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Best Female Hiker
Hygiene Tips:
How To Stay Clean On The Trail

The best female hiker hygiene tips are practical, trail tested, and easy. Try these ways to stay clean and comfortable on your next hike, no matter what day of the month it is.

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:

  • praised (working up a sweat is working out, go girl!) -and-
  • vilified (stinky, smelly, unattractive you)

What's a female hiker gonna do about personal hygiene?

Be proactive!


Body fluids are great!
Wait, what?

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 customized backpacking hygiene kit to deal with your fluids (and solids)?

And there's an upside to your sweat: it may be attractive to your male hiking partner!

Leave no trace of wastes

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.

  • 'Cuz brown toilet paper is no fun to find on the trail.


Personal hygiene tips for
women hikers

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!


That time of the month
feminine hygiene products

"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.

Option 1: Skip your period on purpose

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.

Option 2: Forethought & planning

Keep a supply log of all of the feminine hygiene products used during your next period.

Record your comfort level on each day (cramping, amount of flow, odors) and which supplies you needed to remain comfortable.

  • In fact, do this for several months, to be sure you have minimum and maximum data.

Now you know exactly how much to pack!

  • Throw in a few extras, as a precaution.
  • You will have to carry a dedicated plastic bag for your waste products, and dispose of this once you reach a garbage can.

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?

Option 3: Internal collection cup for flow

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 avoid leaks.

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.


Hiking underwear dilemmas
& how to solve them

"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.

That's 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.

Will this underwear cling and create chafing?

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.

  • Low cuts or thongs may be too skimpy to prevent chafing from your pants rubbing against your pack.
  • But you don't want waist high underwear because it will be too binding around your waist (especially if you already have a camera bag strap and your backpack strap and your pants to consider).

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:

Warner's Women's No Pinching No Problems Lace Hi-Cut Brief Panty.

and

ExOfficio Women's Give-N-Go Bikini Briefs.

Tip: To deal with chafing issues anywhere on your body, try this "slippery on purpose" product:

BodyGlide

 Will this hiking underwear soak up sweat & stay wet against your skin all day?

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.

Can I wash & dry this hiking underwear quickly?

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:

  • swish it in soapy water,
  • give it a quick rinse,
  • squeeze the moisture out,
  • hang it to dry on the outside of your backpack the next day, and
  • expect it to be ready to go the next morning (except in really cold or humid conditions).

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.

  • Tip: Be sure the underwear is securely fastened above your head. I once woke up from a nightmare of wrestling an octopus to find myself with my hiking underwear on my head.

Here's a good deal to consider, although it seems like a high price point initially:

Give-N-Go Bikini 3-Pack.

What about smelly odors?

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.

  • Just be sure to have a zip lock plastic bag devoted to carrying this trash back home with you for proper disposal.

These liners come in various lengths and absorbencies.

Here's a good one to try:

Always Incredibly Thin Daily Liners.

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:

Tena Serenity Pantiliners.

Again, be a good citizen and carry out your used products and dispose of them properly, as you would with sanitary pads.

Now for our top story:
best hiking sports bras

Let's start right off with some tough love:

Leave your under wire bras at home.

  • They are constricting, uncomfortable, and will dig into your chest wall as soon as you strap on your pack.
  • They could also attract lightning if you're out on an exposed ridge in a storm (no joke).

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.

Here's my take on the best sports bras for hiking.

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.


Dirty hair - ugh!!!

"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.

Hiking hairstyles for long hair

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.

Tips for short haired hikers

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

Hair washing tips for backpackers

I'd recommend carrying enough all purpose soap for hair washing at regular intervals throughout your hiking trip.

  • Be sure to keep the soap out of water sources by bringing the water to the soap, not the other way around.

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.


So what's a "regular interval" for hair washing?

Every woman has a certain set point for the "I can't stand my dirty hair anymore!!" blues.

  • For me, that's every 3rd day when I'm out for weeks at a time. By the third day without a shower, my decreased level of personal hygiene while backpacking begins to bother me.
  • You will surely know when you get a bad case of the dirty hair blues, because you can think of nothing else besides clean hair.

Some short haired women carry dry shampoo, and comb it through to soak up some of the natural oils.

  • No soap needed!
  • This brand of hair care products is great for hikers. If you haven't tried Acure yet, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

If all else fails...

If all else fails, wear your hat 24/7.

Then soak it in warm soapy water for a week once you're back home.

  • It's the easiest of the feminine hiker hygiene tips offered here.
  • And if you look great in hats, all of your backpacking photos will turn out perfectly.

Answering Nature's call: the most vexing & annoying
female hiker hygiene issue

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.

Don't fight it!

Take regular bathroom breaks (I call them 'pit stops') to avoid overtaxing your bladder.

  • Never fight the urge to void your bladder.
  • Holding urine can set you up for a nasty urinary tract infection.

Here's how to handle the inevitable female hiker hygiene issues associated with peeing.

  • If you've consulted your map prior to the hike, you know what sort of terrain you're covering. Just a little plug for safe navigation :)
  • If you're above tree line for most of the day, you're going to have to crouch behind a rock and pray that nobody is above you.
  • If you're in forest, that's a bit easier - spot a convenient pile of tree debris and use it as cover.
  • After you void, clean yourself with moist unscented alcohol free wipes like these, and dispose of them in a dedicated plastic bag which you will empty when you get home.

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.

Why squat when you can stand?

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.)

  • Be really sure you can identify those leaves before grabbing for the free toilet paper!
  • 'Cuz you'll have way more trouble than female hiker hygiene on your hands (and elsewhere).

How hikers poop

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.

  • If at all possible, dig or scratch a cat hole in the dirt with the trowel.
  • Do your business in the hole.
  • Use the moist wipes mentioned above for clean up.
  • Cover your hole, using the trowel.
  • Your trowel should not contact your waste, and can be wiped clean of dirt or mud on nearby vegetation.
  • If possible, camouflage the area with debris.

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.


More female hiker hygiene tips

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!

Female hiker with a red backpack on a rainy dayFemale hiker hygiene gets more challenging when it's cold outside!

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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