Managing Your Period in the Outdoors

June 2 2022 | Written by Nadia Ladak (She/Her)

What to do if you’re on your period while hiking or camping

If you’re anything like me, as soon as summer rolls around, the only thing you want to do is head out to your local park to go camping. You book your trips months in advance and start a countdown. You can’t wait to sit around the campfire and hear the crackles of the fire under the bright starry sky, it’s the ultimate summer feeling. The time finally rolls around for your trip and you’re getting ready to leave when all of a sudden, yup your cycle has started. With worrying about your packs, your food, and tent, the last thing you want to worry about is packing menstrual products too. With limited access to proper bathrooms, it’s no surprise that camping or hiking on your period is daunting for many individuals. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! We never want your period to hold you back from doing what you love, including being a barrier for you in the great outdoors. In this blog, we dive into the ultimate guide for hiking and camping on your period. Whether it’s which product to use, how to dispose of your products, or tips and tricks to make the process as smooth as possible, we’ve got you covered! 

The verdict from our community

We always love hearing from our community, so we ran a poll to see how many of you participate in outdoor activities, and whether you struggle managing your period in the outdoors. Check out the verdict below.

Which products should I use while camping?

Most individuals find it easiest to use a menstrual cup or tampon since they can typically be worn longer than pads. (Remember, don't wear your tampon for longer than 8 hours!) Tampons and menstrual cups are internally worn products, so you should barely notice them throughout the day, allowing you to fully participate in camping activities like hiking and swimming. You can also use a pad or period underwear depending on your preference, however these won't be effective if you end up going for a swim. To learn more about the pros and cons of each option, keep reading below!

Menstrual Cups

Pros

  • Lightweight and reusable: you only have to bring one cup so it won’t take up too much space in your pack.

Cons

  • Cleaning: it may be harder to clean your cup while on the trail with limited access to proper sanitation facilities. 
  • Insertion: for some individuals, inserting menstrual cups can be painful and takes a lot of practice to get it right. If it’s your first time using one, you may want to practice a few times before hitting the trail.

Tampons

Pros 

  • Insertion: you may be more comfortable or familiar with using tampons. If you experience any discomfort while inserting tampons, try using our Marlow lubricant to make it easier to insert! We also have a step by step guide to help you through the process of inserting.

Cons

  • Space in pack: unlike a menstrual cup, you need to change your tampon every 4-6 hours. On average you’ll need 18-20 tampons for your cycle and this can take up a lot of space in your pack.

Period Underwear

Pros

  • Comfort: If you don’t feel comfortable using internal products, this could be a good option for you. It avoids the bulkiness of pads and essentially feels like a normal pair of underwear.

Cons

  • Space in pack: since period underwear needs to be washed before reusing, you’ll have to bring several pairs with you on the trip which will take up more space in your pack.
  • Limited activities: unfortunately, you won't be able to swim with period underwear, as it would absorb water and become ineffective at absorbing blood.

Pads

Pros

  • Externally worn: if you're someone who prefers external products, then pads can be a good option! Also, if you have a light flow, pads typically do the job.

Cons

  • Space in pack: you may need to bring several pads, depending on your flow and how long you'll be outdoors. These typically take up more space than other period products would.
  • Comfort: some can find pads uncomfortable when active due to the slightly more bulky nature of the product
  • Limited activities: unfortunately, you won't be able to swim with a pad in, as the pad would absorb the water and become ineffective at absorbing blood.

Here's what our community prefers:

Will my used products or period blood attract bears?

This is a common fear for many campers. However, according to a recent Yellowstone National Park report, there is no evidence to prove that bears are attracted to period blood more than any other odour. To be safe, we still recommend storing used products in a canister, bear locker, or bear hang away from your tent and site.

How to dispose of your products

Following leave no trace principles and best practices, it’s important to not leave your products on the trail. Tampons and pads are not biodegradable so you shouldn’t leave them on the trail or in a thunderbox. Instead, you’ll need to pack out these items with you. We recommend having two bags: a clean bag and a waste bag.

Clean Bag

This bag will store your unused products. You can use a ziplock bag or dry bag.

Waste Bag

This bag will store your used products. We recommend first putting any used products into a plastic bag and then putting the plastic bag into a ziplock bag. This way, if the bag was to rip for any reason, there’s still a second bag to store your products. You can line your ziplock bag with aluminium foil to hide the contents of the bag. Extra tip: put a dry tea bag or ground coffee in the bag to mask any odours. 

Menstrual Cup

If you’re using a menstrual cup, you’ll need to dig a “cat hole” to pour the contents of the cup into. Make sure this hole is at least 200 feet away from your campsite.

Other Tips & Tricks

Having these other items will be helpful on the trail to make your period as smooth as possible:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Unscented wipes  
  • Hot water bottle - you can even use your Nalgene!
  • Tylenol 

Bonus tip: finding your hike this week particularly difficult? Well, it may have something to do with your cycle! Keep in mind that our hormones and energy levels ebb and flow with our menstrual cycles, so physical activity may be easier certain weeks, and more difficult at other times. To learn more, you can check out our post here on how your cycle and movement are related.

Wash Hands!

Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing a tampon or menstrual cup. 

Wrap-up

As you gear up for some beautiful trips this summer, don’t let your period deter you from having a great time. With the proper supplies and preparation, you should be able to enjoy your much anticipated camping trip.

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