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!
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:
- 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 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!
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. If you are backpacking, dig a “cat hole” to bury the menstrual blood when you rinse it out. 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!
Do you have a question for the Hiking Lady?
I’m going mountaineering for 18 days to climb Aconcagua. I’m thinking of using Tampons with biodegrable pouch like MaskIt but i don’t foresee myself carrying the waste with me throughout the entire journey given the physical challenge. Would it be outrageous to burn it in the camp fire? I’d obviously use all biodegradable products but I’m wondering if people have done that in the past and would not be completely weirded out.
What do you do with bad cramps at home? Midol tends to work well. Maybe take some with you! Just allow plenty of extra time for rest stops. Good luck and happy trails!
hey hiking lady! I am going on my first overnight hike but sadly I will be on my period. do you have any advice about what to do when you are having really bad cramps on the trail?
Here’s a question received by email from “M” and the Hiking Lady answer below:
I got a seasonal job recently that requires me to be on the trail for 8 hours around 80 or so people. Unfortunately, most of the areas we are in have no shade (bushes, trees) or are a long ways away from a bathroom. I have to deal with my period soon. Cups don’t really work for me, so should use a thicker absorbency pad and tampon and hope for the best? I’m open to any suggestions right now.
Thanks so much!
Hiking Lady’s reply: Yes, I think that if you’re not comfortable with a Diva cup, I’d definitely say a tampon and pad combo will work well. Depending on how heavy your flows are, you still made need to find a private place to change them during your 8 hour day. If there is absolutely no way to change during the day, then go with an overnight pad plus a “Super” or max absorbency tampon to get you through the 8 hours. Good luck and happy trails! Don’t let your period hold you back 🙂
Thanks for the comment Annie. I like the idea that it is made of biofilm, so it is environmentally friendly!
Hi Hiking Lady 🙂
Using plastic bags for your menstrual hygiene items is wasteful and environmentally irresponsible! When I’m in the outdoors, I use MaskITs which keep my hand covered while removing my menstrual item, tampon, pad, or even a DivaCup, just invert the pouch and it seals up! Won’t leak or smell! The best thing is that it is made with certified COMPOSTABLE biofilm so it is completely Earth Friendly. Plastic has a 500 year half life so I don’t recommend anyone use those! You can find MaskITs at http://www.MaskIT.us or your local Sportsman’s Warehouse! 🙂 🙂 Happy hiking ladies!! <3
Hi Tammy! Sounds like you had a lot of fun hiking with your daughter. Keep it up! These will be priceless memories for the two of you 🙂
We just completed over 20 miles on rugged trails in Colorado. My daughter started her period of course just before the hike. She hikes a lot and uses Tampons,wipes and Baggies. This seems to work out best for her. She was planning on trying the Diva this trip but they were sold out when we were buying supplies. I have other friends who hike and have told me that once you try the cup, you will never use anything else!. I would say its worth a shot for sure! Unfortunately, we didnt get to see any bears lol.
Silica gel packets (or a handful of silica gel cat litter) eliminates odor effectively and is lightweight as well as long lasting. I reuse the ones that come in various food items. Also reusing a resealable package (ie bag from Craisins) usually they arent see thru make a handy discreet “trash” bag. ☺
I’ve never gone on a backpacking trip, but I’ve gone on long hikes while on my period. I use pads, and what I do is I put on a pad, but then I also roll up some toilet paper and put that over the pad (closer toward my belly than my behind, since it seems to absorb better and won’t “ride back”, but it may be different for others), and what seems to happen is my period will be absorbed in the toilet paper instead of the pad (except for maybe a small spot or 2), so when I go to the bathroom I can easily take the “soiled” toilet paper and put it in a ziploc, then replace it with another new “roll” of toilet paper – this way it feels like I have a “clean” pad on, and it’s way less messy and obvious than trying to put on a new pad. The toilet paper conforms to your body so you don’t feel like there’s anything extra there (though I’ve done this quite a bit so I’ve figured out how much paper and how to roll it to fit my body better. Also, if I put it in the center or near the back of my undies the toilet paper will tend to “ride” backward and won’t stay in place, so it’s better to keep it near the front). Once you get the hang of it you can even change the toilet paper while standing up (as long as your pants have elastic so your pants don’t fall down).
I’m hiking the Narrows soon, and I don’t think that’ll really work since I might get wet…and I’m still stuck on how to deal with my period on long exposed trips, though I think most of us are!
Hello Bears=Biggest Fear,
Thanks for the excellent thoughts about the diva cup. They certainly aren’t for everyone! I’ve done the pack it out method in bear country myself on long backpacking trips…it is totally inconvenient, but you’ll be able to avoid using a cup. I’m not so sure burning would be a good idea unless you’ll be at campgrounds with designated fire pits. Not sure where you’re hiking but it is super dry out west because the drought, so only start fires in a safe, designated area. Hope that helps and have fun! Don’t let your period or the fear of bears prevent you from having fun. 🙂
Okay. For all you ladies who are squeamish about the Diva Cup! I get it! I am totally not into the cups. Tried it- just for normal everyday use and was very uncomfortable and spilled into my clothes.
Not everyone is handy with gadgets i suppose.
I’m a big backpacker and I’m about to head off for 8 days in bear country- yikes! Came here for ideas but not feelin’ the cup.
I am going to attempt using just toilet paper. I’m a maxi pad user normally, but i think this will work, (sorry to be graphic)If i just wad it up in there, it will catch all the blood and then I’m thinking i will burn it. We’ll see. Maybe i will just pack it out with double zip lock situation.
But i am very nervous about bears. Wish me luck.
One thing I do when I’m hiking, is take a big ziploc freezer bag and cover the outside with duct tape, so you don’t have to see a gross bloody mess every time you need it! I also put a tea bag in with my “trash” so it doesn’t smell! (Only do this during the winter or when you’re not in bear country of course!)
Though the Diva cup and similar devices are great and I use one myself. A menstral cup can take a little practice to get comfortable with, to figure out how to use with no leaks. Please ladies practice with these before the big trip!
The manufactures directions tell all about how to clean it. Drinking grade water and unscented, plain soap at least 2 times daily. PS. hydrogen peroxide is a no no.
Sounds like a fun trip! In the wilderness, you can dig a little hole (like a “cat hole” for poop), and pour out the blood into the hole you made in the dirt. If you are camping at a campground, just dump the contents into the pit toilet, assuming there is one at the campsite. Hope that helps!
I am going with a camp for 2 weeks to the big horn mountains. where does the blood go? how do I dispose of the blood?
This is such a valuable tip! I will try Diva Cup as I’ve heard so much about it. Thank you for your post 🙂
Hi Planful Dad,
You are definitely a good father to be thinking ahead on things like this for your little girl. I would recommend that she plan to wear pads, and have her bring along extra ziploc bags to pack out the used ones. Just make sure that when it is time for a bathroom break she has plenty of time, and perhaps you can help her find a secluded spot so she can change them very privately. Hope that helps. Have a wonderful time on your backwoods trip in the Boundary Waters!
My now-11 year old daughter and I have done backwoods camping since she was in preschool. My wife is glad we enjoy it but doesn’t come along. This year we’re going with some friends for a week in the Boundary Waters. Well, I’ve never given any thought to periods in the backwoods, and my wife has no practical experience on the matter. Daughter uses tampons for swimming, but doesn’t like to use them longer than she absolutely has to; a cup seems right out. Any tips for how to make it as easy as possible for her?
Great question! I would think that if you are uncomfortable with tampons, you’ll likely be uncomfortable with the Diva Cup as well. Therefore, I’d stick to pads and just try to change them whenever you go to the bathroom. (Just find a private spot behind bushes!) Put the dirty ones in double ziploc bags in your backpack and stash them in a small brown bag or something else that is opaque. One day when you are more comfortable with tampons you’ll want to give the Diva Cup a try! Have a wonderful time on your trip to Zion, and don’t stress too much about this…all of us ladies have gone through this at some point 🙂 Happy trails!
I am going on a hiking trip through Zion National Park this upcoming week, and I will be on my period. These hikes will only be up to 10 hours a day, but of course I can not leave a tampon in for that amount of time. I started my period less then a year ago, and I just more recently started using tampons. They still scare me to use in a clean, sanitary bathroom, so there is no way I’m using it in the wild. If I can’t use tampons, I don’t think the diva cup will be any easier. However, with pads, they will be uncomfortable and unsanitary. I realize that I have to deal with one of these options, but which one is the best?
Great question Sarah. Perhaps you could wear tampons the first day of each period and then use the Diva Cup for the rest of it? Maybe other readers will have suggestions too! Have fun on your hike!
I am getting ready to go on a 5 month hike, so I will be having a few periods along the way. I was just going to use pads and tampons, however, after reading all the great reviews, the Diva cup seems pretty promising. My only concern is when I start my period the first day or two are usually extremely painful from cramps and I can barely use tampons for those days. I am a little scared the Diva cup will have the same effect or even increase the pain since it is much larger than a tampon. Do you have any advice?
The Diva Cup works for me.
I wore it on a 10 mile hike the first day of my period. No leaks.
I didn’t have a chance to take care of it for a good 14 hours.
Now, I rarely use tampons at home. The cup is so much easier, I don’t have to worry about running out of tampons.
A good tip I picked up somewhere, after your period, soak the cup in hydrogen peroxide. It deodorizes it and gets rid of any stain. I put mine in a jar of HP under the sink when I’m not currently on my period.
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!
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.
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 🙂
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?
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
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!
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?
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?
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!
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!
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!
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! 🙂
i just read your article. Im having full plans to take a mountaineering coarse in the future. Thanks a lot for helping me out.
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?
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!
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!
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.
In hot temperatures it will smell. A bit of kitty litter in the bag with the used “period trash” will help cut down odors.
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.
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!
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?
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!!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
I’m so happy that the Diva Cup worked well for you! Nothing should stop us ladies from hiking!
Have fun out there!
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.
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!