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Your Guide to Periods on the Trail

Have you got that big wilderness backpacking or camping trip planned months in advance? The gear list is made, plane tickets are bought, partners are lined up. But, as the day gets closer, you realize with horror that you’re going to get your period during the trip.

I know that it’s often the last thing I want to deal with at home, much less when I’m out backpacking or camping. However, it’s not as terrible as you might think.

I’ll share a few of my favourite tips for dealing with it in style including what to do with soiled feminine hygiene products, how to keep clean, and one environmentally-friendly product that you’ll want to try out.

eco friendly period while traveling
Image Credit: jlbolenFlickr, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Tip #1: Leave No Trace

The first thing to keep in mind about periods in the wilderness is the mantra, “Leave no Trace.” This applies to disposable period products like pads and tampons as well as everything else. The goal is to leave the area cleaner than you found it!

The solution? Most of up carry a big Ziplock bag for trash. Just throw your soiled period products in there and pack them out with you. You may be tempted to dig a hole and bury them, but that’s only something you might consider doing for easily biodegradable things like toilet paper.

Tampons and pads? Not so much because they’re made at least partly with plastic. Pack them out with you!

Tip #2: Wet Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

It can be difficult to keep things clean “down there” when you’re backpacking. Having your period makes this even harder. You’ll probably want to though in order to prevent things like yeast infections.

That’s why I usually carry some hand sanitizer. Before taking out a tampon, or removing a menstrual cup, I”ll give me hands a squirt with it.

I also carry a small bag of wet wipes for some extra cleaning if necessary. Of course, don’t just throw them on the ground when you’re done, but pack them out in your trash bag.

Tip #3: Consider a Menstrual Cup

Many people just use tampons when they have their period in the wilderness. However, there is a better option—the menstrual cup. Here are a couple of the reasons why you might want to consider one.

Zero Waste

Menstrual cups are a reusable product and most of them last for around five years. If you’re looking to go eco-friendly for your period, then a menstrual cup is the ultimate product!

On the trail, you’ll just have to take out your cup, dig a hole to dump the menstrual fluid into, give it a squirt with water from your water bottle to clean it, and then reinsert it.

It’s far easier than dealing with soiled pads or tampons.

Important: Be sure to only use potable, treated water to clean your menstrual cup with. You don’t want to introduce all sorts of random bacteria into your vagina from some backcountry stream.

3x Higher Capacity

Jumbo tampons hold around 10 ml of fluid while the average menstrual cup holds 30. This means 3x less period hassle, and the better news is that you have only have to change it every 12 hours.

If your period isn’t that heavy, you can empty your cup once in the morning when you wake up, and then again before you go to bed.

Be aware: there is a learning curve to menstrual cups, so be sure to practice with it for a few cycles before hitting the trail.

Which Menstrual Cup to Buy?

These days, there are more than 100 menstrual cups you can buy. It can be a bit overwhelming to find the right one for your body type.

One of the best places to start is a menstrual cup quiz that’ll help you narrow down your choices. Here is one of my favourites:

Find the Perfect Menstrual Cup with this Quiz

About the Author

Jackie Bolen is a tree-hugging, friend of the Earth who can usually be found on top of a mountain, padding the rivers, or drinking coffee around Vancouver, Canada. She hopes that a reusable feminine hygiene product will one day be found in the hands of every single menstruating person in the world. You can find her here on Pinterest and YouTube.

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