How to Use the Bathroom While Hiking the Inca Trail
Here's everything you need to know about using the potty during your Inca Trail hike. This information applies to all genders, but perhaps especially females. Honestly, everyone can benefit from knowing what to expect regarding how and where to use the privy while hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
One important thing to note about restrooms in Peru and other places in South America, is that toilet paper is never, ever put in the toilet. Even the crappiest lavatory has a bin for this purpose located near the toilet. This applies to all hotels, restaurants and both men's and women's facilities everywhere.
Where are toilets located on the Inca Trail?
There are 2 options for hiking the Inca Trail and they each have toilets at varous places:
#1 (no pun intended) 4-day hike which also includes the 5 day hike.
Squat pit toilets with water, are found at the following places: trailhead, lunch stop on Day 1, Camp on Day 1, 2, and WinyaWayna camp Day 3. For people hiking the 5 Day Inca Trail, or if you book permits for the 4-day hike when availability is below 200, you could end up at remote Phuypatamarca camp on Day 3. The squat latrines have no water. It's literally a hold in the ground. The condition of all toilets on the trail depends on who's using them. At times it appears that there are people hiking the Inca Trail who were never "potty trained." And maintenance crews might clean the toilets once or twice a month. Toilets are not "sanitized" and usually reek of urine and other smells associated with squalid toilets!
Tour operators will let you know if they are providing a "peepee tent" in camp. This is to be used for exactly that. The peepee tent has a folding toilet seat with a special gel-filled bag attached under the seat. The bag is sealed and disposed of by the porters after the hike. The absorbent gel is similar to what you find in a diaper.
#2 (definitely pun intended) 1-day hike. There is a bathroom at the train station in Ollantaytambo and there are toilets on the train. After you get off the train there are squat toilets at the permit checkpoint where you begin the hike, and one other squat toilet at the Winya Wayna campground. If you need to go to the bathroom otherwise, you go on the trail. There's no camping on this hike. You sleep in a hotel. With clean flushing toilets.
How to pee at night.
If you've camped before, especially in cold weather, you know that snugly-don't-want-to-get-up-and-pee feeling. The best thing to do is get it over with. You have 4 options I can think of. Five if you count "holding it."
- You can get out of your tent and use the toilet in the campground if there is one. In Winya Wayna camp this could be notable distance.
- Get out of the tent and use the private peepee tent in your camp, if there is one.
- If you don't want to get out of your tent here's what I do. I bring a 32 oz empty yogurt container with a tight fitting lid. And use it inside the tent and empty it in the morning.
- There's always the tried-and-true method of peeing in the bushes. But this also requires getting out of your warm nest on a cold night.
Should you use a "peepee" cloth (reusable pee rag?)
Yes. There is nothing more disgusting than little piles of while toilet paper scattered all over the ground where people went to the bathroom outside and just dropped their paper! We can do better than that. If you don't want to dispose of or cover your paper, then consider ditching the toilet paper and bring a reusable cotton bandana. In between uses, it hangs and airdries on the outside of your backpack. I tried this with a group of women friends and we loved it! It's cheap and easy to do. I don't recommend using cloth for #2. It's amazing how quickly the thin cotton fabric dries between uses. You could bring 2 cloths if you're traveling/hiking in wet conditions.
How to dispose of women's hygiene products while hiking
Bring several resealable plastic bags. Have one on hand each time you go to the bathroom and use it to store used products and pack them out. You can dispose of them when you reach your hotel or public bathroom.
What if you need to do more than #1 on the trail?
There are times when you just have to go #2 in between toilet stops. Ask your guide for advice and choose a spot that will be out of the way of hikers and wildlife. Use your boot or hands to create a hole or depression in the ground. If you're in a rocky outcrop (don't ask me how I know this! haha) stack rocks on top of your deposit. Always cover with organic material or rocks. You want to "leave no trace." It's a judgement call.
Where are the toilets at Machu Picchu?
After all that hiking, what if you "hold it" the last day thinking you can use the toilet at Machu Picchu? Hikers will need to wait until they exit the ruins to use the only bano available at Machu Picchu. Cost is 2 soles per person. That conversation has it's own blog post. Follow this link to find out what you need to know about powdering your nose at Machu Picchu.
- toilet paper in resealable baggie
- peepee cloth
- 32 oz empty reusable yogurt container with tight fitting lid (bring from home)
- wet wipes (and baggie to pack it out)
- hand sanitizer gel