Camping and Hiking with an ostomy

Camping and hiking with an ostomy

Since my ostomy surgery in 2011, I’ve only been camping once.  And it was more of “glamping”.  I slept in a tent but there was a bathroom with running water not too far away.  Even with my ostomy bag, I am always aware of where the nearest bathroom is. 

Ten years later, I decided to try camping again…okay it was also “glamping”.  I slept in a tipi and there was a porta potty nearby.  During the day, I completed a 13.5-mile hike that included hiking to the top of three mountain peaks at an elevation of 5,249 feet above sea level. 


How did I prepare for a full day of hiking in the middle of the summer?  I brought plenty of water and electrolyte powder.  I also made sure I had toilet paper and disposable garbage bags in case I needed to poop in the woods.  I wore high waisted shorts specifically for hiking. 

I was very fortunate that I didn’t have to empty my bag at all during the actual hike.  There was a halfway point that did have a bathroom, so I was able to go there.  I “burped” my bag a few times in the woods but never needed to empty it. 


Leading up to the hike, I was nervous.  I was nervous I would have to empty in the woods and somehow manage to get poop all over me.  The idea made me anxious, but I knew I wasn’t going to let it stop me.  For someone who went from being very close to death ten years prior, I am very proud of myself for hiking the distance and elevation that I did.  What an experience.  My ostomy has never let me down and has never prevented me from doing anything that I enjoy.  Next on my list is a scuba diving trip in January. 

  • What an inspiration. Thank you. I was a Boy Scout so I pretty much grew up hiking and backpacking in the woods.  Post-surgery, it became important for me to overcome my fear of getting back into backpacking. Like you, I was quite anxious the first few times. I have since realized hiking and backpacking with an ostomy is 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. Similar to you, because dehydration can be an issue, I'm always conscious of water sources, electrolyte powders and salt. And a good barrier strip, supplemental adhesive, and/or tape makes sure my appliance stays in place. Get out there!