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Camping solutions for women

This page has tips for and answers typical questions from first-time women campers.

a NPS photo of girls camping in 1932: girls camping 1932 NPS archive photo:

How do I wash my hair?

On short trips, many ladies don't, they just wear bandannas, braids or otherwise tie back their hair.

For summer trips:

Restrooms in most public campgrounds don't have hot water. And most public campgrounds don't have showers. (Those that do require you feed in a lot of quarters.)

When in a campground, you can heat some water over a stove

or you can fill a few gallon bottles with water in the morning and set them in the sun all day. Then in the afternoon they might be lukewarm or will be at least be not too cold and you can lean over a restroom sink, pour them over your head, put on a little more shampoo than you might use at home and wash/rinse your hair. For long hair you might want four or five gallons.

You can then refill the bottles and use the same ones for putting out the campfire that evening.

Don't pour soapy water on the ground, or wash hair at water faucets outside. No matter how biodegradable your brand of soap is, never use it in or near a lake, stream, river, etc.

In Yosemite we put reflective covers over the food storage lockers (to keep down the heat inside and save on ice costs) and set the water bottles on top to warm up.

In some parks, such as Grand Teton, even water bottles must be stored IN the campsite food locker.

silver draping over bear box:


Denie applying makeup: Most women camping and backpacking don't wear much makeup, just sunscreen, (15 SPF is not strong enough), chapstick or chapstick with sunscreen, and dry skin lotion (pack maybe more than one small bottle, but if you put one in your daypack for a hike, be sure to remove it before bedtime so you won't attract animals to your tent), and maybe a little waterproof/sweatproof mascara.

Remember that any perfumed product will attract mosquitos. This includes clothes that have been rinsed or dried with scented softeners.

Your fingernails may have more wear, so a real, sturdy 'sapphire' type nail file will be better than a paper emory board. Real nail clippers work for nails; scissors don't.

You need not-cheap sunglasses, wide enough to really help, with UV protection, and a hat with a wide brim.

Camping equipment checklist

You will need real rain gear, a jacket and pants, or you might end up dressing in plastic leaf bags:
rain gear: models show real rain jackets and plastic garbage bag gear

Please don't bring thin, easily torn temporary rain gear like they sell at airports for emergencies. Snow or rain camp must-haves has details about how to dress to be warm and dry, and applies to camping when you just didn't expect really cold or wet weather but you got it anyway.

five girls in tent 2014 Yosemite winter trip: five girls in a dark tent


lots of girls of all ages camp with a favorite stuffed animal:

katie allen and brittany peters winter camp 2009: katie allen and brittany peters in thier tent with Pooh on the winter camp 2009

3 girls in tent 2011 winter: 3 girls in a tent in their sleeping bags, wearing knit hats

Many people sleep better with their favorite pillow from home than with a jacket wadded up under their head.



The precautions about bears below mention using pre-moistened, unscented cleaning towelettes.

These are useful regularly to freshen up. Brands include Pampers Natural Aloe Touch or Target housebrand soft cloth baby wipes. Choose unscented. Choose a kind without diaper rash ointment.

Put a few in a zip-lock bag in your pocket or day pack. You might want to write a "do not flush" reminder on the bag.

Can menstruating women camp or backpack around bears?


Black bears are the kind we find on our California trips, for example to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, and they do not tend to attack anyone unless threatened or a mom defending her cubs. Grizzlies live in the Rocky Mountains, not in California. Grizzlies have rarely attacked people. You can camp where either kind live.

In the webpage, Bears and Menstruating Women, at the Yellowstone National Park website

They say: (the NPS webpage was recently being worked on, please go to it and read it for the most up-to-date info in case I do not update my webpage promptly after they make their changes.)

" Rogers et al. (1991) recorded the responses of 26 free-ranging black bears (Ursus americanus) to used tampons from 26 women and the responses of 20 free ranging black bears to four menstruating women at different days of their flow. Menstrual odors were essentially ignored by black bears of all sex and age classes. In an extensive review of black bear attacks across North America, no instances of black bears attacking or being attracted to menstruating women was found (Cramond 1981, Herrero 1985, Rogers et al. 1991)."


(please note--these precautions are for Yellowstone, (2011 website), where the bears had not yet learned to break in to cars. DO NOT store food, etc. in cars in Yosemite!! Use the Garcia backpackers canisters for food when backpacking, don't hang food from trees!!!)

"Although there is no evidence that grizzly and black bears are overly attracted to menstrual odors more than any other odor, certain precautions should be taken to reduce the risks of attack.

"The following precautions are recommended:

1. Use pre-moistened, unscented cleaning towelettes.

2. Use internal tampons instead of external pads.

3. Do not bury tampons or pads (pack it in - pack it out). A bear may smell buried tampons or pads and dig them up. By providing bears a small food 'reward', this action may attract bears to other menstruating women.

4. Place all used tampons, pads, and towelettes in double zip-loc baggies and store them unavailable to bears, just as you would store food. This means hung at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk."

On most of our college sponsored trips there is either a bear box storage bin at the campiste, or we bring Garcia canisters, because where we travel, hanging food is not safe enough.

"5. Tampons can be burned in a campfire, but remember that it takes a very hot fire and considerable time to completely burn them. Any charred remains must be removed from the fire pit and stored with your other garbage. Also, burning of any garbage is odorous and may attract bears to your campsite."

Despite this above advice from the park service, we don't allow people to burn trash on our trips, pack it out.

"6. Many feminine products are heavily scented. Use only unscented or lightly scented items. Cosmetics, perfumes, and deodorants are unnecessary and may act as an attractant to bears.

7. Follow food storage regulations and recommendations so you can avoid attracting a bear into your camp with other odors. All odorous items that may attract bears, including food, cooking and food storage gear, toiletries, and garbage, must be kept secured from bears. Proper methods for storing bear attractants include: 1.) in a vehicle (the trunk of a car or cab of a truck), 2.) in a solid camping trailer that is constructed of non-pliable material (never in a tent or tent trailer), 3.) in a food storage box (provided at some campgrounds), or 4.) suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet horizontally from the tree trunk.

"The question whether menstruating women attract bears has not been completely answered (Byrd 1988). There is no evidence that grizzlies are overly attracted to menstrual odors more than any other odor and there is no statistical evidence that known bear attacks have been related to menstruation (Byrd 1988). However, park visitors have been injured and killed by bears (Gunther and Hoekstra 1996). If you are uncomfortable hiking and camping in bear country for any reason, you should probably choose another area for your recreational activities."

The Glacier National park Backcountry Planner said: "Stay clean, but avoid scented soaps, deodorants and cosmetics... Many women fill a heavy duty Ziploc bag with some baking soda, put used feminine products inside, and then put that bag inside one or two more heavy duty Ziploc bags. Never keep this bag inside your tent and always" (store it) "with food, garbage and other scented items" (which on our trips will be a a Garcia canister or the campsite food storage box).


Information on how Yosemite bears break into cars, what to do if you see a bear and more is at: Bears

your safety in grizzly bear territory tells you what to do if you see a bear in the distance or a bear charges you and has info about Bear Pepper Sprays and what might happen before a bison charges.


girls with Cabella:

At Have more fun camping you can learn how to build campfires that don't smoke too much, how to pack an ice chest, do dishes in camp and lots more.

Leave no trace If going into the wilderness, choose hiking, backpacking, and camping gear and clothing that are natural earth tone colors like green, brown, tan. (Some websites also recommend black, but it, along with flowery prints and bright colored clothing, attract insects that sting.) Bright colors like white, purple, blue, red and yellow do not blend in with the environment, can be seen from miles away and contribute to a crowded feeling. But do carry at least one item of very visible clothing and/or gear to help rescuers find you if needed.

read some advice at: insect repellant

See also: Backpacking Advice

During a thunderstorm, don't take a shower or use a sink, including washing dishes. Don't talk on a land line phone. Don't use your I pod. Don't get zapped! Please read Thunderstorm and lightning safety


 Updated Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 7:42:20 PM by Mary Donahue -
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