Elise’s Lady Guide to Using a Port-o-Potty

Written by Elise Olmstead.

It can be a tough, unforgiving terrain at festivals, and while we may welcome the more adventurous side of roughin’ it like camp stove cooking or hammock hanging, no one enjoys the dreaded port-o-potties.

Whether well maintained or exuding some sort of chakra bending aura of stink, even the most seasoned wookie princess has her reservations about the portable toilet, often forgoing the whole experience to squat in the woods.  While some cower in fear at the site of a Shitty City (a conglomeration of a large number of port-o-potties most often seen side stage at a large festival), I scoff and tell them to move aside.  You’re never going to get through tour without a UTI if you don’t make this shit happen (literally?).

I call this the lady guide because it seems like most guys either 1. Pee along whatever fence is nearby, or 2. Shit in the urinal for some reason, but if you are a male I assure you this guide will help you, too.  And for God’s sake please do us a favor and don’t spray the whole place with piss.  Are you trying to put out a tiny fire?  Are you trying to write your name on the wall?  I don’t know, but stop it.  Please.

  1. Choose your adventure.

You’re most likely going to get in a line.  Be courteous.  Some drunk guy will accuse you of trying to cut in line, let him go ahead but do NOT go in the same port-o-potty that he just came out of.  Pro-tip: NEVER CHOOSE THE END UNITS.  Go for one towards the middle.  Most people choose the ends and they are usually the most trashed.

  1. Don’t forget a flashlight.

If you’ve already gotten this far and did forget your flashlight, then God speed my friend.  But if you are a normal, prepared festivarian, you already have one in hand.  Assess the situation and if this unit will be usable.  Clues that it is not usable and you should bail now:  A poo mountain rising almost infinitely out of the toilet hole, unidentified bodily liquids smeared everywhere, or NO TOILET PAPER.

  1. Check for toilet paper, or bring toilet paper with you.

If you’re a true potty professional, you’ve brought toilet paper with you.  A whole roll is usually too much for me to worry about carrying around on my adventures, so instead I carry either a travel sized tissue pack or some paper towels. If you forgot to bring these items with you, then use your flashlight and check for toilet paper.

  1. Wipe the seat.

Use whatever paper type item you have on hand to wipe that seat.  I don’t care if it looks good upon first inspection, you don’t want to be in for a wet surprise when you sit down.

This girl has the right idea with a front-facing fanny pack. Please note Spirit Hood and other festival doo-dads to secure. Photo by Roger Gupta.

  1. Gather your things, and your thoughts.

I am usually carrying a small backpack, and wearing scarves, strings, and other completely unnecessary, cumbersome, but oh-so-fabulous accessories that will need to be gathered.  I swing my backpack and all loose clothing to the front and kind of hug it as I shield it from hitting the sides of the port-o-potty.  Take a deep breath, clear your mind as you pray to the festival gods, and…

Sitting down in a Port-o-Potty: You’re doing it wrong.


Please, sit down on the toilet seat.  Girls tend to think that hovering is the way to go, but seriously, you’re just sputtering like a broken sprinkler all over that place making it harder for everyone else.  All of your tinkles will go straight down into the blue abyss if you just sit. your. ass. down.

Aforementioned “Shitty City”

  1. Wipe carefully, but thoroughly.

You have to be careful of all your items in your lap that you’ve been hugging for dear life as you wipe your little bottom.  I won’t go into the details of proper wiping technique, but remember, hygiene is important.

  1. Gather yourself again.

Gathering yourself afterwards can be harder than the inital gather.  It’s a careful balancing act of pulling those panties up without dropping your purse onto the muddy floor, but I believe in you.  Make sure your underwear isn’t showing, no wedgies are imminent, and your tiny hat and third eye pinecone are still securely in place.  Use hand sanitizer if it is located inside of the port-o-potty, or use your own that you brought because you’re just that good.

Even Chris Houser from The Werks uses port-o-potties! They’re just like us! Photo by Josh Timmermans.

  1. Hold the door for the person after you as you come out.

It’s just a nice gesture, and you’re a nice person, so it works.


So, there it is, I hope I succeeded in complicating what is one of our most primal functions, the functions of the bodily kind.  While it may seem simple enough to most of us, if you go to enough festivals you will see just how difficult the entire process can be for people.  If there are flushing toilets at the festival you are attending, then you just lucked out my friend, but please don’t be scared of the port-o-potties.  They are just trying to give you a safe place to do your business, so treat them kindly.  If we all follow this protocol it will be a better experience for everyone.  I’ll see you out there, and don’t forget the toilet paper!