Tried and True Trail Gems for Female Hikers
The first question is always, are you hiking alone? Isn’t that dangerous? Are you packing? Yes, no & heck no! In that order. I marvel at the fact that men venture out to the wilderness, thru-hike, section hike or just camp for the weekend and nobody thinks twice. Yet when woman hit the trail, you’d think we were from Venus! Women enjoy hiking, just as much as men, and we are quite capable.
What makes us Different?
I had incredible role models starting with Mom. As a kid, we would head out every summer in the family Station Wagon. Mom, her best friend Helen, with four kiddos in tow. It was a yearly pilgrimage. The men stayed back and the women went wild! We would always find our way, never got lost or misplaced, and each night included campfires and story-telling. My memories of growing up were of adventure and dreaming for longer summers.
The more miles I hike, I realized that there are fewer women than men on the trails. I wondered if there was a reason for this? Back home, I have a rat pack of gals that I hike with yearly; bold, strong and courageous women we are. We never gave thought of being anything but safe, while sleeping in our thin nylon tents. So what makes us different than the men? Honestly, we are quite the same. It simply comes down to personal hygiene, lotions and potions.
Hygiene, Filth & Stench
The longer I stay in the woods, the more important hygiene becomes. First things first, I am post-menopausal and the dreaded time of the month has long sense left me. One thing I can attest to is “expect the unexpected” when it comes to flowing. It never failed that when I pushed myself, aka stressed my body, I would start my period. It didn’t matter if I had “it” two weeks ago or two months ago. Once you exert yourself, that little special visitor shows up, whether you are ready or not! Just be ready. Have extras. Enough said.
My biggest concern, and I believe most women feel the same, is the stench and filth. The three pits: armpits and the cooch are the culprits. Being a red-blooded American, I have always shaved my pits and legs. What I found is the cooch is the most important part to shave or at least trim down. The fact is, you can only clean so well while out on the trail. The less hair you have, the less stink you produce! I typically bring “Oil of Olay” facial wipes. The key is to boil a little water in the evening, dunk your wipe and proceed to clean your face, pits, cooch and feet, in that order! It helps to move downwards on the cleaning streak, because once you hit your feet, you’re not reusing anything! Filth and stench be gone.
Disposable wipes are another hot item on the trail. You can find them anywhere. I have two problems with these. They are heavy & bulky. I know gals who dry them out to reduce weight then repackage in a plastic bag. It saves weight but you still have issue #2. The abundance of used wipes that you need to pack out.
Bandanas are a great alternative as you can soak these, reuse them to clean yourself and they dry fairly quickly. I still like my “Oil of Olay” wipes because they have a mild soap that is activated once they are moistened. And believe you me, you need some soap for the three pit landing!
Pee-Rags & Bidets
Pee-Rags have been a thing for me. Before these were cool, I would bring Grandmas flowered handkerchiefs. I’m sure she was laughing from heaven-above when she saw what I was using her hanky’s for! Nowadays there are countless companies selling glorified pee-rags. They are colorful, anti-bacterial, bamboo, plush diamond-shaped pee-rags. Whatever you decide on, know that they also keep you from carrying the costly and sometimes elusive toilet paper. I use it, hang it and rinse my pee-rag out daily, then launder it when I get to town.
My friend Linda introduced me to panty liners years ago. These have been a staple that I bring along on all my treks. What a difference they make in keeping your undies fresh and somewhat clean! I pack liners in each of my resupply boxes and store them in my ditty bag. My Ditty Bag has a shovel, hand sanitizer, panty liners and an extra plastic bag to pack my used liners and trash out. I always keep my Ditty Bag and Pee-Rag on the outside of my pack, ready for stealth use.
One last thing that has served me well is a portable bidet. My contractor friend introduced me to Bidets. Francis has always used them, both at home and on trail. I now carry a small collapsible water bottle, screw on my bidet and after doing my business, I spray “down under”. No more need for toilet paper, just a spray of water and wall-a, clean as a whistle.
Lotions & Potions
This is near and dear to my heart. I use moisturizer and always bring some backpacking. I have found that we all have certain items that we can’t live without. Mine is some sort of face cleaner (Oil of Olay Washcloths) and moisturizer. I have a few favorites but that is personal to your skin needs. I also, yes, bring an eye roller which helps my puffy and tired eyes. It’s crazy but it makes me feel better, and my eyes happier, in the morning and at night.
Facial Masks! Oh my gosh, Grocery Outlet is my favorite! On the West Coast, they are everywhere. I believe on the East Coast, there’s Dollar General. I’m betting that you can find them there. For $1, you can purchase these wonderfully spa-like masks and pamper yourself in town. I have been known to pack these in and have spa days on the trail! It’s quite luxurious and I promise, you will be the talk of the shelters! For all the right reasons, that is.
One last “must have” is Deep Conditioner! This is a town thing. I don’t wash or condition my hair on trail. It is unreasonable to think you can seriously keep residue out of the water sources. But I always send single “Conditioner Packets” in my resupply box. I usually purchase the thickest and creamiest conditioner available. My hair gets super dry and requires some TLC while hiking countless miles with “Hat Hair.” I’ve known some hikers to carry a small bottle of Moroccan or Coconut Oil on trail. Somethings are non-negotiable and hair products are, as far as I am concerned, required equipment.
Final Must Haves
These are my must haves; Facial Cleaners, Moisturizer, Pantyliners, Hair Products, Pee-Rags & Bidets. You may consider some of these as optional, and may leave others behind. I’d love to hear if there’s something you always bring. As women, we have a few different needs than men. Have fun, indulge and remember, there is nothing wrong with being a bit pampered, if that is what keeps you on the trail.
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