Overview: feminine products, the great outdoors, and menstrual cycles.
It's a cruel trick that nature plays when our monthly call of the wild tries to stop us from enjoying our hikes, let alone enjoying normal human behavior, i.e., breathing, blinking, walking, talking, working, etc. To give some perspective, this is what it feels like when you're on your period and you try to walk from the living room to the kitchen, hunched-back like Quasimodo because your ovaries are fighting all your other organs, Sharkeesha style.
It's no fun to plan a great outdoor excursion months in advance, only to be hit with the female plague a couple days before the trip. Yep, I called it the plague - because it's horrible, and I would never wish period cramps on anyone during a hike.
However, here are some tricks and tips to my fellow hikers, rock climbers, bikers, and adventurists out there who are just trying to enjoy their trip with as little pain as possible.
1. Hygiene: Bring enough hand sanitizer and pre-moistened wipes to cleanse your hands while on the trail. Preferably before AND after handling feminine products.
2. Products and Disposal: Some women opt for the menstrual cup instead of tampons simply due to limitations of garbage disposals out in the wilderness. If you do prefer pads/tampons, make sure you bring a disposable bag to keep your used items in until you're able to throw them away in the appropriate place. You can create a DIY biohazard bag with a plastic ziplock and ducktape, the thicker freezer bags are going to give you more bang for your buck.
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3. Leave No Trace (LNT): If you prefer to use disposable items, don't wash your products directly in any water source. Also, do not bury any of your products or dispose in composting toilets. It may seem convenient, but that's not the best option. This is a time when those ziploc bags are going to come in extremely handy. Whatever you do, don't throw your used feminine products away in the shrubbery, that's just nasty.
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4. The Bear-necessities: You'll find a lot of mixed reviews on the web about whether or not bears are attracted to period blood. Some of my fellow hikers have encountered bears on period-hikes and nothing has come of it, but luckily I've never experienced this, as the period would be the least of my worry as I shit my pants from just being in close proximity to a bear. In the off-chance that bears are attracted to period blood, take the necessary precautions to avoid any harm. Use unscented items. And stay away from pads if you can help it. Also take those ziploc bags from the previous section and put them deep into a bear canister (any can with a seal will pretty much do the trick).
You can continue to use the items that work best for your menstruation during hikes, but remember to be hygienic, Leave No Trace, respect the environment, and stay safe!