Menstruation in the backcountry
IntroductionFind out how to properly dispose of menstruation waste when tramping.
Like all waste, it's important to properly dispose of used tampons, pads, applicators and other menstruation waste (used menstrual products) when tramping. This will prevent contamination of water sources, damage to septic systems and minimise the spread of pathogens, as well as eliminate rubbish along the track.
Pack out all used menstruation products
Take out your used tampons, applicators, pads, etc.
Don't dispose used tampons or pads in long drops or flush in toilets. They cause blockages and damage septic systems. Don't burn in camp fires or fire places or anywhere.
Once you return from your tramp, dispose of your used sanitary items in appropriate rubbish bins.
Store tampons before and after use in an plastic bag (zip-close bags). Double bagging is recommended for used items. A coloured stuff sack can be used to stow the waste bag for additional privacy.
Poo tubes can be used as an alternative to plastic bags. There are different types of poo tubes, pots and bags. Some have a double bag system, others have a sealed base and screw lid fitted with a large 'O-ring' seal to contain smells and liquid and minimise spills. They are available for sale from some DOC visitor centres or available from outdoor gear shops. You can also make your own.
Add dry tea bags, crumbled aspirin or baking soda to your waste bag to help control the odour. Scented nappy bags can also be used.
Your sanitary supplies will take up space in your pack, so you may have to sacrifice some space that you normally allocate to something else. Be sure to pack carefully and allow enough room for your 'trash bag'. Keep the trash away from your food while you hike.
Empty menstrual cups down a long drop, in a toilet or bury contents along with human waste deeply in a 15–20 cm deep hole dug a minimum of 50 m (70 adult paces) from any water source, campsite or track.
Carry additional water, cloths or sanitary wipes to clean your menstrual cup and wash your hands.
Cleanliness is key
While on the track take care to stay clean. Store your cup or tampons and pads properly and wash your hands frequently. If you prefer, use sanitary wipes and hand sanitiser to help keep your hands clean – just be sure to carry those out with your used supplies.