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This One Is For the Girls!

QUESTION:

Alright, Hiking Lady, it’s a ‘personal’ question but a must-know. How do you deal with those pesky monthly visitors 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:

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, from tampons to Diva 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:

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!

  • 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.
  • 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 during that time of month. I am comfortable with the studies’ results, and if you want to read up on this topic here’s a great website.

And of course, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles! Pack it all out with you.

An Environmentally Friendly Way to Avoid Tampons & Pads!

The Diva Cup Several Hiking Lady readers have told me that they are avid users of the Diva Cup. It is an environmentally friendly, internal cup that has been around since the 1930s (more modern design now!) that eliminates the need for tampons and pads.

Check out some of the comments on this blog post and also on the Hiking Lady facebook page to hear why some female hikers swear by the Diva Cup.

Hope that answers your question! Happy trails!

Hiking Lady

Do you have a question for the Hiking Lady?

22 comments to This One Is For the Girls!

  • Diane W.

    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!

  • 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.

  • Hiking Lady

    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!

  • Morgan

    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!
    Thanks!

  • Hiking Lady

    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. Here is a good review that should help alleviate your concerns.
    Have fun out there!

  • Hina

    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.

  • Hiking Lady

    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!

  • April

    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!

  • Hiking Lady

    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!

  • Nicky

    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!

  • Rachel

    Hi,

    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.

    Thanks.

  • Melissa

    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?

  • Hiking Lady

    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.

  • Jen

    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.

  • Elaine

    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!

  • Diane

    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!!

  • LL

    Hi,

    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?

    Thanks

  • Hiking Lady

    I think it is safe to try it, but bring along tampons and ziploc bags in case you aren’t comfortable with the Diva Cup. Happy trails!

  • anonymous

    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.

  • Hiking Lady

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

  • Kim

    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.

  • FemaleMountaineer

    Hello!

    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. https://www.thebmc.co.uk/advice-for-women-at-altitude

    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!

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