You probably love riding bikes as much as I do. Nothing makes me feel more liberated than days riding and nights sleeping outside having just cooked my entire meal on campfire only to wake up and do it all over again. I can imagine myself living this way long-term. I love this nomadic lifestyle but I also appreciate the constants in the form of daily rituals that keep me solid even when the environment around me is constantly changing. Touring through different climates these past several months, I have a steady ritual of caffeination and cleansing. Here, I’ll get really into the latter. l’ve learned a few tricks on how to maintain good hygiene and health with minimal yet essential tools that keep you from smelling like a thru-hiker.
As a person with a labial-rich vagina and uterus, long-term touring can get a bit tricky when you go through cycles of bleeding for days along with other cycling-related discomforts. I’ve got a simple regimen in keeping things dry and sanitary which has kept me free of UTIs, hemorrhoids, saddle sores, and all those other little unwelcomed company thus far. Okay, so here are the things I carry for butt/vag health and some fast and dirty nuggets of wisdom from my six months on the road.
I’ve been using one of these since 2007 and haven't looked back since. You may think that disposable tampons and pads are a more convenient way to go if you're bike-camping but not in my experience. Firstly, pads and tampons take up a lot of space in your luggage as compared to a cup. They tend to be super durable and flexible which can be shoved anywhere in your bag systems without damage. Secondly, tampons and pads are loaded with chemicals and perfumes that hurt your vagina’s overall health. Thirdly, disposal of tampons and pads can get a bit dicey in the wild. It breaks my heart to think about the little critters whose guts and habitats I alter with my trash. Unless you decide to haul it back into town and put it in a proper bin, but even that contributes to the millions of pounds of menstrual product waste that gets dumped in landfills. For all these reasons, I just prefer to use the cup.
I keep a heavy duty zip lock bag filled with these whenever I pass a [big health food store where you spend your whole paycheck] entrance, I load up on these treasures. These are essential to my nighttime and morning cleansing routines (see 1WipeCleansing below). I only use two sheets maximum per day because they are such a precious resource and also because they end up being trash unless you burn it at your campfire.
This little gadget lets those with vaginas to pee standing up which has saved my butt and crotch from poison ivy, oak, stinging nettles, thorns, and countless other risks taken while squatting down to pee in the wild. It's also really nice to not have to drop yer trousers and bare yer bottom just to pee. You can get them for about $11 and they're made of hard plastic so they'll last as long as you don't step on it in the dark. You can get a cloth storage case for your Pstlye for cheap so you're not getting residual pee all over your fanny pack like I did for months. It also eliminates the use of toilet paper after each pee since you can use the end to wipe up. I’ve tried other urination devices designed for vagania-having people but this is the best performing I've used so far cuz the design keeps you from peeing all over yourself.
Plastic 4oz spray bottle with witch hazel and 21 drops of tea tree essential oil. This is my jam! Tea Tree oil is widely used because of its antiseptic and antiviral properties in cosmetics and natural cleaning products. The list of benefits of tea tree is long so I’ll just say it's bomb for the road. Witch hazel is an astringent which constricts your pores to keep all the dirt, sand, road whatevers outta your body. These powers combined gives you Captain Planet level protections against the elements while creating a cool, crisp face/body mist that your sweatiness will appreciate.
Done misting yourself with that spray? Cool! Now protect and moisturize your skin with a grease of your choice. I carry coconut oil with me for cooking but it also doubles as a fabulous and fragrant (if you get the non-refined kind) skin moisturizer. You can also use olive, jojoba, avocado, grapeseed, sweet almond, or any other oils that your skin agrees with. My skin constituency tends to be on the dry size so I make a blend of coconut and jojoba oils with a little bit of cocoa butter if I find a place that sells it in bulk wafers, otherwise it can get pretty pricey. Jojoba oil has also become super expensive lately so you can substitute with a cheaper oil like sweet almond. Got a lotion you love and don't wanna grease? That works!
Kindda like a bandana bath but more refined. Every night before bed or in the morning before getting on the saddle, I pull out a precious wipe and get wiping starting with my face, then hands, and finally around the butthole. Usually there is a fire around to dispose the wipey and then dry up the recently cleansed areas. Then I mist, grease, and I'm ready to go. Did you know I love fires? Read on...
Please our witch ancestors with a nightly campfire ritual of butt roasting (also delightful for cold hands and face- duhh). The simple act of getting your bottom as close to the fire as you can stand and cauterizing for as long as you can bear will keep your nethers drier than British humor. Heat and smoke will cleanse, dry, and seal up all the abuse you put on your tush from the saddle. So far, this ritual has a 100% approval rating from all those brave enough to bare it; some even point their derrieres into warmed ovens when they're ass-imilated back into their non-touring lives- it's that good! Nightly campfires are also a great way to smoke-clean your underwear and clothing.
Speaking of clothing, I only wear wool underwear and bras- simply no other fabrics will do. By now, the benefits of wool as an antimicrobial, breathable, warming when needed and cooling when needed wonder fabric has already been well documented. I join in that growing chorus of support and praise for all things wool. Since I'm only carrying 2 undies and wear one everyday, it's been well worth the $30/pair initial investment. I also have wool sleep leggings and long sleeve shirt along with a zip up turtleneck, sorry vegan friends, but wool really rules. It makes all the difference when trying to avoid growing cultures where they should not exist and laundering is a bi-weekly (if not monthly) occurrence.
Does your pee color match Dwight Schrute's choice mustard shirts? That's a problem! If your pee is not clear, you're not drinking enough water. Water is everything! I’ve suffered from really painful menstrual cramps since getting an IUD two years ago and recently learned how much relief can come from being properly hydrated- still painful but anything I can do to minimize those pains, I will do. I stick a 3liter water bladder in my frame bag with the drinking hose running up near my handlebars so I can sip water all day. This set up has been a tremendous game changer in my hydration habits. Usually when I'm experiencing any small physical ailments like headaches or lethargy, dehydration tends to be the culprit. Frequent peeing aka flushing your internal systems is a fantastic way to avoid UTIs. Unless we want an Octavia Butler-esque vision of the future (via Parable of the Sower), we gotta protect our water. That can start with keeping a healthy amount in your body everyday.
That's what I got folks!
Please note that I am not a health professional, I am simply sharing my own experiences and tools. All of our bodies are different so something that works for me may not be down with yours and that's cool. Take it all with a grain of salt and a cup of water. Be well, my beloveds. Let's take good care of each other.
Dr. Lin was one of my favorite professors at my Alma Mater, Southern Connecticut State University, because of her mastery in creating and holding spaces of scholarship and nurture. I loved being in her classroom with such thoughtful, energetic, smart people! I shared some tears with one of students in empathetic grief following the presentation which really made this presentation a powerful one for me. One of my main goals in these talks is to center around interconnectedness of struggles within diasporic, colonized communities, and I felt that energy come alive in Dr. Lin's classroom. Thank you thank you!