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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 how to stay clean on a hiking trail, with good reason.

Working up a sweat as a female is a two sided coin, because you fall into two mutually exclusive categories:

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

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

Be proactive by using the plethora of best female hiker hygiene tips on this page.


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, moment by moment you produce 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 and used tampons are no fun to find on the trail.

Best 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 during

a multi day hiking trip. Help!"

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 you use during your next period.

Also 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 need 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?

Trail tip:

In your log, also record your food cravings.

Plan to have them in your backpack as a little reward for yourself.

  • Keeping your morale high even when you're cramping and bleeding is priceless!

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.

Hand hygiene is essential, so also carry hand sanitizer (although good old soap and water is best long term as it's less drying to your skin).

Here's a popular brand of menstrual cup 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 or skirt 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.

  • Not to mention the "creep into the crack" issues.

But you might not want waist high underwear, either.

  • Too binding around your waist, especially if you already have a camera bag strap and your backpack strap and your belt 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 your layers 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.

Trail tip:

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

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:


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 your menstrual supplies.


Now for our top story:
best hiking sports bras

"I can't find a comfortable sports bra that works well with my backpack."

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, it's true.

So here is 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.

Trail tip:

Hiking is considered a moderate impact sports activity.

  • Take that with a grain of salt.

Flat, wide trails are low impact, rocky and steep trails are high impact, and if you're generously endowed, everything is high impact!

Ignore the ratings and marketing hype. Focus on achieving your personalized comfortable fit (yet another version of "hike your own hike", applied to your girls).


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.

  • Not to mention the bug carcasses and tree branches!

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.

Female hiker at rest stop on ridge top, wearing moisture wicking hiking pants and shirt, boots and sun hat.Hiking For Her says keep your hairstyle simple for ease on the trail.

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 several 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.

Trail 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.

And a braid lies flatter than a ponytail, keeping your neck in alignment with your body as you snore away.

Bonus tip:

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.

Any of these ingenious little pieces of fabric will work:

Or any combination!

Hair washing tips for backpackers

Here's one of the best female hiker hygiene tips you'll ever find:

Carry 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.

This is a great mild, odor free, multi-purpose and 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! What goes in must come out.

Big Hiking 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, and learn how to dispose of it quickly.

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 (UTI).

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 or support as you squat.
  • 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.

Trail tip:

Urine is considered sterile (devoid of harmful or pathogenic microorganisms), so unless you're peeing directly into a surface water source (ewww), anywhere off trail is a fine spot.

No hole digging required!

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!

If you hike in a skirt, what could be easier?

  • 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 with soap 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?

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.

Alas, you're going to have to crouch, or use a convenient (but scratchy) log or rock to hang yourself over.

But before you do, have the right supplies ready.

An inexpensive, lightweight 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 shallow cat hole in the dirt with the trowel.
  • Do your business in the hole.
  • Use the moist wipes mentioned above for clean up. Stow them in your bag.
  • 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.
  • Re-arrange any rocks, branches and moss that you've moved.
  • If possible, camouflage the area with debris or forest duff to leave no trace.

Say a thank you to the soil microbes, whom you have just fed. They'll break everything down for you!


More female hiker hygiene tips

I'll post more female hiker hygiene questions and trustworthy 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.

Trail tip:

Keeping notes in your trail journal will lead to your own customized backpacking hygiene kit.


What about cold weather challenges
to female hiker hygiene?

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


For trail tested tips on how to stay comfortable and warm in cold conditions, try these:

I'll give you my best tip up front:

But I'm guessing you already knew that ;)


Happy Hygienic Hiking!


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Female Hiker Hygiene Tips


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