I don’t. Not when I’m on extended travel like this. When I have access to a shower, I pay extra attention to washing my hair, in all places, to make sure it doesn’t harbor ticks/mud/bacteria/smells.
In a month I’ve had 4 showers. In between, I haven’t really seen people, so the consideration is more about basic hygiene than appearances. To that end, every night I give myself a sponge bath with wet wipes. WET WIPES ARE MY FRIEND.
…Use the bathroom?
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has designated river-access campsites all along the Mississippi River. Until recently, I have stayed in those campsites almost every night, and luckily they’re furnished with either an outhouse or a latrine (composting toilet in the middle of the woods, but no structure protecting it). I usually have to furnish my own toilet paper. On the few nights where I’m in a campsite with road access, or—even better!—a river angel’s house, I get to use a real, flushing toilet and don’t have to worry about mosquitos biting my bum! Occasionally (more, recently), I camp in spots that are not designated as a campsite, and in these places, I go far from camp, dig a hole, do my business, and cover it up, with rocks if possible, to keep animals from digging it up. I usually hold everything in all day while I’m in the kayak. I’ve noticed all the male paddlers have a pee bottle in their boat and in their tent. Seems like that’d be really nice plumbing to have in this sort of scenario. I heard of one female paddler who uses one of those pee-bottle things for women, but I haven’t had the chance to ask her more about how she likes it.
…Deal with your menstrual cycle?
Some people suggest taking birth control pills straight through (without allowing a cycle during the sugar pills). I have endometriosis, so I’m supposed to do that anyway, but unfortunately (for convenience-sake), my body goes ahead and cycles like normal despite hormonal control.
So. Because this is relevant to my mission of reducing plastic and waste in general, I’m more than happy to talk about this. At home and on the kayak, I use a menstrual cup and fabric pads. There are lots of different menstrual cups out there, and lots of different fabric pads, but these are the ones I use, along with what I like about them:
Diva cup, available in many pharmacies and some groceries.
- Not spending money on tampons every month
- HUGE sigh of relief when I think about all the waste I am not producing any more, and the positive environmental impacts of using this little silicone thing (No more: pesticides for the cotton, fresh water for the cotton, bleach in the cotton, bleach in the cardboard & paper, petrol used for growing/harvesting the cotton, petrol used for transport of tampons to the store shelf, not to mention sitting in a landfill for eons.)
- Whereas I used to have to change my tampon several times/day, I can usually go the whole day without changing the diva cup (huge benefit on the kayak)
- I am comfortable (and it is sanitary) peeing or pooing with it in, too, which I could never do with a tampon.
- After just a few times getting the hang of it, it feels more comfortable than a tampon did. (Think about it: a cup surrounding your cervix instead of a big hunk of cotton jamming up against it!)
- Again, after you get the hang of it, it doesn’t leak (!). (Trick: twist it in a circle after inserting to make sure it opens fully). (Some people don’t find this to be true).
- I can measure my flow to see if I’m having a normal/abnormal period, since there are measuring lines on the cup (I’ve never actually had to do this…but it’s sorta interesting).
- I noticed my flow go from 7 days (5 heavy) down to 5 days (3 heavy), and I’ve heard lots of my friend say their flow has diminished too. My theory is that the cup just catches what comes out, whereas tampons ‘pull’ more out than necessary. Not sure how scientific that is.
- Pretty easy care: I boil mine before the start of each period, and simply rinse out whenever I take it out during my period (wet wipes while I’m camping).
- I hope you don’t think this is really weird. Or even if you do, I’d recommend giving one a try. Or buying one for your sister/girlfriend/wife if you’re a guy.
Menstrual pads made by hand, sold on etsy.
- More comfortable than plastic pads
- I don’t have to pay for plastic pads every month
- I am not adding to the landfill every month
- Easy laundering
- You can get various thicknesses to match your flow
- Handy snap means no more adhesive grossness on your panties
- Because of the diva cup, I rarely need pads anymore, but they’re good for backup/spotting.
…Maintain a relationship?
It was very important to me to have the support of my boyfriend, and I didn’t begin planning this trip until I knew he was on board for a stint of long-distance-relationship. He and I talk almost every night, excepting when I don’t have coverage or I get into camp after he’s already gone to sleep. So far, so good. (and he’s coming to visit this weekend! Yay!)