You mentioned the difficulty (and potential embarrassment) of packing out sanitary supplies. Yuck. I use a product called The Keeper Menstrual Cup, which would eliminate this altogether. Easily found online, it’s a small rubber cup (a bit like a diaphragm). Benefits:
- No monthly supplies to purchase; I have not spent money on disposable supplies in more than six years. I’ve recouped the purchase price of $35 several times over, and it’s guaranteed to last at least 10 years.
- No supplies to carry or send to landfills; you simply dump out the contents and use the cup again.
- Safer than tampons; no possibility of toxic-shock syndrome.
- Fewer changes; if a tampon usually lasts 2 hours, The Keeper will last at least four.
- More comfortable to wear, though it does take some practice to learn to use it.
- For chafing, I use a product called BodyGlide™. It comes in a deodorant-like applicator, and goes on like chap stick—just rub it onto the areas that are chafing. I have heard that vaseline works well, too, but am not sure it will retain its non-liquid state in the high heat of the Inner Gorge in summer. Body Glide™ definitely does—mine stayed solid even at the river in August when the thermometer said 120 degrees.
- Sometimes I get yeast infections or other vaginal itchies when I am on a longer trip, especially in cooler months when I am wearing Capliene® long underwear. Bathing helps, but sometimes not enough—Capliene® simply doesn’t breathe as well as cotton. One solution is to wear Capliene® while hiking, but have some cotton undies for evening and night wear, or to simply go undieless, at least in the tent. Another is to wear silk, which seems to breathe better than Capliene®, but still insulates in cool wet conditions.
- If you end up dealing with your menstrual cycle on the trail, you’ll have to carry out your used feminine hygiene products such as tampons and napkins. By placing these in a plastic Ziploc® bag with baking soda inside, you can greatly minimize the odor. Also be sure to place the bag well out of reach from rodents and other creatures during the night while you are asleep. Properly securing these things will prevent a mess and pure embarrassment in the morning!
- One of the hardest things to do on the trail is to maintain some level of cleanliness—especially amongst a mixed group of people! Enter the collapsible bucket. This is one item that I never leave home without. I like to clean up, and it helps keep my sleeping bag fresher for much longer before cleaning. In a campground with other people around, I can even take wash water into my tent and bathe in private. Be careful not to tip it over! Be on the safe side and move your sleeping bag and gear away to prevent getting them wet! To find out all the uses I find for my bucket, visit The Wonder Bucket! page.
- If you are planning on hiking to Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground and your main concern is the weight you will have to carry, consider the duffel service provided by Xanterra. You can have your pack carried both ways by mule. There are limitations, such as: they only provide the service to the bottom of the Canyon and not Indian Garden or Cottonwood, it is rather pricey, and there is a weight limit of 30 pounds per duffel. But just the fact that you don’t have to carry it can be pretty attractive. To find out more, visit my Pack Hauling/Duffel Service page.
For a site devoted to women in the outdoors, I recommend visiting The Hiking Lady. HikingLady.com is a website dedicated to women who love the outdoors, and choose to explore it by hiking, backpacking, and camping. Additionally, the blog is an up-to-date resource with articles of interest, events, environmental issues, book and movie reviews, organizations to join, and deals on hiking gear and apparel. The site is geared mostly towards mountain and cold weather hiking but there is still some excellent advice for gear and other information.