This One’s For the Ladies: Hygiene, Periods, and Sex on the Road

“Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says “oh crap, she’s up!”

Fair warning boys, this one really is for the ladies since it’s about hygiene and living specific to us gals. A few weeks ago a fellow female cyclist who I met at the beginning of my journey on the Pacific West Coast emailed me with a few personal questions since, as she rightly pointed out, there really isn’t much information about a few specific subjects since no one wants to write about them. So if you aren’t interested in how we pee or what we do about our period when we are on the road, I would suggest you skip this one and come back tomorrow instead.

General Hygiene

This one isn’t only for us gal, but bears pointing out never the less. You will often go for days and sometimes even weeks or months without a shower while backpacking or cycling but it’s still important to keep certain areas clean. I have found that wet wipes work splendidly, and if by the end of the day we haven’t found a stream or river to wash in, I try to give myself a little “wet wipe bath” before bed. It’s also important to bring enough pairs of underwear and wash them frequently to avoid infections or unwanted smells, and since underwear is so small, I have ten or so pairs with me so I never run out. Before climbing into my sleeping bag I always change into my pajamas, a clean pair of breathable clothes I never wear outside the tent. It’s important to have light clothes to change into so that after you take off everything, including your underwear, your body has some time to air out overnight.

Pee rags are an option for us gals as well, though I haven’t met many who use them. It’s just a piece of cloth that you use to wipe when you pee, and then attach to your bicycle as you ride so it disinfects in the sun. Though I used one during my first month I ended up giving up on it since I found it to be too much work each and every time I had to pee. Instead, I just give myself some time to drip dry and air out when I stop to pee at the side of the road.

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The worst part about not showering for me is greasy hair. In Georgia I was able to wash my hair (and body) daily in a river or stream because it was hot out and there was water everywhere, but here in Turkey that hasn’t been an option at all. I’ve had to sort of except the inevitable dirty hair feeling, and just keep it up in buns (with my bangs pulled back by bobby pins) in order to keep it out of the way. Though it seems gross coming from a culture where everyone showers nearly everyday, you do get use for showering less frequently and when you do get to wash, you appreciate it all the more.

The Period

I have one word for you, “mooncup” (or “diva cup” – look it up online!). Even if you aren’t cycling or backpacking, I would high recommend this little silicon reusable cup as it’s cheaper (a one time cost of thirty dollars), environmentally friendly (you can use the same one for years and therefore you don’t create waste every month as you do with tampons or pads), and in my opinion, healthier and more hygienic since it’s merely collecting the blood so that you can dispose of it when you wish. I have been using mine for two years now, and even once I’m back home I’ll continue to use it for the rest of my life. In many parts of the world tampons are either very difficult or downright impossible to find, and even if you do find them they are extremely impractical since they create waste which you can’t leave in the woods, but don’t want to pack with you either. The one difficult part about the mooncup is that when you dump it out you obviously want to wash or rinse it, but I have leaned that that’s pretty easily done with the squirting water bottle that I carry with me on my bike.

Birth Control

Birth control is another thing that can be hard to find in many countries, especially as a girl because in many cultures it’s (unfortunately) very looked down upon for a women to buy condoms. My suggestion is to bring a supply of whichever method you prefer with you when you leave, even if that means carrying twelve months worth of the pill in the bottom of your bags. I’ve met a fair number of women cyclists with IUDs, all of whom are very happy they got it before their trip so that they have one less thing to worry about while traveling, so that may be something for you to look into as well.

If you have any personal questions, feel free to email me and I’ll get back to you privately since being a gal should never cause you any unnecessary hassles!

I have a new Facebook page! I will no longer be using my personal one, so for those of you who would like to follow with small updates of stories and photos, come like it.

22 thoughts on “This One’s For the Ladies: Hygiene, Periods, and Sex on the Road

  1. I’m here just to second menstrual cups (the brand I use is Lunette). I almost forget I’m on my period – the hassle is so much less – and yes, it is much healthier for your body and the environment.

    I also wanted to share this website http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/ which is a great resource for anyone who is interested in getting one. What really helped me were charts (under FAQ) that discuss the dimensions of the different brands so you can get an idea of which brand may suit your body best.

  2. A much needed post for us girls, after three months on the road I’ve got most of it worked out but it’s definitely nice to have some confirmation that all the other girls on the road are doing the same thing! I told a friend the other day that I hadn’t showered in a week and he was mortified! Your standards change dramatically on the road, when I’m back in civilisation for a few days I will often forget to shower because it’s a luxury I’m not use to!

  3. good to read that now there are alternative methods instead of tampons. ive not thought of using a pee rag but it might be useful. do you wear padded unders or just seam free knickers. Im glad that im still cycle touring at 64 but its good to read about others adventure tours. mine have all been in Europe or uk.

  4. For the past couple years my wife and I have been using a Boulder Bidet. Took some getting use to at first, now I can’t hike without it in my toiletry bag. I put a drop or two of soap in it.

  5. Great topic that is sadly still taboo in this day and age. Mind you, if men had periods it would be discussed openly and you’d be able to buy tampons and pads in football team colours!
    I’ve tried the menstrual cup (in several different brands) but have had nothing but trouble with them 😦 So I’ve given up.
    Another handy item though, is the FUD (female urination device) It allows you to pee standing up just like a boy! Extremely handy when there are no bushes or trees to squat behind and you can also use it to wipe remaining drips away. Mine lives in a ziplock bag in my handlebar bag.
    I don’t wear undies under my padded shorts which I find is much more comfortable. Undies = chafing! I have two pairs of padded shorts so I can rinse one out every night and let it dry on my rack pack during the day.

  6. Great article. It’s a shame that this subject is still taboo in this day and age. Although I’m sure if men had periods it would be talked about openly and you’d be able to get pads and tampons in football colours!
    Another useful item is the FUD (female urination device) a flexible funnel that allows you to pee standing up like a boy. Mine lives in a zip lock bag in my handlebar bag. Very handy for when there are no bushes or trees to squat behind.
    The menstrual cups are a fantastic idea, but unfortunately I’ve had nothing but trouble with them (2 different brands) so I’ve given up for now 😦
    As for the undies, I just wear padded cycling shorts. I have 2 pairs so I can rinse one out at night and dry it the next day on my rack-pac. Wearing undies whilst cycling = chafing!

  7. Pingback: Links da Semana #11 | Andar Comigo

  8. During a month long ride I experimented with figuring out how much water I would need to take a shower. Full lather, hair wash and rinse. I have a collapsing bucket and a one qt water bottle using these items my total use was just under 2 qts water. (Yes I already know that in areas that water is scarce that this is a lot of water, but this is not my point, the goal was how much was needed and then it is a choice)
    The bucket saves the water poured over my head when I was washing my hair then this same water is used to give the rest of the body a scrub. The Next trick is before rinsing to squeegee your hair and body, the more soap left in your hair and on you the more rinse water needed.
    Many times the night before coming into a town knowing that there would be water to refill my needs I have taken this roadside shower.

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