On the second day of our epic Timberline Trail backpacking trip of 2020, Beck started unexpectedly menstruating. It was a fast lesson in how to continue being a functioning female while leading a pack in the wilderness.

At home and in modern life, you can easily use tampons and pads and discard them after every use. In the backcountry, it is not that simple. I use a flexible, reusable cup called a Diva Cup and reusable cloth pads. There are many other kinds of reusable cups.

How to use a menstrual cup

The menstrual cups work by collecting the flow. You insert the cup and then remove it hours later to empty the contents out. Some people can leave it in up to 12 hours at a time.

Just like other human waste products, dig a hole at least 6 inches deep. Clean your hands and then empty the cup into the hole. Wipe the inside of the cup using toilet paper, and then reinsert. Use a biodegradable wet wipe to clean the outside of your body. Then wash your hands again once you are done.

Cloth pads

There are many kinds of cloth pads as well such as Glad Rags. When you use a cloth pad, make sure you change out the pad at least one time per day and wash with a biodegradable wet wipe a few times per day. You should only need 2-3 pads no matter how many days you will be backpacking. Clean the used pads in a washbasin, bowl, or pot with biodegradable soap and hot water and then hang on your backpack so that it dries in the sun. (Obviously this doesn’t work if you are stuck in the rain!)