Text By Shraddha Mehta
Being in outdoors is always rewarding. Getting that feel of Independence and wanderlust attracts all. When we are outdoors it involves a lot of things from, gear to commute to hygiene, especially for women. A day’s hike is somewhat manageable when it comes to dealing with different body fluids. Yet how you manage is still tricky. Females have to think more about the basic natural needs than their male counterparts.
Female hygiene while travelling is most important yet one of the most neglected topics of outdoor hygiene. For ease of understanding, let’s divide this in 4 main topics:
Female Hygiene involves a lot of things and one of them is how to handle your sweat. As I said earlier, a day’s hike is manageable. Once the hike is complete and you are on your way back, you can simply change into your favorite cozy clothes. However, on multi day hikes, sweat becomes a major concern as it not only leads to bad odor but also may cause skin infections.
Here are some tips:
Do wash your face, armpits, feet and intimate area regularly, if possible as frequently as every day. It will not only remove sweat and dirt but also the films of excess sunscreen lotion and insect repellents. This will help you maintain a healthy skin along with an odor free body.
My suggestion is using the intimate wash and disinfectant powders which are good female hygiene products and are available in market. You can also use panty liners. (Disposal of panty liners is discussed below)
Female hygiene also involves taking decisions about what kind of clothes to carry. Choosing right clothes is very important while in outdoors. Another challenge faced is the weight that these clothes have. So synthetic clothing works best as it absorbs the sweat and brings it to open surface for evaporation. Cotton although favorite, doesn’t work well when it comes to moisture management. Nylons do the best job.
Also, one may wash the synthetic clothing like tees and pants and inners, which mostly dry overnight if hung properly in a tent. So carrying 3 to 4 tees for a multi day hike will definitely reduce the weight in your bag. (PS.: It may not work well at high altitudes where the temperatures are freezing and one may end up with a frozen tee in the morning)
As per Leave No Trace (LNT.Org), guidelines are: using biodegradable soaps and washing yourself and your clothing at least 60 Meters away from the water source with minimal use of water.
Leave No trace is a set of outdoor ethics which promotes conservation of environment. Leave No Trace, is a non-profit organisation which educates people about impacts of recreation on nature as well as the principles of Leave No Trace to prevent and minimize such impacts.
This is one of the most tricky and awkward part of female hygiene. One can just go behind woods for peeing and not use toilet paper. But while going on a larger business follow “Leave No Trace”.
If there is a toilet, use it, if not then use a shovel to dig a hole and bury all “degradable waste”. The hole should be 15 Cms deep and should be at least 60 Mtrs away from the water sources, camps and tracks.
Remember “Leave No Trace” all the time.
Being an Indian, I also suggest skipping toilet paper while on larger business and using water instead. Make sure you sanitize your hands afterwards with soap and water.
Still known as “those days”, “Periods”, “chumming” etc; makes almost all women think twice about the hiking trip and a lot of them take a step back if the “date” is nearby. So here are a few female hygiene things I have followed over time.
There are menstruation cups available in western countries but I haven’t come across one as yet in India.
Using sanitary pads (panty liners on other days) is just as ok if you don’t throw them in wilderness. All pads are not biodegradable, if you find biodegradable ones, nothing like it. The only issue with biodegradable is animals may sniff and dig it out if you don’t bury them properly.
Burying non – biodegradable substance is obviously out of the question.
The trick is wrapping them in aluminum foil and storing them inside a plastic bag and bringing them down with you to the nearest road head. Do not ever burn them unattended or throw them in flowing water.
Do take prescribed medicines as one cannot enjoy the trip with belly cramps. See your gynecologist for medicines.
No matter who you are, where you are, the earth and the ecology remains your responsibility. Serve it well. Happy Outdoors!