Wherever you might be—hiking, camping or at home—periods and period care are highly personal. These Leave No Trace tips will help you stay comfortable and safe, while minimizing any potential impacts if you are on your period outdoors without access to your usual facilities.
When your body is put under stress such as a large exertion or a new setting/activity, this can prompt your cycle to start early so make sure to carry some back up materials with you. If traveling in a group, talk and plan together to make sure there are period products available amongst the group.
Educate yourself so you are poised enough to offer support if someone is unsure of what to do in an outdoor setting or is getting their period for the first time. This is especially important if you work with youth who may not feel as comfortable voicing their needs or asking for support.
This can include cleansing wipes (make sure to pack these out), some sort of pain management if you experience heavy cramping (a hot water bottle can work well), hand sanitizer, specific foods, etc. You know yourself and your cycle best, so bring anything you might need or want access to while away from home or a store.
Products that are disposable or have packaging will need to be packed out. This includes, tampons, tampon applicators, pads, pad wrappers, wipes, and any used toilet paper. A sealable plastic bag with duct tape on the outside or an old water bottle designated only for trash works great for this.
If using period underwear, to wash them, make sure to travel 200 feet (70 big steps) from any trails, campsites or water sources and use biodegradable soap. If washing in a container, broadcast the water when you are finished.
For a menstrual cup, if you feel comfortable or if regulations require it, pack out the menstrual fluid. An old sealable container or a WAG bag can work for this. If not, to empty, travel 200 feet (70 big steps) from any trails, campsites, or water sources, dig a hole 6-8” deep and dispose of the contents in the hole.
IMPORTANT: For washing any product that will be inserted or in close contact with your body, remember to use clean, decontaminated water only. Do not use water from any sources that may contain pathogens without first filtering or boiling, as these can then enter your body through these products.
There are many great resources that exist on this topic from videos and articles to product specific reviews. Like with any piece of gear, make sure you feel comfortable using whichever product you choose before setting off on your trip, especially if you have not used it before. It’s best to try a new product out for a few periods at home before it’s time to use it outdoors. Knowing what facilities will be present and how long you plan to be out may also help you decide which products to bring.
As with anything we do outdoors, prepare for your period and try to minimize impacts, but don’t be hard on yourself or feel embarrassed if something does not go as planned. Like many things on outdoor adventures, periods can be unpredictable and sometimes throw curveballs at us. Ask for help if you need it, and create space for honest and open communication. As long as you feel safe and comfortable, don’t let your period stop you from continuing to explore and having a good time outside.