Imagine this: You just finished an 8-mile run to the top of your local peak, and you suddenly feel your stomach start to churn. The several coffees before you departed weren’t a good idea. You quickly swig some water and start jogging down the trail. You aren’t going to make it, you think. Nope, the trailhead is too far away. Emergency mode kicks in; urgency kicks in. Quick! Find something to dig a cathole. Shit!
Everyone I know who backpacks or trail runs knows this feeling.
If you spend enough time outside on long missions, trust me, it will happen. Nature calls, but at the worst possible time: when there’s no bathroom nearby. To go #2, you’ll need a few things, and a few seconds/minutes to prepare. Luckily, there are tools at your disposal. And PACT just bundled them all together into a nifty little outdoor bathroom kit that fits easily in almost any pack.
In short: Outdoor bathroom kits can be the only savior in desperate times. (Wag bags too, but I sure as hell am not going to review one.) But now, there’s a new outdoor bathroom kit concept in town — and it’s dialed, streamlined, super functional, great for the environment, packable, and ultralight. PACT Outdoors burst onto the market in 2021 after winning a grant through the Moosejaw Accelerator program. At the beginning of 2023, they got a contract at REI, and their PACT kits are now available online and in all 167 REI stores across the U.S. Here’s why you (and everyone you know!) should consider carrying one into the backcountry.
Ergonomic 100% aluminum trowel, 100% recycled PET plastic interior cartridge, elastic toggle
- Resealable packet of 20 wipes (kit fits 15 max.)
- Resealable packet of 60 mycelium tablets (kit fits a large handful ~30 tabs)
Shipped and sold in recycled paper packaging
120 g / 4.2 oz.
Verified weight (fully stocked)
Fits nicely into a variety of different pack pockets and compartments (we tested on Deuter, Gregory, Osprey, Mountain Hardwear, and Helly Hansen packs)
Need to carry hand sani separately
No extra compartment for other bathroom items
PACT Lite Review: The Basics
Not everyone who enjoys hiking and camping really understands what it’s like to live outdoors overnight. Beyond sleep and shelter systems, having a toilet or an alternative “bathroom” is probably one of the more daunting barriers keeping people from extending their time outside.
Enter, the poop kit.
Essentially, if there are no regular restrooms with running water or even vault toilets like the ones you’ll see at many State or National Park trailheads, you have to bring some tools with you to use the bathroom. Tools like a trowel (a tiny shovel), some toilet paper or tissues, hand sanitizer (or biodegradable soap that’s safe to use outdoors), wag bags, hygiene products, and more.
Many people build their own backcountry bathroom kits just by tossing some toilet paper and a trowel in a zip lock. Others, when camping, opt to bring something more elaborate like a camp toilet, but those of course aren’t an option when backpacking.
The PACT Lite puts a compact poop kit in the palm of your hand anywhere — whether you’re on a long day hike into the wilderness, backpacking, fly fishing, alpine climbing, or anywhere else outside away from flushing toilets.
Here’s what’s included in the super-sleek PACT Lite:
- An aluminum trowel (with a 6-inch marker for guidance when digging catholes)
- Mycelium PACT Tabs (to break down poop underground organically)
- PACT Wipes (compressed 9-inch towels that expand with water)
- Instructions for use
PACT Outdoors claims the Lite kit provides 1 week of supplies. After testing, we found the lifespan of the outdoor bathroom kit to be 4-8 days, depending on the frequency of use, and, how many people are using the kit. Refills for the tabs and wipes can be bought on the PACT website.
If you are traveling as a pair into the backcountry, the Lite kit is still plenty sufficient for 1-4 days. For a 2-person backpacking trip, it takes up virtually no room, yet it provides a ton of comfort and peace of mind.
‘Testing’ in the Backcountry
I’ve been using, testing, and playing around with the Lite unit’s design since it arrived in May. After almost a month, I can say that every piece of this product is executed well. The plastic interior is durable. So is the aluminum trowel. It holds adequate amounts of the wipes. The toggle strap stays in place. The trowel is ergonomic, and not uncomfortable to hold.
After digging your hole, the only thing I’ve found is it’s nice to have a sleeve of jacket or ultralight towel nearby, to clean off some of the dirt, before storing the rest of the kit away. You can also use the “stake” end of the interior compartment to scrap off any dirt that’s caked on.
Finally, if you are somewhere where the packed dirt is super rocky, you’ll want to watch where you jam the trowel. Mine definitely already has some scratches (no dings yet) from rocky substrate.
Also, make sure you keep water nearby (or back at “camp”) to activate the compressed PACT Wipes to wash your hands.
The Best Part? Its PACT Size
Look, I get it. An ultralight Deuce trowel and a wad of toilet paper don’t weigh that much, either. That bottle of hand sanitizer or homemade outdoor bathroom kit doesn’t take up that much room. But neither does this! The impressive weight aside, the biggest draw this PACT kit has going for it is the packed size. Everything is so well integrated; the design is foolproof (and pretty waterproof, I’ve found). And the Pez-dispensing wipes are just such a cool concept.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time outdoors. And I’ve gone to the “bathroom” more times than I can count. I’ve used vault toilets and open drop loos abroad. I’m at the point where, if there’s a nice view and it’s not raining, I’m happy. (Anything but using a wag bag while wearing a climbing harness.) As long as you are somewhere where you can dig a cathole, it’s really hard to beat the 120g PACT Lite kit.
PACT Lite: Conclusion
Trust me, I love a flushing toilet and running water. I also love my TheTentLab ultralight trowel — just for different reasons.
This PACT Lite kit falls somewhere in between. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s also not barebones. It’s got soft, ready-to-deploy hand towels, for pity’s sake! It weighs nothing and easily stashes in a pack brain, side pocket, or even clipped with a carabiner. It’s a convenient size so there’s no excuse not to stash it in your backpacking pack, daypack, or even hip pack.
And while PACT Outdoors’ first advances with its rollbag bathroom kit were good, version 2.0 — the PACT Lite — is eons better.
If you are spending any kind of extended time in the backcountry, even just 1 week out of the year for a summer trip, the PACT Lite is worth carrying. And the peace of mind of having everything you need is just 35 bucks — or maybe even free! If you visit one of the “Doo Colorado Right” locations, you can pick up a complimentary PACT Lite courtesy of the Colorado Tourism Office.
PACT Outdoors has set a new, and very high, standard for pooping outside with the Lite kit.
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