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How to go camping, hiking or to a festival while on your period

Excited about getting away from your daily routine, but the thought of dealing with your period in the wild has you stressed? You can have an awesome time no matter where you’re at in your menstrual cycle: Scream your PMS into oblivion, stomp your cramps away on a mountain trail, or dance like no-one is bleeding. Here's how:

Know where you're headed

First up, assess the situation: Where are you going and for how long? What kind of toilet, waste disposal and washing facilities can you expect? Is there a supply of clean water for drinking and washing? How much space do you have in your bag?

If you track your cycle in Clue, you can see predicted dates for your PMS and periods three cycles ahead. Even if your period isn’t due, it’s always smart to be prepared. Travel and stress can affect your cycle, causing your period to come earlier or later than usual. Maybe you won’t need them, but your spare tampons or pads could be a lifesaver for someone else. Be sure to pack enough supplies for your whole trip, as it might be hard to find them on the road.

What to pack

Popular period products include tampons, pads, menstrual cups and sponges, and each one has its pros and cons. Tampons and disposable pads are easy to find, but more expensive and less eco-friendly than reusable options. Reusable menstrual cups are becoming more widely available and there are also disposable versions on the market. You can insert a menstrual cup before your period starts, and leave it in for up to 12 hours—a great option when bathroom access is limited. Cups also take up less space in your luggage, but on the downside it can take some practice to empty and reinsert them. If your flow is light, absorbent period underwear is another reusable option that can provide all-day coverage. If in doubt, you can always mix and match various products.

Other must-haves include soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper or tissues, pain relief, and any medication or birth control you are using. Many people swear by baby wipes as a shower alternative, but if you are prone to yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV) it can help to keep scented soaps away from your vulva and vagina, and simply wash with water.

Don’t forget some spare underwear, a bag for laundry, and safer sex supplies if there’s any chance you might need them. If you get specific food cravings at certain times of your cycle, why not bring some snacks? You can use Clue to track cravings and find out if they regularly occur at certain stages of your menstrual cycle.

No shower? No problem

If you’re going to be without showers, there are a few options for cleaning up. Prevent infection by cleaning your hands with soap and water or sanitizer before and after changing your tampon or cup. If there’s nowhere to wash your hands, you could wear nitrile or latex medical gloves—they’re handy to have in your first aid kit anyway, but this does mean extra waste. You can soap your menstrual cup and rinse with drinking water, or simply wipe it clean with toilet paper. Once you’re back home you can give it a thorough cleaning or sterilize it in boiling water. Hand sanitizer can damage some cups, so if in doubt check with the manufacturer.

Leave no trace

If you’re going to a wilderness area or a festival with a zero-waste policy like Burning Man, you’ll need to take everything out with you. Don’t discard or bury menstrual products, because they pose a danger to wild animals. Pop them in a resealable plastic bag and you can put them in the trash when you get back to town. If you’re using a menstrual cup you can pour the contents into any type of toilet. If you’re in the backcountry and there are no toilets you can empty your cup in a “cat hole” six to eight inches deep. Make sure this is located 200 feet away from camp, the trail and any water sources. Pads and tampons (and wet wipes) can go into chemical toilets or waste bins, but they don’t biodegrade — so it’s important not to put them in composting toilets.

If you’re enjoying a beautiful natural environment, be careful to keep it that way. Use biodegradable soap and wash yourself and any reusable menstrual products at least 200 feet away from water sources.

But what about bears?

If you’re expecting to be around wild animals (and not just party animals) you can rest assured that menstrual odors do not attract grizzly or black bears, according to the U.S. National Park Service. That’s right, bears are more interested in your peanut butter. Still, it’s sensible to treat used period products the same as food or any scented item: stow it in a bear canister or bear bag it.

What to wear

Whether you’re hiking in the backcountry or partying on the playa, there’s no need to let your period dictate your wardrobe choices. If you’re worried about your tampon or cup leaking, use a pad or panty liner to prevent stains, or choose darker colored pants. Bring extra underpants or choose breathable underwear that you can quickly rinse and air dry.

With a bit of preparation you can make the most of your favorite festival, crush that week-long trek in the mountains, or kick back and relax at the campsite.

Life is too short to stay home just because you have your period.

Use Clue to get accurate predictions, and to track exercise, sleep, partying and more.

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