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Rock Climbing, Periods and Peeing

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
5 min read

April fools!? you may be thinking…

But, nope. I’m actually going to hit post on this one. I kinda can’t believe I am, because I’ve been in a “be more careful about what I say online” phase since last fall… but after another round of chats with girlfriends this week, I figured… hell. This is a climbing blog for girls, so why not actually talk about this stuff out loud. Not to mention, if I kick it off, you ladies can respond anonymously in the comments, and we may all just learn a thing or two.

Dudes… I swear to God… especially dudes I know… please, do me the favor of closing this page right now and coming back in a few days. You don’t need to read, know, or see any of this.

For you girls who play outside, though… these are a few issues that I get asked about again and again, and here are my answers.

Periods

And no, I’m not talking about the dot at the end of this sentence. I get asked by camping / hiking / climbing / trekking women fairly regularly how I handle mine when I’m out for extended periods (ha) of time. It depends on the situation for me, but here are a few tricks that have come in handy over the years.


When I’m in an all day out scenario, but I have access to sanitary conditions, running water and soap in the mornings and evenings, I use a DivaCup. The DivaCup is made of latex-free, BPA-free plastic, and can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time (per the manufacturer). Being able to wash your hands well before and after inserting, and being able to wash your hands and the device before and after removing is critical, but once it’s in, it’s no muss, no fuss, easy. I like that the DivaCup generates less waste than other solutions, also.

Based on my conversations with friends, they’re easier to insert and remove for some women than others. A trick for removal, if you can’t quite reach the stem, is to squat and bear down… the little stem for removal can be slippery, but a little practice and you’ll be a pro.

If the DivaCup isn’t an option, or if you prefer a “disposable” product, you can try Instead Softcups, but personally they don’t fit my anatomy.

If you’re in conditions where handwashing isn’t possible, then pack a little “period kit.” Disposable gloves, tampons, pads, wet wipes and extra ziplocks come in handy. When a tampon change is necessary, don a glove or two depending on the situation, do your business, then the glove can be used for disposal… fill with the garbage and pack it out. In conditions where you can’t get your hands really clean, that’s the best solution I’ve found.

For backup, it depends on conditions for me. I find disposable pads / liners to not hold up to hiking and harness-wearing, although some do better than others. Natracare products are my first choice for disposables, since they wear better and don’t irritate delicate skin zones as much as conventional pads and liners.

More durable are reusable, washable pads. Having tried a variety, my favorites are Lunapads. I find the Mini Pantyliner adequate backup or great for lighter days, way more durable for long days on the trail or in a harness, and way more skin friendly than conventional pads and liners. They do require washing, but they’re relatively quick drying if you do need to wash them while you’re out. I’d highly recommend the “pink poodle” print just because it makes me giggle.

Two more period thoughts. If you’re on oral contraceptives, and your doctor’s on board, consider continuous dosing (or, fewer withdrawal days than the typical 7 per pill pack). It’s not an option for everyone, and there are risks, but cutting down the number of days a year you have to deal with all this can be pretty fantastic for those of us who play outside a lot.

Also, my first couple of years of climbing, I noticed that around PMS time, my climbing was strongly affected. It’s almost like my survival instincts kicked up to 11. That impact on my climbing, for awhile, became my early-PMS-warning system. I felt weaker, less confident, and way more afraid for a few days a month. Somewhere along the line that changed… I don’t experience that phenomenon anymore. But, I have girlfriends who do, big time, and I just wanted to mention it, since you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone. Whatever the cause, some days we’re just a little bit more biologically girly than others… somedays, that’s the kickass kind of girly, and somedays it’s the snuggle in with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s kind of girly.

With that so solidly covered, on to a few words about peeing.

Peeing

My dear friend Jenn Fields is the unofficial blog queen of pee funnels, so I’m not going to invade her turf. I’m not a pee funnel girl myself (sorry… Female Urination Device girl, or FUD girl, as manufacturers of such devices prefer), but during my expedition last fall I had to learn a new skill… using a pee bottle. A FUD comes in handy when you have to contend with layers and layers of clothes, but a good old wide mouthed plastic bottle (I’m fond of ones in yellow plastic, just so there’s no confusion about what it’s used for) will do in situations where you can drop trou. There’s no real art to it, but I would recommend practice in non-mission-critical situations (e.g., the first time to try peeing in a bottle isn’t when you’re bivied with your beloved down sleeping bag since an oops could be HORRIBLE). Position the bottle accordingly, then leave a little bit of a gap for air to escape, then pee away.

Best case, you’re on semi level ground and can lightly squat on the bottle while holding it with one hand to prevent tipping or spillage. Worst case, you’re not, and you have to just be incredibly careful since this type of spill makes a typical party fowl look like child’s play.

If you don’t know where to put the bottle, then we have a bigger issue… but I’ll leave that up to you and Topeka (I mean, Google).

OK, ladies… what have I missed? Embrace the wonder of technology that is anonymous blog commenting, and share your own tips and tricks, below!

Gear

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.