Let’s face it! When it comes to women versus men in the outdoors, men have it easier when it comes to hygiene. Us women have to squat, wipe, dig holes and even deal with our menstrual cycle on a monthly basis. This is something pretty much inevitable for us but don’t let this stop you from going outdoors to enjoy nature. I’m here to show you how you can enjoy a trip out in nature while also knowing how to manage your period outdoors and enjoy your trip. This article will cover any outdoor scenario so whether you are in the back-country backpacking, camping at a campground or doing a short day hike, you will be sure to find all of your bases met here.
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. To learn more about how affiliate links work please read our Disclosure Policy. Thank you for using our links and for your support. Please also note that I am not a doctor or physician. I am only sharing information that has been useful to me and that I have learned along the way from my own personal experience. Please always consult with your primary doctor before taking any medications or changing your medication such as birth control or dietary needs in this case.
THEY’RE NORMAL, PERIOD!
A menstrual cycle is completely normal. It is something every woman has to deal with on a monthly basis. From the cramping, bloating, tender breasts, or even migraines. These symptoms suck but can be manageable with natural homeopathic remedies or even some pre-menstrual care.
This is the time of month that most women just grab some coffee or tea (or even wine), their blankets, and binge watch Netflix with a heating pad on their abdomen. Guilty here! But I’ve found other ways to get me up and moving and get you off that slump.
MENSTRUAL CYCLE SYMPTOMS
First off let’s talk about the symptoms you get during and before your menstrual cycle begins. These symptoms are different with everyone. Most do deal with some general ones such as:
- Menstrual cramps
- Back pain
- Tender breasts
Some will even experience:
But don’t lose hope. There are many ways of learning how to ease these symptoms naturally.
BEFORE + DURING YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
Before even getting ready for your menstrual cycle and knowing what you need to do you should track it. I use an app called FLO that has really helped me track my ovulation, PMS symptoms, and overall menstrual cycle. From the consistency of my vaginal mucus discharge (oh you know we all have it) to the length of my heavy bleeding days, ovulation and everything in between. Here are a few tips on pre-menstrual care that can help ease your struggles when your period arrives.
One thing that I do before getting my period is try to drink more water than normal. Remember that blood is 92% water and 8% blood plasma proteins. The more water you drink the more you keep your body hydrated before, during, and after your cycle. This also helps keep a good blood flow. In order for you to have a good menstrual cycle, your blood flow is very important. Women with better blood flow have more ‘normal’ periods every 28-30 days.
The water bottle pictured above has a built in water filter which is perfect for hikes close to a stream or river where you can refill it at. You can read more about the Hydroblu water bottle here.
Your menstrual cycle will feel like you ran a marathon for a week straight. You feel tired, drained, and wanting to sleep in bed all day. By making sure you get your full 8+ hours of sleep before and during your period is crucial in helping ease the struggle of wanting to constantly sleep. The best times to get this rest is between the hours of 10pm and 4am reaching the full 8 hours.
According to One Medical, taking calcium and magnesium supplements throughout the month can help aid muscle relaxation. They recommend taking up to 1,000mg daily of Calcium (preferably calcium citrate) and up to 500mg of Magnesium daily. If you see loose stool they recommend lowering the dose.
Another important thing to take is your multivitamins every single day.
Raspberry leaf herbal tea (not flavored black tea) is a mild uterine tonic tea. I actually drank this tea when I got pregnant with my youngest daughter as it was recommended to me for uterine support.
It is important to eat healthy the entire month but especially during the PMS and Menstrual stages of your cycle.
Lower your salt intake. Potato chips, french fries, etc. Salty foods can cause bloating and discomfort especially during your period days so to help alleviate bloating symptoms it is best to greatly reduce your salty foods.
DARK LEAFY GREENS
Eat more greens as they are an excellent source of Calcium, magnesium, and many other micro-nutrients. These greens, especially the dark greens can also helps assist with cleansing your body which is exactly what happens in your uterus during your menstrual cycle. Some greens can also help reduce bloating.
DEALING WITH YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE OUTDOORS
Let’s head outdoors! Whether you are camping, backpacking, rock climbing, or even hiking, there are a few key things you need to consider. If you want to learn more about female hygiene outdoors make sure to check out the article below.
Related Article: Ultimate Guide To Eco-friendly Female Hygiene Outdoors
LEAVE NO TRACE OF YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE!
Leave no trace means just that. Don’t leave a trace! The best way to practice LNT is by following their principles. When it comes to hygiene, especially being on your menstrual cycle in the outdoors, you need to make sure to have a routine that works for you during your “time of month” and also be conscious of how you will be following the LNT principles.
Here is a quick overview of the LNT principles you should follow regarding this topic:
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
DEALING WITH YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE
Now everyone deals with their menstrual cycle differently. For this reason I will be going over a few different ways that you can practice safe menstrual hygiene outdoors. Before getting too into the different preferences let’s get the basics out of the way.
When managing your period outdoors it is essential to always have these products on you for good cleanliness.
- Kula Cloth or Toilet Paper (Read my Kula Cloth review here for more information)
- Organic and Biodegradable Wipes by Rael
- Hand Sanitizer – Keeping clean hands is a must in my books.
1. MENSTRUAL CUP
First up is my favorite! Using a menstrual cup is one of the easiest way to deal with your menstrual cycle outdoors. The reason for this is that you pack less in and out. No need to deal with bloody tampons or pads that you have to carry out and no need to leave non-biodegradable trash such as plastic behind either.
A single menstrual cup can last you up to a good 10 years. I have been using my DOT Cup for almost a year now and it still looks brand new. You can read my full review of the DOT Cup here. There are other options as well that you can use but I have preferred the DOT Cup cause it is black in color and also cause for every DOT Cup purchased they donate one to women in need.
I recently tried the Pixie Cup to compare the two and absolutely loved it. The Pixie Cup comes in two different sizes which is perfect for me cause my periods seem to be constantly changing in flow during the first 2 days. The bigger one is for the heavier flow time frame of your period while the smaller one is for the last half of your period when your flow is at it’s lightest. It comes in two different colors, their own bags, and even Pixie wipes to clean your menstrual cup. If you are extra clean they even have a sterilizing machine for you to use at home. The only thing I was not too happy about was the length of the pull stem was shorter then that of the Dot Cup but it was still manageable for removing the cup. If you are a newbie to the menstrual cup, they also have this Pixie Cup Menstrual Starter Kit to get you started.
Other menstrual cups that you can use are:
USING A MENSTRUAL CUP
Before going on your trip, especially in the backcountry where there’s no latrines, I highly recommend using the menstrual cup at home and learning how to insert and take out the menstrual cup. Familiarize yourself with the product so this way it will be much easier to use while outdoors. It is very easy to use once you get the hang of it.
- Insert menstrual cup. I usually aim for no more than 6 hours inserted unless I’m sleeping.
- When it is time, remove the cup, dump in a cat hole 6-8 inches deep, rinse, and reinsert. Before going to bed I personally like to use a biodegradable soap to give it a good wash. I do this at least once a day. Always make sure to really clean your vaginal area really good with some organic and biodegradable wipes.
- Sometimes it is good to use a panty shield if you are doing a lot of climbing. I’ve never had an issue before but this is completely up to your own discretion.
- If you have to go pee then you are good. No worry on having to change out the cup every time you go to the bathroom either. Just wipe with a Kula Cloth and you are good to go.
2. PADS + TAMPONS
Pads and tampons are more difficult to when managing your period outdoors. If you are camping than maybe not so much as most campgrounds have restrooms and latrines scattered throughout. When in the back-country though or even on a long hike, these can be a pain. When using pads and tampons while also following Leave No Trace Principles, it is a must that you carry these items out. I highly recommend using a poop bag (like the ones you use for dogs) to put your waste in and cleaning your vaginal area really good with a biodegradable wipe to avoid bacteria from building up. Menstrual cycles can be kind of gross so cleanliness is crucial especially when in the back-country.
It is good to change these more often to avoid any bacteria from building up. Unlike menstrual cups, where the blood sits in a cup, tampons and pads hold this blood against your female organs and vaginal areas causing the blood to clot and start growing bacteria. For this reason it is good to change them more frequently. It is recommended to change a pad as often as possible and a tampon every 3 hours to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a very rare but potentially fatal disease. You can learn more about this and how often to change your pads and tampons here.
- Rael (pads and tampons, organic cotton and biodegradable)
- Biodegradable Poop Trashbags
- Biodegradable and Organic Wipes by Rael
Ok! I’ve heard people ask me about this before and me personally, I always recommend using a menstrual cup if waste is your biggest concern. The less I have to deal with my period outdoors the better. Using a reusable pad means having to use a trash bag to carry your blood-soaked reusable pads in. By the time you get to a good spot to camp for the night, you have to make sure you have enough water and soap to clean these out, hang to dry and hope that they are dry enough to use if you didn’t bring enough for your trip. If you don’t wash them the smell can be awful when it comes time to clean them. Not just that, they may also be ruined by the time you get home and collect a lot of bacteria.
The pads and tampons I tagged above by Rael are organic and biodegradable so maybe looking in to a more conscious disposable product just for the trip will be a better alternative for you. Or a menstrual cup! Ha!
4. BIRTH CONTROL
If you are using birth control, you can use this to your advantage. By using the right birth control and skipping that pills for that menstrual week you can skip your menstrual cycle all together for that month. While this shouldn’t be used as an option every month, it is good to have this as a backup plan if you really just want to skip it all together.
Remember that it is a natural cycle for your uterus to shed that uterine wall every month so I highly advise not doing this every month. Always consult with your OB/GYN or Primary Doctor before choosing to do this option as results may differ with each person and their current health condition.
PERIODS + CAMPING
When camping at a campground, the hassle of managing your period outdoors is much easier. Majority of campgrounds have latrines or even restrooms that you can use making changing your cup, pad, or tampon a breeze. Just make sure you properly dispose of any waste and be courteous of others by keeping them clean. No one wants to see the mess.
PERIODS IN THE BACK-COUNTRY OR WHEN HIKING
Backpacking and hiking can be a whole other story. There’s no restrooms in deep nature. It is important to follow the LNT Principles while in the back-country or on hiking trails and make sure to always dispose of your waste properly. Pack out what you packed in by using bags and bury your human waste 6 to 8 inches deep in the ground. Make sure to place a rock or something heavy over your cat hole so no other animals dig it out.
THAT IS ALL!
Thank you for sticking around to the end. I hope this guide is very useful to you when dealing with your period outdoors. When I was younger I had no idea how to deal with any of it outdoors so I hope to help other women through this post. I’m curious to know, How do you manage your menstrual cycle outdoors? Do you use any natural products for the cramps and pains? Or do you just skip traveling outdoors during that time of month? Let me know in the comments section below. I would love to learn more from other women.
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One Medical: Ask An Acupuncturist 6 Ways To Reduce Period Pain
Bustle: 13 Ways To Plan Ahead For Your Period
Cosmopolitan: 7 Foods That Will Make Your Period Better
Very Well Health: How Often To Change Pads Or Tampons During Your Period / Toxic Shock Syndrome
Thank you for an awesome article! I scanned through it, but will take my time reading through it properly. So neccesary!
Thank you for reading and the comment. Hope this guide really helps you out for future trips.
What a fabulous article on a topic we all have to deal and is not talked about enough. I am 44 years old and have just last week purchased my first menstrual cup, but not used it yet. I am apprehensive but posts like this really do help. Thank you.
Thank you so much for reading. I believe this is a topic that needs to be spoken of more often. Glad you got a cup. For me it’s been the best switch I have ever made. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. It means the world to me.
A lot of females feel embarrassed to speak or even learn about this. I had issues with calculating my cycle and prepping for the next period. Reading your article has cleared my every doubt and increased my understanding on this topic. I want to appreciate you for putting this up and I really hope you read my comment. Thank you.
Hi. I used to feel the same way about the topic but have realized that it is a topic that needs to be more talked about. Thank you for reading and I am glad it has helped you out.