Ask someone in January 2020 where we’d be by summer, and I don’t think anyone could have predicted that masks would be the must-have summer accessory. But it gets weirder. Because one of the hottest products of the moment is a portable urinal called the Travel John.
According to Crain’s, the Amazon search rank for “Travel John disposable urinal bags” has grown five times between May and June as a surge of families plan to take road trips while avoiding public bathrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company says it is experiencing a “drastic increase” in product demand, according to Crain’s. Though as of the time of writing this article, Travel Johns are still available on Amazon through various third-party sellers, starting at about $17 for a six-pack.
What exactly is a Travel John? It’s essentially a plastic funnel attached to a paper bag that’s filled with crystals. You press the funnel to your body to urinate into the bag, the crystals absorb the liquid, turning into a gel that contains the liquid and smell. Then you can throw the bag right into the trash. The Travel John also comes in a Travel Jane variety (complete with its own as-offensive-as-you-can-imagine pink box). But there’s no actual difference between the John and Jane products beyond the packaging. The funnel is designed to be unisex, and from reading reviews across the web, it seems to work as advertised.
As one reviewer on Amazon explains, “At first I was skeptical and when I did go in it, it looked like a paper bag full of pee. But then the gel started absorbing and the liquid started disappearing. By George, it was working!”
Another, far more interesting reviewer on Amazon shared her experience: “I’m a bit different—I’m a female private investigator. This means I have to sit in my car for hours. When men are private investigators, they can just use a bottle. I don’t want to have to leave the scene I’m investigating just because I’m a girl. These Traveljohns are amazing. I tried something else before that didn’t work at all. With traveljohns, I don’t even have to get out of the front seat of my car. It’s kind of gross to discuss, but these work and they do not leak. No accidents. Just make sure the bag is straight and not twisted. Also, they do have a limit on the amount of liquid they can take (although it’s a lot), so if you have to go really badly just make sure you are mindful of when it is getting full.”
Suffice it to say, Travel John reviews are a real rabbit hole full of intrigue, drama, and occasional spillage. Expect that rest stop trash cans everywhere are about to be overflowing with gelatinous bags of pee.