The only guide you need to hike as a woman
There seems to be some skepticism, bordering on amazement, about the idea of women in the wilderness. Whether it’s because “I don’t want to sleep in a tent,” or “I like the beach,” women have given me many excuses for why they don’t camp.
But almost anyone can go camping.
I will admit there are differences between men and women, though, especially when you’re left to the elements.
Let’s get this first one out of the way – the bathroom. I have never, ever, in all 21 years of my life, had a problem going to the bathroom outside. I’ve read books with chapters literally dedicated to teaching women how to squat in the woods. People have invented contraptions – cue the GoGirl – for helping women relieve themselves. But I don’t get it. Squat down, grab some toilet paper, and you know the rest. My only advice here – make sure your feet are far enough apart, especially if you’re standing on a rock.
Unless you’re on a certain birth control, you’re facing the inevitable. I’ve been camping in Canada since I was three years old, so I was bound to run into this issue at least once.
I like to keep my possessions simple when I’m in the woods. My toiletries consist of a toothbrush, toothpaste, and face lotion. That’s it.
But if I suspect, and especially if I know, I’ll get my period, I bring as many tampons/pads as I’ll need and plenty of plastic bags. My dad and I bring plastic bags from the grocery, anyway. They’re good for dirty clothes, wet clothes, and trash. (And used feminine products).
I keep two plastic bags for the items above (dirty & wet clothes; trash), and I bring a third bag for used products. Besides cleanliness and separation from your trash, this will save your dad, or camping partner, from having to stare at used tampons every time they want to throw something away. You can keep the bag in your camping pack, which is especially nice if the whole menstruating topic isn’t something you bring up with the person you’re camping with. (Side note: My dad never knew about the third bag until this blog – which is proof that you can keep it private).
This is important: please – seriously, please – do not try burying any female products. They won’t decompose, and the animals will smell it and dig it up. Would you feed your used tampon to your dog? No. Don’t feed it to the bears.
I pack frugally, but when it comes to tampons, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Tampons and pads are easy to stuff away in little corners or in a pillow, so it doesn’t hurt to bring a few extra. After your pack is full, there are always little crevices to smush in things like socks, books, or tampons. You don’t want to end up like me when I went winter camping – with one panty liner and the first three days of my period. Yikes.
On that note – if you ever are in a situation where you can’t get access to feminine products and you’re on your period, try using a lot of toilet paper or paper towel – camping staples. The thicker the better. Just crumple it up and keep replacing it as often as possible, without taking all your TP supply. Another solution is doing the same with a pair of underwear you don’t care about anymore. It’ll at least last you a day, and you can try rinsing it out with water.
Not all women sport long hair, but for the people, including men, who do, this one’s for you. If you have difficult hair and don’t feel like shaving it all off when you arrive back home, you might want to have a game plan for your luscious locks before heading into the backcountry.
I have a jungle of curly, thick, unbrushable hair. I condition it every single day at home, but that’s not an option in the woods. I’ve tried everything from letting it go, actually attempting to comb it every day, keeping it in braids, etc.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I haven’t yet found the perfect answer. If you have straight or wavy hair, it might be easier to pull out sticks and brush out dirt. But my hair loves holding onto that kind of stuff.
My best solution thus far – two French braids I can tuck under a hat or a twisted bun. I’ll leave them in the whole trip. Sure, that’s usually not more than 14 days, but the braids are pretty annoying by that point. I stick with it though because it keeps me from wanting to chop off all my hair.
On the other hand, I did leave my hair down on a recent winter camping trip. My hair took full advantage of this as it transformed into a thickening bird’s nest of a mess. My only solution was to brush it when I got home, which was the first time I did that in six years. This is not my favorite approach and I’d really only recommend it if you’re going on a short journey.
Long story short, you can still be the feminine, dress-wearing superstar you are outside of the woods because you don’t need to change yourself. Of all the things you may feel discriminate against you – Mother Nature is not one of them.