It’s finally here! That backpacking trip you’ve been planning for, what like 4 months!? You’ve packed the backpack with all the gear and you’re going over the list of anything you might have forgotten. Suddenly, you realize you did forget to consider one important detail. And you’re rudely reminded that you are a girl. You snarl and mutter under your breath, “Oh, crap! Not my period! Right over my backpacking trip! Now, I’ll have to account for carrying all of those extra tampons an pads. Bummer! I guess I won’t have room for those few extra snacks.”
I am an avid hiker and backpacker. I’ve been involved in sports ranging from rock climbing to sky diving to snow boarding. I love swimming in the summer and I’ll be the first to jump in a snow pile in the winter. I also lived in an off grid cabin in Idaho for a while, where I became more and more interested in living a minimalistic life, making as little waste as possible. Well. I’ll tell you what, periods put the kibosh on that worthy goal.
My Menstrual Cup Review:
But does it have to be this way, after all? I always thought it did! Besides, what other options are out there really?
Backpackers & Van Lifers Need a Better Option for Our Periods!
Tampons are sketchy and don’t reduce waste over pads. But tampons were my only go-to if I wanted to wear my favorite yoga pants without looking like I had a diaper on (I exaggerate as most of the time it probably did’t stick out as much as I thought, but I’ll admit that pad always made me wonder if it was obvious!) And no, you can’t just wear a smaller one on the heavy days!
Since that time, I’ve even taken another step in the direction of outdoor time, off grid living, and environmental passion and minimalism. It took the form of what most people relate to as, “Van Life.” Although, I actually lived SUV Life, exploring Arizona to Alaska while living on a tight budget from the comfort of my small SUV. True story. I’ve since upgraded to a small truck camper. But space is still ultra limited and I care about my footprint.
So, What’s the Deal with Menstrual Cups?
So, long story short, in my searching I came across a few alternatives to the pains of the period. One option I’ve seen some ladies take is to use washable cloth pads or basically period underwear. OK, that’s a start. The only remaining issues with these are: (1) off grid ladies may not have excess water to use on wash, (2) It still doesn’t solve the whole yoga pants in a diaper issue, and (3) Van life ladies still don’t want to tote around a bunch of extra period-only underwear, not to mention the original off-grid water issue. Alas, the other option I finally discovered was the menstrual cup. Menstrual cups offer the classic benefits of a tampon, in that they are small and inconspicuous, but they are generally safe and re-usable. You can reuse the same cup for years without worry. You simply fold and insert, empty, and re-insert. And there are other advantages I’ve discovered. For one, living in a van or camper means I don’t have access to a shower every day. As many of you know, periods can be messy and you certainly want to shower as often as possible when it’s that time of the month. Without free-reign access to a shower this is a bust. But using the cup means less mess. Actually, I have no mess. The mess is fully contained in the cup.
Issues with Menstrual Cups: Comfort, Convenience, & Cleaning
In the second part of my video review, Menstrual Cup Part II, I discuss the main concerns I had with using a menstrual cup. I was mostly worried about cleaning my cup. Do I need to boil a menstrual cup or use some other critical cleaning method? Also, is the menstrual cup really a safe option? Is it clean? What is it made of? How easy will it be to use? Will it hurt or bother me?
While there were a few sources to consult, I found that using the cup was what it really took to understand how it would work for me. What I discovered was mostly good news. Menstrual cups are generally easy to use.
There is a Learning Curve to Menstrual Cups!
However, there is certainly a learning curve to get past. So, don’t go into it and assume the first time will be a breeze, pre se. Give yourself some time to get used to it and make sure you find the right cup for you! I tried several cups out and disliked some of them. Some just didn’t fit for my comfort. If I had stopped there I would have thought I hated menstrual cups.
There are Many Options to Menstrual Cups, But Size, Stem, & Material is What Matters Most
Many come in different styles and sizes. Some are small and some are large. Some have longer stems. Some have a more narrow shape. No one can really tell you which one will be perfect for you. Just keep in mind that what I determined to be the most important factors are size and stem. Those affected my comfort the most. Color was not important at all, of course, but that is an option! I would focus more on right fit and good material. Many of the good ones will be made of medial grade silicone and BPA-free material.
What About Cleaning the Cup?
I live on the road so cleaning was a concern. I don’t clean it during cycles (for that I simply dump out content and maybe wipe clean if needed), just in between cycles. I have been able to use some soap and warm water in a public bathroom without worry. I usually soap it up, rinse it, and then take it to the camper to sit and dry on a paper towel. Once dry, I can store in for next time. While it’s not necessary, I have felt more comfortable with dipping it into some boiling water periodically, just in case I missed something. The worst part of cleaning are the air holes are the top. They are hard to get to and you may need to push out or even stick something about the size of a fork prong into the hole to ensure a full cleaning. Otherwise, it’s easy to swipe clean.
Convenience is One of My Favorite Features!
One of the best things about the cup is that it essentially fits in the palm of your hand. It could be kept in a closet or drawer or bag for use in a few weeks. During the cycle, it’s so inconspicuous to grab and go. One thing I should add, or admit to, is that I do still keep a small pile of panty liner pads for off days. For instance, sometimes my period likes to trick me and not arrive in full flow on time. Other times it likes to trick me into thinking it is done. When this happens, I sometimes take the cup out and clean it thoroughly only to find a bit of spotting the next day. Well, at that point I don’t want to mess the cup and laboriously clean it again. So, I might just use a panty liner. That being said, it’s still an infrequent occurrence and I might use a small handful of those in a year at most.
So, Am I a Cup User for Life?
Yes! I am very happy with the menstrual cup option that I would never go back to pads and tampons. There’s just no reason. The cup has been reported to ease cramps, regulate cycles, and improve other period ailments. I do find that my cycle is pretty concise. I have about 2 light days, 2 heavy days, then 2 light days. Aside from a little uncertainty now and then at the beginning and end, I find my periods to be a breeze now. I feel really good about using nearly no pads and tampons, I feel safer than when I used tampons, and I’m enjoying not having to buy and store all those supplies. It’s just all around a perfect product for ladies living on the road, not to mention other off gridders and lady hikers. The most frustrating part of the whole adventure was the inability to find a range of menstrual cup options in the United States. I only found one brand, Diva Cup, in a few stores, and even that one was on a high top shelf (us shorties are not pleased with this ploy!). It seemed so intentionally out of reach. But alas, online I uncovered so many more options, many of which from other countries such as France or states that some think of as “other countries” like California. Ha! So, I’d recommend getting your cup online and trying a few out at first. At the end of the day, it will be worth your comfort. And, the upfront cost will be way less than those pads and tampons over a year. I hope this helps anyone out there who, like I was not long ago, desperately seeking a period alternative. Well, it’s here ladies. Rejoice!