My visits to the Obgyn start like this:
Them: “…when was your last period?”
I got my period for the first time when I was nine. I was supposed to go to a pool party. You can’t go for a dip with a mattress in your underwear so my mom handed me a tampon and I put it in my panties like a pad. She laughed so hard I thought she was going to pass out. I’ve since learned how to properly deal with those little cotton spheres so we’re all good, but sometimes those little bloodsuckers aren’t enough. Sometimes, you need to call for reinforcements. For me that means creating a bullet proof vest of a blood belt in my underwear with overnight pads 24 hours a day for 10-20 days. Misery. So I get it. You’re worried about being with your menses while sleeping under trees.
Since I started seeing my Naturopathic doctor soulmate I’ve stopped bleeding all crazy. Progesterone is manna from Heaven for my uterus from Hell. That helped solve part of my problem. So, I don’t bleed as badly as I have in the past. I still bleed though.
I say all of that to say my relationship with my monthly is complicated. Since I started being an outdoor lova I’ve had to maneuver these bloody waters and it’s been interesting.
First things first. There’s camping in the front country and camping in the backcountry. This list refers to camping in the backcountry. What’s the difference? Great question. Backcountry means you’re generally an hour or more away from definitive care/civilization. There are no bathrooms, ranger stations, or rest stops. It’s you and your mother nature in Mother Nature. Front country means car camping. You can see your car from your tent and it probably has a cooler full of beer, ice, and food in trunk. Front country camping usually comes with bathrooms and the opportunity for a quick emergency trip to a convenience store.
Here are some of the things I do to keep myself sane while chillin in the backcountry with my monthly.
- Manageable itinerary: I make sure I don’t plan strenuous trips while bleeding from my vaginal pit. Your energy is going to be low enough as it is. Take it easy leave those 14 mile 10,000ft elevation hiking days for another time.
- Communication: I make sure I tell the person I’m with what’s going on and what has happened to me in the past. I’ve bled so heavy I’ve passed out. If that happens when you’re an hour away from definitive care that helps your camping buddies and medical responders figure out what the hell happened and treat you accordingly.
- Cramp Bark: I don’t take Ibuprofen because of my ADPKD. Sometimes Acetaminophen works, but I try not to take that either. This stuff is golden it takes a bit to kick in after your initial dose, but it does a good job of warding of the Fallopian demons of pain with timely subsequent applications .
- Draws: NOT COTTON. Weight is usually a big deal when backpacking. On shorter trips I don’t usually mind a few extra pounds. On longer trips say 12 days or more I might even cut my toothbrush up to the bristles cause items add up and, Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That extra weight. I’d make sure I have at least 5-7 pairs of nylon draws. This way if and when you bleed through your goodies you can wash them out strap them to your pack and they can dry during the day. If they’re still moist at night slip ’em into your synthetic sleeping bag and they tend to dry completely. Actually, this works in my 0 degree down bag as well. Cotton will not dry as quickly and you’ll just end up with wet draws. No one wants that.
- Diva Cup: Once I was getting on the bus with a group of 12 middle to high school boys and two male identifed co-instructors when I felt that familiar jostle in my ovaries and knew my menses were about to commensees. I didn’t have time to pull together my standard Period Kit so I ran to REI and bought a Diva Cup. It’s simple to use and it can stay in for up to 12 hours. Just make sure you bring hand sani, your treated water, and Dr. Bronner’s soap to the cathole where you’ll bury the blood. Trust me, you’re gonna wanna wash your hands.
- A trashbag and a landfill clogging grocery bag: If you opt-out of the Diva Cup or similar products, DO. NOT. BURY. YOUR. TAMPONS or any of their supplemental materials. You need to pack that shit out. Put them in the landfill clogging plastic grocery bag and tie it nicely. Then put the landfill clogging grocery bag into the trash bag and tie that nicely. Place them both back in your pack and pack it out. I suggest the double up because it helps manage the smell.
- Mesh shorts: Or at least some kind of pant that expands with your bloat AND will dry quickly. I always bring my favorite mesh shorts that I’ve had since high school.
- Pads: Choose your poison. Some may opt for the environmentally friendly sanitary napkins. I go for the “as large as my granny panties” sanitary napkins. These are a just in case mechanism for catching blood. Don’t forget, pack them out. Why? Because they don’t biodegrade. They’ll just sit there until the next person comes to peep or poop and freak them the hell out. Also, it’s pollution. It’s also unsanitary. Also we all need to, Leave No Trace.
- A Good camp chair: Again, some don’t care for the weight, but I don’t go on a trip without mine. There’s something to be said about settling into a comfy camp chair after a day of strenuous hiking and mountain climbing.
- An understanding that you may smell: A friend of mine (actually, we just fooled during a WFR certification course) who *thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in something like five and a half months (average human time is 7.5) told me that the most arousing smell for him is a woman’s natural scent. Unshowered, unperfumed, and mixed with the residue of campfire. If that eases your worries, awesome. For me, it’s the fact that EVERYONE smells when backpacking. It’s like a trophy.
- A sense of humor: The potential for a situation to get weird is peak. A friend of mine got her period in the middle of her first backpacking trip ever (she’d only ever camped at a campground 5 minutes from her house and even then she and her family went home to shower). This one was 14 days and she had an emotional breakdown with her pants down, back against the tree, and bloody tampon in her hand. That shit was hilarious. No, I wasn’t standing there watching it happen — that’s beyond my threshold for human contact– she told me about it when she came back to camp crying. I just stood there like, *laughter and tears.* <–worst friend ever.
You might be afraid that animals will smell your blood and think you’re supper. Not true. Well, unless you smell like a sandwich. As long as you’re not storing Snickers in your vagina like a squirrel, you’re good.
I’ve had my period for a long time, 20 years. Women have been bleeding for much longer. If our ancestors figured out how to deal with it, we can too. I wish being on our period wasn’t such an embarrassing event. We hide tampons in our purse. Companies create quirky (and bloody obvious) wrapper designs so people won’t know we’re carrying a tampon. Everyone knows it’s a tampon. We become ashamed when someone points out that we have blood on our pants. Why? This bleeding happens so we can create a person in our bodies. It’s not some sign of the apocalypse. We didn’t do anything wrong. After all this time, I still don’t get everything right. My body behaves differently with each cycle. Sometimes my boobs hurt. Sometimes I’m on the couch for 4 days, straight wishing I could just slip into a coma and wait it out there. There’s no fool-proof way to get through a camping trip while your bleeding from your vagina. Hell, I still don’t know how I get through regular life when I’m riding the crimson wave. I’ve shared some of the things that have helped me, but I’m always learning. If shit goes down grab some sword fern fronds, a bandana and McGyver yourself a spill spot. It’s okay. I promise you’ll laugh about it later.
The most important thing I want you to take away from this is, “Don’t let your, period or anything else, stop you from camping.” Nature has the capacity to soothe. We should all strive to spend more time outdoors whether we’re bleeding or not. 🙂
If you, or the people you love, have any additional tips please share them in the comments. If you have a story to share let me know and you can guest blog it here. For now, drink, be merry and bleed from your vagina. 😉
*he walked from end to end without leaving the trail except for a day here and there to shower and pick up resupply materials