When your bladder is at maximum capacity is usually when it’s the most inopportune time to actually go to the bathroom. Sometimes it’s because the only bathroom available is disgusting. Sometimes there is no bathroom at all. If you lack a penis, then your choices are to hold it or find a place to squat (and hope you don’t end up with wet shoes). Now you have a third option – you can pee while standing up!
Surprisingly, there are A LOT of products out there designed to help you pee standing up. Most of them are called Stand to Pee (STP) devices but some are still marketed as Female Urination Devices (FUD) (which is less politically correct since both transgendered people and men can use these devices). The majority of them are just glorified funnels. What I have learned in my research is that the silicone ones can collapse, releasing a flood of pee. Devices with smaller openings require some precision. If the stem portion of the device is short, it’s harder to direct the pee away from your body which means you may end up peeing on your feet. If the stem portion of the device is very narrow, the liquid flows out at a slower rate which can result in the funnel overflowing. If the mouth portion of the funnel is shallow, you can end up with back splash. In other words, there are a lot of ways that you can end up with pee dripping down your leg, leaking into your clothing, or splashing on your shoes/feet, all of which completely defeat the purpose of using one of these devices.
For all of these reasons, I decided on the pStyle. It’s made of a smooth rigid (BPA free) plastic in several colors (because, hey, you can still have choices even when it’s something that you’re peeing on!). It resembles a spoon shaped trough, for lack of a better description. The design looks simple but actually solves all of the aforementioned problems. Because it’s not a funnel, it can’t overflow. Since the entire top of the device is open, you don’t have to worry very much about positioning it correctly. Because the device is long, it will direct urine away from your feet (other devices do this but require you to really lean forward). The plastic is rigid so it can’t collapse and spill pee everywhere.
So how do you use this magical device? The wider end goes between your legs. It’s a little easier (especially in the beginning) to have your feet at least shoulder width apart with your knees slightly bent. The only positioning trick is to make sure that you hold it far back enough. It can’t just be barely under your lady bits – it needs to be a little closer to your butt. Tilt the front end slightly down and then let it flow! Just make sure not to tilt the pStyle too much to the right or the left because duh, this will cause you to spill. It doesn’t need be completely level but just be aware that you don’t want it tilted too much to one side. Be aware that for many women, the urine stream bifurcates meaning it isn’t one solid stream, so you want to make sure that you hold the pStyle close to your body (the top edge of the pStyle should be touching your skin) to prevent any stray drops from getting away. If you’re not on level land, make sure to stand so that you are facing downhill, which will allow the pee to run away from you. And it goes without saying that you never want to pee into the wind – make sure the wind is at your back!
After you are done, wait a few seconds to let all of the pee get to the end of the pStyle. You can then pull the pStyle forward to give yourself a little squeegee (most people don’t need to wipe afterward, but feel free to dab around) and then give it a shake to remove any remaining liquid. Because the pStyle has a smooth hydrophobic surface, it should be almost entirely devoid of urine but if you see any stray drops then you can wipe them off with some toilet paper. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you can stow it immediately (just make sure to wash it with soap and water when you return to civilization). If you’re near a sink, give it a quick rinse and shake it dry. That’s it!
Despite the simplicity of using the pStyle, I do recommend practicing at home several times before you use it out and about. The first thing I suggest is to hold the pStyle underneath the faucet with the water running. Experiment with where the water enters the pStyle so you can see how it flows. Tilt it up and down, as well as side to side, just to get an idea of what happens when you don’t position it perfectly. In most cases, you will see that it will work without any spilling. Next try using the pStyle in the shower. At least this way if it ends up being a total disaster, you won’t be left with a huge mess to clean up. Once you use it successfully in the shower, try using it with a toilet – but without any pants or underwear on. I know I probably sound paranoid, but if you make a mistake naked from the waist down at least you won’t have pee covered pants, underwear, socks, and/or shoes. After you feel comfortable with that method, try using the pStyle with just your underwear on. Once you feel okay with that, start using the pStyle with different pants, skirts, and shorts.
Some devices require you to form a seal with the device against your body while others require you to drop your pants down to your knees, but you don’t have to do either with the pStyle. If you are wearing jeans or any pants with a fly, you can simply unzip/unbutton the opening, pull your underwear to one side, and use the pStyle. If you are wearing shorts, pull one leg to the side beforehand. If you are wearing leggings or tights, you can pull the front of the waistband down a few inches. If you are wearing pants, tights, or leggings that are really tight or don’t have a stretchy waistband then you may have to just pull them down to the tops of your thighs. Obviously using the pStyle with a skirt is much easier than with pants, so you might want to try the pStyle with a skirt before you move onto pants or leggings. Being able to keep your bottoms on in most situations means you don’t have to expose your ass to inclement weather, bugs, poison ivy, or snakes!
I keep my pStyle in a ziploc bag with an individual wipe and a folded up paper towel or a piece of tissue so that I can clean it, dry it, and store it if I’m in the middle of nowhere. Even if I’m in a public bathroom, I never know if they will have toilet paper, soap, or paper towels so the wipe and the towel/tissue are also handy in case I need them to clean myself up. If you want something a little sturdier, you can use a pencil case. Planet Wise also makes some great zippered wet bags that are the perfect size for the pStyle.
If you’re a germaphobe, the pStyle is perfect for you. I can still remember how horrifying the airplane bathroom was near the end of a 20+ hour flight. If you’ve ever been to one of those horrifying rest stops or cement block bathrooms at the beach, you will appreciate this item too. The pStyle comes in really handy if you are traveling in a country where the bathrooms are a hole in the ground that you have to squat over.
But even if you normally aren’t a germaphobe, there are lots of other scenarios when this will come in handy because there are no bathrooms to use. Sometimes when you’re on a long road trip, you hit stretches where there are no gas stations, restaurants, or rest stops for miles which is when you will be glad you have one of these. If you are camping or hiking, all that water you’ve been drinking to stay hydrated always seems to start pressing on your bladder when you’re in the middle of nowhere. The pStyle is also popular with hikers, cyclists, marathon runners, kayakers, and mountain climbers. Because you don’t have to remove your pants to use the pStyle, it’s perfect for activities where you are wearing a lot of gear or you don’t want to waste time getting half undressed to pee.
If you love music festivals, the pStyle really comes in handy whether your tent is miles away or the line for the women’s bathroom is obscenely long or the portapotties are disgusting (when is a portapottie NOT disgusting?). Some music festivals even have special female urinals set up for this purpose, and from all reports the lines are much shorter for the female urinals than for the regular bathrooms/portapotties. The pStyle is also great for pregnant women (especially during the third trimester) or anyone with knee or back issues who has a hard time getting up and down from a sitting position. If you’re camping, no more wandering off into the woods in the middle of the night to pee. You can use the pStyle to funnel your urine into an empty water bottle so that you don’t even have to leave your tent (just remember to empty out your bottle in the morning).
The biggest down side to the pStyle is its size. It measures approximately 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 7.5″ which isn’t humongous but it’s also not small enough to stick in my back pocket. I appreciate the size because it’s necessary for function. If it weren’t as long, it wouldn’t be able to direct the pee as far away from my body. If it weren’t as deep, it could overflow or back splash. If it weren’t as rigid, it could collapse when full and spill liquid everywhere. I totally understand why it’s the size that it is, and I appreciate that it was thoughtfully designed to ensure that I won’t pee on myself. The trade off is that it’s not small enough to just carry in a pocket (unless you’re wearing cargo pants with large pockets), but that’s a fair price for knowing that I won’t spill, leak, or otherwise be left standing in a puddle of my own urine.
If portability is a concern, then the P-Mate is an option. Very similar in size and shape to the pStyle, the P-Mate is a disposable STP device made of cardboard with a wax coating. It folds flat so you can easily keep it in your purse or slip it into your pocket. When you are ready to use it, just pop it open and it’s ready to go! I try to avoid single use products as much as possible, but I understand the portability and convenience factor of the P-Mate. I bought a 5-pack and have stashed one P-Mate in my car and another in each of my purses for those unexpected situations when I don’t have my pStyle with me.
Several people online said they have reused their P-Mates, so for the sake of argument, I tried reusing a P-Mate just to see if it would stand up to multiple uses. When I rinsed and dried it after each use, I was able to get three uses out of it. After the third rinse/dry, the cardboard ripped at the front seam. I suspect it was the combination of getting it really wet while rinsing it and cramming a paper towel inside to dry it that did the P-Mate in. The front end is very narrow so I think it ended up ripping because I shoved a little too hard and the cardboard was already weakened after peeing three times and then getting rinsed in the sink three times.
The next day I tried using a new P-Mate by gently drying it between uses with toilet paper (rather than a paper towel) but without rinsing it. Despite the effort, I was only able to use it three times total. By the third time the fold that runs along the bottom was beginning to weaken and it felt slightly damp along the fold. I was afraid that if I used it a fourth time, it might start leaking from that seam. The P-Mate was not meant to be reused so I don’t see these as design flaws. It’s totally fine for single use – not a bit of dripping or leaking if you only use it once. To be honest, the P-Mate can be difficult to dry due to the narrow front opening so I would not recommend trying to use it more than once (because who wants to carry around a urine soaked piece of cardboard?).
Although female urination devices are nothing new (the one above is a glass version dating back to the 1700s), the current popularity of STP devices is due in great part to the P-Mate, which was given out to women at the Glastonbury Festival beginning in 2004. Many of these festivals now have special STP urinals (often dubbed the She Pee) for women. The lines are shorter and the facilities are much cleaner than the longdrops and portapotties which are known for being especially gross.
If I could snap my fingers and have my ideal device appear, it would be a combination of the pStyle and the P-Mate. The best thing about the P-Mate is its portability. Because it comes completely flat, it’s easy to carry in just about any situation you can think of. But I am so reluctant to use single use products that I know I will be using the P-Mate sparingly. The pStyle, on the other hand, is awesome and its only drawback for me is the fact that I can’t stick it in the pocket of my leggings or my tiny going out wristlet.
The P-Mate has a slightly wider opening and is slightly longer so it may be a tiny bit easier for beginners to use. The down side is that because it’s disposable, you may run through a lot of them during your practice phase. The cheapest I have been able to find them is still around $1 each, which is something you might want to take into consideration when deciding which one to buy (in comparison, the pStyle is $12).
One other difference between the P-Mate and the pStyle is that the P-Mate has a closed end where the urine exits, which means that it flows out evenly and you can control the stream more (just in case you want to spell your name in the snow). The pStyle has an open end so the stream will sometimes veer to one side or the other and there’s really nothing you can do to control it.
For the record, I am not encouraging rampant public urination! These devices are great in lots of other situations. My two main uses are when there is no available bathroom (long road trips, hikes) and when the available bathroom is so gross that I don’t want to deal with hovering.
* Although the pStyle and the P-Mate have similar names, they are two totally different products made by two separate companies. The P-Mate was founded by a Dutch woman named Moon Zijp while the pStyle was designed by a French company (the pStyle is known as the Freelax outside of the United States and Canada).