Your period doesn't have to be a limitation to hiking
My experience hiking on my period spans the whole spectrum of crummy to just regular. From hikes where it was almost like I wasn’t on my period to soiled underwear, smelly odors, completely bloody hands and tears streaming down my face. At one point I was so scarred from it, I avoided hiking while on my period altogether. After a time, I realized my quality of life was lower than it could be because I was missing out on so many good hiking opportunities.
I decided to get smart about it by trying different methods. I want to share my experiences hiking on my period with you so you don’t have to go through the same trials and tribulations on the trail. I promise, it’s completely possible to do, but first I want to explain why you should even try. Then we’ll delve into best practices and some products you should try!
Benefits of Hiking on Your Period
Why is dealing with the hassle of hiking or backpacking while on your period even worth it? Besides just avoiding serious FOMO, there are some real benefits to hiking on your period. Namely, it:
- Reduces Stress – With periods come heightened irritability and stress. You can improve your mood and fight back thoughts of worry when you get outdoors. According to Harvard, “interacting with natural spaces offers other therapeutic benefits.” Personally, no matter how crummy my mood is, whether on or off my period, being outdoors always improves it.
- Soothes Menstrual Pain – Aerobic exercise can reduce period pain for many women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And since hiking is a form of aerobic exercise, it can help with your cramps. Even though I’ve had some crummy blood-related hiking experiences, cramps aren’t a problem when I hike.
The number one priority in hiking on your period is to stay clean. One important aspect of doing so is to wear underwear that’s breathable and that wick well. This is particularly helpful when you’re backpacking because those types of underwear are easier to clean and dry quickly when you change them out. My favorite are these Patagonia active briefs, which I’ve used for years. (Some of the products links in this post give me a small incentive if you purchase from my link, but your cost doesn’t increase.) If you’re doing a trip of more than one night, I recommend bring two extra pair to rotate out.
Clean underwear won’t help you stay clean if you can’t wash your parts. I’ve found unscented, pH-balanced wipes to be the most sanitary for wiping hands (before and after), vulva, vagina, and booty. I wish I could say I had a more environmentally friendly option for this, but I haven’t found one yet. (If you know of one, please share with me!)
Undoubtedly, you’ll get some blood under your fingernails, which is really hard to get out without running water. A bristle brush and some water will take care of that. Top that off with some hand sanitizer and you’ll be as clean as you can get in the wild.
Keeping clean is great and all, but what do you do with all those wipes, tampons, and toilet paper?
When I said the most important thing about period hiking is staying clean, I didn’t mean only your body. I also meant keeping the environment clean. (See my Leave No Trace post to learn more.) Unless you’re in the front country where there are trash cans, you should carry all of your waste with you on the trail. Don’t throw out or dig any of your period litter while you’re out hiking. There are a few ways you can do this, such as with a resealable baggy, but I prefer a different method.
Wrap a Nalgene bottle in one layer of duct tape and stuff your waste into it along your trek. The duct tape acts as a visual concealer and an emergency material you can peel off if you need to fix something. The best part about this is that with the lid secured, you can’t smell what’s inside and there is very low risk of puncturing the bottle like you would with a resealable bag! Your nose and fellow hikers will be grateful and no critters won’t be tempted to check out the interesting smells coming from your pack.
Once you end your trek, remove your junk, clean the bottle and store it for future waste use. If you just can’t see yourself cleaning that, I recommend re-using an Gatorade bottle in the same way.
What to Avoid
While hiking on your period is completely possible, there are a couple of things I recommend avoiding. Never try a new blood collection method on a hike. Make sure you are confident with a new routine in your everyday life before you take it outdoors. That might mean scheduling trips around your period while you try something new, but it will save you potential experiences like I had in Peru (see video above).
Avoid period underwear that don’t breathe, such as Thinx. The few times I tried them on hikes they prevented leakage, but they also gave me major swamp everything. Not only is that uncomfortable, but it’s also a key ingredient to getting an infection.
Now that you know what to avoid, I want to highlight some products that can make your hiking on your period easier.
Carrying less material will always make your trek a little easier. And ounces add to pounds. So the two types of products I’m highlighting below are lighter options to traditional period products. They’re also more eco-friendly!
First up, probably the most environmentally responsible period product is the menstrual cup. Essentially its a little BPA-free, flexible plastic cup that sits in your vagina and collects blood. With this product, there’s nothing to dispose of besides blood. You can re-use it many times. Among menstrual cup options are the Diva Cup and the Lena Cup.
If you’re like me and none of the menstrual cups work for you, consider trying out the Thinx re.t.a Tampon Applicator with O.B. Applicator Free Tampons to go inside. It reduces the one-time use plastic and will be less bulk and weight you have to carry in your pack. The applicator is easy to keep clean and your hands will have less blood on them after changing out tampons.
Do you have any products you love? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
I hope this post inspires you to day hike and backpack regardless of whether you’re on your period. Now you know how to deal with hygiene, disposal, methods to avoid, and some products to make everything easier.
And if you do have experience with hiking on your period, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below or share your story with me on Instagram!