Helloooo Lady Hiker! Today, I am going to share some tips to keep you clean and comfy while hiking on your period.
First off, it’s really not that bad! Especially if you are prepared, have the supplies you need, and know your body well enough to be familiar with your period and cycle.
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For a long time, I’ve used tampons. O.B. Tampons. I used to love these things! For some reason, I never quite got the hang of using an applicator, so even as a teen I would push the tampon out the applicator, then insert it with my fingers. I rejoiced when I discovered OB tampons, they don’t have applicator waste to begin with!
And that makes them amazing for backpacking because they are tiny! And create hardly any trash to pack out.
Leave No Trace While Hiking On Your Period
If you do you use tampons or pads in the woods, you must pack out all your trash and Leave No Trace. Please. No one wants to see you applicators or used tampons on the ground or dug up by animals. And the wonderful trail crews who maintain the trail you’re enjoying don’t want to hand pick them out of privies either.
So how do you pack it out?
It’s simple, here’s what I do – when I’m having my period I keep a separate ziplock bag right, inside of a paper bag, next to my toilet paper and hand sani in my pack. Then whenever I need to change it out, I put the used tampon and any trash inside the special ziploc bag. I put inside a paper bag just for aesthetics, so I or my hiking partners don’t have to see my used tampons. Some ladies line their ziploc bag with duct tape for the same purpose.
Side note – I always put this bag, along with my toothbrush and toothepaste, and all smellables on my bear bag line at night. Just in case. I would imagine even in a ziploc bag it has a special scent to animals, so I hang it just to avoid trouble.
This past summer, however, I was introduced to the Diva Cup by my lady coworkers at Outward Bound.
I had heard of menstrual cups before. And even tried the disposable Softcup before my AT trek in 2013. But I leaked a lot with it, maybe I had it in wrong, but I tried multiple times and always leaked, which is a no go when you only have one set of clothes! I give the Softcup a big thumbs down.
But the Diva Cup, is a game changer! And it only took a couple days for me to learn how to use it and feel confident with it. You should always test these things ahead of time and practice at home before heading out on the trail.
Here’s why the Diva Cup is amazing for hiking and backpacking:
- I don’t have any leaks!! Seriously. No. Leaks. (I still leaked pretty frequently using tampons, you don’t know they’re full till it’s too late! Know what I mean? No? I’m the only one?) *If it’s not inserted properly, you may leak, that’s a sign it’s not in right, so take a break and readjust*
- I only have to empty it/clean it twice a day! (Way less than I would have to change out tampons) Which is very convenient to empty it when you wake up in the morning, while still at camp, and then again before you go to bed. I don’t have to worry about it all day while you hike. Keep track of how much you bleed though, you may have to empty it more often.
- Menstrual cups have not been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is a major concern for women in woods using tampons because they can accidentally get left in too long. While TSS is always technically a risk, just be careful, clean it frequently, and then don’t worry about TSS too much.
- You truly can’t tell it’s in there, if it’s in there properly, which sets you up for a comfy day of hiking, climbing, playing, etc.
- No trash to pack out! Just empty your menstrual cup in a cathole as you would any other human waste, clean it with *treated* water, and reinsert, or pack it when you’re done.
I haven’t yet mastered my Diva Cup cleaning routine in the rain without getting myself pretty damp, squatting, half naked, getting rained on…. but I will master it this summer and keep you posted!
For more backpacking tips, check out:
- How to make more time for hiking
- How to choose the best backpacking stove
- What to include in your hiking itinerary
- Tips for staying hydrated on the trail