Joan’s used a cotton bandanna pee rag regularly since 2010 in environments as diverse as the desert of the Colorado Plateau to hikes in the Smokies. This past year she started using the well-known and popular Kula Cloth favored by many backpackers. Here are Joan’s thoughts on contrasting the Kula Cloth to the humble bandanna. -PM
I’ve been using a modified bandana as a pee rag for about a decade. Pee rags are a reusable option for wiping after you pee. They are a great Leave No Trace (LNT) option for hiking, backpacking, and camping. A pee rag may sound gross at first, but let me tell you what’s grosser: finding toilet paper along the trail!
The Kula Cloth is an eye-catching newer version of the pee rag. It has a snap to hang off your pack and is made of antimicrobial fabric. It also can snap closed, so the inner absorbent side stays protected. I’ve seen an increase in the number of these triangular cloths swinging from packs on the PCT and Colorado Trail. When I finally spotted them at my local gear store, I picked one up and gave it a try.
I’ve been using the Kula Cloth for the last 6 months on both hiking and backpacking trips in Utah and Colorado and my PCT section hike in Washington this summer. I’ve used a cotton bandana pee rag in places as diverse as the Arizona Trail to the more humid Appalachian Mountains in Georgia with no issues with smell or “uncleanliness.”
How did the Kula Cloth compare to my cotton bandana pee rag?
- At $20, the Kula Cloth is a lot more money than a simple bandana. I can usually obtain a bandana and add a snap at minimal expense. You can easily go the MYOG route for a $15 kit that includes hundreds of snaps and a fastener – no sewing needed!
- I found the Kula Cloth more absorbent and softer than a cotton bandana. But for a few drops of urine, it doesn’t really matter.
- The smell was about the same for the Kula Cloth and the bandanna. No noticeable smell on the first day for either garment. . A slight urine smell by the second or third day for both garments. I always wash my pee rags every other day with a drop of Dr. Bonners in a plastic gallon ziplock bag (at least 200 feet from a water source) regardless of whether it is a Kula Cloth or a cotton bandanna. So I really don’t find any difference.
- The snap system of the Kula Cloth functioned basically the same as my simple bandana snap. While backpacking, I attached both to the same extendable shock cord to use them without taking off my pack. Both were also easy to secure to my tent or hammock ridgeline to dry during the night. You want a snap because the West is windy. You don’t want your pee rag getting blow off your pack because then someone might pick it up and give it back to you, and then how awkward is that going to be?!? (I speak from experience!)
- The Kula Cloth was NOT useful for any other purpose other than wiping up pee. In contrast, after giving it a good wash, I often use my bandana pee rag as a towel. Because of its larger size and because it seems to rinse out more easily, the cotton bandana works as a much better towel for quick swims in lakes or when taking a shower where towels aren’t provided (such as while long-distance hiking). Maybe this is gross, but honestly, it’s been working for me for years with no problems.
- The Kula Cloth’s black absorbent side hid menstrual blood. So that is nice.
- The Kula Cloth comes in many different prints. But I could not find any in a dinosaur print, which of course, is one huge downside.
Am I going to replace all my bandana pee rags now?
The answer for me, as it often is, is that it depends.
My bandana pee rags are more versatile (since it doubles as a towel for me).
But for day hiking, honestly, I’m a little conflicted.
One additional thing that I love about the Kula Cloth is that they make pee rags “cool” and more visible. All those distinct Kula Cloths hanging from hikers’ packs send a strong LNT message— look, I have a pee rag!
In contrast, a hiker could use a bandana hanging from a pack for any purpose. That’s why I love the idea of something recognizable as a pee rag. Especially because it has the potential to spark a conversation with folks new to the outdoors. When I first started backpacking, I remember thinking that pee rags were gross. It took a conversation with an experienced backpacker to convince me to give it a try.
Today, we all need to do our part to create more dialogue about LNT best practices, especially with the increasing number of folks new to the outdoors and the worsening toilet paper litter problem. Could the Kula Cloth help with that conversation? Maybe the foldable design will make it more palatable and socially acceptable for more people?
I’ll continue using my cotton bandana pee rag when backpacking in remote areas, especially with dinosaur prints!
However, I will keep hanging my Kula Cloth from my pack when I am hiking in popular areas and see if anyone asks!
Disclosure: Joan purchased the Kula Cloth with her funds.