While not the most pleasant topic in survival circles, it is one that cannot be denied. When nature calls, you will answer the phone. It took humans about 400 years to realize that paper could be used for more than just taking notes, and the Chinese were the first to document what would be later called toilet paper in the 600s AD. By the 1400s, paper was specifically manufactured and sold for anal hygiene, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, however, while many preppers are concerned with stockpiling TP for darker days, survivalists are happy to go with the flow and use what’s handy.
Like the old saying goes, if all you’ve got is a hammer, then see every problem as a nail. While there are some who still believe that a pile of old Sears catalogs or phone book pages will be worth more than gold, the reality is that it isn’t a lack of toilet paper that will cause distress, but rather a lack of practical knowledge. Urban dwellers may have a different take on this topic compared to my list because your choices are based upon your surroundings. My take is wilderness-oriented. If you have urban knowledge about this topic please share it in the comments.
My top ten favorite toilet paper substitutes are as follows:
10. Sand and water. This option is a great one on a river trip or near a lake, and it is the most thorough of the ten options, but it is the messiest, least discrete, and generally requires the most disrobing.
9. Pine Needles. Plenty of options here, but a small handful of needles still attached to their branch works great. A needle bunch is round so its more a scraping conveyor belt than a real wiping tool even though it does resemble a paint brush.
8. Bark. Depending on the type of tree, the bark can be paper-like or block-like. Both work great, but to use tool metaphors, thin bark is like a putty scraper, while the thicker bark is like a sanding block. If the bark is crumbly, you might have the itchies later.
7. Branches. Gather up a few sticks and smooth them off like rubbing the slivers off chopsticks. Your pile of bathroom kindling will serve you well.
6. Moss. Whether plucked off a tree, rock or scraped up from the ground, moss in all it’s glory makes fine TP, but depending on its durability, you may have to be careful to avoid adding to the mess.
5. Pine Cones. Pine cones are nature’s corn cobs. Their size and shape match anyone’s needs, and they just get better with age. Like pine needles, pine cones are highly directional and probably should be left for the experts. In the big picture, if it makes you feel any better, pine cones contain seeds and you are just adding fertilizer as your contribution to this grand cosmic adventure.
4. Leaves. Tree and plant leaves are nature’s meme for toilet paper. Leaves are seasonal and geographic. The where and when dictates their availability and species, but in about every place there are good choices, bad choices, and dangerous choices so know your botany before your BM. Whether plucked fresh, or scooped up from the forest floor, the supply is both sustainable and ample.
3. Ice. Like bark, ice can be used with precision or as a blunt instrument. In most cases you can adjust the size and shape for your needs. Be aware that as fingers and fanny numb up in the cold, your accuracy will suffer.
2. Rocks. Whether sharp shale or rounded river rocks, almost nothing can beat a good stone. With excellent grip and a choice of edges, textures and contours, rocks are a fabulous solution when TP is scarce. And best of all, rocks rarely travel solo so you might have an unlimited supply on hand. And best of all, after a couple hard rain showers, they’re all good to go again (if you are truly desperate).
1. Snow. By far, snow is the single best TP substitute in my humble and informed opinion. The infinite combination of snow size and shape makes snow a customizable option where one size does not have to fit all. Snow also melts during use providing just the right amount of cleaning solution to take your mop-up to the next level. And just like the humidity indicators in your gun safe, snow provides a color-contrast to measure your progress.
The topic of TP substitutes is hardly a new one. In the 1700s, the French writer François Rabelais wrote, “Who his foul tail with paper wipes, Shall at his ballocks leave some chips.” Rabelais’s character dismissed toilet paper as useless and instead preferred, and I’m not kidding here, a well-downed neck of a goose.
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