Can you pee in a wetsuit? The burning question answered
If you're out at sea and you need to pee... can you pee in a wetsuit? We answer the burning question and explain how to keep your wetsuit fresh
Can you pee in a wetsuit? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in asking this common, hopefully not burning, question. Let’s face it, if you’re a human and you’re spending a decent amount of time in cold water, wild swimming or surfing, at some point the law of nature dictates that you will have to pee. In this scenario, you don’t usually have a lot of options, but there’s a whole army of folk who insist peeing in your wetsuit will destroy it. Is this true? Or does it just make you stinky and unpopular? In this article, we dispel some myths about relieving yourself while wearing your second skin, and explain what to do to keep your wetsuit from getting foul.
Can you pee in a wetsuit?
The way we see it, you have three possible options when you’re wearing a wetsuit and you have to pee:
- Wade ashore and find a public toilet or a bush to pee in.
- Hold your pee.
- Pee in your wetsuit.
For the first option, as you’ve probably already figured out, it’s not always practical to get out of the water and peel your wetsuit halfway off to relieve yourself. Furthermore, in many situations, you could be miles from shore when nature calls, and if you’re training for a triathlon then stopping may not be to your advantage. So do you hold it?
While the internet is awash with warnings of UTIs and burst bladders as a result of urine retention, a healthy bladder is pretty well designed to house pee, according to Healthline, and holding your pee shouldn’t cause any problems. That’s what your bladder is for, after all. While you generally want to release waste from your body in a timely manner, nothing bad will happen if you hold your pee for a bit while you finish your swim, however it might be uncomfortable or even painful, which isn’t fun for swimming and could throw you off your training game.
So, can you pee in your wetsuit? Obviously, the short answer is yes, you can pee anywhere you like, local bylaws permitting, but whether or not you should pee in your wetsuit is another matter entirely. Here, the cold water sports world is divided into two distinct camps: one that says that peeing in your wetsuit will corrode the material and expose you to harmful bacteria and is something you should never do, and another that claims that peeing in your wetsuit will help you keep you warm and is therefore a keen survival tactic. However, if we were to make a Venn diagram of the overlap of these two groups, it would almost certainly be a perfect circle, since no matter what you believe, pretty much everyone pees in their wetsuit at some point.
Does pee damage your wetsuit?
But to get back to the question at hand, should you pee in your wetsuit? Well, let’s first assume that you’re asking about peeing in your own wetsuit. Not your mate Jimmy’s spare wetsuit that he loaned you because you didn’t let yours dry out properly and not a rental wetsuit, which has to be washed by someone who definitely isn’t getting paid enough to scrub your pee off a wetsuit. If it’s your wetsuit, will peeing in it really damage it?
This may not exactly be an old wives tale, but it’s probably more like one of those technically-possible-but-realistically-not scenarios. Normal pee, after all, is mostly water with a small amount of salt and urea, which is a byproduct of the process of breaking down proteins. Urine is acidic, and while no one has studied this, as far as we can tell, it’s possible that if you left a wetsuit soaking in a bathtub full of urine for a long time, it would affect the integrity of the Neoprene. However, the odd pee here and there probably won’t break down your wetsuit any sooner than it will break down naturally, which is any time between three and 10 years, depending on the quality of the suit and how well you take care of it. So if the only reason that you’re holding your pee is to avoid damaging your wetsuit, you can let it go. Literally.
Does peeing in your wetsuit expose you to harmful bacteria?
Now, what about that harmful bacteria that’s going to leave you covered in all kinds of fungus and rashes? Urine is not sterile and does contain low levels of bacteria so you shouldn’t make a habit of drinking it, unless you’re Aaron Ralston and stuck between a rock and a hard place, but having it diluted with sea or lake water and in contact with your skin for a few hours is unlikely to have any repercussions whatsoever. Let’s face it, you spent the first few years of your life wearing a pissy diaper and you survived. So you’re probably fine there.
Will peeing in your wetsuit keep you warm?
Moving on from the naysayers, will peeing in your wetsuit keep you warm? Certainly, when it comes out of your body, your pee will be body temperature and that sudden flush of 98°F liquid will feel like a welcome relief from whatever temperature of water you’re wearing a wetsuit in. But as you can probably imagine – or perhaps already know – it doesn’t last. Your wetsuit doesn’t keep you dry; it keeps you warm, by trapping a layer of liquid which is warmed up to tepid levels by your body heat. As a result, your pee will mingle with this colder water and cool off in seconds. So, if the only reason that you’re peeing in your wetsuit is for matters of thermoregulation, we advise either swimming harder, or choosing a wetsuit that better matches the water temperatures you’re dealing with.
How to pee in your wetsuit
Now we’ve cleared up those myths, if you need to pee in your wetsuit out of necessity – because you’re miles from shore, deep in training or the burden of wrestling off a wet wetsuit and trying to get it back on again in the same day is too much to bear – the main problem with doing so is that if you don’t take certain measures, you’ll end up with a foul-smelling wetsuit. A pissy wetsuit means a pissy car and a pissy wardrobe where you hang your wetsuit, plus no one will want to hang out with you at the beach anymore. If it gets so ripe that you need to replace it, that’s an expensive solution to an otherwise easily solvable problem.
So, yes you can pee in a wetsuit, but here’s how to make sure it doesn’t ruin your good times:
- Pee first: don’t be a dummy. Getting a wetsuit on is akin to wrestling with a bear cub and no one wants to do it twice in one day. Right before you put your wetsuit on, empty your bladder, and if you’re not going to be in the water for too long perhaps you don’t have to soil yourself every time.
- Flush after peeing: as soon as you’ve peed, flush your suit out by pulling the chest fabric and wrist cuffs away a couple of times to let water in and pee out. It will be cold, but remember water in your wetsuit is how it keeps you warm so just breathe.
- Rinse your wetsuit after using: after every use, peel your wetsuit off, turn it inside out and rinse it with clean water. You can even do this in the shower to save time. This will help keep it fresh.
- Wash your wetsuit regularly: in addition to rinsing your suit after each use, you can give it a proper scrub every few months. It’s not difficult, and we’ve outlined how to do it in our article on how to clean a wetsuit.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.