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Female hiker hygiene - I get a lot of questions about this topic, with good reason.
Working up a sweat as a female is a two sided coin:
What's a female hiker gonna do about personal hygiene?
Yes, let's start with a shout out to your body fluids.
Your body produces an amazing amount of waste products. And that's a good thing!
Need some ideas on putting together a backpacking hygiene kit to deal with your fluids (and solids)?
And here's why your sweat may be attractive to your male hiking partner!
Because you're a biological being, producing waste products which can impact the natural environment as well as other hikers, it's important to plan your hiking around Leave No Trace Hiking principles.
Now let's cover a few specific tried and true personal hygiene tips for women hikers, so you can hit the trail but stay clean and comfortable regardless of what day of the month it is, or how hard you sweat.
Remember Priority One in Female Hiker Hygiene: Feeling great!
"It's that time of the month and I want to do a
multi day hiking trip."
You have several ways to tackle this female hiker hygiene personal protection issue while backpacking.
But failing to plan ahead is not among them, unless you like scrambling around with safety pins, bandannas, and any available moss or lichens.
Talk with your health care provider about a "birth control" prescription which will allow you to control exactly when you bleed.
This short term solution has associated risks, so be sure you have a complete discussion on the pros and cons before taking this step.
Keep a supply log during your next period.
Record your comfort level on each day (cramping, amount of flow, odors) and how many supplies you needed to remain comfortable.
Now you know exactly how much to pack!
Here's an interesting discussion about the effect of leaving your used tampons behind where others will see them -
where do you stand on this topic?
This approach to feminine hygiene is not for everyone, but in case you're willing to consider this idea, here's a way to avoid paper products (tampons or sanitary pads):
a menstrual cup.
Yes, it's just what it sounds like - an internal cup to collect your flow.
You decide when it's convenient to empty the cup (it can be left in place overnight), and you also need to keep it clean.
Here's a popular brand to consider: The Diva Cup.
Tip: Be sure to purchase the right size, because it needs to fit correctly.
To get a sense of what this solution to female hiker hygiene menstrual flow might be like on a hiking trip, check out this detailed review.
It's a good idea to put together a customized hiking hygiene kit, to address your particular concerns such as heavy menstrual flow.
"I plan on working up a sweat, but I'm not sure which type of underwear will keep me as cool and clean as possible."
Let's start at the bottom and work our way up in our search for female hiker hygiene solutions to the hiking underwear dilemma.
Hiking For Her underwear recommendations (undergarments, underpants, panties, knickers, you know - the base layer for your bottom!) come in all sorts of fabrics.
because the best women's underwear for hiking will change with the
season, as well as when you change your hiking pants style.
To find the best hiking underwear for your hiking style, consider the following questions and possible solutions.
To solve this potential challenge to female hiker hygiene and comfort on a day hike, think nylon and nylon blends with a cotton panel in the crotch area.
So I recommend that you aim for a mid rise cut which covers you enough to prevent chafing, and is slippery enough to move with you during your hike.
Here are two of my current favorites:
Tip: To deal with chafing issues anywhere on your body, try this "slippery on purpose" product:
Pure cotton women's underwear is notorious for doing this!
If you're hiking on a hot sunny day, no worries.
But cotton is to be avoided at any other time - and not just for your base layer. This is a basic hiking mantra!
You might have to invest a bit of money into underwear which wicks moisture away from your body.
But moisture wicking women's underwear is worth it for multi day hiking trips because you'll be more comfortable regardless of temperature.
Antimicrobial fabrics are the way to go, if you want to avoid odors, too. That's a top priority in female hygiene while backpacking.
Again, ExOfficio wins. These are the best solution I've found for wicking, odor resistant hiking underwear:ExOfficio Give-N-Go Bikini Brief.
Ah! Great female hiker hygiene question!
And yet another reason to avoid cotton: it dries slowly, or not at all in high humidity or cold conditions.
But if you have a nylon blend hiking panty, you can:
You can alternate between 3 pairs of hiking panties (wear one, wash one, and a backup pair in your backpack).
More drying tips:
Use a sunny rock when available for drying purposes.
Or hang your freshly washed hiking underwear inside your tent overnight.
Here's a good deal to consider, although it seems like a high price point initially:
A compelling female hiker hygiene worry!!
The above tips for selecting the right fabric, washing & drying will help avoid odors.
But disposable panty liners can also alleviate your odor concerns.
These liners come in various lengths and absorbencies.
Here's a good one to try:
If you suffer from "leaky sneezes" syndrome (unattractively called "urinary stress incontinence"), you might want to add these absorbent, odor controlling liners to your daily hiking hygiene on the trail:
Again, be a good citizen and carry out your used products and dispose of them properly, as you would with sanitary pads.
Let's start right off with some tough love:
Leave your under wire bras at home.
A well designed sports bra will keep you locked down tight, wick moisture away from your skin, provide easy on-and-off options, and just might look good, too.
Sports bras come in a mind numbing array of styles and fabrics.
Plus size hiking sports bras are even harder to find. Read this for some tips for finding the best hiking bras for your body type.
"I can't stand my dirty hair one more minute!"
Dirty hair may not seem like a big deal in theory, but it's a matter of comfort on our list of female hiker hygiene tips.
Hair length dictates how long you can stand the greasy, matted feeling that builds up underneath your hiking hat after several days of camping and hiking.
One reason I wear my hair long and all one length is because I can pull it into a braid or ponytail or bun, and not be bugged by it when it gets dirty after a day (week) of hiking.
You might think it's a little extreme to plan a hair style around hiking, but there you have it: I'm a hiking addict.
If you are, too, be sure to bring a few hair scrunchies, pony tail holders, clips or whatever else keeps your hair up and out of the way.
I have also resorted to wearing hats for days on end. These are my favorites.
Tip: Always braid your hair for sleeping. It keeps it out of your face and prevents you from pulling your own hair in your sleep.
Tip #2: Be sure your hiking hat will accommodate your bun or ponytail. You'll give yourself a headache if your hair clip digs into your head because your hat is pressing on it.
If you wear your hair short, or layered in the front so that you can't pull it up and away from your face, you have "hiding" options:
Or any combination!
You can also keep greasy hair off your face with this ingenious little piece of fabric:hiking headband
I'd recommend carrying enough all purpose soap for hair washing at regular intervals throughout your hiking trip.
Here's a great mild, odor free, multipurpose natural soap. When hiking through bear country, odorless is the way to go!Dr. Bronner's Unscented Fair Trade & Organic Castile Liquid Soap.
has a certain set point for the "I can't stand my dirty hair anymore!!" blues.
Some short haired women carry dry shampoo, and comb it through to soak up some of the natural oils.
If all else fails, wear your hat 24/7.
Then soak it in warm soapy water for a week once you're back home.
How do I answer Nature's call without falling off a cliff
or getting poison ivy blisters?
Yeah, there's no way around this one!
Reality: Keeping hydrated is a priority. Your body needs water for proper functioning.
Luckily, your kidneys are designed to figure out exactly how much water to keep in your bloodstream (so your heart rate matches your activity level) and how much to dump into urine so it can dilute waste products (among other things).
Water in, water out.
So put plenty of water in.
Take regular bathroom breaks (I call them 'pit stops') to avoid overtaxing your bladder.
Here's how to handle the inevitable female hiker hygiene issues associated with peeing.
Tip: Urine is considered sterile (devoid of harmful or pathogenic microorganisms), so unless you're peeing directly into a surface water source (ewww), anywhere is a fine spot.
If crouching and bushwacking does not appeal to you, you could try a feminine urination device.
Here's a good one to consider:Go Girl Female Urination Device.
It's fun to pee like the guys!
And it saves the hassle of a cold butt in less than ideal weather.
You'll have to bring along a bag to store the device, and remember to wash it when you get home.
Use a bag-within-a-bag system to store your toilet paper (unless you use natural materials - hence my reference to poison ivy.)
What about the female hiker hygiene issues surrounding solid waste?
Alas, you're going to have to crouch, or use a convenient (but scratchy) log to hang yourself over.
But before you do, have the right supplies.
A trowel like this one with serrated edges is a necessity, and should ride along with your toilet paper or baby wipes in the dedicated plastic bag system mentioned above.
Here again, don't ignore your urge to void.
In this case, it can lead to constipation, which leads to digestive upset, which leads to no fun at all on the trail!
Don't fight Mother Nature, but be prepared to work with her for your own comfort and female hiker hygiene.
I'll post more female hiker hygiene tips as I receive them from women who are out on the trail AND keeping as clean and comfy as possible!
Personal hygiene while backpacking is something every woman has to fine tune over several trips.
Keeping notes in your trail journal will lead to your own customized backpacking hygiene kit.
Happy Hygienic Hiking!
For some tips on how to stay comfortable in cold conditions, try these:
I'll give you my best tip up front:
Be quick about doing your business, and keep your body heat trapped in your layered hiking clothing.
But I'm guessing you already knew that ;)
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