Since we finished our Appalachian Trail thru hike, we’ve been catching up with family and friends (and binge watching TV). We’ve also been fielding all sorts of questions but no matter where the questions begin somehow we always end up back to the question of going to the bathroom. Dan wrote a great piece on trail toilette etiquette here, but I’m going to take things a little further now and talk about being a lady on the trail.
First off I want to say that I was provided a menstrual cup by DivaCup for use on the trail, everything written below is my own opinion, I was not compensated by DivaCup in anyway. Second, males, this might not be your favourite article, but I’m sure you have a woman in your life who might benefit from it, so be brave and read on.
So, hiking with your period.
I’ll never forget the look of dread on the young girls face as she quietly pulled me away from Dan to ask if I had a tampon. I felt terrible that I couldn’t help her out, but I felt worse that she had made it this far with knowing about the DivaCup.
When you’re going a short hike, it’s easy to plan around the inconvenience of your period but thru hiking for 6 months does not offer that luxury. I have been using a Diva Cup for years, why? Because prior to all our travelling adventures I like to run long distances, ok really long distances and the Diva Cup just made sense since you can wear it for up to 12 hours. Not only that, it’s comfortable, wait maybe I should explain what the cup actually is. The DivaCup is a reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup that is worn internally and sits low in the vaginal canal, collecting rather than absorbing your menstrual flow (as explained by their very informative website). With that out of the way let’s talk benefits of using a DivaCup when hiking:
- It’s small and lightweight, so important when thru hiking.
- It can be worn for up to 12 hours.
- It’s easy to clean (which should be done each time you empty it).
- Environmentally friendly, the cup lasts for at least 1 year (potentially longer if it’s taken care of) so very little waste produced.
- Cost effective, the DivaCup retails for around $40 (Canadian) which at first sounds expensive but when you think about how much you spend yearly on tampons and pads, it’s really quite cheap.
- It saves you having to cut up your really expensive travel towel (to attempt to use as a pad) as I had to once (before I knew about the DivaCup) and as I counselled that young girl looking for a tampon to do.
Now you might be wondering how to easily clean it when you’re in the woods, but it’s not as stressful as you’d think. You will need to dispose of your waste, so it does mean when it’s time to empty the cup you will need to dig a cat hole (6-8 inches deep) and bury it just like you would if you needed to poop! You will want to take a water bottle with you as well to rinse the cup, now the DivaCup team recommend you clean the cup with DivaWash or a mild, unscented, oil-free soap, I use Campsuds which is also biodegradable and safe to use in the backcountry. Now to be honest I don’t always rinse with soap but I do try to once a day and then I would give it a good clean when we were in town. Having baby wipes and hand sanitizer nearby to clean your hands before and after cup removal is a must as well. Keep in mind Leave No Trace principles and be sure to pack out all rubbish (baby wipes should not be buried).
Like all hiking gear, the DivaCup too, should be tested beforehand. Read the instructions a couple of times before giving it a go and if a first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Once you get it, you get it. Their website is full of helpful tips and tricks and the team at DivaCup have always been quick to respond to any questions I had.
DivaCup can be found in most pharmacies and natural food stores, click here to find a store near you, or of course you can buy online. The DivaCup comes in two sizes so be sure to check out their guide here before you buy.