Getting outdoors can be a perfect escape from life’s chaos or the sweaty adventure you need to shake things up. But things like periods or wrestling with a chafing bra can make it easy to opt out or can steal away some of the magic of being out in nature.
We asked three experts about the best gear — and best practices — they use to stay safe and happy in the outdoors. Here’s what they had to say.
Mirna Valerio, ultramarathon runner, educator, speaker, author of “A Beautiful Work in Progress,” advocate for inclusive outdoors: “I like the way it makes my body feel. I feel like running is a quintessential human movement, and I feel most human when I am running.”
Elyse Rylander, canoer, kayaker, hiker, founder of Out There Adventures, which empowers queer youth through the outdoors: “One of the fantastic things that’s happening now is the confluence of social-justice conversations with the outdoors.”
Kindra Ramos, director of communications and outreach at Washington Trails Association, avid day hiker and backpacker: “The power of hiking is it’s one foot in front of the other. I’m in charge of where I’m going and how fast I’m getting there … it’s just an opportunity to really ground myself in who I want to be and where I want to end up.”
What do you always keep in your pack?
ER: “I try to be a good wilderness first responder. So, I always have a small first-aid kit and a small ditty sack with a headlamp, knife, a lighter, some of those ‘10 essentials’ just in case something goes awry.”
How do you deal with periods?
KR: “I personally use a Diva Cup [a menstrual cup], which helps reduce any chafing that might happen … I have a separate bag for dealing with packing out all of my wipes.”
KR: “Recently I’ve taken up using a pee rag, which has been great … It’s basically a bandanna so that you don’t have to deal with toilet paper if you’re not a drip-dry gal.”
MV: “Stay away from the uniboob bras … Bra companies are leveling up and making really good bras for people with some boobage.”
- Use a natural deodorant or tea-tree oil if you get itching (it’s an antifungal)
- Get fitted for a good sports bra
- Good brands for larger breasts: Elomi, Glamorise, Superfit Hero, Moving Comfort
ER: “[I’ve found] a pair of Under Armour Men’s Mesh Boxerjocks to be the best thing. They’re long cut and you can pull them down the thighs, so I have protection down to midthigh, because they’re made for cis-dudes and there’s an airflow in that situation that you don’t experience with women’s underwear.”
ER: “Both for gender expression but also the technical features of clothing, I get all of my pro deals in the male line of clothing, because I find that there are more options available and then when push comes to shove the gear can perform a little better.”
MV: “I used to carry a knife. I’ve been thinking about it, but I probably will still carry a knife … I actually have a whistle that has a compass on it. It’s just another thing that you can use to signal to people that you need to be rescued.”
KR: “I always feel safer in the woods than I do in the city and it’s just about listening to your gut, and if you don’t feel good about something, because of the weather or because of a person, the trail will be there another day.”
MV: “In terms of leave no trace, because you definitely don’t want to leave tampons out there on the trail, you want to carry a Ziploc bag that you have wrapped in duct tape and then you place two peppermint tea bags in it. That will eliminate smell.”
[Note: Remember your bear safety practices, and store all food and scented items in bear canisters.]
ER: “Another interesting thing about tampons that we found out when I was in Alaska, which is why some of my male friends actually do carry them, is that they are highly flammable, which is terrifying, but we’ve found that they make decent fire starters.”