View Full Version : A Question for the Ladies...

09-29-2005, 17:23
While this is a mildly embarrassing question to ask on a public forum - I don't actually know any female long-distance hikers. (My apartment mates' idea of an AT thru-hike - "You would actually be outside for six months?!")

I have a SOBO thru-hike scheduled in July 2006. I expect to be on the trail for 5-5 1/2 months, which means that certain female inevitabilities will occur. While I've dealt with this in the past, it was for a four day trip- not a 5 month trip.

So thru-hiking gals -
Did you have tampons/pads sent to you in mail-drops? Did you resupply in town? Did you simply always carry them with you?

I had considered going on birth control and avoiding the issue altogether by not taking the placebos every month and just skipping to the next set of pills. Is this a bad idea? Will I find a doctor willing to let me do this?

Some sage female advice would be much appreciated!

09-29-2005, 17:53
There are birth control implants you can put in your arm and you'll be free for three months. I'm not a thru-hiker, but do long distance hikes of six to eight weeks in the summer. Me, I just carry enough supplies to get me to a resupply point. I keep extras in a bounce box and plan on staying in town for a couple of days at the start. There are lots of options. Don't forget to pack it out, don't bury. I carry aluminum foil with me to wrap things up in.

09-29-2005, 17:56
From another Bunny-You will find after a few hundred miles that things have become less bothersome and less lengthy. Yeah! Some quit all together as your percentage of body fat has something to do with well starting.Just remember-pack it in pack it out. You can find supplies everywhere even in hiker boxes, however most of us carry something, if not for us for someone else. Got to have two uses so, i heard about a gal in a snoring shelter that used them for earplugs! Believe it or not Warren Doyle had some good advice -wrap the used in aluminum foil and place in zippy-that way when you have a pack explosion no need for embarressment. Good luck on your hike!

09-29-2005, 18:03
Well That Was The Girl Lesson For The Day Have A Good One Gals

Meadow Creek
09-29-2005, 19:17
Bunny, check with your doc/NP/other healthcare provider about skipping the placebos--this works, but only with certain kinds of pills (monophasics). If you want to go that route, I'd suggest starting a few months ahead of time--it takes your body a few cycles to adjust (you can have off-schedule breakthrough bleeding).
Lilred--you're referring to Norplant, which was taken off the market in the US a few years ago. A replacement is supposedly on the way, but it's not out yet.
Hormones in general can be tricky--what works for one woman will not necessarily work for another.

I've used the Keeper (http://www.thekeeperstore.com/) for about 7-8 years now, and I love it. It took a little practice, but I was proficient after a cycle or two. I cut off the stem because it was uncomfortable, and just wash it with regular soap & water. Have never had any problems, it's waste-free, and has paid for itself many times over.

09-29-2005, 20:08
I used OB tampons...they are light enough and small enough that you can just carry an entire box if you need to and just buy one in town. I found that my period, due to all the exercise I guess was almost non-existent.

Mike & Gloria Walsh
09-29-2005, 20:47
Please check with your Doctor before you make any changes in your medication.

09-29-2005, 20:54
The patch is another alternative your doctor might reccommend, but I found that it doesn't stick on sweaty dirty thru-hikers (don't believe the commercials). So, I wouldn't go buying six month's worth if I were you (they are also pricey).
That said, always pack out the dirties. OB's don't take up much room. And don't rely on your period stopping, that doesn't happen for all women.
If you have any specific questions feel free to PM me.

09-29-2005, 21:40
I also went with the OB's........until I had that bad case of poison ivy...... :eek: The OB's are small enough to carry and resupply when I needed to in town, check hiker boxes first. Many people buy a whole box/package of "supplies" and dump the other half in the hiker box.
My period didn't stop, I was out there for 5 months and it was too.........every single month. As for taking the pill and skipping the placebo.....I tried that once (on a different hike) and it just didn't work for me, as my period came a week and a half early and then I ended up getting it again on the scheduled date, it was awful. I almost ran out of supplies!! Ahhhh! It might work for other people, or even you, but it didn't work for me!

09-29-2005, 22:20
Mostly likely your body won't react the same while hiking on the trail. I was hoping that my body would react by reducing my period but instead it just got totally messed up - came sooner and lasted longer. I always carried a day and a half worth of tampons with me. That way if the unexpected happened I was covered. I just kept extra supplied in my bouce box and made sure that I sent it to post offices that I thought I would need to resupply at. Every once and a while I would buy a new box at the grocery store and throw it into the bouce box.

It seems like a big pain on the trail, but in reality you decided what you do when you want to do it. Need to go to the washroom? - you can go almost anywhere. Want to go for a nap? - stop where ever you want. The hiking world was much more flexible and adapting than real life.

I say ask more "girly" questions and don't be embarased to do so! This board (and the hiking world) seems to be all guys but there are lots us out there that can help with advise.

09-29-2005, 23:15
I used the Norplant for 4 years and I had a period every month. Dosent stop everyone. I'm glad you asked the question always wanted to know but never ask. I'm hoping that 2006 will be my first long hike hoping to do the AT. I will also have a 14 year old girl with me we will probably take more than 6 months to finish.

Tha Wookie
09-30-2005, 00:52
I've had lot's of women tell me that the Keeper works very well for them. If you'd prefer a tampon, I would mail them, because sometimes you have to buy a big expensive box for just one month.

I advise strongly against The Pill for the trail. There are synthetic side effects that would interfere with the beauty of the natural rythm that many women experience for the first time while out in nature for so long.

-at least that's what my two female thru-hiking roomates have told me.

09-30-2005, 01:44
gotta say up front i'm a male... but i've actually been able to read this thread and find it interesting... i have a 10 year old daughter (11 next month) who will someday need to know some of this stuff, probably within a couple years... and her mom won't be the one with her when "it" hits on a trip... i will... and it might very well be her 'first' time... you've given me a whole new set of logistics issues to deal with... but better think about it now than deal with it later... stay with me here... and you fathers of daughters too... (or not... but your daughter might be a little disappointed in you... personally, i find that harder to deal with than a little blood.)

"uh, dad? we need to stop walking... i'm bleeding..." "what!? when did you cut yourself? that's ok... i planned ahead and have gauze and bandaids..." "no dad... that's not what i meant..."

the next statement can be either "oh, crap!" or "oh. ok... here... i have what you need."

i'd rather be super-dad and have thought about it ahead of time, however 'yucky' it may be...

(they never told me about this in home ec/prep for life class... don't seem to remember my dad saying anything about it either... or mom, for that matter... gotta love being a dad... more evidence of a higher being with a sense of humor... "let's give them the most complicated thing in the world... a new baby... but we'll leave out the instruction manual and see what happens!")

The General
09-30-2005, 06:22
I Thru Hiked with a female friend last year and though not having to suffer the physical effects of the period sure copped for some of the mental side though, but in general the maildrop system worked for her but remember that your cycle may go a little haywire so be prepared for accidents, saw plenty in hiker boxes too. and even the smallest store usualy has one type or another. Dont forget to pack them out, tin foil and zippy works well. Not sure about the birth control method due to possible side effects. Sort of make me glad to be a guy, you have my sympathy Lady's

09-30-2005, 07:11
I Always Wondered About The Female Smell Out There Also I Am Glad Yall Opened This Forum Does It Bring Certain Animals Around????i Think If You Take Care Of Yourself There Would Be No Problem Just Bring Pleany Of Zippie's I Would Think And Wipes..

09-30-2005, 09:32
I've read somewhere (maybe in the book "How to $hit in the Woods"???) to put a bit of baking soda in your foil "pouch" to help deal with the smell issue.

art to linda
09-30-2005, 13:26
this is a good thread for any father thinking of taking their daughters out ....... I , and a male consular, were out with a group of pre-teen/teen boys. My young (12) daughter and son were along with me when out of the blue my daughter comes up to me and says "Mom, I've got to talk to you for a minute". You guessed it, she had started her period.... good thing I was prepared, but it was shear luck that I was. We were taking a group of girls out 2 days later so I had some supplies packed just in case.

Anyone planning on taking older pre-teen girls out for any length of time should keep this in mind as you never know when that first time will show up.

09-30-2005, 21:08
and they say it's getting earlier and earlier... oh, how horrible... but yeah- dad sympathys are nice- even if he has no clue. Good ole dad.

I find that ibuprofin (spelling?) is awesome for relief from cramps, and most hikers carry it anyway.

a comment on packing for first time emergencies- you just don't think about that stuff when you haven't started. I remember my mum getting out the stuff and explaining and i was just like huh? so yeah, think ahead for them.

Mrs. SoandSo, I've just started and i don't have any stuff
*imagine panicked expresion*
-you have 'stuff'


09-30-2005, 21:43
When Snowman and I were planning our thru-hike for this year, I decided I didn't want to deal with having my period every month. I talked to my doctor, explained the situation and she suggested I take Seasonale, instead of the Ortho-Tri-Cyclen pills I'd been taking previously. With Seasonale you get your period only every 3 months. I admit that I did have a bit of "in-between" bleeding for the first 3 month time-frame, but once out on the trail, I only had my period for about a day or two every three months. Pretty nice! It worked for me, at least. I even managed to time it so that I had my period right before we started in March, and therefore would only have 2 periods during our hike.

As for packing out tampons (which I did carry at all times (just a few in a baggie in the bottom of my pack) in case the trail did something weird to my internal workings), I use the foil method too. That way you can wrap them up, stick them in a baggie and not have to deal with seeing them, or having others see them, every time you open up your trash bag. But even if you don't want to carry foil, it won't matter much. No one will care. The funniest thing about the trail is that nothing is off-topic. At one point another female thru-hiker and I were talking about our periods with a few of our guy friends present, and it was no big deal... Out on the trail you share so much, you can share things like this and it's almost like a normal conversation. :-)

In any event, whatever you decide, I am sure it will work out. There are lots of options--just choose one that works for you--and happy hiking!

-Sparkplug :-)

09-30-2005, 21:55
Does It Bring Certain Animals Around????This is popular wisdom, but I understand there is no real basis for it except one incident. Years ago a young woman was killed and partially eaten by a grizzly in Glacier. She was menstruating at the time, and based on this, rangers concluded that the odor attracted the bear.

This has been widely accepted as true, but I find the reasoning to be faulty. Not that bears might not be attracted, but the fact that the woman was menstruating was the cause of the attack. Had she been pregnant, there might now be dire warnings about pregnant woman going out in bear country.

10-01-2005, 14:54
Wow - thanks so much for all the answers and good information. I really appreciate it.

10-01-2005, 22:36
Hi Bunny,

I found out about The Keeper right before my thru-hike in 2000, and I have used the same one ever since. It's a small rubber cup that you empty and clean out. It's very light and convenient. Check out the website that Meadow Creek mentioned! Also, you might want to check out an article that I wrote a few years ago about women's hygiene and safety thru-hiking issues at www.bighike.com/pdfs/WomenHyg.pdf.

10-02-2005, 12:06
You might also look into that Birth Control Pill that they've advertised that reduces the number of periods you have to one every three months...that way, you'd only have to deal with it once or twice on the trail. I think its called Seasonale.

Frolicking Dinosaurs
10-02-2005, 20:45
I'm menopausal and grateful for that. I've used OB tampons and the keeper while hiking. For a thru-hike I would choose the keeper. It's light and doesn't have to be replinished. It also can accomidate any flow rate (just empty more often if you are flooding).

10-02-2005, 21:17
There's a women's hiker mailing list, on YahooGroups I believe. My wife is a member. I'm certain that a number of women here are members as well, and could certainly get you an invite.

Squeaky, My wife, says that they talk about every subject imaginable. The "invite only" thing keeps down the troll quotient.

10-02-2005, 21:40
there have been numerous studies showing that bears ARE NOT attracted to menstrual blood, Grizzly bears are just plain attracted to people! and there are no grizzly's on the AT,
you can also use a wide mouth (gatorade) bottle that you wrap with duct tape to conceal the contents that way you don't have to wrap up each individual used tampon, put a little baking soda in the bottle. the bottle wont tear like a zip lock can

10-02-2005, 21:52
We can have the ability to set our forums for invite only as well. If any women would like me to set a forum up like and try it out this then please me know. I will need to have a female moderator to oversee this forum if we are going to try it. I would prefer to have a female that frequents the site often and reads the post.

10-02-2005, 23:22
this was very educational!

10-02-2005, 23:36
Um, I'm a guy. And this was VERY educational. Just to pitch my unisex two cents worth in tho' -- pantyhose prevents chafing. And if you want a good laugh, go with a guy when he asks a drugstore employee what size would fit him best. . .

10-03-2005, 07:05
I like that gatorade bottle idea!

The other thing is to always use unscented pad/tampons. The floral scent will attract skeeters etc. If odor is a concern use a little baking soda or even better is plain ol' corn starch (or corn starch baby powder - never use talc in the peri-area, it has been linked to cervical cancer). Cornstarch is a wonderful powder.

Ladies - what's the concensus on pad vs. tampons? I am paranoid about getting an infection while on a long hike (lol there will be a magic pink pill, aka Difulcan, in my first aid kit). Pads would seem to eliminate some of the potential for that but they wouldn't be the most comfortable while hiking.

Meadow Creek
10-03-2005, 15:48
For the record, Seasonale is just a marketing ploy--they've packaged regular old pills in larger boxes with fewer placebos. You can skip periods with lots of other kinds of pills (tho' not all--check with your doc).

CynJ, moisture is the single biggest thing you can control to prevent infections. Try loose-fitting shorts for camp gear, and go commando at night (or whenever you can, if you're comfortable with that). Air circulation is your best friend!

10-03-2005, 17:57
This is kinda late, but,

Wookie, what effects of the pill are you talking about? I've been on birth control for quite awhile now, a really low dose brand (take only what you need, and nothing more) and dont knowtice any effects. I'm actually taking birth control for a different reason than normal, I never became monthly after years since I started because I never had enough body fat... but I still took the pill continously on the trail (with the recomendation from my doctor) and never knowticed ill effects. Infact, I didnt see another girl on the trail who wasnt taking birth control the same way i was. Just curious if you knew something i didnt.