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    Managing your Period in the Outdoors

    By Anna Brownlow, Partner Programme Manager
    More by Anna

    What & how

    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.

    What should you use?

    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.

    Menstrual cup

    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.

    Mooncup   |  Divacup   |   Saalt   |   Organicup   |   Lunette

    Tampons and/or pads

    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.

    Period-proof undies

    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.

    SheThinx   |   Cheeky Wipes   |   ModiBodi   |   WUKA
    Kit to Take Read More

    Use a small roll top dry bag and fill with the following:

    • Clean tampons/pads/menstrual cup.
    • Wad of toilet paper.
    • Hand sanitiser – good for killing bugs on your hands pre and post if you can’t wash them, but never use it on your genitals.
    • Waste bag – a large resealable sandwich bag is perfect for this, you can store it in another non-see-through dry bag if you’d rather or wrap it duct-tape. Wrap your waste in toilet paper or the scented sanitary disposal bags and seal it carefully. Once you’re back in civilisation you can dispose of this whole bag.

    Optional

    • A small trowel for digging your cat hole (there’s not necessarily a need for one trowel each if you’re in a group, but if you like to be discreet take your own).
    • Unscented wet wipes can make life a lot easier (some manufacturers do advise against using wipes or sanitiser on their menstrual cups and reusable applicators).
    • Biodegradable soap for washing hands and possibly your underwear.
    • Sanitary disposal bags. We recommend these from FabLittleBag. Fantastic wee biodegradable bags.
    • Small water container.
    Use & Disposal Read More

    Menstrual Cups

    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:

    • Empty the cup into heavy-duty, resealable bag and “pack it out” like you would with any other waste.
    • Using Leave No Trace principles, dig a 6 – 8 inch deep cathole, away from water sources, paths and people, empty the cup and bury the contents. See here for details Leave No Trace – Waste Disposal.

    Tampons/pads

    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.

    Top Tips Read More
    • Privacy is an obvious one maybe, but do plan for a bit more privacy than a normal pee stop. Get yourself further away from the path than you’d normally go to ensure you don’t get interrupted.
    • Hygiene keeps you going strong. Make sure you understand the basics of cleanliness in the outdoors. Sanitise your hands with hand sanitiser before and after, and if possible, rinse your hands in running water from a river or stream too.
    • Understand the Leave No Trace principles.
    • Wear quick-drying sports underwear that can be easily washed and reused.
    • If you suffer from cramps or other symptoms don’t forget your painkillers. Ibuprofen is a popular choice, but do talk to your pharmacist or doctor as there are thought to be risks associated with taking them during strenuous exercise.
    • Keep your tampons and pads dry – they’ve used up all their absorbency once they’re wet and will be completely useless when you come to using them.
    • Drink plenty of fluids. Being active outside will already require more water, but at this time of the month, you’ll need to be even more hydrated.

    Whilst on a Wilderness trip

    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.

    And last but not least

    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.

    Meet the Author: Anna Brownlow

    “I’m originally from Yorkshire but once I moved up to the Cairngorms in 2007, I knew I was here to stay! I can most often be found running and biking on the local roads and trails and swimming in the lochs.”

    View profileMore by Anna

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