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A woman’s guide to staying fresh when hiking

A woman’s guide to staying fresh when hiking

Hygiene is one of the most basic and critical attention points for someone in the outdoors. And it is perhaps more so for a woman, knowing all the privacy issues she may face when travelling. Whether we are backpacking, travelling cross-country, or planning a trek or a road trip, maintaining hygiene is key to the success of the trip, to ensure you are in the pink of health to enjoy all the bounties of nature. The hygiene checklist, must, in fact be planned, long before you actually start the trip.

Plotting up the hygiene plan is usually no different from planning your food, shelter and routes. Temperature, snow coverage, water availability, group size, vegetation and privacy are some of the important factors that every female hiker takes into consideration (or should), while planning their trip. As with other necessities, there’s a checklist of items you must carry with you to stay fresh, sanitized and clean.

Working up a sweat is always wow. It is both praiseworthy as well vilified. While on a trek, a female hiker might encompass a number of obstacles. Starting from underwear dilemmas to answering nature’s call, from dirty hair to staying clean on those days of the month, from being comfortable to feeling your best – numerous hurdles lie in her path on the rugged hiking terrains. But then you won’t complain if you know how to overcome the hurdles.

So here are a few issues women hikers commonly face, and how we may deal with them while on the run in the rugged terrains!

  1. Underwear puzzles

On a hike you are definitely going to need really comfortable underwear. You need something that will keep you clean and cool as well as fresh and light, all day long. Underwear comes in all sorts of fabrics, something a female hiker has to be really careful about while choosing. So here is what you can do to sort out your underwear maze.

Something that clings to skin all day long and creates chaffing is not desirable. The other thing to consider is if it will soak up sweat and stay against the skin all day. As much as we prefer it, cotton is not the best blend, nor is nylon. What you need is a combination of nylon and cotton. The best is nylon and its blends that come with a cotton panel. Low cuts or thongs can prove to be really skimpy and may not be able to avoid the chaffing. Your pants must not be allowed to rub against your thighs and your undergarments must assure that. High waist underwear on the other hand, will be too binding against your waist. And the waist needs to strap a number of other objects than just the underwear. The best solution to this problem is to wear a mid-rise, which will cover you enough to prevent chaffing and be smooth enough to move with you while on the rugged terrains.

Avoid pure cotton in any situation, at least for your basic layer. You might have to invest a little extra in underwear that wicks moisture away from your body. And if you are looking to avoid odors too, then antimicrobial fabrics are the thing for you!

What about washing?

This is yet another great question! Cotton dries slowly and can be a real pain. And they do not at all function well in high humidity. A nylon blend replacement is just what you need.

  • Give it a quick rinse.
  • Swish it in soapy water.
  • Squeeze the entire moisture out.
  • Hang it overnight.
  • It will be ready next morning.

Have at least 3 or 4 pairs with you at all times. Use a sun rock to help in the drying process.

Now for the bras! Leave all the under wire bras at home. They are built to be constricting, uncomfortable and will dig into your chest as soon as you strap the pack on. They could also attract you to the lightning, if exposed on a ridge. The best in these cases will definitely be the sport bras. So go shop!

  1. Answering Nature’s Call

How do you answer nature’s call without falling off a cliff or getting bitten by poison ivy? And not to forget, being seen! This is the most vexing of all the issues a female hiker ever comes across.

Well, there is actually no way around this one. This is something you will have to deal with cleverly, no matter what. Our kidneys are designed to figure out exactly how much water is needed in the body. Water will be in and water will be out. Do not fight this urge. Take regular bathroom breaks. Do not tax your bladder. This takes your attention off the road to the pressing need to release, and at the same time can turn out to be a health hazard if continued for long. A female hiker buddy can guard while you do your thing. In case that’s not available, just trust your guide/porter/companion and ask one to guard the way from a distance while you look for the right bush/rock/curve at the end of the road. If you are a frequent traveler, you know what I am talking about. For the rest, go out there and you will figure it out.

  1. That time of the month

One of the most uncomfortable times for outdoor activities, most women avoid scheduling trips or strenuous physical activities during this time. However, it would foolish to back out of wonderful experiences of life because of this. As the advertisement lady rightly states, “ab kadam badhaye ja” — same goes for all you adventurous ladies out there. There are numerous ways a woman can handle the situation. Meticulous planning and careful packing will help you get over the couple of days. Plan ahead, unless you really want to be scrunching with bandanas, safety pins, moss and lichens.

Option A

Deal with it naturally – Ladies by now know how to deal with it and can manage almost all chores despite the inconvenience. Just be careful to carry extra supplies, dark trousers, adequate change of inner garments and body sprays. That should do the trick! Do not forget to carry a plastic bag for all your waste. You will have to pack the waste in the bag and dispose them off at the designated waste bins which may not be readily available at hiking trails or at all the places you halt.

Option B

Plan your tour to avoid your periods – When you can’t control the journey dates, at least try to keep those days light, or schedule car rides or transits to avoid taxing activities. Or just plan a leisurely day at the hotel/homestay with minimal physical strain.

Option C

Skip your period completely – Now we do not always have the pleasure of controlling schedules, especially when travelling with others. And if you particularly suffer during this phase of the month, talk to your doctor about medication to postpone your periods until your scheduled return. He will offer you pills, thus allowing you to control when you bleed. However this solution comes with side effects, so ensure you consult with your doctor before you take a pill.

Now that we are done solving the most vexing issues, let’s take a look at the range of things you must carry for your hygiene before leaving home for a hiking trip:-

  1. Toothpaste
  2. Brush
  3. Dental floss
  4. Chewing gums
  5. Hand sanitizer
  6. Light hand towel
  7. Soap paper
  8. Pack of wet tissues
  9. Sanitary pad (never mind the schedule!)
  10. Toilet paper
  11. Shampoo pouch
  12. Mini soap bar
  13. Waste pouch (carry extra waste bags)
  14. A scotch brite (to rub off excess food from plate & mug; spare detergent to save water)
  15. 3 pairs of socks and undergarments
  16. Deodorant (optional)

Forget the hair conditioner and ditch the face wash. Your backpack has only so much space, and you must use your space wisely. More importantly, water is very limited, and you can only barely rinse and wipe what you must.

That, ladies, should give you some direction as to what to carry to stay fresh during long treks and hikes, and how to strategize your tours during the days you are down. Make your Group Outings memorable. Here’s wishing happy hiking to all the women folks!

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