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How to prepare for Backpacking on your Period

In this travel guide, we will go over every possible scenario you could encounter when backpacking on your period.

There is nothing shameful about period waste and we should definitely be sharing information more openly on this, as it's not always as straightforward as people may assume.

In many countries that I have travelled to, period products are not obviously available. Sometimes they are out back, and there may be a small sign that says 'pads available' because displaying the product would be oh-so-shameful. This is humanity and this attitude of discretion can kiss my ass! On top of this, toilet facilities are rarely planned with female needs in mind. There is often no hand soap, no bin, and no flush. So let's talk about how we can go backpacking on our periods with confidence, and without getting into a bloody mess.

A woman leaking period blood on the bathroom floor


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The unpredictability of toilet situations

A typical toilet scenario in Cameroon, India, and many other places, may offer just a hole in the floor. This hole would ideally have four surrounding walls, but not always! In these situations, one has no choice but to squat and do the business, use a bit of hand sanitiser, and move on. A better situation is a cubicle, with a hole-in-the-floor style latrine that you squat over, with a small jug and a tap. After squatting and relieving yourself, you are expected to pour the jug of water all over the area that has come into contact with your waste. The pressure of the water being poured also acts as a 'flush' if there isn't one. You can then use water and your left hand to clean yourself, or just have a good shake. Some toilets do have hoses, which have the same purpose as the jug, they just act more efficiently.

You may even come across a western-style toilet, and you may even bring your own tissue, but you still can't flush this down the loo, as the pipes are not designed for this and will clog very easily. So what do we do when we are backpacking on our periods, and the toilet, in whichever format, does not provide a flush or a bin?


How to prepare for Backpacking on your Period


Menstrual Cup

A super-duper awesome product that avoids any period waste, aside from menstrual blood. There are a few different types, and the one I use is the Saalt cup - along with their specialised cleaner.

You can empty the menstrual cup straight down the toilet/hole, rinse it with bottled water, and reinsert it. This type of product needs to be sanitised between periods, which can be done with boiling water, so you will also need to travel with a small pot or saucepan. Facilities to boil water may not always be available on the road, so as a backup travel with a small bottle of specialised cleaner. When on a backpacking trip, long bus journeys are inevitable - and when backpacking on your period, these extended hours on the road do come with some fear.

Some buses only offer toilet breaks on the side of the road - so using a Menstrual cup would be the best option here, as they can hold 3x as much blood as a tampon - depending on your body, they can go up to 12 hours before needing to be emptied.

If you need to empty your cup on the side of the road, ask another female traveller to hold up a shawl or sarong in front of you for some privacy, then you can have a toilet break and empty your cup and reinsert it without onlookers. It is safer to stay on the road with a 'sarong shield' than to wander off into the bushes. It's really important to have clean hands when removing and reinserting your menstrual cup, so if soap and water are not available remember to use hand sanitiser.

*When hiking out in nature, the ~Leave No Trace~ policy is vital in protecting the ecosystem you have been blessed to visit. If you need to empty your menstrual cup in the wild like this, it's recommended to dig a small 'cathole' to pour the menstrual blood into, before burying it.*

a menstrual cup



If the menstrual cup isn't for you, fear not, there are ways to work with tampons and pads. You'll just need to carry with you some tissue and scented biodegradable nappy sacks at all times. Why scented? I'll get to that later!

This means when you are backpacking on your period you can dispose of your used tampons and pads by wrapping them in tissue, sealing them in the nappy sack, and keeping them with you until the next appropriate bin comes your way. Keeping the nappy sacks in a ziplock bag would be even better, as you may not come across a bin for a while.

I have a friend, who I am sure won't mind me sharing this story, who had to carry her period waste for two weeks in her backpack whilst hiking to Everest Base Camp. To this day she claims after those two weeks, opening her backpack was the 'worst smell she's ever smelt' - only to be topped by a decomposing badger carcass in her friend's swimming pool. Scented nappy sacks will only get you so far I'm afraid!




Anti-bacterial gel Tissue/Wet Wipes Pot/Saucepan OR Menstrual Cup Cleaner

Shawl/Sarong for privacy

OR Tampons/Pads

Anti-bacterial gel Tissue/Wet Wipes Scented, biodegradable nappy sacks

Ziplock bags Shawl/Sarong for privacy


It may at first seem intimidating to try and account for all of these details when backpacking on your period, but as with most things to do with travelling, you acclimatise pretty quickly. We are made of resilient stuff! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions, and if you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post new articles every 1-2 weeks. For more travel inspiration, check out my article: The Best Countries in the World!

I have lived through my period in many inhospitable conditions, and some of those experiences were very traumatic, as I was not prepared as I am now, and as you will be after reading this post on how to prepare for backpacking on your period! Happy Travels!


A fig cut open to suggest a vagina



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