Girls, this article is not for the squeamish. It’s going to get real.
Nine. Nine days is the longest I have ever gone without a shower. Or a bath. And here’s the best part – for six of those days I was on my period. We were camping and backpacking our way through all of the best parts of Sierra Nevada in Eastern California – and trying to do so on a budget. We meant to get a hotel and clean up halfway through the week but the logistics never lined up. So, nine days and I still had not had a decent shower.
Yep. Gross. I changed my tampon whilst hiding behind bushes more times than I ever hoped to in my life.
At first, I was grumpy and grossed out. I have had my period while camping before but there was always a bathroom nearby. I had my period during a day hike and had to change it out while crouched behind boulders but I was able to get to a bathroom by the end of the day. This particular adventure was multiple days of free, dispersed camping where I was lucky if I even got a pit toilet. There were quite a few nights where nature was the bathroom.
I also felt awkward about the times I had to find an extra hidden spot and take an extra long time away from the group to get my lady-business taken care of. There were a lot of moments that I was so uncomfortable I let that discomfort affect whether or not I was enjoying the trip.
As the days went on I began to accept reality. I started making choices to just enjoy the week. The more I did this, the less I felt awkward or singled out because of my “condition.” I also picked up a lot of tricks to increase my hygiene for next time.
Some tips for staying sane in the dirty outdoors:
1. Baby wipes.
If I was writing an essay about the best invention ever I would pick Baby Wipes. I can wash my armpits. I can wash my hands. I can wash my unmentionable regions. The options for these are endless, too. You can buy PH-balanced wipes.
You can buy eco-friendly wipes. You can buy really cheap wipes. There are even men-specific wipes called DUDE Wipes.
These are such a hygiene-saver when in the wilderness.
2. Opaque garbage bags.
My number one “ew” when I have my period while on a camping trip is the garbage aspect. I feel bad just leaving my tampon out in the wilderness for some animal to find. I feel gross bringing it back to the car with me for everyone to see. I totally suck at the reusable menstrual cup option. Solution: black zipper bags.
I bring a lot of opaque trash bags with me. I store used tampons and wipes in these and dispose of them in an actual trash can every chance I get. Dark ziplock bags work especially well because they seal in the stench.
3. Swim in all the lakes
It is absolutely amazing what a swim in a freezing lake can do for you. The level of refreshed it brings about rivals that of a real shower. Using some eco-friendly, biodegradable shampoo is an added bonus to keep things fresh.
4. Squirt-bottle style water bottle
This is my CamelBack water bottle with a squirt-style nipple on top.
I take it on every single road trip, camping trip, backpacking outing, everywhere. The squirt-bottle top works to control the amount of water better than a pour style. I can use it to wash gunk off my hands or squirt the sand off my feet. I use it to rinse my toothbrush. It is so useful! Get yours here.
Use these tips to keep yourself clean but don’t be afraid to get a little dirty in the great outdoors!