This is actually a very VERY common concern among female hikers, esp when they first start out. We're usually raised to be soooo modest - I've read that a significant number of women have trouble using a public restroom if there are others inside because they don't want anyone to hear them tinkle. But it doesn't need to be very complicated and you've already gotten some good tips - I'm going to add a couple more.
I have a 'potty pack' that consists of a zip-lock bag, some TP, a couple of doggie poop bags and hand wipes, all placed inside another zip-lock....When the time comes to 'go,' find a spot that isn't too public - in some cases, this just means going around a bend but in other cases it means stepping off the trail. If you're going off the trail, watch where you're going - depending on WHERE you are, various 'dangers' might include ticks, snakes, poison oak or other irritating plants and one time I startled a small herd of deer as I went around a large fallen log to potty. Ooops!
Anyway, the process for liquid potty is to go, wipe, put the used TP inside one of the zip-locks and after you use the hand-wipe, put it in there, too, then put all of it in your pack to toss when you're back in civilization. PLEASE PLEASE don't leave the TP there for the next person [or wildlife] to encounter! [a pet peeve of mine!!] If the potty is solid, then go, wipe, get one of the doggie poop bags out to pick up all of it [yes, really!!], tie the bag tightly, put it inside the zip-lock and take it out to the trash. It's not really as gross as it sounds at first and it's a lot kinder to the environment than to leave it there, even if it's buried, because it changes the composition of the earth and affects the animals, too. To be sure, one person in the middle of a gigantic wilderness isn't going to have a huge impact but these days, most trails are traveled pretty regularly and some [like the trail to Mount Whitney, just to name one] are traveled so much that the human waste started to become a MAJOR problem - I have to say that I've been on plenty of other backcountry trails where human waste had made enough of an impact to be much more disgusting than putting it in a bag and taking it out when I go!!
As for the ticks, be careful you don't go in tall grass or bushes - they're hard to see and they love nice warm skin underneath clothing. As for snakes, just look before you squat and be careful where you step - ditto for poison oak and other plants that could cause a problem. Look up the are where you're going to hike and find out what to look for - it's going to be different in each area! A lot of people have chosen poison oak bushes as a good place to potty because they're thick, only to discover a few days later that it wasn't such a great choice after all.
On that note, if you do get poison oak, wash the area with a strong soap and cold water - I like Fels Naptha, which is a laundry soap in bar form, similar to bath soap. The ingredients in it will counteract the oil in poison oak, poison ivy, etc. If you get a tick, have someone help you if you can't reach it and use a pair of tweezers to carefully remove it, being careful to slip the tweezers around the head, not the body. My husband always worries about disease but our doctor finally convinced him the risk is very small.
I hope all this information helps you feel more comfortable 'going in the woods' - and helps you feel better about hydrating, too! There are a lot of dangers that can occur from not getting enough water, including slowing down your metabolism - and who needs that??? The blood thickens and becomes harder to push through the blood vessels, heart, etc, making the whole body work harder - other organs also have to work harder - so the entire body just slows down and gets more tired. Drinking enough water will help you be a better, faster hiker and a much healthier person. If you want a specific instance of the danger, my friend led a hike where a woman didn't drink OR eat because she didn't want to have to potty and she wanted to lose weight. She ended up fainting and had a major medical emergency, needed a helicopter rescue out of the mountains and got seriously ill because her electrolytes got messed up and several body functions were shutting down. She ended up in the hospital for the night - all from one hike! We need more fluid in higher elevation, not less, and my guess is that this woman was probably chronically dehydrated and undernourished. But it's stuck in my mind for many years and shows that one of the biggest dangers out there is not bears or mountain lions or snakes but DEHYDRATION!
Hope all of this helps - and hope you have a fantastic time out there on those trails!!!
Lynda in Orange County, So Calif
God Grant me Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change, Courage to Change the things I can and Wisdom to Know the difference!
Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out. -- John Wooden
"Winners are not those who never fail, but those who never quit."
| Pounds lost: 15.5