Originally posted on The Trek on November 22nd, 2016
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you have been born with the damnation that is menstruation and that you were not born with a penis between your legs. You likely know that being a warrior princess out in the wilderness can be a bit complicated and so I would like to lay down the know regarding your options in order to keep you as comfortable and prepared as possible regarding our “biological differences” with our male counterparts. If you were born with a wang and have never experienced “that time of the month,” totally cool too! You might learn something new about the mysterious “Wo-Man” in her natural habitat.
Before we discuss matters of peeing in the woods as women, periods, feminine hygiene and such, there’s the oh so popular question, “Are bears attracted to women on their periods?” I’m not going to say one might not ask you out on a date to Applebee’s (bad, bad joke), but generally, no it’s a total myth. In other words, it’s safe to say you aren’t in any more danger than the opposite sex when it comes to bears, however, like anything else than carries an odor, be sure to pack out said products when you’re no longer wearing them, and keep them out of a bear’s reach properly hung in a tree, on a bear hook, in a bear box, etc. when you’re done for the day (just as you would with food, flavored beverages, toiletries, and anything else scented). There’s no statistical proof that women are more prone to bear attacks than men due to menstruation. More on that here and here.
NUMBER 1: PEEING IN THE WOODS
I think peeing in the woods for us ladies is recognizably more complicated than for the gentlemen. We don’t have the mechanics of a natural aiming device (unless you’re really talented). There are a couple options and techniques available out there to keep the pee off your pants from the dreaded “splashback effect.”
If these photos look familiar they’re from my mediocre drawings while working on my blog about pooping in the woods, and I highly recommend peeing with your pants down unlike these pictures. Remember, not peeing all over yourself is the goal.
Practice Practice Practice:
Getting proper aim takes practice. If you’re new to the concept, get used to a little splatter on your leg and feet. We’ve all been there at one point in time, trust me! However, I’m sure there might be an outdoor peeing prodigy somewhere. If that’s you, congratulations! You can practice in the shower if you feel so inclined. No one has to know, and hey, it’s eco-friendly to do so anyways! Just don’t break anything if you do!
Seek an Assist: Feminine Urination Device’s (FUD’s):
If this all has you overly anxious, there’s always the option of using an FUD (Feminine Urination Device) also called an STP (Stand To Pee) device, which is practically a funnel you place around your privates which directs your urine in a stream away from your body so you can avoid peeing all over yourself. There are so many options out there to choose from such as the GoGirl, to the SHEWEE, Freshette, to the pStyle. They come in different shapes, colors, sizes, and materials. You can find them at most outdoors stores or order them online. Standing up to pee is not for everyone, however! I tried one before and personally it’s not for me. I felt more awkward trying to use one than I did during 7th grade picture day, but there are plenty of ladies out there who love them.
Clean Up Options:
- Toilet Paper – If you use TP for clean up that’s great, just don’t fling it in the woods. If you do so, then you’re a disgusting disgrace and are making all womankind look bad. Pack it out or bury it.
- Nature’s TP – rock or leaf (just be wary of poison ivy)!
- Bandana Pee Rag – Use one of the cords from your pack, or tie a bandana to the back of it to reuse when you gotta pee, and so UV rays can assist in killing off any bacteria that could accumulate. Just don’t run around smacking fellow hikers with it as you will lose friends doing so.
- Rinse the V – Some people prefer to take a little water to their business after taking a tinkle or prior to going to bed to feel a little extra clean and this is followed by, but not required for the next on the list.
- Do the Shimmy – Shake it off like Ms. Swift demands, aka the Drip-Dry Method.
- They ARE NOT Trash Cans!!! – It’s insane how many people throw their trash in them and it’s annoys the be-Jesus out of me. DON’T DO IT! This includes: baby wipes, all feminine hygiene products, diapers, food wrappers, and pretty much anything that doesn’t come out of your butt or isn’t toilet paper. These items don’t decompose and if you throw them in there, some poor volunteer (that’s right, someone who likely isn’t even paid to do it!) will have to fish that stuff out of the piles and piles of poop that has accumulated there day after day. Not cool. Pack it out!
- Peeing in Privies – Urine is really not recommended in large amounts in most privies since the amount of moisture can slow the decomposition process. Ladies, I understand that, “sometimes when you poo, pee comes out too,” (thanks “Stage-left” for that witty slogan by the way, love it)! If at all possible, try to keep it limited.
MANAGING YOUR PERIOD: WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
Ah, the dreaded Aunt Flo. The relative who shows up every month to tell you you’re looking chubby and brings unwanted gifts. Not the most fun when she visits you out in the woods in attempts to embarrass you in front of all your new friends, huh? Ok, but seriously, that time of the month can really suck anywhere, but nowadays there are various options to choose from. Those that are of the “internal” variety I put in hiker-friendly because, chaff happens. Although, if those aren’t your thing, there are still options, they just might be a lot less comfortable.
- Pros – Comfortable (Internal-use). Clean (exterior-wise). Quick and easy clean up.
- Cons – Not cost efficient (non-reusable) so it can get expensive. Unless you mail them ahead, you’ll have to carry a lot of them at a time which can bulk up your pack, or you would otherwise lose money by taking what you need and ditching the rest. You need to pack it out which is kind of gross. When you hang your food bag, you’ll have to hang used tampons (and applicators too if you use them) in order to keep mice from throwing a nasty little fiesta with the remains and to avoid other pests.
- Menstrual Cups
- Pros – Comfortable (Internal-use) once you get used to inserting them. Clean (exterior-wise). Cost-efficient (Reusable) and nothing to pack-out. Lightweight. It can be worn up to 12 hours (may need to be dumped more than that depending on your current cycle). For more information, you can check these popular brands: Diva Cup, LadyCup, Lunette, LENA, and Softcup.
- Cons – It can take time to get used to inserting properly and so may be uncomfortable at first. You will need to keep your hands clean for inserting (to prevent introducing bacteria to your V), and may need to clean them after. You will need to clean the cup between uses or between cycles for sanitary purposes. Note: Dispose of blood the same way you dispose of poop.
- Reusable Sea Sponge
- Pros – Comfortable (Internal-use) once you get used to inserting and after it has been properly trimmed to fit. Lightweight. Cost-efficient (Reusable) and nothing to pack out. A popular brand I’ve known other hikers to use is Jade & Pearl.
- Cons – It can take time getting used to and you may need to trim it in order to get it the right fit. You’ll have to keep your hands clean for insertion and will likely need to do so afterwards for hygienic purposes. Sponges need to be cleaned before first use, daily or every other day during use, and after use. They need to be completely dry before storing away between cycles. Only guaranteed to last 3-6 cycles (however, this means it should last the duration of your hike), but may last longer if properly cared for.
- Certain Birth Control
- I am not a doctor, so I am not recommending this for everyone, but certain forms of birth control such as the Depo Provera injection and IUDs have been known to reduce and sometimes eliminate menstrual periods altogether! Speak to a doctor about your options. It is recommended that you see how well your body handles these hormonal options prior to your long hike.
- Menstrual Pads
- Pros – Quick and easy clean up.
- Cons – Uncomfortable (can cause chaffing). Can get a little messy. Not cost-efficient (Non-Reusable). You will need to buy a lot of them (hey, they don’t sell them individually unless you buy them from a public bathroom, but those damn things are always empty anyway). You may need to mail them ahead or bite the financial bullet if you don’t carry them all with you. You will also need to pack them out after they’re used (fun), and like tampons, you’ll have to keep them away from pests by storing them away properly at night. After all the sweating you’ll be doing, they also may not stay attached to your underwear while you’re on the move.
- Reusable Pads
- Pros – Cost-efficient (Reusable). Check out GladRags, Lunapads, or make your own!
- Cons – Uncomfortable. You’ll need more than one which can bulk up your bag. Not only will it bulk up your bag, it will bulk up your pants (not all that comfortable), and can get a bit messy. Maintenance! I’d recommend bringing a properly sized plastic bag and Eco-friendly soap as well for cleaning them afterwards. Might take some time to dry.
- Period Panties/”UndiePads”
- Pros – Cost-efficient (sort of). Reusable (unless you go for the disposable kind). More comfortable and clean than other pad options and will stay in place. For more on these go the Thinx or check out the disposable kind, PantiePads.
- Cons – You’ll need several pair (on top of your regular undies) which might break the bank (…and your back, heyo)! They also might not handle the wear and tear of hiker life vs. the more mundane lifestyle at home. Maintenance maintenance maintenance (see Reusable Pads above).
So your hygiene in the woods isn’t quite gonna be the same as how it is at home. Also, some people are more prone to infections in their nether regions than others. That being said, it’s important to make sure your lady bits are well taken care of to prevent unpleasant infections while on the trail (UTI’s and that of the yeast variety for example).
- Supplements, Treatments and Antibiotics – If you are one of the lucky ones who is more sensitive to such unpleasantries, ask your Doc for a course of antibiotics to take along with you just in case. There is also over the counter relief that can tag along with you to put your mind, as well as other things, at ease.
- Keep Her Dry – This can be harder than it seems given you’ll be sweating most of the day. Hike with quick-dry underwear. I recommend against cotton which traps moisture, but to instead go with the synthetic or wool variety. You can avoid underwear altogether and hike “commando” if that’s your style. Opting out of the drip-dry method discussed earlier can also help.
- Keep Her Clean – Also tricky on the trail. Keep underwear clean and have a spare pair to change into. You can clean underwear by mixing them in a plastic bag full of water and eco-friendly soap, or just wash the crotch. I’ve even heard of some people using pantyliners which they change daily, however this will add to more waste to carry out with you and they may not stick well after sweating all day.
- “Swab the Deck” Properly – Wipe front to back, ALWAYS!
- Pee When You Have To – Don’t hold in your pee. “But what if I’m crazy comfortable in my sleeping and it’s freezing out?” Here’s my advice to that because I know the pain. Hydrate well during the day and stop drinking water a couple of hours or so before you go to sleep or before “hiker midnight” so there’s no nighttime urgency. There’s also the option to use a FUD and dangle it outside your tent or hammock as the men do. You can also use a plastic bag or other waterproof container to pee in too. Just do so at your own risk and make sure the plastic bag doesn’t have any holes in it by doing a test run with water first!
- Easy on the Wet Wipes – If you’re using them. Overuse can sometimes remove “healthy” bacteria from your bits which can cause issues down the trail. Also, remember to pack them out! Those suckers aren’t compostable.
Got a suggestion I didn’t cover? Please feel free to add it in the comments below! It’s encouraged!