What do women need to know when going backpacking?

Although backpacking is a gender neutral pursuit there are a few things that female backpackers should know before hitting the trail. This includes personal protection, how to pee, dealing with menstruation or pregnancy, and what women’s hiking gear is available.

Why is backpacking different for a female?

The reason backpacking differs for women, in some instances, as compared to men boils down to biological differences in the female and male body. This impacts gear choice for fit and comfort, our approach to peeing in the wild, dealing with menstruation or pregnancy on the trail, and the ability to physically defend yourself if need be.

What hazards are there for female backpackers?

Female backpackers face the same hazards as male backpackers. But given the difference in a woman’s muscular and hormonal system, there is generally a physical disadvantage when faced with any potential threat. To compensate there are several extra precautions that can be taken to counteract this. Always trust your gut, carry personal protection, and make sure your cell phone is fully charged in case you need to make an emergency call.

How can women protect themselves when backpacking?

To stay safe on the trail as a woman, take the precautions listed below.

  • Share a detailed itinerary with a trusted friend at home
  • Otherwise, keep plans to yourself , even lie a little if need be!
  • Carry a two-way satellite messaging device
  • Consider carrying pepper spray or bear spray
  • Carry a whistle
  • Consider carrying a stun gun (state permitting)
  • Backpacking with a friend if possible
What safety apps are aimed at female backpackers?

While there are not, at present, any safety apps for female backpackers specifically, we recommend Hiker Alert, Cairn, the Google Pixel Personal Safety app, Life360, One Scream, and Red Panic Button.

What safety devices are aimed at female backpackers?

While there are no backpacking-specific safety devices for women, some general devices we recommend are included on the following list.

  • Pepper spray
  • Bear spray
  • Stun gun or taser
  • Personal safety alarm
  • Personal GPS tracker
  • Safety apps
  • Self-defense kits

Who are some inspirational female backpackers?

Below is a list of some of the most inspirational female backpackers.

  • Emma “Grandma” Gatewood
  • Heather “Anish” Anderson
  • Jennifer Pharr Davis
  • Cheryl Strayed
  • Ruth Dyar Mendenhall
  • Arlene Blum

What books highlight the experiences of female backpackers?

The books listed below highlight the experiences of female backpackers.

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • Wanderers: A History of Women Walking by Keri Andrews
  • The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
  • Wild by Jay Griffiths
  • Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
  • Bewildered by Laura Waters
  • Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn

What films highlight the experiences of female backpackers?

Some films that highlight the experiences of female backpackers include Wild, Tracks, Edie, Women Outward Bound, Wildlike, Liv Along the Way, and Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story.

Are there female-focused backpacking organizations?

The most notable groups and communities for women backpackers are Women Who Hike, AdventureWomen, Backcountry Babes, Black Girls Trekkin, PNW Outdoor Women Group, Hike Clerb, SheJumps, REI Women’s Adventures, and Iris Alpine.

What are the biggest concerns for female backpackers?

The biggest concerns for female backpackers, in addition to those that exist for all backpackers, are personal hygiene, menstrual cycles, and potential human threats on the trail. 

What preparations can you make backpacking as a female? 

The following list outlines a few extra preparations women backpackers can take.

  • Stay connected. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged and consider carrying a power bank in case you run out of juice. If backpacking in a remote area, consider investing in a two-way satellite messaging device.
  • Leave an itinerary. Leave a detailed route with someone at home stating where you’ll park, where you’ll be going, and when you expect to return.
  • Pack personal protection. If backpacking alone, consider packing pepper spray, bear spray, or even a stun gun or knife. 
  • Period prep. Make sure you have ample supplies of period products and pain-relief medication if it’s that time of the month, and be prepared to pack out your waste. 

What should you avoid as a female backpacker?

The following list summarizes things you should avoid as a female backpacker.

  • Publicizing that you are or will be alone if backpacking solo.
  • Letting your cell phone or satellite messenger run out of battery.
  • Speaking to shady characters you meet on the trail – be firm and let them know you’re not interested.
  • Peeing on poison ivy – been there, done that, got burned!

What concerns Should solo female backpackers Expect?

The biggest concern for solo female backpackers (that male backpackers don’t have to deal with) is, unfortunately, male backpackers. This means, sadly, that female backpackers have to take a few extra precautions for their safety.

What preparations can you make as a solo female backpacker? 

If you’re a female planning on doing a solo backpacking trip, it’s best to take the following precautions.

  • Share your route itinerary with a friend
  • Carry some form of protection (pepper spray or bear spray)
  • Carry a phone or two-way messaging GPS
  • Trust your gut
  • Avoid taking any risks

What are effective methods for peeing when backpacking?

There are, believe it or not, various styles that can be used in different scenarios when you need to pee outside. These include the tree squat, the standard squat, the FUD pee, and the trail-runner method.

What to pack to make backpacking pees easier?

To make peeing easier when backpacking, bring along a “pee rag” and FUD (female urinary device), which lets you pee while standing.

How menstruation and pregnancy impacts backpacking?

If you are able and willing to, you can go on hormonal contraception (i.e. “the pill”, Implanon, or Mirena IUD) to stop or lighten your period. Before doing so, it’s best to speak to a medical professional to ensure this is a good option for you. 

For most of us, contraceptive pills are the most suitable and convenient option. These allow you to skip your periods if you have an upcoming backpacking trip and then resume your cycle the following month.

What to pack to manage menstrual hygiene when backpacking?

When backpacking on your period, bring a menstrual cup or spare tampons/pads, and a Ziploc bag so you can carry out your waste. It’s also a good idea to bring some antibacterial hand wipes and pain-relief medicine.

How can you minimize discomfort when backpacking on your period?

The only real way to minimize discomfort when backpacking on your period is to pack ample pain relief medicine and wear period panties or use a tampon instead of pads (pads are messy and can chafe!). 

What precautions to take for backpacking pregnant?

Backpacking while pregnant is doable, but there are some precautions you need to take. These are outlined on the list below.

  • Speak to your doctor to check how much weight you can carry on your back and ensure your specific circumstances make it safe to be backpacking and carrying loads. 
  • Do not purify water with iodine as this can lead to health complications.
  • Use trekking poles to improve your balance.
  • Opt for an easier, well-maintained trail. 
  • Expect to cover less distance.
  • Bring a cell phone or two-way messaging GPS device if you’ll be out of signal range.
  • Ditch the hipbelt on your pack to avoid discomfort.

How to minimize discomfort when backpacking when pregnant?

To minimize discomfort, pregnant backpackers should take the steps listed below.

  • Ditch the hipbelt on your pack
  • Stretch before and after your hike
  • Wear a belly band for support
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Wear shoes with plenty of cushioning.

What is the best backpacking gear for women?

Listed below are our top picks for women’s backpacking gear.

  • Boots. Salomon Quest 4 GTX
  • Shoes. Hoka Speedgoat 5
  • Pants. Prana Halle Pant
  • Sports bra. Patagonia Barely Sports Bra
  • Underwear. Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini
  • Leggings. Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights
  • Backpack. Osprey Aura AG LG 65
  • Rain Jacket. Arc’teryx Beta LT
  • Rain Pants. Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant
  • Down Jacket. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2

What backpacking gear features are designed for women?

Listed below are features of backpacking gear designed specifically for women.

  • Backpacks. Women’s versions are shorter and have narrower shoulders.
  • Trekking poles. Shorter and lighter.
  • Boots and shoes. Women’s versions have a smaller toe box, are narrower at the heel, and have a taller arch).

What are popular items of female backpacking gear?

Some pieces of female-specific backpacking gear we love include the SheWee female urinary device, the Patagonia Barely Sports Bra, the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Skirt, the Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights, and the Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini.

What are some hacks for women going backpacking?

The list below includes our top tips for female backpackers.

  • Bring a pee rag instead of TP
  • Bring wet wipes for post-pee and post-poo cleanups
  • Bring face wipes
  • Cut your hair to avoid unwanted dreads en route
  • Consider using a menstrual cup
  • Download a hiking safety app
  • Pack a personal locator beacon (PLB)
  • Consider using pant liners to avoid changing underwear so often
  • Buy a FUD (female urinary device)
  • Carry a squirt bottle to use as a “pocket bidet”

How to have privacy when undressing?

To ensure you have privacy, get undressed inside your tent, use natural features like trees or large rocks, and/or bring a sarong.

How to have privacy when washing?

Washing in privacy while backpacking is tricky, but it can be done by suspending a tarp or unused clothing from trekking poles or a branch to create a makeshift curtain.

How can you look after your hair when backpacking?

The best way to look after your hair when backpacking is by cutting it short before you set off and cleaning it whenever necessary with a multi-purpose biodegradable soap like Dr. Bronner’s. 

What are popular backpacking hair hygiene products?

The best products for hair hygiene when backpacking include Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap, Campsuds, and Sea-to-Summit Wilderness Wash.