Caring for female hygiene in the backcountry in general can be the straw that breaks many a woman’s outdoors trip.
Everything can be going well-until nature calls. Suddenly, the great outdoors is not so great.
While the basic idea for a woman is to stay as clean as possible given her circumstances, this may be difficult or a little embarrassing if you are the only girl on the trail or if their is little privacy where you are staying.
However, you unknowingly put yourself at risk for a UTI if we opt to hold it in instead of going to the bathroom.
With realistic preparation and practical female hygiene tips, caring for “The V” should never become a barrier that keeps girls from heading out.
11 Female Hygiene Tips For The Backcountry
1- Keep Your “V” Comfortable and Dry
Wear comfortable underwear that will promote a dry environment, as bacteria is better able to grow in wet environments.
Arguably, cotton underwear is the most comfortable because it is very breathable; however, it may not foster a dry environment because of its long dry time, especially when trapped under your shorts or pants.
Active performance underwear is typically made mostly of polyester or merino wool; smaller amounts of spandex (for stretch) and/or nylon (for durability) are often added, too.
I prefer merino wool for two reasons: Synthetic underwear is like synthetic clothing — it smells after 10 minutes of exercise. Wool is naturally more odor-resistant. It’s easier to clean the wool, the weave of which is looser.
I prefer light-colored underwear so I can see, rather than mask, what I am cleaning, unless the underwear will double as a swimsuit.
It may be popular, but I’ve never been a big fan of hiking commando. However, during any downtime, some air time is always refreshing.
2- Female Urinary Devices (FUDs)
When it comes to going standing up, you may think, it’s impossible. But, with a simple plastic funnel that you can purchase from a car parts store or an FUD, you can avoid getting your legs wet and baring your bottom in cold weather.
For different peeing positions that may come in handy, check out this website.
3- Pee Rag
While toilet paper is what we know, using it in the woods can be very complicated. Besides who wants to pack out loads of heavy, soggy and dirty toilet paper?
Instead care for feminine hygiene in the backcountry by using a pee rag. Cotton bandannas work best as cotton absorbs quickly. While some may feel they are unhygienic, the UV rays from the sun dry it and kill any bacteria.
It also decreases the chances of abrasive substances entering your sensitive feminine areas if you were thinking of using leaves or things like that.
And what about the smell? In an article in Women’s Adventure Magazine on Camp Hygiene, it said that “ as long as you are staying hydrated and drying out your rag, there will be no smell.”
What about alcohol pads? Alcohol pads are not the best option when caring for feminine hygiene outside. They wash away both healthful and unhealthful bacteria. And there is a serious downside to this.
Wiping away the good bacteria leaves you open to UTIs because you don’t have any good bacteria to fight the bad.
4- Wet Wipes
In order to save on weight, dehydrate them up to a week in advance. All you have to do is sprinkle water on them to re-hydrate them. Be mindful to wipe from front to back to avoid cross contamination.
REMEMBER: You can not bury wet wipes. They are partially made with plastic. Be sure to pack them out.
5- Drink Plenty of Water
The best defense against a UTI and while in the outdoors is staying hydrated. Yes, drink up. Make good use of these tips. Don’t let fears about using the bathroom in the woods keep you from staying hydrated in the woods.
6- Try Pee Containers for Cold Nights
If it’s cold outside and you don’t want to leave your tent, avoid holding your urine all night. That’s a fast ticket for a UTI. Instead bring along a pee container. Some use Nalgene bottles or even an empty yogurt container as a nighttime bathroom solution.
7- Pack Wool Underwear
These win out over synthetic underwear mainly for two reasons. They dry quicker and work better in hot weather.
While most synthetic materials start to smell after ten minutes of exercise, wool underwear are more odor resistant, have a looser weave, are easier to clean and dry quickly.
8- Squeeze Bottle
Are you afraid about pooping in the outdoors? There’s no need to be. Bring along a squeeze bottle that can work like a bidet.
This can work great for a nighttime wash up. It leaves you feeling fresh and clean. The other plus is that it rinses away the bad bacteria while leaving the good bacteria that protects you from UTIs.
Should you wash in the lake?
There are different opinions. Some feel that it’s something that people have done for years. While others feel that soap destroys the lakes. Be mindful of your surroundings.
Caring for female hygiene in the backcountry should not be done at the mercy of the outdoors. It’s no secret that runoff into lakes has an effect not only on fellow swimmers but also on the wildlife that drinks in the substances we leave in the waters.
9- Prepare for the Unexpected
Even if you aren’t expecting your monthly flow, bring something for it. Your body can unexpectedly sync with another woman’s and throw you off schedule. So be prepared. Be sure to pack extra ziploc bags to pack out what you pack in.
10- Silicone Cups
Many women use these for the first time on an outdoors trip, like them and work them into their monthly routines. They may feel uncomfortable at first, but they are practical and hygienic.
Be sure to clean your hands thoroughly and scrub under your fingernails before inserting the cup. Boil hot water nightly to clean yourself and the device.
There are many brands out there. If you are looking for a source to compare the different models that are available click here.
An alternative to the silicone cups are sponges. However, you will need to have access to clean water to clean it at the end of every day.
Find out more about Feminine Hygiene Do’s and Don’ts in The V Book by Dr. Elizabeth G. Stewart.
11- Get Rid of Your Waste Properly
Good female hygiene in the backcountry includes properly disposing of your waste even if it is organic.
When emptying your silicone cups, be sure to bury your waste so no one gets an unpleasant surprise.
Menstrual waste is best disposed of in a cat hole. Be sure to dig a hole that is big, deep and mix the contents with top soil. Make sure that it is out of sight from fellow hikers and it is some place it will decompose quickly.
Just as one plans different parts of an outdoors trip, so with a little preparation, feminine care in the backcountry does not have to be that complicated. But, it is indispensable to women feeling comfortable and staying in harmony with the outdoors.
If you are a guy, don’t treat this subject lightly. It is very important for women. For you, dear outdoors woman, I encourage you to put these tips to use as soon as possible and continue enjoying the outdoors.