This is a guest post from Kate Blazar.
What does it mean to be a woman in the outdoors? Being a woman in the outdoors means many things. No one thing defines us.
Actually, there is one thing many women in the outdoors have in common: blood.
I don’t mean that we’re all related, or we’re part of a cultish outdoor sisterhood. I’m talking about the biological reality that we bleed. And when we’re bleeding outdoors without the comforts of a bathroom facility, it can get messy.
I’ve spent the past two years in graduate school studying women’s experiences menstruating outdoors. I’ve compiled stories and feedback from nearly 1,000 women around the world. I’ve conducted surveys, interviews, focus groups, and polls– not out of pure academic curiosity or in pursuit of scientific discovery, but out of a desire to create a product that would make adventuring on our periods easier, cleaner, more convenient, and less confounding. (More about that in a bit.)
What have I learned? When it comes to bleeding in the great outdoors, women share a lot of experiences in common, but we don’t talk about them. Well, until now, because I’m a barrier-breaking, stigma-eliminating, open-and-honest kind of gal.
To start off this conversation, I created a quiz. It’s called “You Might Be An Outdoorswoman If…”
• There are blood stains in your sleeping bag.
• You’ve squatted behind a boulder (or tree/bush/log/other large object) to change your tampon/pad or empty your menstrual cup.
• You’ve squatted behind a [boulder/tree/bush/log/other large object] to change your tampon/pad or empty your menstrual cup, and while squatting you got blood on your hand(s).
• You’ve squatted behind a boulder (or tree/bush/log/other large object) to change your tampon/pad or empty your menstrual cup, and while squatting you got blood on your hand, and you didn’t have your water bottle nearby or whatever, so you wiped your hand off on the boulder (or /tree/bush/log/other large object) and went on with your adventure.
• You’ve found yourself in the middle of nowhere without a way to dispose of your tampon/pad.
• You’ve found yourself in the middle of nowhere without a way to dispose of your tampon/pad, so you’ve used a food wrapper to dispose of it.
• You’ve disposed of your tampon/pad/liner/wipe/TP in a Ziplock bag.
• You’ve disposed of your tampon/pad/liner/wipe/TP in a Ziplock bag, and put the plastic bag in your coat/backpack pocket and forgot about it until you rediscovered it a day/week/month later.
You get the idea– most women in the outdoors have had menstrual misadventures of one kind or another. That’s why I founded Animosa, a new brand of women’s outdoor gear that aims to remove some of these barriers and empower women to explore the outdoors. The first product is the Go With Your Flow pack—which comes in two sizes and eliminates the hassle, mystery and mess of adventuring on our periods.
The Go With Your Flow pack does three things:
• It has a sanitary system for storing used (i.e. blood-soaked) period products.
• It comes with hypoallergenic wipes to clean your lady parts and hands.
• It keeps your fresh products clean and handy (tampons, pads, liners, and/or a menstrual cup).
The Go With Your Flow pack also supports good menstrual hygiene, which is actually really important. Through my research I discovered that more than a handful of women leave tampons in longer when they’re outdoors (because they can be a hassle to change and mess to dispose of), but this may increase the risk of toxic shock or infection. Similarly, not changing your pad or menstrual cup often enough can elevate vaginal pH, irritate skin, and encourage infection. So even when you’re on an epic, engrossing adventure, don’t hold out on changing your tampon/pad/cup and cleaning up!
Because being a woman in the outdoors should mean a bloody good time, not a bloody mess.
Kate Blazar is the Founder of Animosa and the creator of the Go With Your Flow pack. She is a lifelong outdoorswoman, intrepid global traveler, and passionate advocate for women and wilderness. If you’d like to support Kate and Animosa, there is still a few hours left to get a Go With Your Flow pouch of your own at Kickstarter.com.