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What to do when you get your period in the backcountry?

When I’m not working for Babes, I lead trips for high school students. Therefore I am often talking with young women about how to deal with getting periods in the backcountry.   Here are some tips and pointers I’ve picked up, read, invented, taught and learned from my students over the years.

1. You will get your period on your trip even if its “not time.” Bring supplies! It is very likely that you will get your period even though you just got it last week.  This can be true even if you are very regular or know your body well.   Believe me. Maybe you’ll even get your period twice on the 3-week trip.  Bring extras for your friend who didn’t bring anything.  Yup, even if you’re on the pill.

2. As usual, wipe front to back to help avoid infections.

3. Drink plenty of water to pee often and avoid UTIs.

4. Bring 2 baby wipes/day, one for wiping poop and one for wiping in front.  Carry out the trash in a ziplock bag.

5. Some people bring a bandana as a pee rag— wipe your pee and then tie your bandana on the outside of your pack to dry and get “sanitized” by the sun.  I tend to shake and drip dry as best I can; and pack a new pair of underwear per day.  However, the bandana method is definitely useful and works well, and actually does feel relatively clean.

6. Bring a trash bag for used tampons, baby wipes, pads, whatever.  Some people even bring a new little doggie bag for each day.  Each doggy bag then goes in a quart sized zip lock.  That way you never have to re-open your trash bag, and the opaque color of the bag covers up your trash.

7. Bury your poop. In a hole at least 6 inches deep.  Only human waste goes in the hole. Pack out your toilet paper, tampons, and any other trash.

8. DON’T BURY TRASH.  Animals will dig up your tampons, toilet paper, etc and strew them about the wilderness. You often see toilet paper strewn around campsites, and often that eye sore is from people who buried their tp, not realizing that it will be unburied by animals or unleashed during the next rainstorm.  Always pack out all of your trash, including tampons, pads, toilet paper, baby wipes, etc so that future travelers can have a litter-free experience.

9. OB tampons are applicator free = less trash to carry out. Some people prefer this.  I personally prefer tampons with the applicator because my hands and fingernails are sometimes so dirty while hiking that I don’t want my dirty hands contaminating my cleanest parts. That being said, I’ve not heard of anyone having problems when using applicator free OB tampons in the backcountry.

10. The Diva Cup. This is pretty cool as there’s no trash involved.  It’s nice to be able to use the backcountry bidet with this method– and have access to plenty of water to wash up,  wash hands, rinse your cup.  Again this method is best if you can wash your hands before and after.  Always wash away from streams, lakes, and other water sources.  Usually that means filling up your water bags and hiking 200 yards away from a stream.

11. Thinx panties.  It is great to just let your panties be super absorbent and not have to also carry pantyliners.  When dirty, they do smell like old blood (just as a pad does.) We could rinse them away from a creek and hang to dry. The Thinx do take a couple days to dry out.  I’ll give this an actual field test soon and let you know how it works out.

12. Ibuprofen (Advil, or similar brand.) for cramps.

13. Raspberry LEAF team for cramps. This helps me a lot.

14. Adhesive Toe Warmers.  I use these as a heating pack to help relieve cramping.  It’s nice because they’re thin, I can stick them on the outside of my underwear inside my pants, and still walk around and do stuff.

15. What tips and techniques do you have??