Real Talk: Hiking, Climbing, and Camping on Your Period

Listen, getting your period can suck, especially if you’re headed out on a camping adventure. Menstruation is a part of life for many of us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a total drag sometimes. Camping on your period doesn’t need to be a game stopper.

I’m here to debunk the taboo of talking about what to do when you’re camping on your period. Learn to embrace your menstrual cycle and handle it like a boss in the outdoors.

Content warning: If bodily functions gross you out, don’t read this post. Or, take a big leap of faith and learn a little bit about yourself. Periods are natural, you shouldn’t be ashamed of them. Embrace what your body does because it’s truly amazing and you’re a total rock star!

As an avid outdoor enthusiast and professional freelance writer for the outdoors, I’ve tried it all. When it comes to camping on your period, there are so many different ideas and options. I’ve dealt with it so many times that I’ve become a little bit of a pro on the subject. So let’s get down and dirty with the best ways to handle camping while on your period.

About this Guide to Camping on Your Period

For such a normal occurrence, there’s surprisingly a lot to cover when it comes to getting your period while camping. In this guide we’ll dive into:

  • The best methods for dealing with your period while camping
  • Tips and tricks for using new products like menstrual cups
  • Dealing with wildlife while camping on your period
  • Quick tips for climbing and thru-hiking on your period
  • Additional resources for the outdoor badass
camping on your period with bears

Opening Up a Conversation About Camping on Your Period

Okay, so I may be a straight, cis-woman who doesn’t like wearing makeup or dresses and I can be a little rough around the edges. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want everyone to feel welcomed here. What I care about is that you get outdoors and feel like your most authentic self. That can be different than me, and I want to celebrate that!

I’ve been on a journey of allyship and intersectional topics for years now. It continues to be a learning experience. My whole world has opened up thanks to simply shutting up and listening to people who have differing opinions and life experiences than me.

One thing I’ve learned is that periods aren’t feminine. Periods are a bodily function. I’m actively working on my language choices on this blog to reflect that. And with over 300 posts, this is a process. I’m prone to making mistakes and open to feedback. So if you see ways I could do better, I want to hear about it!

Seriously, the beautiful thing about blogs is that there is a human being behind the 1’s and 0’s that make this website tick. My mission is to empower you to get out there, so let’s dive into all things menstruation!

What Are My Options While Camping on Your Period?

Perhaps you’ve finally decided to head out on that epic camping adventure, and then you realize you’re going to get your period. ARG! WHY?!?!

There’s no need to cancel that trip filled with epic mountain sunsets and sultry campfires. Breathe it out. I’ve got you covered!

Here are your best options (in order) for camping on your period:

  1. Use a menstrual cup
  2. Using reusable pads or period underwear
  3. Dealing with tampons while camping
  4. Skipping your period

Each of these methods has their pros and cons, but overall the menstrual cup is the way to go. It’s easy, clean, and you can put it up there and forget about it for 12 hours.

Using a Menstrual Cup

A menstrual cup is a silicone cup you insert and clean out twice daily. If you have a lower flow, you can get away with cleaning it only once. It’s an excellent option for camping on your period and life in general. Can we say game-changer?

Since you can simply insert and forget it, it’s the hassle-free way to deal with your period while camping, hiking or climbing. It’s seriously revolutionary.

Bonus points because it eliminates all waste, and is a plastic-free product. However, folks with a heavier flow may find that the cup doesn’t work for them.

If you’re traveling in bear country, you’ll also still want to seal it up in a plastic baggie with your other smelly food and trash when it isn’t in use.

My Pick: The Pixie Cup Review

I’ve tried a few different menstrual cups over the years and the Pixie Cup is by far my fave. First, they are a woman-owned small business and I’m all about supporting my fellow boss babes as well as other under-represented groups in the great world of small business.

They take their mission seriously and donate one cup to people who menstruate all over the world in need when you purchase one.

I’ve been using the Pixie Cup Luxe for a minute now and it’s far superior to the big-name brands like the Diva Cup. I find it fits better. Unlike the Diva Cup, the Pixie cup is lighter and doesn’t have a tendency to droop down or come out when you’re making a number two (hey, I warned you this was real talk).

The other reason I highly recommend the Pixie Cup is that they paid attention to design. Other brands embossed their logo on the inside of the cup, meaning gunk easily builds up on the inside over time, making it difficult to clean.

The Pixie keeps the inside mostly smooth so cleanup is quick and and easy.

Have you ever read the instructions that come with a box of tampons? Does it feel like it was written by your awkward high school sex-ed teacher? *Shudders* One detail Pixie Cup pays attention to is making your first experience with the cup feel natural.

Instead of dipping too hard into science talk, the instructions are written in a conversational way you can relate to. I appreciate that. Periods shouldn’t feel sterile, weird, or shameful. They should be celebrated and Pixie leans into that concept throughout their products.

I love their wipes and sterilizing container to clean my Pixie. The wipes work well while camping on your period while the sterilizing cup with wash makes cleanup at home a breeze.

camping on your period
The Pixie Cup stays in place and is easy to clean on the go.

How to Clean the Magical Menstrual Cup Without a Bathroom

As a long-time menstrual cup advocate, I get asked frequently how to clean my cup without a bathroom. Here’s how it works.

  1. Walk a distance away from camp – at least 100 feet (35 adult steps). Be sure to be 200 feet (70 steps) away from trails and any water sources.
  2. Bring a small amount of water with you (try to use less).
  3. Dig a cat hole 6 to 8 inches deep as if you were going to poop.
  4. Squat and do your business if you have to, then remove the cup.
  5. Turn the cup upside down and empty the contents the best you can into the hole.
  6. Fill the cup with water and use your finger (clean your hands with hand sanitizer first) to rub and clean the cup as best you can.
  7. Dump the contents in your cat hole. Rinse the cup with a little bit more water (remember to conserve) both inside and out. Rinse your hands.
  8. Re-insert the cup.
  9. Sanitize your hands.
  10. Cover your cat hole and pack out any used TP.
  11. NEVER use hand sanitizer or other cleaners to clean your cup. It’s really unhealthy to put chemical cleaners on the cup, then re-insert it.

If you’re short on water, don’t use your precious hydration to clean your cup. You can pick up some Pixie Wipes and clean the cup without water. Don’t forget to pack out your wipes (use a plastic baggie with some baking soda in it to clean the smell).

Re-usable Pads and Period Underwear

If the menstrual cup freaks you out, or you have a heavier flow, consider investing in some period underwear (with a built-in pad) or re-usable pads. These items work well, but require a bit more maintenance and take up more space.

Like the cup, you’ll want a dedicated baggie to throw the used pads and underwear in when not in use. This is a viable option for folks with heavier flows who don’t want to deal with changing a tampon every few hours or if you want a little added protection.

How to Clean Period Underwear and Re-usable Pads Without a Bathroom

Follow the above steps for the cup, except instead of using a little water, you’ll need a bit more. Clean your period underwear or re-usable pads, wringing them out over the cat hole. The point is to make sure you bury the waste to avoid attracting unwanted wildlife.

Hang your underwear or pads in a sunny spot to dry, or simply don’t clean them at all. Instead, pack them out like you would tampons and take care of the mess at home. As always, seal them in their own baggy and store with your odor-proof storage system if you’re camping in the wilderness.

Using Tampons While Camping on Your Period

If you can’t use any of the alternative methods for dealing with your period in the outdoors and prefer to use tampons, there are serval things you should remember:

  • Do not bury your tampons! This is 100% not okay. Be prepared to pack them out by using a plastic baggie. You can cover it in duct tape and sprinkle some baking soda in there to help with visuals and the smell. Alternatively, combine this with your used toilet paper disposal.
  • Changing a tampon while in a harness sucks. Trust me. Try your best to plan accordingly or use an alternative product while you climb.
  • Consider using a tampon without an applicator. Applicators provide more waste, which is more volume of trash to pack out.
camping with your period

Skip Your Period

One option, especially if you are on a birth control pill, is to skip your period. A lot of folks do this, although I’m going to advise that you talk to your doctor first.

It’s relatively easy to skip, simply don’t take the week of placebo pills in your pack and go straight to the next pack. There can be medical implications from skipping your period, so be sure to check with your doc first.

Camping on Your Period with Bears and Other Wildlife

A lot of people wonder if they will attract bears by being on their period. The short answer is no unless you’re toting around a lot of smelly treats that bears would be curious about.

The key to hiking or camping on your period with bears is to make sure you use that sealable baggy for any waste associated with your flow. Store the bag in an odor-proof container, such as a bear vault or an odor proof bag (take note of any regulations where you are traveling).

Aside from camping on your period with bears, you’ll also want to protect your period waste from other critters such as foxes. Foxes love human waste and will go to extreme measures to get to it. It may sound cute, but the last thing you want is a hole in your tent from a curious fox.

Honestly, my best piece of advice is to use a cup if you are hiking and camping with your period in bear territory. It’s the most hassle-free way to manage your period, and you can bury your waste far from camp and out of harm’s way.

day hiking with your period

Tips for a Heavy Flow in the Outdoors

Have a heavier flow? The Pixie Cup or other menstrual cup products may not be the right answer for you. There are a few ways to deal with a heavy flow in the outdoors.

My best piece of advice is to carry a backup. Couple a menstrual cup with a re-usable pad or wear period underwear with your tampon in.

That way you have a bit more time and you don’t have to fret as much about constantly changing and checking yourself. Unfortunately, you may have to deal with a bit more maintenance to keep clean and tidy, but you’ll thank yourself for avoiding a sneaky leak on the trail!

How to Deal with Your Period While Climbing

Nothing is worse than having to deal with a bodily function while roped up, much less have to change a tampon while hanging from a cliff!

Climbing with your period can be a real nuisance, but with a Pixie Cup, you won’t have to worry unless you’re spending the night on a portaledge. (If that’s the case, first, you’re a total badass, and second, follow the steps for cleaning your cup above, except use your WAG bags or poop tube to empty your cup).

If you have to deal with the situation at hand, try and time it right so that you’re stopping when you have to switch over gear (like swapping leads on a multi-pitch route). Get your gear swapped over and your materials ready (remember, don’t ditch tampons or other waste on the crag, that’s ultra un-cool!).

Loosen your harness, including the leg loops and hike it up high and tighten so the harness stays up, but your leg loops stay loose. Undo your bottoms as much as you need to for working room.

Sling the rope (without untying) over your shoulder so it’s out of the way. Do your thing, remember, pack out all of your waste! If you’re cleaning out your menstrual cup, use the toilet paper method, to avoid raining dirty wastewater down on other climbers or hikers. Clean your hands and off you go!

climbing with your period

Hacks for Thru-Hiking on Your Period

When you’re thru-hiking, getting your period is inevitable. It’s going to happen unless you’re prepared to skip it. Here are a few handy hacks for thru-hiking with your period:

  • Consider a menstrual cup. I really can’t stress the positives of using a menstrual cup while hiking enough!
  • If you do opt for tampons, consider using ones with minimal waste and no applicator. This saves on weight, trash, and bulk.
  • Clean reusable pads or period underwear whenever you get the chance. Remember, walk-off and clean 200 feet from water sources.
  • There is no shame in doing your laundry in a sink. Zero. Shame. Just clean up thoroughly if you’re in a public place.
  • Hang it from your pack to dry. Be proud of getting your period. You’re hiking your ass off – there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Periods are not something to shy away from. As people who menstruate, we have to deal with them, whether we want to or not.

Going on a day hike with your period or even camping during that time of the month doesn’t have to be a monumental pain. Sure, it’s annoying, but with these camping period hacks, you’ll be all set to still have a kick-ass time on your outdoor adventure.

Want more badass outdoor content? I’m not afraid to get real with what it takes to get outside:

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Hi There!

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.