by Diane Spicer
Good hiking hygiene for women on a day hike or backpacking trip means dealing with (gasp!) body fluids.
Not so fast, dear hiker!
Let's take a moment to appreciate those body fluids.
Then we can cover some hiking hygiene tips to keep you clean and comfortable while hiking.
Because female hygiene while backpacking, or even on a day hike, should never be left to chance.
SWEAT is the body's mechanism for safely dumping excess heat you generate during exercise.
And consider this:
Sweating hard ("perspiring") on a regular basis during exercise is great for flushing out toxins via the sweat.
And it gets the lymphatic channels moving, too - important for a healthy immune system.
So do you REALLY want to wear an antiperspirant on the trail?
Instead, as a first step in good personal hygiene while backpacking or day hiking, wear loose fitted moisture wicking shirts with great ventilation.
Tank tops need straps that are wide enough to cushion your skin from your backpack straps.
Also look for an antimicrobial component built into the fabric, if you're afraid of offensive odors.
Your skin really takes a beating from salty sweat and other trail hazards.
Urine is the way you let go of the substances your body doesn't need.
So it's a good thing, right?
Every time you urinate (pee), you are saying good-bye to the end products of biochemical reactions your cells used to:
Urine comes from a sterile environment (your kidneys and bladder), and should not have an offensive odor.
If it does, you might have a urinary tract infection.
Keep on eye on these problems:
definitely symptoms you want to bring to a health care provider as soon as possible after your hike.
Use the color of your urine for immediate feedback about how hydrated you are (or aren't!).
Allow me give you some resources that can make this particular "hiking hygiene for women potential nightmare" [a.k.a."pit stops"] easier to handle.
Ready? Here we go...
You could stand up when you pee, using a device designed to let you have the freedom of male anatomy.
Here are 2 popular choices competing for the best female urination device:
Rather than trying to keep bulky toilet paper dry and clean, I always carry travel sized packs of disposable wipes in my "hygiene kit", along with a plastic bag to receive the used ones.
I really love one particular brand because it smells great and has just the right amount of moisture to clean me up without lots of chemicals (such as nasty parabens) contacting my skin.
And you can use these wipes on your face, too! Sweat and urine issues, solved in one step!
To be a responsible hiker, make it a habit to:
That's part of Leave No Trace hiking.
Read more about socially responsible hiking.
One more idea:
Forego the toilet paper and wipes altogether by using a pee rag!
A small microfiber towel like this one is ideal because it dried quickly and can be rinsed out and hung to dry inside your tent.
Why answer nature's call at 1A outside of the tent?
Avoid worrying about how to squat and pee without peeing on yourself, in the dark, with hordes of mosquitoes as your only companions.
If you have a wide mouth reusable plastic bottle beside your sleeping bag, and you have the luxury of privacy or an understanding tent mate, drop your drawers, squat and collect your urine.
No cold, wet, dirty feet.
No zipping, unzipping, layering and unlayering.
A lightweight indestructible bottle like this Nalgene wide mouth is suitable.
Revisit the info on female urination devices above, because you'll need one to direct the flow of your urine into your bottle, rather than into your sleeping bag.
Tip: Use an indelible marker like a Sharpie to label it as your pee bottle, rather than your water bottle.
Blood: the body's river of life, delivers oxygen to trillions of cells.
It carries away waste products, too:
But then there's the monthly menstrual cycle blood to think about if you're in a certain age bracket.
Menstrual blood is definitely on the list as a hiking hygiene for women major concern!
This particular body fluid is released in relatively small amounts (compared with your total blood volume) when chemical messengers (hormones) tell the cells lining the uterus to slough off because there's no fertilized egg this month.
And away it goes, out of the body and into whatever receptacle you've chosen: tampon, sanitary napkin, etc.
Menstrual blood should not have an offensive odor unless there's an infection in the reproductive tract.
I am not saying it will be odorless, just that you shouldn't smell ammonia or other strong odors.
Your monthly cycle ties your body to the phases of the moon, to fertility, to your feelings about your body - and most importantly from a biology standpoint, this cycle guarantees the continuation of the human species.
All good reasons to honor the cycle, not dread it.
But realistically, you need to plan your hiking around your monthly flow.
Don't avoid hiking, but be sure to have the supplies you need and use proper disposal methods.
Hiking hygiene for women comes with the responsibility to make sure no one coming behind you on the trail knows that you've had to make that kind of pit stop.
Here's one approach to skipping the whole tampons/sanitary napkins supply issue: use an internal cup to catch your menstrual flow while backpacking.
The Diva Cup gets high marks from female hikers.
Be sure your hands are really, really clean when you insert and remove this cup.
And here's another important tip:
If you use paper products, you're going to have to pack out the used ones.
Be sure you've counted out, and packed, how many of these you'll be needing for your day hike or a multi day backpacking trip.
Seal them in plastic bags, and double bag them because if they get wet or dirty, they're un-useable.
Here's a new twist on carrying out used hygiene products: a self sealing biodegradable pouch that eliminates mess and odors.
There are different sizes for tampons and pads.
Clever idea, no?
Women sometimes wonder about the odor of menstrual blood attracting bears or other predators.
Any truth to this worry about hiking hygiene for women?
The Journal of Wildlife Management published some research results in 1991(a bit dated, but worthy of reading).
To bottom line it for you, NO - bears seem to prefer your food to your used "feminine hygiene" products. So on a hiking trip, hang your food properly, to avoid bear visitors.
Or skip the hanging routine, and use a bear canister - to safely stow your food, not the bear!
Need some more tips on how to handle the "monthly issues" while on the trail, as well as other female hiker hygiene tips?
I always giggle when I take a trip down "that" aisle at the store and see "feminine protection" plastered on the boxes.
I sort of expect a knight in shining armor to charge out on his horse when I open the flap.
Sadly, it hasn't happened yet...
If you understand that musical reference, you're crying because your elderly knees hurt on the trail.
Clearly, these hiking hygiene for women tips are not uppermost in your mind as you weep.
But once you've recovered your equilibrium, wash those sore eyes and trail dust out of your eyes.
They will feel so much better!
After a few almost-serious eye events, I'm never without eye drops in my first aid kit.
I dislike the kind that promise to make the whites of the eye white again, because they do so by shrinking the diameter of blood vessels to the eye. I want blood flowing to my eyes!
Here's what I use instead:
Adding these drops to my eyes doesn't sting, and it soothes my irritated eyeballs quickly so I can get back to hiking, or resting.
There are no chemicals, odors or staining associated with these handy little droppers.
I predict that you'll be grossed out by the amount of trail dirt floating around on your eyeballs and lids.
Be sure you toss the clever little plastic applicators into your trash bag and pack them out for proper disposal.
Answered your own question right there, you clever hiker.
Carry a trowel like this one.
Sounds like something you could never, ever do?
Practice, my dear.
Because NOT eliminating is not an option in the hiking hygiene for women rule book.
By now you realize that hiking hygiene for women backpackers - or even on a day hike that lasts single digit hours - is a blend of personal preferences and standard tried and true items.
Every one of us intrepid female hikers works up a sweat on the trail, but not all of us have to deal with menstrual flow on a hike.
Your strong, healthy hiker body is awash in fluids, and for good reasons.
That's why these tips on hiking hygiene for women celebrate your fluids!
Work with your body, not against it, to be the strongest, juiciest hiker you can be.
Hiking hygiene for women hikers needs it own day to celebrate our juiciness!
Body Fluids Appreciation Day
has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
Hiking Hygiene for Women
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