It can happen on a road trip. It can happen on a hike. It can even happen at a concert: sometimes, there’s just nowhere clean or with enough coverage for a woman to urinate.
For Adyn Sonju and her Northwest Montana friends, the moments were common on hikes, when the gals would decide it was time to go, and wander into the bushes, leaving their husbands as the “pee police” to protect their backs while they went.
They’d heard of products that women can use to help them urinate standing up, funnels of some sort, and the group of women decided it was time to try them out, to see if there was a better alternative to having to pull down all their layers and expose themselves to the elements just to get some relief.
“We had used all of the different products and failed in some way,” Sonju said in an interview last week.
Such accessories for women aren’t new to the marketplace; most outdoor shops sell a version since the GoGirl product launched in 2009. As an accessory, these products help women pee in places they otherwise wouldn’t.
They’re used on hikes, while skiing and snowboarding, on road trips when those rest stops just aren’t close enough, and when those rest stops or outhouses are too gross.
These products are also helpful for people with disabilities or who otherwise cannot squat for a various number of reasons, such as pregnancy.
Sonju said she and her friends decided that the product had its merits, despite a bit of a stigma — some people think women use them to be like men, she said, which isn’t the case at all. It’s rather a case of women being able to use an accessory for convenience, safety, and hygiene.
“It’s really surprising how convenient it is,” Sonju said. “Women are so used to being inconvenienced that it’s the norm.”
But while the women liked the concept, they hadn’t found a product that worked perfectly. So they decided to build their own. They tested all the products on the market, figured out what needed to be better, and then took one to two years to design the Tinkle Belle.
The product had to work while the operator could remain fully clothed, and it can’t collapse while in use. Length is important — “size matters,” Sonju said, with a laugh — to avoid sprinkling the user’s feet. It had to be foldable and washable, made with products that repel microbes and liquid. It also had to be intuitive and anatomically shaped.
Thus, the Tinkle Belle was born. They launched the product in January at a trade show, and it has a solid online following. Currently, the Tinkle Belle is earning online votes to become one of the Top 10 Best Gifts for Road Trippers from USA Today.
But just having the product didn’t seem like enough, because the women who started the business wanted to build a product that benefits as many people as possible.
Proceeds from the Tinkle Belle business benefit the God Forgives Foundation, a non-denominational foundation that builds and maintains orphanages in other countries.
“It’s exponential how many kids you can help off of this,” Sonju said. “And we wanted to do something for them.”
The product is made from recyclable materials and manufactured in the United States. It comes with a discrete travel case, and is easily washable with soap and water. Sonju said she keeps a pack of wet wipes in her travel pack as well.
Hopefully, she said, we are approaching the end of the era when women decide to dehydrate themselves on a hike rather than pee in mixed or unknown company, when they don’t feel safe enough on a road trip to pull over and pull down all their layers.
“We tried to build the best,” Sonju said. “It can be life-changing for some women.”
The Tinkle Belle is available locally at Rocky Mountain Outfitter in Kalispell. For more information, visit www.thetinklebelle.com.