Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

How to menstruate while camping?

October 30th, 2012 by Alexandra Jacoby

A friend of mine is going camping soon, and getting her period then is the last thing she wants to think about!

Photo by Beth and Christian Bell // CC 2.0

Camping and menstruation…That reminded me about the bears-being-attracted-to-menstrual-blood question, and, in case she didn’t know,** I let her know that there is no evidence that bears are more attracted to menstrual smells more than any other smells…

That put a little space between me and her question of how to deal with it while camping.
I didn’t know what to tell her.

No, she didn’t know that about the bears.
That’s good to know.

Back to what to do about her period: what’s the ecologically-respectful way to handle it? I didn’t know what to tell her—other than ziploc bags. [my answer for most travel/packing questions].

I told her I’d look into it, and found my way back to the article on bears and menstruation, and forwarded it to her.

It’s not exactly en pointe, but I thought this part from the Precautions section — “Do not bury tampons or pads (pack it in – pack it out).” — the pack it in/pack it out part was useful.

It goes on with: “Place all used tampons, pads, and towelettes in double zip-loc baggies and store them unavailable to bears, just as you would store food.” [Ziplocs: I knew it!]

So, leaving nothing behind is good, but all that used product is still heading for landfill, right?
So maybe then: the cup?

She made a face.

I know. It’s sticky, wet. And you’re in the woods. Blood feels like more to deal with than pee…

But wait, is it ? —

If you’re staying put, you’ll be washing somewhere, right? Is this designated space actually different than using any shared bath”room”?

I realize you’ll be outdoors, but still it’s not much different than a public bathroom—that may or may not be in working order, and that will or won’t have products and plumbing organized for easily, privately and completely dealing with menstrual blood.

If you know where you’ll be washing up, then you’ll know if there’s going to be a water available for washing, or not. What you don’t expect to be provided there, you’ll have to bring with you. Just as you do with public bathrooms.

If you’re on the move, then it’s harder. There may or may not be water or privacy when you want it. And, the whatever that you’ll be taking with you, you’ll have to carry it.  And, water is heavy.

Again, come to think of it: this is the same situation as city travel.

I’m not saying that it won’t be harder, stickier, in the woods than in Manhattan, just that this camping story is highlighting the fact that we still need to figure this out for city life.

Bidets. I haven’t seen one in years, and never in the U.S.
Is that what we need? 

How did we do this before (our ill-equipped modern times)? she asked, still looking for what could work in the woods. — Again: I don’t know. Though, I’m reminded of the red tent. Logistically speaking — was that it? How it got addressed — menstrual hygiene?

Does it have to be like that? 

Can this be done without the isolation piece? 

Can the fact that we menstruate be included in a society where living goes on, where work continues, relationships, commitments, projects, gardening, raising children, caring for those who are ill or need help, first dates, parties and camping trips, it all keeps going.

And so do we. We, menstruators, keep going.

With varying experiences of bloating, pain, etc., living goes on. Varying experiences. I am not representing a group here, just myself—and thinking about others: wondering about your experiences and whether/how your needs are met.

Me — I would like it to be easy and normal to bleed. I also don’t want the world involved in when and how I do, so I don’t want to step off, and I don’t see a reason to stand out: it’s a normal experience, right? Our facilities should match that.

What would it look like if our homes, businesses, entertainment and social services locations were equipped for a hygienic, ecologically-minded, respectful, convenient experience of menstruation? 

I’m looking for step-by-step schematics, so we can start construction on spaces, that don’t leave me using a menstrual cup in a bathroom stall and blood on my hands with a sink on the other side of the door.

I want it better.

I think I want bidets. Installed routinely in all bathroom, and for camping, please invent a portable pocket bidet.

How about you?



** I find in most of my conversations with women (who are not members of SMCR) that we don’t know much of what we could know, and would benefit from knowing, about our cycles:

  • how they work
  • what factors internal and external affect them and our quality of experience
  • available related products and services.

And, while I am an SMCR member, that’s true for me, too. Mostly, I don’t know.

6 responses to “How to menstruate while camping?”

  1. Susan says:

    When I go camping I use a menstrual cup, a peri bottle (your portable bidet!), and a washcloth to dry quickly after I rinse off any stray blood on my pubic hair. If you’re in the woods you just pull out your cup, rinse it with the peri bottle, and put it back in. Easy.

    This is harder if you don’t have access to running water. I know folks who backpack and they jut wipe their cup off with a washcloth which then goes into a wetbag or ziplock.

  2. Susan seems to have a good answer here. I never camped with a menstrual cup but I think I would have come up with something similar. Maybe take two cups, remove one, empty, put in Ziplock bag, insert clean second cup. Then go wash first cup with bottled water, in cold stream, or under a pump, dry, and voila, ready for next time. I think this would work for me. You’d need a big Ziplock bag for all the other little Ziplocks that would have to be disposed of at some point.

    Now I’m imagining cross-brand ad campaigns between Diva Cup and Ziplock or the Keeper and Klean Kanteen ( Now there’s an idea. FemCare ads changing things up by giving tips for managing menstruation in various situations and places, like camping in the back country. Love it!

    See what your musings have wrought, Alexandra?

  3. Amy says:

    I thruhiked the Appalachian Trail with a Luna Cup, which is like a Diva Cup but non-latex. Generally speaking there was not running water anywhere when I need to excrete or empty the cup. I kept a small, squeezable platypus bag filled with water for the sole purpose of helping me clean up at bathroom time. I used it to rinse the cup, to rinse the fingers, and occasionally to rinse the pubic hair. I dried off with a little toilet paper, as I would normally do. The TP and blood got buried in the cathole I dug before hand.

    Any additional products I used such as a pad got stashed in two layers of ziplock, to be tossed the next time I came to a trash can.

    Also, just as at any normal bathroom break, I used Purel on my hands afterward.

  4. In her book ‘Wild’ Cheryl Strayed describes using a sponge while hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail.

  5. Susan Langerman says:

    I designed a product where you have an option of a re-usable (replace only twice a day) as well as an option which offers absolute minimal contact with blood …. ideal for camping, don’t need water or bathrooms, can be replaced in the smallest space ever where privacy can be found. Not yet on the market though.

  6. […] can be tough when we don’t have access to facilities, or privacy, or both. Anybody that’s been camping while on their period can tell you that (bears notwithstanding) this IS a REAL issue. So she is right to ask (even if she is merely doing […]

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