Hiking and wild camping are two of my favourite ways to experience Scotland’s nature in all its beauty and to get far away from civilisation. However, wild camping while you have your period might spoil the experience! Don’t throw in the towel, though! In this post, guest blogger and hiking expert Laura May is sharing her top tips for hiking and wild camping on your period.
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Anyone outdoor lover who menstruates will have experience planning their overnight hiking trips or walking holidays around their natural cycles.
Wild camping without the comfort of toilet facilities and running water can be an uncomfortable experience, to begin with. The prospect of wild camping while having your period can be the last nail in that coffin, that keeps you off the trail.
But no one should stay home just because they are menstruating. I asked Laura May from Just Another Magazine to share her top tips for anyone who wants to go camping on their period.
Read on to find out:
- How to maintain hygiene while hiking & camping on your period,
- Laura’s recommendation for reusable sanitary products,
- Some essentials for your camping packing list,
- And some myth-busting around periods and wildlife!
Here is Laura’ expert advice for camping while menstruating.
If you love hiking and wild camping but you’re a person with periods, you’ve probably tried to avoid this combination in the past.
But sometimes, it can’t be avoided. Or perhaps you just don’t want to throw the towel in (excuse the pun) on that wild camping trip or walking holiday that you’ve spent weeks planning, just because your period has decided to call in.
Anyway, if you’ve decided to go hiking and wild camping on your period for whatever reason, then there are ways that you can make your whole experience much easier and much more enjoyable.
Here are five top tips for hiking and wild camping on your period:
Keep clean & maintain hygiene
This is probably the hardest thing you’ll have to face when you’re wild-camping on your period: keeping clean and maintaining hygiene.
It’s not easy feeling clean while menstruating at the best of times, but staying fresh on the trail is even harder. And when you’re wild-camping you don’t have the luxury of a toilet block and warm showers to make everything better either. So what do you do?
Luckily, you’ve got a few options. If you’re wild-camping in the summer and the weather is warm, then you can always have a quick dip in a lake or wash off in a river (bonus points if you can shower in a waterfall!). Trust us, nothing is better than a refreshing wild swim after a long, sweaty day of hiking.
If you’re camping/walking in an area without a body of water or you’re not keen on jumping in a loch to get clean (the water can be bracing, to say the least), then you have some alternatives — don’t worry!
Here are some items to add to your Scotland packing list:
Wet wipes are a must-have for hiking and camping on your period — preferably feminine wipes which will be much kinder to your sensitive areas. They’re not perfect (soap and water are better), but they’ll help you to feel fresh and keep you clean while you’re on your trip.
It’s also a good idea to bring hand sanitiser to keep your hands clean when you’re changing products or going to the loo.
If you’re using a menstrual cup (more on those below) and you’re worried about getting your hands dirty on removal, then you can always bring some latex medical gloves — though you’ll have to have a sealable ‘bin’ bag to store them and any other waste.
Be eco-friendly with reusable sanitary products
Trying to decide which period products you’re going to use while you’re hiking and wild camping is a dilemma and a half.
Although you may find sanitary pads the more comfortable things to wear normally, we’d advise against wearing them while hiking; use a pad for any length of time while you’re walking and you’ll find it usually slips, chafes and is a general pain.
They’re also more difficult to store once used — digging a hole and burying them is an absolute no-no (they take hundreds of years to decompose, and can be dug up by animals), so you’ll have to have a sealed waste bag instead. The same goes for tampons, although at least they are more comfortable to use, make you feel less messy, and are a bit smaller.
Consider using eco-friendly sanitary products instead, such as menstrual cups and period pants (we’d advise a combination).
Check the Scottish Outdoor Access Code for more rules about litter and disposing of human waste.
Menstrual cups are a great alternative to tampons and pads; not only are they eco-friendly (you just reuse the same one, rather than using and disposing of lots of pads), but they’ll also save on space and the need for a waste bag in your backpack.
They’re very comfortable for when you’re hiking — if you find the right size and shape cup for you (most brands offer at least two different sizes), the only time you’ll notice it is when you’re removing or inserting it.
If you’re planning on using a menstrual cup while you’re away, it’s best to practise using it at home first; it can take a bit of time/a few goes to get used to inserting and removing it smoothly.
Period underwear is another amazing eco-friendly alternative to conventional period products. You wear them just like normal pants, but they’re leakproof and absorb your flow (some can hold up to 4 tampons worth).
There are loads of brands now that do period underwear (like Knix, Modibodi or Thinx). They offer various styles (such as briefs, boyshorts, and thongs) and different absorbency levels to choose from too, so it’s just a case of finding the ones you feel most comfortable in.
Depending on how heavy your flow is, you can wear them on their own, or double-up with a cup for double protection.
It’s a good idea to bring at least two-three pairs of period pants for your camping trip so that you can rotate them and wear one pair while the other is drying after cleaning.
They’re a bit harder to clean than menstrual cups when you’re wild-camping, but you can wash them with hot water and soap in a designated bowl.
The good news is that period pants are made to be quick-drying, so they should dry overnight (and if the weather is warm and breezy, all the better).
Pack these travel essentials to stay organised, prepared and stress-free
So you’ve got your period products sorted (and hopefully they’re eco-friendly too!).
Next, you need to pack a menstruation management kit, full of period travel essentials. This will help you to stay organised, prepared and stress-free during your wild camping trip, whatever your period throws at you.
I’d recommend packing the below items:
- Feminine or wet wipes — as we’ve covered before, these will help you feel fresh when you’re not able to shower or bathe properly.
- Tissues/loo roll — handy for any camping or hiking trip, let alone when you’re adventuring on your period. Ideally kept in a ziplock bag to keep dry.
- Soap — cleaning your hands with soap and water before and after changing a tampon or cup prevents infection.
- Antibacterial hand sanitiser — if you can’t wash your hands, these are the next best thing for getting rid of germs and feeling clean.
- Latex medical gloves — sounds bizarre, but if you’re working with a menstrual cup, removing it cleanly can sometimes be tricky and gloves will really help when you’re unable to wash your hands.
- A sealable ‘bin’ bag — if you need to store any used products or other waste, you really need a sealable bag for hygiene.
- A cleaning bowl — you can just rinse cups, but if you want to clean cups and period pants properly, you can wash them in hot soapy water. Just make sure you rinse thoroughly to avoid any irritation. Once you get home you can clean thoroughly and sterilise.
Best ways to cope with discomfort when out and about
Now that you’ve got the logistics of dealing with your period out of the way, it’s time to deal with the side effects of menstruation — namely, the cramping, discomfort and general pain of having your period.
Sometimes, it can truly feel like your uterus is about to fall out, and this is not made any better by wild-camping away from home comforts such as your own bed, a duvet to curl up under, and shops that sell Ben and Jerry’s. So how do you cope when you’re camping?
Well, first of all, painkillers need to go on your packing list. Whether it’s Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, pain relief should be part of your first aid kit anyway — so make sure you have enough packed to help with any period pains.
Next up, bring some type of heat treatment. When applied to your abdomen, heat can reduce period pain and cramps, increasing blood flow to your contracting (cramping) muscles, and dulling the pain receptors in your skin.
A hot water bottle can be a lifesaver when you’re struggling with period pains, so why not bring it camping with you? After all, it’s easy enough to boil the kettle on your camping stove and fill it up.
If you want a hot water bottle alternative (maybe you only have a limited supply of water, or you can’t be bothered with the faff of boiling your kettle again after using it for dinner and washing up) then you can always pack some portable heat pads or heat plasters.
These are awesome — all you have to do is apply them to your stomach, where they will ‘activate’ and heat up within five minutes; providing you with heat for up to 24 hours, depending on the brand and type that you’ve bought.
Herbal teas like chamomile and peppermint that have relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties can also help with period pains and cramping. Try sipping a hot brew in the evenings to soothe you.
Don’t believe the myths about animals & menstrual blood
There is a lot of confusion — and many myths — related to animals being attracted to menstrual blood. Bears, sharks, wolves, and lions are all rumoured to be attracted to the smell of menstrual blood.
If you’re wild-camping and hiking in a remote area (especially if you’re hiking on your own), then the idea that your period will make you more susceptible to while animal attacks, is pretty terrifying.
Luckily, sharks, bears and lions are in pretty short supply in Scotland. (Even though there is lots of other wildlife in Scotland.)
And even if they were, your period will not attract them. This is a common fear when hiking in Canada and North America where there is a decent-sized bear population.
The same can be said for all other animals: they will not sniff out people on their periods and eat them, so you can tick this off your list of things to worry about when you’re wild camping.
Hiking and wild-camping on your period can be a bit more challenging than usual, but with some preparation and planning, it can be made much easier. Follow the five tips above, and you’ll find menstruation management on your hiking trip a breeze.
About the author:
Laura May is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine. We write about beauty, fashion, lifestyle, relationships, travel, trends and anything else that matters to you. Name throwing you off? Don’t take it too seriously – we intend to stand out from the crowd.
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.