An In-Depth Analysis of Backcountry Feminine Hygiene
By Ramey Harris '98 (student trip leader 1995-98)
Dealing with your period in the woods may sound like a bummer, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few suggestions for making yourself as comfortable and prepared as possible.
- Be Prepared. Even if you are not expecting to get your period during the trip, bring adequate supplies anyway. The change in diet, the strenuous exercise, and spending a lot of time with other women can all affect your cycle. This is even true if you are on the pill. Your leaders will not have extra supplies, nor will you have access to a store, so come equipped!
- The Backcountry Period Kit. We suggest the following system for dealing with feminine hygiene in the woods.
- 1 small, dark colored, opaque bag or stuff sack
- 3 small ziplock bags
- 1 travel pack of baby wipes (for cleaning purposes)
- A generous supply of tampons (tampons are much easier to deal with than pads, but if you have to use pads, go ahead). Tampons without an applicator (like OB) are ideal because they produce the least waste & take up the least space in your pack.
- Take the tampons (or pads) out of the box and put them all into one ziplock bag. (Why carry around a useless cardboard box all week? The ziplock will also protect your supply from the rain.)
- Put the travel pack of baby wipes inside a second ziplock bag. (Keep those vital cleaning supplies moist & protected from the elements.)
- Keep the third ziplock bag empty to use as a mini-garbage for used supplies -- all dirty baby wipes, used tampons, and tampon wrappers should go into the garbage ziplock. (Kind to the environment and to the group garbage!) If you are a pad user, you may need bigger and/or multiple ziplocks. If you are concerned about odor, you can put a used tea bag in the garbage ziplock after breakfast on the trail.
- Put all three bags inside the opaque bag. Voila: you have a self-contained period kit! (Oh, so neat and discreet.) On the trail, you should keep this in an accessible part of your pack.
The Pee Rag. Many female trippers are surprised to learn that their male counterparts generally do not use toilet paper when they pee; many male trippers are surprised to learn that their female counterparts do. Since we may not be using toilet paper on the trail, some female trippers may prefer to bring an extra bandana (or half a bandana -- just cut it with scissors) that they can use as a pee rag. If you are well hydrated (as you should be), the pee rag will not have much odor at all. Of course, "drip dry" is always an option.