Packing for that backcountry adventure can be especially tricky for women. Find out what an experienced trekker packs and what she leaves behind.
Ever wonder just how much—and specifically what—you should pack for a trip? And more importantly, what you can afford to leave behind? When it comes to packing for a hike, it’s even more important to be strategic—especially for women.
Let’s face it: a woman’s backpacking needs are a little different than a man’s.
First, we know there could be photos taken. And we’re far less likely than men to be okay with people snapping pics of us sporting our morning bed-head or end-of-day hat-head.
Second, women generally care more about personal hygiene than men.
And, third, we women have to take into consideration our menstrual cycles, or our hot flashes, or whatever other hormone party our body has decided to throw for us.
Pack it, ’cause it may happen
For any kind of hike you decide to embark on, be it a day hike or a multiday adventure, pack what you’ll need to take care of your menstrual needs.
Be prepared: there are no drug stores, or handy vending machines, on the trail.
And while you may have planned carefully around your menstrual cycle specifically to avoid this complication, your body may have other ideas.
Take it from me: it can—and will—happen! When I was planning my West Coast Trail expedition, I deliberately booked the hike around my menstrual cycle, but failed to take into account the perversities of perimenopause. On day three of the hike, I started my period.
I was less than impressed, but I was ready.
Peeing in the woods
A dyed-in-the-wool city slicker who enjoys her creature comforts, it took me a while to get used to the idea of answering the call of nature … while enjoying the call of nature. By the end of our trek through the WCT, though, I was so used to relieving myself outdoors that I was worried that I might forget I was back in civilization when I got home.
There are a few different methods you can use to pee outdoors. The one I recommend is to squat against a log or tree, on the downhill part of a slope.
What don’t you need?
An eyelash curler. I took mine (don’t judge), and by day three I’d long forgotten I even had eyelashes. Happy trails.
Packing for periods
- Remember to heed the golden rule of hiking: pack out what you pack in:
- plastic zip-lock bag to store unused feminine hygiene products
- unscented organic maxi-pads and tampons or menstrual cup
- unscented wipes and toilet paper
- small zip-lock bags or dark sealable container to store used materials
- large zip-lock or resealable trash bag (dark if you can find it) for consolidating the smaller used ones
Before You Pee
- Check the terrain for any dangers (wildlife, edges/drop-offs, loose rock/soil, poisonous vegetation).
- Make sure you’re at least 200 ft (60 m) from any water sources, trails, or campsites.
- Take a look at the terrain and see where the flow will lead. Do not pee on an uphill (seems obvious, I know).
- Find a tree or log to squat against.
- Look for moss or soft dirt. Both will soak up pee and stop any splatter. Avoid leaves or hard dirt; these cause the most splatter (I learned this the hard way).
- Take your pack off. Trust me. Even if you have thighs of steel.
- If you use toilet paper, be sure to store what you use in a sealable bag and pack it out.
- Consider a hygiene product that allows you to pee standing up, such as GoGirl.
Backpacking hygiene kit for women
Remember, if you’re hiking in bear country, keep your kit as scent free as possible.
- biodegradable body wipes
- biodegradable toilet paper (pack 50 percent more than you think you’ll need—again, trust me)
- hand sanitizer gel
- biodegradable soap (doubles as laundry soap)
- organic maxi-pads, tampons, pantyliners, or menstrual cup
- zip-lock or sealable bags (for soiled hygiene products)
- lip balm with minimum SPF 15
- comb or brush
- dry shampoo (you can make your own)
- foot powder (use a couple of times a day to help prevent blisters)
- first-aid kit …
… and most importantly …
- a sense of humour
I tried to save my number twos for camp, where there were outhouses. But if you don’t have that option, bring a trowel or small shovel, dig a hole (about 6 to 8 in/15 to 20 cm deep), use biodegradable toilet paper, and cover the hole after you’re done.