I told my friends I was going backpacking and camping. Just for one night as a trial run. When they asked if I was excited to try out backpacking and camping with an ostomy I could honestly respond YES. But as usual, my brain was also in overdrive worrying about my upcoming trip. I’m always worrying about something, but over the last few months I’ve been focusing on pushing through fear despite all of the things it tells me could go wrong or be hard. I focus on getting educated about each concern and then assess what the worst possible outcome is and how I would cope with it. Usually that’s enough of a kick in the butt for me to realize how small my worry is.
For backpacking and camping with an ostomy, my three main concerns were:
1. Being able to lift and carry the weight of the pack and not give myself a hernia/having the pack fit in a way that didn’t squish my stoma.
2. Emptying my bag in the wild.
3. Changing my bag on the trail in the event of a leak.
I don’t weigh much, so when I was out backpack buying and trying them on, the guy told me not to carry more than 20lbs. He put 20lbs of sand in each of the packs I was going to try on and put them on a table for me to slip into. Easy peasy. I had never carried a pack and didn’t realize how much weight you can carry without putting all the stress on your shoulders. I found a pack that was comfortable and swiped my credit card.
I was ready for my trail run and grateful that my partner was experienced and had the rest of the gear we’d need. My pack was probably 15-20lbs at the heaviest but it was pretty comfortable. I wore my Nu-Hope hernia prevention belt and we set off.
The trail we’d picked was short. Two and a half miles to the campground should have been a piece of cake but there was a lot of unexpected snow that made it challenging to keep track of the trail. It took almost four hours to get to the campsite and by the time we got there my hip bones were bruised and sore from my hernia belt and pack rubbing against them. The next morning I decided to try wearing my pack without the belt to see if it irritated my hips less, but I found myself paranoid that I was putting too much pressure on my abs and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I’m a tough cookie and the discomfort really didn’t slow me down.
Worry one, fruitless.
Not having eaten much the morning of our trip, I didn’t have any bathroom breaks until we got to our camp site. We were in the wilderness. This was not one of those campsites with vaulted or flush toilets. It was the type of campsite with dirt, bugs, snow, dirty water, trees, stars, sun, mosquitos, and a shovel. I dutifully scouted an area that seemed like I’d have some privacy and started digging. Getting 6-8 inches deep was a challenge. The ground was not particularly soft and full of rocks. Was the hole was dug, emptying my bag was a piece of cake. WAY easier than popping a squat like I would have done in the old days. I got to practice this a number of times while we were there. It’s not my favorite thing to do, and the frequency didn’t help, but it really wasn’t a big deal.
Worry two, fruitless.
Thankfully, my pouch stayed secured and happy the whole time we were there so I didn’t really have to experience changing it. I think that might have been a little more tricky than my other two concerns, but I’m sure I would have been able to figure out the logistics and made it work if I had had to.
Worry three, fruitless.
Maybe you’re curious about food? I find that I can eat most things so I was not too concerned about food. For dinner we had a noodle soup comprised of noodles, dehydrated vegetables and spices. It was actually really good! For breakfast we had oatmeal with almond slivers and freeze-dried fruit (which I realized was different from dehydrated fruit – oops!). To snack, we had pita chips and made hummus from a powder. We each brought a couple liters of water in our camelbaks and were grateful that we had also brought a UV water sterilizer.
What would I do differently?
Nothing, with regards to my ostomy.
A few things with regards to other planning. I didn’t realize how cold it was going to be at night so next time I think I’ll pack a beanie and gloves as well as a couple additional layers. It was 100 degrees during the day so it didn’t occur to me that it would be so cold at night! I would also wear more sunscreen – the stylish calf-tan that I acquired was still extremely present over a month later!
My first overnight backpacking, camping, and burying my poop trip was nothing out of the ordinary. I got to experience some breathtaking landscape, hiking in the sun on the snow, camping in the wilderness, and star-gazing. Highly recommended if you’re into the outdoors, just make sure to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and have pouch changes with you.
The proof is in the pictures!