Does a backpacker (bleep) in the woods? Yes, but very carefully and, let's face the messy facts, it can get to where you don't want to. There are no toilets in the woods, so while it may be easy for bears, it can be a problem for humans.
That's why an Ashland couple invented the Squat Strap, an 8-foot length of webbing with a D-ring that lets you loop it around a tree, latch it behind the small of your back, pull down your knickers, lean back and let nature have its way. Then, of course, comes the paperwork. And, being a leave-nothing-behind camper, a little shovel work.
The polypropylene Squat Strap, just put on the market by John and Beth Hallett, sells for $19.95 on their website, www.squatmonkey.com, and they've begun marketing it at backpacking trade shows, outdoor stores and fire camps. They sold 50 right off and have a patent pending.
"A successful invention solves a problem," says John, a former Medford city councilman, "and this one does."
The Halletts report that outdoorsy types, including fire crews and backpackers, often dread the problem and get constipated from holding it in.
"In addition, a lot of people, especially older ones," says John, "aren't flexible enough to hold that squatting position for several minutes without a lot of pain. So, being supported is a blessing for them."
The strap also keeps "your assets" out of poison oak, as you can hold your legs at a 90-degree angle, says Beth, just like at home.
One pleased buyer, Peter Payne of Medford, says that for serious, lightweight backpackers, anything you carry has to serve more than one purpose, and the 4-ounce Squat Strap fills the bill.
"I've packed it four times up in the Sky Lakes Wilderness and like it a lot," says Payne. "I used it for its intended purpose, as well as for a dog leash, a dog tie-up and to hoist my pack and food in a tree for the night, keeping critters away."
The strap can also be used to tie up boats, lift shower bags and wrap around a load of firewood to haul it.
An entertaining, three-and-a-half-minute video on their website shows some of the strap's uses.
It has loops on either end to allow you to just hang on, manually, while the other end is wrapped around the tree — a position men seem to prefer, says Beth, while the ladies seem to go for the hands-free option, which better enables the final paperwork.
How did the Halletts come up with their idea? Easy, says John.
"We got laid off from Harry & David when they went bankrupt and we had to reinvent ourselves."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.