In July, I went with Cliff to the Appalachian Trail Conference. We each selected the workshops that intrigued us most.
My favorite featured four women who had thru-hiked the trail. All TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY MILES! Three of the women took their hike when they were over forty. Wow!
I’m not a backpacker, and my words wouldn’t do justice to the magnitude of their experience. I won’t try to recount the mental and physical challenges they faced or what their hikes meant to them. Instead, let me share some of the nitty gritty.
The presenters gave us tip after tip such as cut your hair short and “Hike commando,” so you won’t get wedgies and won’t have to wash underwear. Most intriguing to me was: “Bring a pee rag.” (The trail isn’t dotted with ladies rooms.)
So what exactly is a pee rag?
A pee rag is a bandanna that hangs on your pack. Pee is sterile and the lady backpackers promised the rag won’t smell. It’s handy when nature calls and doesn’t clog the wilderness with toilet paper.
The shovels below are for poop, a bit trickier to deal with.You use them to dig what they called “cat holes.” The colored ziplock bags are for modesty. Your wipes/tissues can be zipped inside and your pooping secrets are safe.
Turns out menopause can be useful on the trail. One of the workshop presenters took great advantage of her hot flashes. That’s when she’d leave the tent on a freezing cold night to pee. She explained that by the time the flash was over, she was toasty again in her sleeping bag.
Hot flashes had to be good for something! Too bad you have to hike the trail to take full advantage of them.
I could have listened to the women speak for hours. I loved hearing tales of their perseverance and ingenuity. But even more, I love knowing, that even though Cliff plans to do the big hike, I am NOT going. I can continue using real ladies rooms (and looking for fun doors!)
To finish, here are more tips:
- Make sure you get fitted for a pack especially styled for women. Hips are an issue, and most packs are designed for men.
- Baby wipes are good for wiping you-know-where, but they’re also great for cleaning up the rest of you. Take hygiene seriously; skin infections can send you off the trail in search of medical help.
- Eat well and prepare food in the manner you do at home. If you like to cook, cook on the trail. If you’re into eating in a hurry, bring nutritious foods that take less prep.
- Choose merino wool for your socks. They won’t stink after a few days like synthetic fabrics do.
- Hiking skirts work well on the trail and make for easy peeing. (Note “Hike commando” above.)
- An underwire bra can be trouble if your pack’s straps rub against it.
- And most of all, don’t forget the mantra of the trail: Hike your own hike. Listen to advice, but in the end, do it your way!