An outdoor women’s guide to handling everyone’s favourite time of the month: your period. Those pesky periods shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your outdoor adventures. With a little preparation and knowledge, you won’t have to think twice about heading into the wilderness at any time of the month.
However, with the rise of outdoor littering, we also want to flag that there’s no excuse to leave your sanitary products behind in the outdoors after use.
Seeing as we’ve got a bunch of adventure-loving women both in the office and out in the field, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to best manage your period in the outdoors; from what is the most comfortable, best for activities and what to do with it after use when away from washroom facilities.
Your main choices for the outdoors are between tampons and a menstrual cup. These allow for all activities, including water-based fun. If you use pads at home, bring pads, as it’s not the time to start experimenting with something new and you need to be comfortable that everything will be ok. However, pads are bulkier and not suitable for being in the water, so it makes things easier to take some time to learn to use tampons or a cup at home before you go.
This is a flexible silicone cup you insert to catch menstrual blood and remove later to empty the contents. Brands may have different sizes based on your age, flow amount or childbirth history. It’s reusable, often up to years at a time, making it an eco-friendly and money-saving option and you’ll only need one product for your entire trip. You can safely keep it in for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow, as it holds up to 3 times more than a regular tampon. It does take practice to insert correctly, so do get used to using it before you head off.
Some folk strongly prefer tampons over menstrual cups and there’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure you bring enough supplies to last the trip. It’s best to bring the non-applicator tampons, to save some weight, space and waste.
If using tampons we highly recommend Dame re-usable tampon applicators, they are self-sanitising, easy to use and considerably more environmentally friendly than single-use applicators.
Knickers with a waterproof layer have recently undergone a revival. Their moisture-wicking fabric captures leaks and protects against stains, but they look and feel the same as everyday underwear. They can’t really replace the need for other protection entirely (especially if you have a heavy flow) but they are great for sleeping and as a backup when your menstrual cup runneth over, providing peace of mind when you’re not in a position to be able to empty/change your product.
Use a small roll top dry bag and fill with the following:
After you empty out the cup, rinse it with clean water if possible, or wipe it out with tissue, and reinsert it. You can do this as often as you need to. You may prefer to use the cup only at night or only during the day. A cup can be boiled at home for a thorough cleaning.
For disposal (of the blood) you’ve got a couple of options:
Wrap the used product in toilet paper or wet wipes and put it in the resealable waste bag. You’ll have to “pack it out” along with any applicators or wrappers. Under no circumstances should you bury your used products even if they say they’re biodegradable/compostable, these products can take many years to rot away and will often be brought back to the surface by the weather or animals before that happens. If you’re using a reusable applicator give it a rinse with cold water or wipe clean with toilet paper. Just ensure it’s dry before packing away again.
If you need any help getting hold of the products you need, then please talk to your Guide who will be happy to help regardless of whether they have personal experience. They have supplies of pads or tampons if you run out and extra bits and pieces for managing your periods whilst out in the wilderness.
Have a bit of patience and understanding for any normally fast and fit female who’s in pain, more tired than usual, or taking long loo breaks. Periods can be a bloody nuisance and it’s important we look out for each other.