Hello friends – Mikaela here with another instalment of The Camper’s Guide. Today’s post is targeted at the campers among us who get periods. Not the most glamorous topic, I’ll admit, but an important one nonetheless. In this post, I’ll go over three different options you have for managing your period while camping, strategies for dealing with the used products, and tips to keep you feeling clean and fresh. All together, these suggestions will make camping on your period not only tolerable, but even enjoyable! So let’s get into it….
Period Products that can be used while Camping
Reusable Product Option 1: Period-Proof Underwear
I have only recently discovered the magic of Period-Proof underwear and I have fallen in love. First, period-proof underwear reduces your plastic footprint. Second, they are super handy and easy to use on a camping trip.
For those unfamiliar with period proof underwear, Thinx designed super-absorbent, odour-resistant, comfortable and lightweight underwear with the same absorbency as two tampons. Read here on how it works. (And no, this isn’t sponsored.)
The intention behind Thinx was a healthier and environmentally-friendly alternative to tampons and pads, however an added bonus is how great they are for camping with your period.
During the day, wear a pair of period-proof underwear as you would any other pair of underwear. At the end of the day, change into another pair of period-proof underwear for sleeping. It’s as simple as that.
Period Proof Underwear and a Word of Caution: If you have a heavy period, you may need to change your underwear halfway through the day. If you have a super heavy period, I would not recommend using Thinx (though it can be great as a second layer of defence).
What do you do with the already used pair? To be honest, it depends how long the trip is. On a shorter trip, I just throw the pair into a party bag (see below for instructions on how to make your own), seal it and put it back in my pack. For longer trips, you can rinse them out with water in a dedicated bowl and dump the water into a cat hole (a hole you did for pooping – see here for instructions).
Pro Tips: Like with pads and tampons, bring more than you think you’ll need. Also, you can do a mini batch of laundry on trip and wash your period-proof underwear partway through. (If you don’t know how to do laundry on trip, check out #11 of The Camper’s Guide to Staying Clean While Camping.)
Alternatively, you can toss used pairs into a Party Bag and not reuse them, however you’ll need to bring more pairs in this case.
Reusable Product Option 2: Menstrual Cups
A Menstrual Cup is a flexible silicone cup that goes directly inside the vagina (just like a tampon). However, the cup collects blood in the cup rather than absorbing blood like a tampon does. When you go to the washroom (the woods in this instance), you simple remove the cup, tip the blood out and put it back in. Read here on how to insert it.
There are actually a ton of benefits to using a menstrual cup that make them awesome for when you’re camping on your period. It can be safely left inside for up to 12 hours (depending on how heavy your flow is). You don’t have used period products to dispose.
The most popular brand is The Diva Cup, but there are actually quite a few brands for menstrual cups (LENA cup, Blossom cup, Dutchess cup, etc.). It’s worth doing a little research on each and reading reviews to decide which one is the best for you.
The menstrual cups above are all well recognized and high quality, though they are on the pricier side. If you’re looking at a less expensive menstrual cup, read this before you purchase.
Disposable Products: Traditional Pads and Tampons
Your first option for dealing with your period while camping is fairly straightforward. Use tampons and pads as you would at home. Pack more than you think you’ll need.
Pads and a Word of Caution: If you are canoeing or kayaking on your camping trip, beware of using pads. If you fall into the water, the pad will quickly absorb water and need to be changed right away. Also it’ll be really uncomfortable. Alternatively, if you are hiking, pads can make your groin area really sweaty and promote chaffing. Again, that’ll be pretty uncomfortable.
Dealing with Used Period Products – Say Hello to the Party Bag!
Regular pads and tampons become a challenge once you are finished with them. You’re out in the middle of nature. How do you dispose of them? My answer for you is simple: The Party Bag.
The Party Bag is a large Ziplock Bag covered in duct tape (so the plastic bag is no longer transparent). When you are done with your used tampon or pad, put it in The Party Bag, zip up The Party Bag and put it in your pack. Once you are back in civilization, you can dispose of The Party Bag all at once.
A Party Bag is a really easy thing to make at home before your trip. Some people have spoken about buying specialty bags for used menstrual products, but I’ve found the homemade Party Bag to be sufficiently effective.
Pro Tip: Take smaller plastic bags (those without zip locks). Once you’re done with the tampon or pad, put it in the little bag and tie it up with a knot. Then put it into The Party Bag. This does two things: 1) it prevents The Party Bag from releasing odour when you open it up; 2) if your Party Bag was to accidentally open up or rip, the period products are still wrapped in another layer of plastic.
Keep in Mind: Under no circumstances should you ever dispose of tampons or pads in the woods. Tampons and pads do not biodegrade.
No Period: Consider Skipping Your Period Altogether
Some birth control options give you some flexibility in when you have your period. It’s possible to time this so that you don’t get your period on your camping trip at all.
One summer when I was canoe guiding, I got the green light from my doctor to take my hormonal birth control everyday for two months. This prevented me from having a period at all that summer.
Word of Caution: It is so so so important that if you are even considering this option, you talk to your doctor about it first. Your age, flow, hormones, birth control type and pregnancy plans all impact whether this is a good option for you. Talk to your doctor.
Additional Tips to Make Camping on Your Period Comfortable
Keep everything clean: Bring a pack of unscented baby wipes and routinely give yourself a little wash. This will keep you feeling fresh and clean. But remember to dispose of baby wipes in your garbage bag or Party Bag. Baby wipes are not biodegradable.
Swim regularly: If weather and location permits, swim regularly to rinse everything clean.
Wear loose clothing: I know people like hiking in tights, but if you’re on your period this could get uncomfortable (and unhygienic) pretty quickly. Tight pants keep your groin away warm and moist – a breeding ground for bacteria.
Bring medicine: Any medication you normally take for your period can be brought on trip. I like to have both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil), in addition to some Midol.
Bring a mini hot water bottle: If you can afford a little additional space and weight, consider bringing a mini water bottle (~2 L). You can heat the water over the fire or stove, (carefully) fill the hot water bottle and use it to relieve any pain.
I hope this short and sweet guide has cleared up an questions you have about camping on your period. If you have any questions or additional tips, please comment below!