Backpacking or Camping On Your Period: What You Need To Know
You're stoked about your upcoming thru-hike—but you know your period will start either right before or during the trip. Time to freak, right? Nope. With a little preparation and homework done beforehand, you won’t have to think twice about heading into the backcountry at any time of the month.
Vaginal (Yeast) Infection: This is due to an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina and results in discharge, itching, soreness, and mild to severe discomfort. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): This infection is caused by germs getting into the urinary tract system. Preventing UTI’s is critical because the infection can travel up to the kidneys and must be treated with antibiotics.
Keep It... Dry: Sport comfortable underwear that will promote a dry environment for your nether regions, as bacteria is more apt to grow in damp conditions. While cotton underwear is, by far, the more comfortable undergarment option, its prolonged dry time can trap moisture and act as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Synthetic or merino wool underwear is the preferred alternative because it wicks away moisture and the loose weave of wool makes it easier to clean. Clean: Maintaining and promoting the good bacteria in your vagina is just as vital as keeping the bad bacteria away. Aim to clean your area, not your actual vagina, at least once a day with PH-balanced soap and clean water, depending on your activity level for that day. Incorporate underwear washing into your daily routine. If you don't have the opportunity or weather conditions don't permit, use a wet wipe or panty liner to keep your area fresh and bacteria free. On the flip side, when you're popping a squat off the trail, don't forget to wipe front to back unless you, uh, have been dying to know what a UTI feels like (it's awful). Additionally, consider packing dried cranberries or cranberry pills, they help to cleanse your urinary tract and prevent infection. Hydrated: If you are dehydrated or trying to avoid having to pee outside, you will increase your chances for a UTI because you are not adequately flushing your system. Hydrate generously throughout the day, stop at dinner and urinate as frequently as you can before bedtime to prevent clumsy midnight trips to your pee spot.
Menstrual Cup vs. Tampons
Menstrual Cup: This is a flexible silicone or rubber cup you insert to catch the menstrual blood. Menstrual or "Diva" Cups are not disposable like tampons, they can be used multiple times. Brands may have different sizes based on your age, the severity of flow or childbirth history. Once you insert the cup you can keep it in for up to 12 hours. Then you remove it and empty the contents into your “cat hole” (the hole you dig for bathroom use during a backpacking trip). After you empty out the cup, rinse with clean water or tissue, and reinsert it. Pros:
The Diva Cup is reusable and lightweight, so you only have to bring one item instead of multiple tampons/pads that help to weigh down your pack.
It eliminates material waste, making it more environmentally friendly than tampons.
You’re not exposed to bleach, dioxin or fibers found in some tampon brands.
Inserting and removing a cup takes practice—consider practicing at home and use the cup during a couple of menstrual cycles before you go backpacking.
Lack of soap and water to clean your hands.
Tampons/Pads: If these are what you’re comfortable with, and you don’t like the idea of or can’t get the hang of the menstrual cup, it may be best to stick with the traditional Kotex Sport and overnight pads. If you have lighter periods, this would be the preferred method of menstrual hygiene. Pros:
You can pack tampons without applicators to take up less space.
You know the routine and it works for you.
You have to pack them in, it takes up precious space and ounces in your pack.
Additionally, you have to pack out every single used tampon and pad in a special waste bag. (It’s important not to bury a used tampon or pad in your cat hole because animals can and will dig them up.)
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