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.

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