How Do I Deal with My Period When Hiking and Backpacking?


Alright, Hiking Lady, it’s a ‘personal’ question but a must-know. How do you deal with those pesky monthly menstrual periods when on multi-day snow trips? Any ideas for a novice to the mountains? I’ve done plenty of backpacking but am new to the mountaineering scene and would love advice from fellow ladies. Thanks!

Anonymous :)

ANSWER: Hiking on Your Period

Hello fellow female hiker!

Those pesky monthly menstrual cycles can be quite an annoyance when backpacking and mountaineering, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying your outdoor adventures! There are plenty of options to deal with hiking on your period, from tampons to Diva Cups and Sckoon Cups! Read on!

Just like when you’re backpacking or hiking, find a private spot so you can change your stuff. It can get awfully cold in the mountains in the winter, so try to be quick.

My tips from lots of personal experience:

hiking on your period
An option for hiking on your period: Sckoon Cup
  • Bring lots of unscented wet wipes.
  • Tampons are smaller and less messy than pads. Be sure to use unscented tampons in bear country.
  • Bring lots of ziplocs and stay organized. I pack all of the unused feminine hygene in one ziploc bag, and used ones and toilet paper in smaller ziplocs, which I then consolidate into one larger Ziploc “trash bag” – I find the freezer kind are best. They’re the thickest and are least likely to tear open.
  • Pack carefully. Your sanitary supplies will take up space in your pack, so you may have to sacrifice some space that you normally allocate to something else. Be sure to pack carefully and allow enough room for your “trash bag”. If you can, keep the trash away from your food while you hike.
  • If in bear country, use a bear canister. This is where the layers of ziplocs come in handy – you surely don’t want your “trash” that close to your food, but remember that these are “scented” items and you don’t want to attract bears. I squish the “trash” bag to the bottom of my bear canister. If you’re doing winter travel while bears are in hibernation, you don’t need to worry about this.

    This will be a relief to see at the end of your trip!
    This will be a relief to see at the end of your trip!
  • Stay hydrated. Being in the mountains will already require extra water, but this time of month you’ll want to be sure to be even more hydrated!

Special tips if you’re in bear country:

There is a lot of debate as to whether or not bears are attracted to menstrual blood, and I researched this fully before ever backpacking while on my period.  To be extra safe, if you’re in bear country, use unscented items and use a tampons or a menstrual cup instead of external pads.

An Environmentally Friendly Way to Avoid Tampons & Pads!

hiking on your period
Another option for hiking on your period: The Diva Cup

An environmentally friendly way of dealing with your period and avoiding tampons and pads is a  menstrual cup.  There are several brands, with the most popular being the Diva Cup and the Sckoon Cup.

  • What are they?  Internal menstrual cups have been around since the 1930s (the designs are more modern now!) and completely eliminate the need for tampons and pads. It makes hiking on your period a bit more comfortable and less messy than dealing with pads and tampons.  They are made of silicone and have a small stem and a large cup with holes around the rim.
  • How do you use a menstrual cup?  It’s simple once you do it a few times.
    • Pick your size Diva Cup (they come in Pre-Childbirth and Post Childbirth) or Sckoon Cup (Size 1 or Size 2).
    • Wash it with unscented soap and water.
    • Insert it in your vagina.  A trick is to fold it in half, insert it, then twist it to make sure it is inserted securely.  This is up to personal preference and comfort.
    • Remove it by pulling slightly; it releases the suction created inside.
    • Ideally, wash with warm soap and water.  It takes getting used to, so bring handwipes to clean yourself too!
    • Note:  You can insert the menstrual cup before your period begins, and you don’t have to worry about any bloody surprises nor worry about TSS as you do with tampons.


Hope that answers your question! Happy trails!

Hiking Lady

Do you have a question for the Hiking Lady?


  1. Diane W. says:

    I am a faithful Diva cup user. I’ve been hiking and backpacking since the early 1980’s and I wish I would have found this product back then! It is safe, comfortable and easy to use once you get familiar with it. It takes up very little space in your day pack or backpack, which makes it perfect for those longer trips when you might start your period while on the trip. I found that it does not need to be changed anywhere from 8 to 12 hours, depending on your flow and since you seek a private place to “do your business” in the woods anyway, this makes it much easier to care for, without having to pack out all those paper produts!

  2. Colleen says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for tackling this topic!

    My body got out of whack right before a group camping trip to Anza Borrego over Easter weekend, and I seriously thought about backing out until I read this post. I usually plan hikes and trips around my cycle, but that’s not always a realistic option. So I decided to give the Diva Cup a try (bought it at my local Sprouts of all places). I still worried the entire camptrip, but it worked great and allowed me to tackle two good long hikes.

    I now confidently plan hikes and trip any time of the month.

  3. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Colleen,
    I’m so happy that the Diva Cup worked well for you! Nothing should stop us ladies from hiking!
    Have fun out there!

  4. Morgan says:

    I am going backpacking at the beginning of next week and unfortunately will be on my cycle. I am very worried about this since this will be my first backpacking trip and it will be in bear country and I will be on my cycle! I am planning to purchase a diva cup and was hoping I could get some good insight on what to do with the blood while out in the wilderness? Also, I have an IUD which means I have very heavy bleeding. I am going with my boyfriend, so obviously he has no experience with this issue and non of my friends backpack. Please help!

  5. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Morgan!
    Don’t worry… the Diva Cup will definitely come in handy. You can just empty the contents in a “cat hole” (a 3-4 inch deep hole that you’d be digging anyway if you have to do #2) that is away from your campsite.
    Have fun out there!

  6. Hina says:

    I am going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in November. Just wondering, how come any of you have not mentioned about taking any pills to stop menstrual cycle for the hike but instead are using Diva cup? Are the pills not safe of altitude reasons? Please, advice as I am thinking of taking pills during my hike.

  7. Hiking Lady says:

    Hello Hina,
    Taking pills to stop your period is something you should discuss with your doctor. I’ve heard mixed opinions on it, and personally am not comfortable with that approach.
    Have fun at Kili!

  8. April says:

    Hi there. I am going on my first Canyoneering adventure this weekend. We will be jumping and swimming in water. Do you think the Diva cup is going to stay secure? I have never tried the cup before and like Colleen from previous post, my cycle went whacky too.
    Thanks so much!

  9. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi April,
    I think it should stay secure…hopefully another reader who has used it during a more active adventure like the one you’re going on will share their thoughts too!
    Have a great time on your trip!

  10. Nicky says:

    I’m going on a 3 month expedition soon and I’ve been worrying about this for ages but I’m going to give the Diva Cup a go… thank you, your positivity has made me feel better already!

  11. Rachel says:


    I am going on a week trekking after two days and probably its the time for my monthly cycle. Can you please explain what exactly is this Diva Cup and how it works. I am from India and please let me know if it is available in India.


  12. Melissa says:

    Hi. My name is Melissa. My husband and I are going to a Mystery Pool. So it means getting wet and I just started to see my period. My question is with the tampons. Is there a particular size of tampon to buy to avoid leaking or potential embarrassment?

  13. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Melissa, this really depends on how heavy your periods are. If you have heavy periods you’re going to need to change your tampon regularly to avoid potential embarrassment from leaking.

  14. Jen says:

    Just curious about your procedure of keeping clean while using the Diva Cup in the wilderness. I have used one for many years and always wash it after emptying and before re-inserting. Is this not necessary if hands are clean? Looking for tips for an upcoming wilderness trip & would like to use the Diva Cup but maintain clenliness.

  15. Elaine says:

    I used the Diva Cup on a 5-day backpacking trip with my husband and two young sons last summer. Since I use the Diva Cup regularly, I knew what to expect and brought unscented baby wipes to help with the cleanup. My flow is very heavy during the first day so I brought a pantyliner for backup overnight, not wanting to soil my sleeping bag. It was inconvenient to have to dig the cat hole, empty and clean the cup every few hours that day — but that small hassle allowed us to enjoy a wonderful family experience in the backcountry. Plus, I didn’t have to explain to my boys why I returned with bloody garbage every time I relieved myself. Thank you Hiking Lady for your post, which gave me the confidence to go ahead with our trip despite the conflict with my cycle! My husband gave me the Trooper of the Year Award!

  16. Diane says:

    Love reading all your advice. My husband, son and I are traveling to England mid-July to do Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk — it’s about 190 to 200 miles. We will be hiking 14 days in a row with day packs and staying at B&B’s each night. I was not looking forward to having my period while using the outdoor loos :) and having my husband and son nearby as I changed tampons and toted them all across England in baggies. I ordered a Diva Cup and am giving it a practice run this month. Today’s my first day and so far, so great. Thank you!!

  17. LL says:


    I usually plan my backpacking trips around my menstrual cycle, but this month came earlier. I just got my period today and am off to a one-night backpacking trip tomorrow. Do you think it is wise to try the Diva Cup right before my trip tomorrow?


  18. anonymous says:

    Hi, won’t the “periodtrash” smell after two or three days being stored in the backpack? sure they will be stored in the zip-lock bags, or will that be enough? usually i work around my cycle, but i have several upcoming hiking trips and i do not know the exact dates and that worries me.

  19. Hiking Lady says:

    In hot temperatures it will smell. A bit of kitty litter in the bag with the used “period trash” will help cut down odors.

  20. Kim says:

    Is the Diva Cup the best one out there? I saw several other brands of cups on Amazon and am wondering which one is the best. Though, I am impressed that REI sells it.

  21. FemaleMountaineer says:


    Loved reading all of these ideas as this is something I always have problems with! I’m going away on a month long high altitude expedition on monday during which I will definitely have my period so I don’t have enough time to buy/try the divacup or mooncup etc. but will definitely do so on my return!

    For those who were interested in using hormonal contraception to just stop your periods, it does work if you take it continuously – i.e. don’t stop taking the pills/don’t take the dummy pills for the break in the cycle for your period. It apparently tricks your body (hormone-wise) into thinking it’s pregnant so is, i’m told, safe to do for up to 9 months! It does however greaten the risk of blood clots at high altitudes, however, so isn’t recommended in these cases although the number of reported incidents is very small.

    My tactic, as lots of you have suggested, is to take a relatively large supply of fairly high absorbancy tampons(less harness faff), zip lock bags, wet wipes and some tea bags to put in with the trash because they’re really good at absorbing odours and are cheap!

    It’d be easier to be a man eh? Ah well!

  22. Sara says:

    Hi Kim, I would recommend checking out the Sckoon cup. Unlike some other cups, it is completely smooth around the top edge so it is extremely comfortable (honestly, it’s sort of like not even being on your period). For backpacking, I ended up buying two. That way I can switch cups quickly, and not have to worry about cleaning the other cup until my pants are up (I do a lot of winter camping!). Also, it’s nice to have a backup, just in case anything goes wrong. Even with two, they still take up much less space in my pack than a box of tampons, and are much more comfortable. Plus, no worries about leaks!

  23. Sue says:


    I’m going on a two-day backpacking trip to the Zion Narrows next weekend and I’ll be on my period. I have a Diva Cup but the Narrows are a pack-out area for waste. Has anyone had experience with packing-out Diva Cup flow or any tips on how to handle the trip?

  24. anonymous says:

    i just read your article. Im having full plans to take a mountaineering coarse in the future. Thanks a lot for helping me out.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I’m going on a 2-week backpacking trip (with a little climbing too) in the Shawangunks over the summer for a coed teen summer camp. I was wondering how to clean the menstrual cup when changing it since I won’t be able to bring soap and might not always have clean water with me.
    Any answer would be really appreciated because I’m very worried about this! :)

  26. angelica says:

    I used the Diva cup for several years and at home you just use soapy water then rinse but in reading reviews some people regularly only used water, which doesn’t seem too sanitary really but they experienced no problem. The Diva cup I believe is made of a specific material to minimize the amount of bacteria it will hold/let grow. Regardless, I would just do a good rinse with plain/clean water if I were you. Even if you did bring soap, I would be more concerned that you wouldn’t use enough water to rinse it thoroughly which would cause you a different problem. And if you have no clean water, you can just dump it and reinsert it in a pinch but this is not the cleanest process in and of itself so I would bring wipes (for clean up, not for the cup!) Hope this helps. Enjoy your hike!

  27. Anonymous says:

    I will be going backpacking for 2 weeks and I will have my period while there. I have a fear about anything like tampons, I freak out. I will be using pads in bear country. Do you have any tips for using pads while backpacking? I would really appreciate any tips you could give. Thank you!

  28. Hiking Lady says:

    The key will be to keep the used pads stowed away from your tent, ideally in your bear canister. Bears smell everything, from food to used pads. Bring along some kitty litter to neutralize the odor of the used pads, and wrap them tightly in multiple layers of ziploc bags. It will not be easy, but you’ll get through it! Good luck!

  29. Heather R says:

    I know it says tampons are suggested over pads, but what if we will be using a pad in our tent while sleeping? Will there be a “smellable” issue?

  30. trianna says:

    hi, i will be going for a trekking/ water rapelling trip this saturday and im terrified that i might get my periods. As i have no experience in using or buying tampons, i have to use a pad. Is it gonna be safe of is it risky?

  31. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Trianna,
    Do you expect to be in the water a lot? I don’t think it would be unsafe, but rather very uncomfortable to have a wet sanitary pad.
    Sorry I can’t be of more help. I hope you have fun on your trip and your period comes after you’re back home!

  32. Georgeanna says:

    Hi, I have never really been able to use tampons. Only cause they have never fit properly and felt very uncomfortable. But what about the diva cup for someone who isn’t very experienced with tampons. Will it be similar

  33. Julie says:

    I’m going on a school camp next week, which is for 4 nights and 5 days. I’m going to be on my period, and during this time we’ll be hiking, snorkling and surfing. We are not allowed to have watches or phones, and for a real ‘camping experience’, are not allowed to know what the time is. I was thinking this might be a problem when using tampons? I don’t really wan’t to use the menstrual cups though, so do you have any ideas as to how i could use tampons without keeping track of the time. Also, any ways to make it more enjoyable, and keep my mind off of the whole period situation?

  34. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Julie,
    You’re going to have lots of fun! Not having a watch shouldn’t be a problem; you can get a pretty good sense of time from the sun. As you probably know, the tampon manufacturers say to only keep tampons in up to 8 hours. So simply put on a new one in the morning, change it in the afternoon, and again before you go to bed. Obviously change it more often if necessary!
    Just relax and have fun! Don’t worry about being on your period :)
    Happy trails!

  35. Nika says:

    Hi Hiking Lady.

    I’m going on my year 10 camp next month which is to Cozi and I’m going to have my period and was wondering what I could possibly do. We leave on Sunday the 22nd and get back on Friday the 27th. I happen to get my period on the Wednesday which is three day before the end of the trip and I was wonder what I should do.

    Since in the past my flow has been rather heavy on the first day and I tend to get very moody. This happened last year on year 9 camp and it was not fun but I managed. What should I take. I don’t (and can’t) use tampons what should I do to make it more enjoyable instead of miserable.

    Sometimes my period comes late, such as this time, it was three days late (I have it now)I was hoping that my period for this month would hold off until the 2nd of next month which meant that I wouldn’t have it on camp but I guess mother nature wasn’t feeling kind.

    What can I do while on camp next month to help deal with the cramps, mood swings (last year on camp in one day I cried maybe eight or nine times and I have no idea why) and of cause storing my pads so that they won’t cause to much problem.

    Is there anything else I should do that you would recommend. thanks.

    Regards Nika

  36. Hiking Lady says:

    Hi Nika,
    I hope that you have a better experience this time! Have you ever taken anything for cramps? My doctor has recommended Advil or Midol. As far as the storage of the pads, just be sure to take lots of ziploc bags and stay organized. Keep the used ones stored separately, and take a bit of kitty litter to help remove any odors (especially if it is hot outside). Don’t worry so much, it will be fine. All women who hike have to go through this at some point…it is inevitable that trips will happen during our periods…keep that in mind!
    Good luck!

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