Three things I wish I’d know about “wild periods” before I set off to "The UK's last remaining wilderness"....
"It was a hot summer’s day. I was getting used to the weight of my pack. And I was due on my period. To be perfectly honest I was feeling overwhelmed and like all I wanted to do was lie down in a cool dark room on my own.
“I did not sign up for this” were the words which circled around and around as I got hotter, angrier and more tired."
(You can actually see how cross I am in this photo).
I had not intended to be half way up a mountain in the UK’s last remaining wilderness on our first ever 5 day 'Wild Pilgrim' adventure with a bag full of tampons, a low level - but fairly pervasive sense of anxiety about how I’d manage, and in a very bad mood.
And - I’d kept it all to myself. I’ll just figure it out, I told myself. But seriously FFS.
Every woman experiences their menstruation differently, and while it’s a cycle which affects us all, we don’t always have first hand experience of how to manage our periods ‘well’ - if at all - on adventures in the wild.
Here are 3 things I wish I’d known before I set off for my first really wild period...
#1: Choose what products work for YOU
There are of course a variety of products out there, and it’s okay to use whatever YOU feel the most comfortable with and would normally use. Here’s a bit of info on how to manage each of them.
Tampons: If there are no bins (assume there aren’t) then used tampons need to be put into small ziplock bags and carried until they can be disposed of in a sanitary bin accordingly.
Sanitary towels: As above.
Period pants: These are a recent discovery of mine and I’m a big fan. They can be worn and washed and dried on adventures and re-used. There are plenty of streams and rivers in all the places that we wild-camp, and using a biodegradable soap and an old fashioned river wash is very effective. Be mindful of where you wash and always use products that will not contaminate the water. Don’t worry about the blood! It’s packed with iron and vitamins which will go straight back into the Earth.
Menstrual cup: This can be emptied, washed and re-used and is an excellent product in the wild for that reason. No packaging, nothing to throw away and nothing to carry with you before, during or after. If you're not used to using a menstrual cup, then in the wild on an adventure is probably not the best place to experiment. But if you are curious to experiment, you can find out more here:
How to use a menstrual cup:
#2: Create space to ensure you feel clean and fresh
Even though we may be wild camping and have no showering facilities, a big part of what we do is to get into whatever streams, rivers and lakes we can for a dip or a wash.
Feeling and staying clean and fresh is really important to us - but especially when you’re on your period.
Whilst we were in Knoydart I had a wash in one of the many lochs, rivers or waterfall at the beginning and the end of each day. I made a point of carving out time in my morning and evening routine to do this. I let the team know I was headed off for a wash so I wouldn't be disturbed. Always using a bio-degradable non toxic soap, and washing down-stream to where you may be gathering water for cooking and drinking.
It meant that I felt just as clean as I would at home, and if anything because of the cold water even more zingy! (Cold water is also great for aching limbs, back and belly, so it's win-win) :)
#3 There’s no need to downplay or dismiss your experience
Tell a friend, your leader or someone you’re with how you’re feeling / what you’re experiencing. I didn't do this and it made me feel alone rather than supported; (which is all we we ever want and need)!
By letting someone know how you really are, you can voice what might be concerning you, and what you need - so they can support you. You don’t have to ‘manage it’ all on your own, it's so nice to have a buddy who can then check in with you.
If you get physical pain then take what you’d usually take to manage this, ibuprofen is usually a winner.
You don’t need to downplay or dismiss your personal experience, whether it's hormones, washing, tiredness, pain, or just what to do with your tampons...It’s all valid & perfectly normal since 50% of us are women.
Here are some other short & simple tips of what to pop in your backpack…
“More than enough” sanitary products - even if you don’t expect to get your period (someone always needs one and will give you peace of mind ‘just in case’
Snack-sized zip-lock bags for storing used products. Make sure they’re the strongest, toughest bags available with good zips (you can even line your zip-lock bags with foil if you want to be more discrete)
Wet wipes / flushable toilet paper (which can also be stored in the zip bag and disposed of when you find a suitable sanitary bin
Pain relief / ibuprofen to help with menstrual cramps and any pain you may experience
If you use a menstrual cup, check out these menstrual cup wipes: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pixie-Menstrual-Cup-Wipes-Biodegradable/dp/B01IB2P8J
And here are some awesome & inspiring organisations & resources
Their mission is to eradicate period poverty in the UK, improve access to quality products & increase education around period health to eliminate shame and stigma. They have a “buy one, donate one” policy and loads of organic and biodegradable products.
Period Power by Maisie Hill
I read this book about 5 years ago and it changed my life. Check out Maisie Hill's website because she is basically a badass when it comes to empowering women through harnessing the power of their periods.
Moxie is progressive period care that exists to curb all kinds of period drama; with conscious disposables and long-lasting period reusables that really work, a community that supports, and the advice to go with.
Thanks for reading this and we hope it's been in some way helpful, reassuring or provides some clarity for you.
We'd love to hear from you if you have any other suggestions, tips, advice or personal stories or anything you’d like to share with us and our community about 'wild periods'. Cause after all, we're all in this together :)
LIVE WILD (period) ;)