How to Handle Your Period While Hiking and Camping

Going outside inevitably impacts the environment, whether all that remains are your footsteps—as Leave No Trace (LNT) would encourage—or you’re treating nature as your personal trash can and compost pile. And having your period while backpacking or camping only makes it harder to reduce that impact.

In accordance with Leave No Trace principles, don’t leave anything not created by your body—including tampons and toilet paper—in nature. Keep this in mind if you’re going on a trip where you won’t see a garbage can for a while, as you’ll have to carve out space and weight in your pack for used pads and tampons.

As for what you can leave behind, it shouldn’t remain above ground for another person or animal to find. Always dig a six-to-eight-inch-deep hole (LNT calls them catholes) at least 200 feet, or 70 big steps away, from a water source, dump all bodily fluids and the water used to clean your period supplies inside it, and fill it back in.

And don’t just throw period supplies into pit toilets. In comparing rates of decomposition, “the closest thing to a tampon is a disposable diaper, which takes about 450 years,” citing a 2005 study. Even the organic or biodegradable kind still take a long time to break down. So if you leave a tampon or pad in a pit toilet, it could be found by animals. Or rangers would have to remove it, which is extremely difficult.

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