Managing an ileostomy on outdoor adventures

Jan 24, 2022 6:08 pm

Question from a new ostomate: How do you handle emptying an ileostomy when outdoors for hours or all day and no bathroom is nearby? For example, on a boat ride, hiking in a group, just sitting with friends at sunset, sunrise, or around a campfire? How about when camping, either backpacking or car camping? Are my tenting days over?



Jan 24, 2022 6:30 pm

I'm presuming you have a drainable pouch. Take a small trowel with you. Go find a private spot, dig a small hole, and bury it, the output, not the trowel. On a boat, I'm not sure unless you can go ashore for a few minutes and find an area to go. I suppose you could empty it into some sort of container but that's kinda gross to me but whatever you gotta do.

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Jan 24, 2022 6:34 pm

Bruce:   When I was doing a lot of hiking while living in Utah a few years ago, I always carried one of those pocket-sized packages of tissue to use and would simply find a spot off the trail when no one was around.  Of course, I usually hiked alone, so I didn't have to deal with an accompanying group of other people.  But when with others, I simply excused myself to find a private spot.  Either way, I always tried to select a spot where I could cover my tracks, so to speak.  If I'm in a car on a lengthy trip, I bring along a large disposable cup with a top (once a fastfood joint drink).  You'll find that, as your tenure as an ostomy person increases, your embarassment over such things decreases.  Good luck.

Jan 24, 2022 6:38 pm
Reply to AlexT

Thanks. That all makes sense. The camping part, however, has me flummoxed (love that word). I'm of the age where I get up once a night anyway to pee. Since the ileostomy, I just empty everything. Not a problem in a house or motel or camper with a bathroom. But in a tent or car camping, I'm not sure I want to or can be digging a hole in the middle of the night. At the very least maybe no more tent camping in grizzly country.

Jan 24, 2022 6:39 pm

Hi Bruce,

I grew up hiking/backpacking and camping, so post-surgery, it became important for me to overcome my fear of getting back out into nature. Like you, I was anxious at first. I've since realized outdoor activities with an ostomy are actually easier than without. As of today, my ileostomy and I have backpacked over 280 miles on the Appalachian Trail and countless miles on other trails around the East Coast of the US. While camping in the backwoods, many backpackers use "wag-bags" to pack-out waste. It's part of leave no trace. This method works amazingly well for ostomates since we empty from the front. We can also utilize cat holes if permitted in the area we're backpacking. I must admit hiking with meetup groups can be challenging since ileostomates are on different bathroom breaks than other people, i.e. - we usually have to empty soon after eating a snack. I will usually eat light while out with others who are not aware of my condition.

I also sail here in Annapolis. I usually just don't eat much until after the outing and may use a tablet or two of loperamide to slow output. I've also used wagbags on the boat and have a porta-potty onboard and will sometimes use a large plastic container if I'm solo at the helm.

Also, keep hydration in mind. I'm always conscious of water sources, electrolyte powders, and salt. And a good barrier strip, supplemental adhesive, and/or tape make sure my appliance stays in place. Get out there!

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Jan 24, 2022 6:41 pm
Reply to HenryM

Re: A disposable cup. Thank God. A use for the trash from the fast food industry.

Jan 24, 2022 6:45 pm
Reply to Bees

Oh, you'll definitely learn to pre-dig your catholes before going to sleep! Seriously, everyone should be doing this anyway. LOL

Jan 24, 2022 6:54 pm

Grizzlies don't like output, you'll be fine. I can visualize a guy running, an open ostomy pouch, and the bear going the other way. (WTH?, I don't have a bear emoji) I also use flushable wet wipes from Walmart. I find them much easier to use when outdoors. They're plant-based, so they dissolve in time. However, they do freeze in the package, so keep them warm if it's gonna be cold.

Jan 25, 2022 1:28 pm

Bees ... When I camp, go on long drives where there is no bathroom, I make sure I have those firm sealing containers like what you buy a quart of wonton soup in with a non-leaking lid. You can empty in it with ease and put your wipes or to in the container and done. It can firmly stay in between my legs in the car. Then just keep it anywhere until you find a trash can. You'll get the hang of all this in time. Good luck and just have fun on your adventures.

Old Bud
Jan 27, 2022 3:05 pm

I work mostly outside and have to empty lots just like you. I have an emergency kit with me at all times just in case. A cloth bag with a roll of TP, a snap lid container, like margarine or other of a good size. If I can, I just kneel down and empty just like in a washroom but if you can't, then I use the container. Also, you will get to know your quieter times and that's when I go on the boat. I can usually go all afternoon without emptying and when you need to, you will have to dock. We have a pop-up change room on the boat with a small portable toilet that is a lifesaver. Good luck. It will quickly become second nature and overall it's easier than pooping. Good luck to you!

May 13, 2022 7:35 pm
Reply to Bees

Empty Pringle cans work....empty into the can, put the lid on, and discard. I carry a supply of 2-gallon plastic bags to put the can in and throw it in any garbage can. Gallon zip lock bags can work in a pinch....same process. Hope it keeps you camping.

Jul 13, 2023 10:22 am

Great question, sir. I just spent 12 months traveling with my support animal. I lived out of a small class B van and stayed in BLM land through the Rockies. I have a colostomy, and I have to empty it 3 to 4 times a night. A quick and easy colostomy drain is accomplished by using a silicone collapsible pet water bowl and a small medical-quality odor-proof bag, both found online. A busy bladder can be addressed with a small medical urinal. While remote camping, I always practice packing out everything. My routine was set on a 14-day cycle, which is the normal stay limit at one remote site, and that's how I made educated guesses on how much water, food, etc. I never had an issue managing 14 days. The urinal required a morning empty and a good rinse. Hope this helps you get comfortable and have fun.

Jul 16, 2023 2:59 am

I would irrigate before you go. That will usually get you at least 24 hours.