Menstruation On The Trail | Eco-Friendly Sanitary Options For Outdoor Adventures - Outdoors Magic

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Menstruation On The Trail | Eco-Friendly Sanitary Options For Outdoor Adventures

Anna Richards explores the different products available for managing your period in the outdoors

Menstruation on the trail is a topic generally glossed over with Victorian modesty, but as something that affects over 25% of the adult population*, probability suggests that if you’re a woman who menstruates and regularly thru-hikes, the two will have coincided at some point. Even for women who don’t go backpacking, the chances are that menstruation will have got in the way of other sporting activities at some point in their lives.  

Read any guide on how to be a conscientious hiker and ‘leave no trace’ and you’ll likely find a brief passage on going to the bathroom. Probably a cursory paragraph advising you to take a trowel, bury your business, bag up toilet paper and take it home. I’m yet to find an article that details bathroom practice on the trail specifically for menstruating women, but the guiding principles are the same: take all waste home with you. The problem is that if a six-day period coincides with a six-day thru-hike, that amounts to rather a lot of waste. A carrier bag full of used sanitary products isn’t particularly pleasant nor convenient to carry, especially if you’re part of the ultra-light brigade and use a backpack barely larger than your pouch of sanitary towels. 

Related: Best Backpacking Backpacks 

For countless women in sport and the outdoors, menstrual cups have been a game changer. A silicone cup is roughly the length of your thumb and weighs on average less than 20g, saving valuable pack space and weight compared to traditional sanitary products. The same cup can be used for up to 10 years, making it a much more environmentally friendly option. Another bonus for backpackers is that it can be left in place for 12 hours at a time and easily rinsed out on the trail using drinking water (just remember to boil/sterilise your cup when you return from the trip). Although 12 hours is a guideline, if you need to leave your cup in for longer it shouldn’t be an issue. Since menstrual cups collect blood rather than absorbing it, the risk of toxic shock syndrome is much lower than it is with tampons.   

Photo: iStock/ lzf

Menstrual cup websites give guidance on different insertion methods, but as a general rule, fold the cup in half before inserting and twist it to allow it to pop open once it is comfortably positioned in your vagina. If the cup is uncomfortable after being correctly inserted, you may need to trim the stem (or remove it entirely if you prefer, you’ll still be able to take out the cup by squatting).  

To help you to choose, we spoke to four different menstrual cup providers and their customers to get top tips on how to make the transition, which cup they would recommend for exercise, and how to keep your cup clean on the trail.  

*Although over 50% of the population are female, this statistic takes into account women who have gone through menopause/ don’t menstruate/ are on contraception that stops them from menstruating.

The Lena Cup 

Price: £27 
Sizing: Small and large cups

Lena Cup recommends their small cup for beginners and advises: “When hiking, wash your cup with potable water before reinserting. Then when you’re at home, wash the cup with water/soap and sterilise before putting it away for your next cycle.”  

Mary Claire Yukovitch, a scuba-diving enthusiast, pole dancer and gym goer, is a big advocate of Lena Cups. She tried several brands before finding the one that worked for her and recommends choosing a colour like teal that doesn’t stain easily. 


The Mooncup 

Price: £21
Sizing: Two sizes available, one for women under 30/women who have not given birth vaginally, one for women over 30/who have given birth vaginally

“With conventional period products, one of the most common reasons for not exercising on your period is leakage or discomfort,” said a spokesperson for Mooncup. “The fact that the Mooncup holds three times more than a regular tampon can make it easier to focus on your exercise, particularly if you’re covering very long distances, on a thru-hike for instance. Great Britain Olympic Weightlifter Amy Williams actually declared the Mooncup officially heavy-squat-approved!”  

Related: The Best Long-Distance Walks In The UK

The Mooncup was recommended by climber, hiker, yogi and gym-goer Kim Griffin. She recommends watching videos on insertion to test out the different methods and find which works for you and trimming the stem if it is uncomfortable! 

The Saalt Cup 

Price: £25
Sizing: Regular, small, and teen

Saalt recommends their original firmness cup for active women. They also have an online forum where “cup gurus” and other cup users troubleshoot problems and offer tips to new cup users. “The freedom that it can bring for outdoor adventure is truly amazing!” said a Saalt Cup representative. “We have a Facebook group (Saalt Cup Academy) where other cup users support each other through the transition to use the cup. We have over 26,000 members.”  

Wild swimmer and travel blogger Michelle Corrie said that the Saalt Cup was perfect for swimming, as she’d always found her tampons soaked up lake/pool water and needed changing as soon as she got out. Searching for a spare tampon was the last thing that she wanted to do after swimming in a beautiful, remote waterfall…

Check out our round-up of the best wetsuits for open water swimming if you’re thinking of taking a dip.


The Talula Cup 

Price: £22
Sizing: Two sizes available, one for women under 35/women who have not given birth vaginally, one for women over 35/who have given birth vaginally

If you’re finding your cup uncomfortable at first, Talula Cup recommends persevering. “Remember what it was like trying a tampon for the first time? Everything takes practice. Relax, and if you don’t get it right the first time, no one is judging you!” 

Talula Cup is my choice and I’ve used it for thru-hiking, cycling, running, stand up paddleboarding, and wild swimming. I’ve found it particularly beneficial for thru-hiking to minimise my pack weight, and for cycling, where tampons would often chafe and start to cause irritation on longer rides.  


Main Photo: Photo: iStock/ lzf


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