The same one that has grown more fragrant from festering inside that pack for multiple days in the blazing sun! That Ziploc my friends, can be eliminated all together. Sound slightly more appealing yet?
Kula Cloth is an antimicrobial, reusable, environmentally responsible alternative that eliminates the need for TP and dirty Ziplocs. Right about here is where the questions start flying, so let me address some of the most common:
How is that hygienic? The black half of the Kula Cloth is crazy absorbent and inhibits the growth of microorganisms. If one blots with a Kula Cloth, instead of wiping front to back, the cloth is kept strictly in the “pee zone” and therefore hygienic.
Won’t it get gross or smelly? Skepticism surrounding a pee rag is common. However, women have been using various DIY options for years and few ever look back. Unlike my former practice of using a designated bandanna for a pee rag, the Kula cloth does not get stinky or gross.
How is that possible? SCIENCE! More precisely and to quote the manufacturer, it is possible because of “highly advanced textiles that are specifically designed for hygiene.” The fabric is antimicrobial and odor resistant. The absorbent side is purposely black to disguise fluids and attracts sunlight facilitating a quick dry time. Additionally the sun aids in sterilization and the printed side is waterproof putting a reliable barrier between your hands and lady bits. So no, it doesn’t get gross, messy, or smelly.
What if I don’t want other people to see it? If you're still worried about visible liquids, germs, or smells, there is a privacy option built in. The included snaps are color coded to quickly indicate which are used for looping and which are for snapping the Kula Cloth closed. The privacy mode keeps the cloth attached to a pack, folded in half, showing nothing but a small triangle with a killer graphic.
Won’t that attract bugs, bears, cougars, etc.? No. Neither the product testers or I had any issues with a Kula Cloth attracting anything. Theoretically, it could attract a goat or deer drawn to the salt found in urine but simply hang it above nibbling level at night and it shouldn’t be an issue. Despite the popular movie quote, bears are not actually drawn to menstruation.
What I Love About Kula Cloth
It truly doesn’t get smelly - I spent five days alone in the backcountry really putting this one to the test. Although the creators recommend periodic washing* I left my biodegradable soap at home and tried to push my Kula Cloth’s odor resistance to its limit. I simply hung it on my pack during the day and on the outside of my tent at night to continue to “air it out.” One solid night of rain gave it a good rinse and I did not detect any obnoxious odors the entire trip. Nor did I contract a UTI.
Hangs anywhere - Literally anywhere. It attaches to packs, tents, logs, branches, and trail signs. The included loop and snaps are sturdy and easy to use. The snaps are color coded for no fuss use and allow for quick retrieval should nature call suddenly.
Reflective - If the urge strikes in the middle of the night, Kula Cloth comes equipped with reflective thread so it is very easy to locate by headlamp.
Period safe - Yes, it can be used during everyone’s favorite time of the month. Blood is not obvious on the black fabric either and there is still the privacy option. Pair it with a menstrual cup for a truly no-waste backcountry foray.
What I Don’t Love
Snaps not strong enough for bushwhacking - The trusty snaps are not bomb proof. If you come across an overgrown trail or plan to do any bushwhacking, you will need to remember to stop, remove your pack, and move your Kula Cloth inside or risk losing it to an aggressive sapling with a wayward branch. This could lead to loss of the product at worst or much backtracking at best.
Having to explain what it is - Currently the questions are endless. I tire of repeatedly explaining what it is to men and women alike. My hope is that as its popularity grows the questions will wane.
Kula Cloth really is a game changer. Intended only for urine, the cloth is best used as one part of a personal hygiene system that also includes an alternative cleaning solution for your butt. With such a system the days of wasting multiple Ziplocs and packing out used TP are a thing of the past. Hopefully, the days of stumbling across used toilet paper littered throughout nature are soon to follow. Since I have found the hygiene concerns and other negative preconceived notions to be completely unfounded I will continue to rock my Kula Cloth out in the open and with pride.
*Please do not wash in and contaminate water sources. Leave no trace principles dictate choosing a spot at least 70ft from a trail and 200ft from a water source to dig a cat hole to bury/aid in the degradation of biodegradable soaps.
Mandy Esch is an international pro skater turned avid outdoorswoman who enjoys backpacking, camping, fly fishing, cliff diving and passing on what she learns along the way. In her backpacking blog, Mandy shares video trail reviews and trip planning guides. Follow her adventures at www.backcountrydirtbag.com.