A multi-day hike can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. But don’t sweat it: trekking is really just walking with a view, and it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors without needing special skills or lots of expensive gear.[related_articles]64358,51522,74733[/related_articles]
If you’re embarking on your first long-distance walk, there are plenty of packing guides out there to help you choose the best footwear or decode the pros and cons of hiking poles. But when it comes to lady-specific stuff, there are a few essentials you’ll be thankful for once you’re out on the trail, whether you’re heading on an overnight hike or a week-long trek.
Some trails, like the popular W trek in Patagonia, are equipped with hot showers along the route. But, on others, you might not see real plumbing for days. If that’s the case, use wet wipes to give yourself a head-to-toe sponge bath. If they’re good enough for a baby’s backside, they’re good enough for yours.
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If you do have access to running water (ooh la la!), skip the soap bar with the annoying travel container that always leaks into your toiletries bag. A biodegradable liquid camping soap is a great all-purpose product – you can use it on your skin, your hair, on dishes and on clothes.
And while you might think doing laundry will be the last thing on your mind, a clean pair of socks and a fresh sports bra can make you feel like a whole new woman.
TP and zip-lock bags
There’s a special place in hell for people who travel to far-flung wildernesses to appreciate their unspoiled beauty, then promptly litter that environment with used toilet paper. Most packing lists will tell you to bring a personal roll of TP, but few mention that you should also pack zip-lock bags so you can dispose of it responsibly.[related_articles]58609,30821,17997[/related_articles]
If you don’t have a plastic bag with you on the trail, at least wrap your used tissue in more tissue and stuff it into the hollow part of the roll until you find a bin. Captain Planet thanks you.
Menstrual cups can be a total lifesaver where there are no real bathrooms or bins. There are lots of different brands (DivaCup, Juju, Mooncup, Lunette, the Keeper… the list goes on!) but they all do the same thing – eliminate the need for disposable products like tampons and pads. That means more space in your backpack, less rubbish to pack out, and less waste going into landfill in the long term.
There’s a bit of a learning curve involved but once you’ve got the hang of it, soap and water are all you need to ensure everything stays good in the ‘hood.
Just kidding – once you realise you have to carry everything on your back, dry shampoo will likely be the first thing to go. Here’s how to manage your mane on a longer hike: in the lead up, lengthen the time between washes so your scalp can get used to less regular cleansing. If you wash your hair during the hike, condition only the ends to avoid greasy roots.
For longer locks, put them in French braids and leave them alone; the less you touch your hair the cleaner it will be. And don’t worry too much about how your bangs look since they’ll be under a hat most of the time, anyway.
Weatherproof and culturally appropriate clothing
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Of course, your clothes need to protect you from the elements. But they should also cater to the social norms of the place you’re visiting. If you’re stocking up off home soil, don’t judge by what you see in the cities, as you’ll probably be hiking through rural areas where dress codes tend to be more conservative.
A good rule of thumb is to keep your legs and shoulders covered, which has the added benefit of shielding you from insects and sunburn. And use common sense: gym leggings don’t show much skin but can be revealing in other ways (plus, they probably don’t have pockets, which are essential on the trail). You’re there to see the view, not be it.
(Lead image: Lionello DelPiccolo)
Sarah Theeboom is a lifestyle writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She's written for Fairfax, Gourmet Traveller, the Guardian, Conde Nást Traveler and Afar. Her travel superpower is finding the hipster coffee shop no matter where in the world she is. (Amazingly, there is always one to find). Follow her @sarahtheeboom on Twitter or @tboomful on Instagram.