The Dirt on Female Hygiene in the Backcountry
I recently spent 9 days hiking in Northern Washington. Nine amazing days exploring the northern cascades, following rivers, camping in a new spot every night, walking ridge lines, sitting by the camp fire and being adequately prepared so I wouldn't get a UTI.
A woman should prepare for her hygiene accordingly just as much as her shelter, food and water. Females have two chief worries with regards to their vaginal hygiene while in the backcountry:
1. A vaginal infection (e.g. yeast infection, bacterial vaginitis) is due to an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina and results in discharge, itching, soreness and discomfort.
2. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by germs getting into the urinary tract system, and potentially traveling up to the bladder or even the kidneys.
Here are my tips and tricks for dealing with female hygiene in the backcountry:
1. Don’t wear cotton underwear, buy wool. Wool is breathable and much more sweat resistant than cotton. It’s also much easier to wash wool in the backcountry than cotton. My favorite for all things wool is smart wool.
2. Wash your underwear everyday if you are on a a trip more than two nights. No matter how long you go on a backcountry trek somewhere; you should be able to get by with only two pairs of underwear. When you aren’t wearing one, dry the other one. Here's how you can make a backcountry washing machine:
- Take a small plastic bag
- Fill it with Dr. Bronner's soap or another very gentle soap( you only need a little bit)
- Fill the bag with enough water to get it wet, doesn't need to be drenched
- Tie the bag up, shake it around for about 1 minute
- Take your underwear out of the bag and wash it under a drum
- Hang it on a clothes line, tree or tent tarp to dry!
3. Use a Pee Rag( a bandana) - I actually recently learned this trick and it’s a game changer for women in the backcountry. Take a bandana; use it as your mechanism for wiping. your pee. After your done, put it on the outside of your backpack and the sun will kill any bacteria from it. I promise the ultra-violet rays from the sun will kill any bacteria on it. This method is the most hygienic, environmentally friendly, trying to prevent discomfort way of using something to wipe I've found!
4. Pee in a water bottle or ziplock bag if in very cold conditions. No joke, this could save you a lot of frostbite and uncomfortable hands and toes.
5. Plan for the worst with emergency meds: I always bring uristat pills, things like AZO or antibiotics to manage UTI pain if it so happens in the backcountry. AZO will give you immediate relief if it so happens and the antibiotics in conjunction with the AZO will make sure you are actually treating the infection is it so happens.
6. Manage your period: If you do choose to use tampons while camping in the backcountry, make sure you pack it out. So, if you think you will be on the time of the month bring a sturdy plastic bag that you can dispose of your applicator and plastic. You can also check out a Diva Cup Which is a reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup that is inserted into your V in order to catch your menstrual flow. Its quickly gaining popularity but it has one drawback: insertion can be uncomfortable to get used to. However, it 's eco friendly and reusable!
7. Take a Shower with a Drum! : Drum’s are something I’ve recently started using while camping in the backcountry and now I'll never leave it at home! great for transporting large amounts of water to and from places like a campground, drinking water and the like. Fill it up with water from a flowing stream, hang it on a tree and you have yourself a backcountry shower, washing station or sink. All you have to do is get naked and enjoy your beautiful surroundings. While camping for 9 days I used a drum to shower, wash my clothes, brush my teeth, and transport cooking water from the stream.
Things to avoid:
- Excessive use of antibacterial soap- because it will kill the good and bad bacteria In your private parts
- DO NOT just shake your pee out. You will actually prevent rashes and infections by wiping properly!
- Try not to wear any beauty products at all in nature because it can get on your hands and skin and irritate easily
- Do not leave your tampon applicators or pads in the backcountry. If you pack it in, pack it out. It's no problem if you just bring a few extra ziploc bags
- Avoid peeing directly on plants, the salt in your urine will burn the leaves
- DO NOT pee on the trail- make sure you are well away from the trail to do your business!
Reminder checklist of things to bring for female hygiene in the back country:
- Pee Rag( bandana)
- Plastic Bags for Washing
- Shower Drum for Water Transport
- Wool Underwear
- Gentle Soap
- Emergency Pain Relief meds if your prone to infection
Hope these tips and tricks inspired you to spend more time in the bountiful opportunities that the outdoors provides us. Do you have any other tips and tricks that help you in the backcountry? Please share in the comments section below!
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