Day 13: Tampon Alternatives That Bless You and the Planet

This is Day 13 of the 31 day series on “How backpacking has enriched my daily life.” I expected lightweight backpacking to be a hobby. Instead it has transformed me for the better.

In honor of today being Friday the 13th, I dedicate this post to blood and gore, more specifically ladies’ menstrual periods. I apologize in advance to my Uncle Greg; this post might be TMI for my male readers. 

Years before I got into backpacking, I learned that women landfill on average 250 pounds of menstrual products over their lifetime. So I bought an eco-friendly alternative to tampons, called the Keeper.* The Keeper is a silicon menstrual cup that is inserted like a tampon. It is easily cleaned in boiling water and it can be reused for at least a year. And unlike tampons, the menstrual cup can be left in for up to 12 hours!

At first I didn’t use my menstrual cup because I was being lazy, so I kept using one time use feminine hygiene items. It wasn’t until I started backpacking that I finally started regularly using my Keeper.

Life is much easier when backpacking with a menstrual cup, because it’s a matter of washing your hands before using the restroom, dig a six inch deep cat hole, remove and empty out the Keeper into the cat hole, reinsert it, pee or poo if needed, wipe, pack out the tp in a ziplock and then wash your hands again. And since you can wear the silicone cup for up to 12 hours, you can sleep in it, so no need to store it with the food at night.

The reason I converted to the Keeper is because it’s difficult guessing how many tampons and pads to bring on a hike, it’s embarrassing to store the used feminine hygiene items in the food bag at night and then there’s the added weight for the pads and tampons.

My mom’s Operation Christmas Child sewing group made cotton, reusable menstrual pads using an infant’s onesie. I love the idea of using fun fabric for the washable pads!

Once my period started early while on a backpacking trip. My Darn Tuff wool socks lived up to their name. Paired with some medical tape, my Darn Tuffs outperformed my normal disposable panty liners by absorbing the blood and odor! From that experience I’m no longer grossed out by the idea of washable pads and I’d like to get some wacky colored pads!

Besides preventing feminine hygiene items from being land-filled, I’ve read that washable pads are also really easy to clean: 1) Store the used pads in a ziplock with soapy water somewhere near the toilet. The soap will help prevent staining. 2) At the end of your period, rinse the pads out and put them in a delicates laundry bag. 3) Machine wash the pads and then let them air dry. Check out the fun patterns for the reusable menstrual pads* over on Amazon.

Backpacking is pushing me to be more environmentally conscious with my bodily functions. I don’t want my legacy to be a used plastic tampon applicator that takes 450 years to biodegrade. Hopefully I haven’t scared you away and that you’ll be back tomorrow for another post!

For less graphic reading, check out any of my other posts from this series:

For the entire month of October I’ll be daily posting about, “How backpacking has enriched my daily life.” Go here to see the Table of Contents.

Day 12 – How Organizing Your Backpacking Gear Can Involuntarily Cause You to Declutter the Rest of Your Life

Day 14 – How to Give Life-Changing Presents

*“I, Elizabeth Symington, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon offers a small commission on products sold through their affiliate links. Each of your purchases through my Amazon affiliate link helps me to provide you with free content on this website at no additional cost to you.”