04 Aug How to use a pee rag – Introducing Kula Cloth™ , the next level p-cloth!
I am so excite to announce the pre-sale launch of my VERY first outdoor product for women, Kula Cloth™!
Several years ago, on a backpacking trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, I was enjoying an incredible sunrise over Robin Lakes. I walked behind a tree and was disgusted to find a heap of discarded toilet paper. Upon returning home, I started to research various toilet paper options for the wilderness (I’ve always packed everything out, but I was curious if there was a way to encourage the reduction of waste for others), and I discovered that many female hikers were using a ‘pee-cloth’ or a ‘pee-rag’. According to the articles I read, you could simply take a scrap of fabric or a piece of an old bandana and use it to absorb moisture after peeing.
My first thought? “Uh, that’s disgusting.”
I was (and still am!) a backpacking instructor for Washington Outdoor Women, so I thought that at the very least, I should give the idea a try – in the off chance that it might help reduce my impact.
Verdict? Game changer. I LOVED it. I didn’t have to pack in tons of toilet paper, or even worse, use the ‘drip dry’ method which left me feeling especially awful after multi-day trips (not to mention, more prone to infections).
I didn’t like the idea of a bandana, so I bought a scrap of microfiber cloth and started attaching it to my backpack. On a 9 day thru-hike of the Wind River High Route, I started taking photographs of this pee-cloth in various spectacular locations to be funny. One night, in the middle of a particularly poignant pee-cloth photo session high on the Continential Divide, I looked at my sad scrap of microfiber and thought, “I wish that looked cooler. I wish it was a real piece of gear.”
A lightning bolt of an idea flashed through my mind, “Maybe you can design one!”
A quest begins…
And so, with absolutely ZERO experience in the textile industry, I started researching fabrics. I drew a basic design, which I didn’t even know how to create (because I had never sewed a button), and I asked a friend who was a tailor how I could make this next-level pee-cloth.
“You need a serger”, she said.
“What’s a serger?”, was my response.
And so, I drove two hours to her house to pick up a serger (it’s a fancy sewing machine, I later learned). She showed me how to sew a straight line, and I took the serger home, where I promptly attempted to sew two pieces of fabric together and broke the thread. I tried to figure out how to re-thread the serger by watching YouTube videos, but I eventually resorted to asking my husband (who is much more patient with instructions) to try and figure it out. After 20 minutes, the machine was re-threaded and I set out to sew my very first pee-cloth.
In my mind, I was about to embark upon an earth-shattering moment – I was about to make the world’s first intentionally designed antimicrobial pee-cloth. I knew that it was going to be the most incredible, astounding piece of gear that any adventurous woman had ever seen. And so, I started sewing my first square.
To say that this first attempt resembled a square would be a slight exaggeration. The best description that I can articulate for this, ‘shape’ (if you could call it that) – would be a three-dimensional blobular amoeba.
Practice makes perfect.
I’ve always been a person with ideas – ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a constant stream of dreams and passions and inspiration. I’m sad to say that I have let hundreds of those dreams die, because I got stuck in the ‘not knowing’ of how to accomplish something – rather than simply trusting that the answers would reveal themselves to me if I just kept taking steps.
In my Stuck To Summit course, I encourage my students to focus on action. You can’t possibly know all the steps to get where you want to go – but you will look back one day and see how you got there, and realize that the answers appeared along the journey.
I didn’t know how to sew. I didn’t know anything about textiles. But I knew how to ask questions and how to get curious – and that is 99.999999% of the process. You don’t need to be the expert. You don’t need to have a degree in textile design. You don’t even need to know how to sew a button or how to start a gear company. All you need to know is how to take little steps.
And that’s what I did. I started practicing sewing squares. I started testing fabrics. I started asking other women what they wanted and what they didn’t want in their next-level pee-cloth.
Finally, once I felt confident enough in my square-sewing ability, I sent samples out to 30 incredible, adventurous women who were gracious enough to test my product and give me feedback. I tweaked. I asked questions. I tweaked the design again. I asked more questions. I just kept going, and every time I felt myself slipping into fear or doubt (because there was a LOT of it!), I reminded myself why I was doing this:
Because I didn’t want this dream to die. Because I want to make an impact. Because I want to start an outdoor company. Because I want to create something functional and beautiful. Because I want to make a difference. Because I want to give back.
And then one day, not too long ago, Kula Cloth™ was born.
Why is Kula Cloth ™ a next level pee-cloth?
To say that I’ve obsessively and intentionally designed Kula Cloth™ is a massive understatement. I have lost sleep over this cloth. I have literally cried over this cloth. I have stayed up until 2am sewing squares and fretting over every little tiny last detail. I even found reflective thread to sew the edges (so that you can find it at night with your headlamp), when the manufacturing facility told me that finding reflective thread was impossible.
I realized that I spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on my gear – my backpacks, tents, boots, sleeping bags, etc… but the one piece of gear that was coming into contact with the most sensitive part of my body was an afterthought of an old scrap of cloth. Why couldn’t it be awesome? Why couldn’t it be a functional and beautiful piece of gear that made me feel proud to wear it on my pack?
And, so that’s what I did. And I’m really really proud of it. It has been exhilarating and terrifying to release this dream into the world. Exhilarating because it is the most INCREDIBLE feeling to watch something become real. Terrifying, because I have put so much love and intention into this product, and it is SO HARD not to take it personally when people say negative things about it.
That being said, every second has been worth it. I am on a mission to normalize the use of the pee-cloth by making it more accessible and intentional – my hope is that the Kula Cloth™ will look and feel like a real piece of gear, which will encourage more people to use this product, which will ultimately reduce our impact on the environment by opening a deeper conversation around Leave No Trace ethics.
Currently, I have adventurous women using Kula Cloth™ all over the world: climbing Kilimanjaro, travelling to Nepal and India, hiking, backpacking, fishing, rock climbing, camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking… you name it, if women are doing it, they are packing along a Kula Cloth™. My vision is that one day I will see this cloth on the pack of every woman on the trail, and that it will be representative of a beautiful community of adventurous and proud women.
A larger scale vision is to develop this product into a small part of a much larger technical gear company for women, and to broaden the reach of Kula Cloth™ by bringing it into developing countries to assist with feminine hygiene awareness.
How do you use a Kula Cloth™ ?
Simply pee, just like normal (note: in a wilderness setting, good practice is to choose a spot at least 70ft from a trail and 200ft from a water source… pro tip: if you are squatting down, it can be helpful to hold one trekking pole in front of you for stability). Use the plain black dimpled side of the Kula Cloth™ to absorb any residual moisture. Since the clean/printed side is waterproof, you don’t need to worry about any liquid soaking through to your hand. Note: the Kula Cloth™ is NOT for wiping anything OTHER THAN pee. Do not wipe from front to back like you might with toilet paper – keep the Kula Cloth™ entirely in the pee-zone.
The Kula Cloth snaps to your pack using a durable, hypoallergenic plastic snap. If you want to be discrete about allowing the ‘wipe’ side to be visible, use the double-snap option to fold the cloth in half while it is hanging on your pack.
Pre-sales are now open!
So, how can you get a Kula Cloth™? Pre-sales are now open at www.kulacloth.com. I am launching the product with a pre-sale so that I can fund the wholesale purchase of the advanced textiles required to create the cloth. You can read all about the pre-sale here. If you have any additional questions about Kula Cloth™, you can check out our FAQ page here.
To say that I am humbled and honored to be the creator of this piece of gear is an understatement. I’ve been told that this is one of the most important pieces of gear to be created in this decade – it represents something completely new – it’s bold and innovative in a simple way, and it combines women’s hygiene in the wilderness setting and Leave No Trace ethics in a proudly united front. The word ‘Kula’ means community, and there is absolutely no community that I feel more proud to serve than the incredibly inspiring community of adventurous women. I hope that when you snap your Kula Cloth™ to your pack that you feel proud to be a part of that community too.
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask! Thank you so much for your support.