How To Deal With Your Period When Hiking

Periods can be a right old inconvenience, can’t they? I mean I know we should all be modern empowered woman about them, but sometimes they can come at the most awkward of times. Take hiking, for example. How on earth do you deal with your period when hiking? I’m not talking about a gentle hour or two stroll close to your home. No, I mean proper full day or even multi-day hiking, how do you manage your period then?

And what if you’re hiking with people you’ve literally just met? Christ, us women still hide tampons up our sleeves when we’re heading to public toilets in bars and restaurants, so heaven knows how you’re meant to deal with your period when hiking in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of strangers, and only the occasional tree to hide your modesty!

Many of us still feel embarrassed and self-conscious when dealing with our periods in a public space. But on the flipside, exercise like hiking, has been proven to help alleviate some of the symptoms we experience when on our periods, for example cramps, headaches etc. Plus, why should we miss out on the activities we love simply because we happen to be bleeding out of our vaginas!?!

If you have a big hike coming up and you’ve realised you’ll likely be on your period during this time, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together our top tips on how to deal with your period when hiking so that you’ll be able to focus all of your energy on enjoying the hike, being outdoors, and making new connections instead of worrying about your period.

Plan Ahead

Having your period shouldn’t put a stop to your hiking plans, and the key to a successful and problem free hike is all in the planning. No matter whether you’re hiking on your own or as part of a group it’s important to check out the route the hike will take you before you go. Even if the hike is part of an organised trip, the travel company should send out a detailed itinerary so that you know where you’ll be hiking each day. And once you know this, you can start planning your period stops.

Some routes may include public toilets, in which case bingo you’ve just won the lottery. Most likely however, they won’t, which means you’re going to have to do wild wees and al fresco period changes instead. Whilst changing your period products in the outdoors isn’t the most dignified thing you’ll ever do, it is by no means impossible. An important thing to remember is that you must take away all of your rubbish. That includes used tampons, sanitary towels, wrappers, wipes, etc. All of it needs to be bagged up and packed away in your bag. If you’re in any doubt, about what you can and cannot leave, read more about the Leave No Trace campaign.

If you don’t already keep track of your periods, it would be a good idea to start now. Tracking your periods helps you to know when you will likely get your period in future. It also notifies you of any changes in your cycle, which is especially useful when you’re heading towards the perimenopause and things start to get a bit more erratic. If your cycle is fairly regular, you will know in advance of your hiking trip whether you are likely to have to deal with your period or not. Now, one thing I will say is that even if your period tracker indicates you won’t be on your period, it’s always a good idea to pack some just in case sanitary protection. Plus, even if don’t end up using them, there might be a very grateful woman in your hike group who’s been caught short and you will be a literal life saver when you start dishing out the tampons!

Some period trackers also allow you to monitor how heavy your flow is on each day of your period. This is mega useful info when you’re camping, because we all know there is a huge difference between day 2 of your period versus day 5 of your period. If you know that your period is expected to start mid-hike, if you’ll be on the early days of your period, or if you are someone who generally has heavier periods, then make sure you pack enough products to cope with this. We’ll go onto which products to take in a moment, but for now just know that in this instance more is most definitely more.

And finally, make sure you pack your period products in an easily accessible part of your bag. Most hiking bags contain a multitude of different pockets, so either keep your products in an easy to reach pocket or place them at the very top of the main compartment of your bag. That way, when you have a rest stop, you can get what you need without having to empty out the entire contents of your bag.

What Period Products Are Best For Hiking?

Ultimately, what period products you use when hiking is down to personal preference. However, some are more convenient than others. We’re here to talk you through your options so that you can make a decision about what’s best for you.

  1. Menstrual Cup – If there’s one product that is more suited to hiking than any other, it’s the menstrual cup. Designed to be worn internally (hey that’s less weight in your bag ladies!), menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours before needing to be removed, emptied and cleaned. It does take a bit of practice to get used to the inserting and removing process, so make sure you’ve had a few trial runs before your hike. But if you can get to grips with it, this is an absolute hiking game changer.
  2. Period Pants – Probably not the best option to use on their own, as most need changing every 4-6 hours and they can’t usually cope with really heavy flows. It’s a risk, let’s put it like that. However, when used in combination with either a tampon or a sanitary towel, it makes for a great back up for any potential leaks.
  3. Tampons – Depending on your flow, tampons should be changed every 4-8 hours, so there is a chance you may not need to change mid-hike. Try to go for tampons without applicators, as these are smaller and won’t bulk out your bag as much. Find somewhere private, take your time, pack away your rubbish, clean your hands, and watch out for nettles!
  4. Sanitary Towels – These should be changed every 3-4 hours so probably not the most convenient of choices on offer. But if this is what feels the most comfortable to you, or if this is what you’re used to then that is the most important factor. You could try pairing them with period pants, so that when you come to change them, you only need to peel off the used pad and then rely on the period pants alone to get you the rest of the way. Just remember that pads can become unstuck if you sweat a lot, and they can also move about as you walk, which could result in leaks. There is also an increased chance of chaffing, and no one needs sore stingy bits. Like tampons, you must remember to take all of your rubbish away with you.
  5. Hormonal Contraceptives – Certain hormonal contraceptives can either stop your cycle entirely, or they can be taken in such a way that you can skip a period. If you would prefer not to have to deal with your period when hiking, make an appointment to talk to your GP about your options.

How To Change Your Period Products When Hiking

Depending on the distance of your hike, it is highly likely that at some point you will need to change your period product, or at least have a quick check to make sure everything’s OK down there. If you know there are no public facilities en route, start speccing out suitable privacy spots, like trees or bushes for you to duck behind and have a little refresh. All hikers accept there will be some wild wee stops, so if you don’t feel comfortable explaining about your period to the rest of the group, simply tell them you need a rest break.

As we’ve discovered above, some period products need to be changed more frequently than others, so in some instances you won’t even need to worry about changing them mid-hike. However, that being said it’s always best to be prepared for the just in case scenarios.

Think about what you’re wearing on your bottom half. Tight running leggings are more comfortable to walk in, but they might not necessarily be the easiest to pull down, especially if they’ve got wet from rain. Choose looser trousers or shorts that are easy to pull up and down and think about the colour of them too. Steer clear of white or light colours (never a practical hiking colour anyway) and instead opt for darker colours or patterns that will hide any blood stains should you have a leak.

It’s also really important you keep your hands clean before and after changing your period products. Keep wet wipes and hand sanitizer within easy reach in your bag so that you can keep up good hygiene standards. The last thing you want is to get an infection or a UTI when you’re out on the trails.

How To Dispose Of Sanitary Items

Some period products are biodegradable, so in theory you could dig a cathole and bury your used tampons or pads. We personally think it is better to take all rubbish away with you though, because if everyone started digging catholes and burying their waste… well, it can’t be good, can it?

Dog poo bags or nappy sacks are great for holding used period products and other rubbish. You can also buy scented versions to help with any concerns you might have about smell. The good thing about dog poo bags is that you can’t see through them, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed when you eventually move them from your rucksack to a bin. It’s also a good idea to wrap the used tampons or pads in toilet roll first, to help reduce the risk of any leaks.

Although you may come across toilets on your hike, it may not always be possible to dispose of your used sanitary items, especially if it is an environmentally friendly composting toilet. Check for signs, and if in any doubt, either dispose of them in bins or pack and take your rubbish away with you.

Other Things You Should Pack

Your motto when hiking with your period is – be prepared. And we’re not just talking in terms of the period products you pack, there are also some other essentials that will come in handy:

  • Toilet Paper – You don’t need a whole roll, so don’t worry about using up precious space in your bag. Take a few sheets with you for cleaning up any mess and also to wrap used sanitary towels or tampons in.
  • Hand Sanitizer – Use this to clean your hands after you have been for a wee, cleaned yourself up, or changed any period products.
  • Wipes – Useful for wiping any blood from your thighs, hands, or anywhere else it might get. Don’t use it on any sensitive areas though, as this could irritate and potentially cause a UTI.
  • Waste Bags – Dog poo bags or nappy sacks are great for putting waste in. For extra security, double bag it.
  • Ibuprofen – To help with any period related cramps, plus also great for easing hiking aches and pains.
  • Chocolate – Because chocolate makes everything better.

It’s a good idea to make up a period pack before you go on your hike, which includes everything on the list above as well as the period products you’ll need and a few spares. Keep them altogether in a designated bag and make sure it’s packed somewhere that’s easily accessible.

We should never let our periods dictate what we can or cannot do. Yes, we bleed once a month but that doesn’t mean we should lock ourselves away for a week and cancel all plans. Hiking with your period is 100% possible and hopefully after reading this you’ll see that it’s not so difficult after all. It just takes some forward planning to ensure you are prepared for all eventualities. And if you’ve done that, you can relax and crack on with enjoying your hike.