There are so many ways to be uncomfortable outdoors—whether you’re backpacking, ski touring, or mountaineering. It takes a bit of expertise—or experience—to know the tricks of staying warm, comfortable and safe—and often, you can learn those tricks from a guide or mentor. But we women at Outdoor Research have found that there are a number of issues specific to women that are rarely discussed. So we’ve crowd-sourced and compiled this list of adventure advice specifically from—and for—women. These are the tips that nobody talks about—the ones that we’ve figured out by trial and error, the 25 pieces of advice that every female adventurer needs to know before heading out on an epic adventure.
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(1) Choose a wool sports bra—not your favorite polyester/spandex blend that works great for the gym. Wool regulates your body temperature and will release the sweat you build up when you’re exerting yourself uphill, whereas cotton and synthetic materials will get wet, and stay wet, dangerously lowering your core temp.
(2) Choose a bra without a clasp to avoid discomfort via rubbing and pressure from your backpack. The last thing you want to deal with on a high-altitude objective is a bra that has become unclasped underneath five layers of thick, bulky clothing.
(3) Consider sizing up a sports bra in order to fit items sensitive to cold. Phones, Clif bars, chapstick, and other items that freeze easily can be kept warm and safe closest to your core.
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(4) When transitioning from a hard day exerting yourself to a cold night at camp, immediately remove sweaty clothing—including your sports bra. If you only replace your top layers with warm insulated jackets, your bra (as your dampest next-to-skin layer) will keep you cold all night. Pro tip: Pack an extra minimalist bra for camp if you prefer not to go braless.
(5) Dry out long, sweaty hair at the end of the day before it has a chance to freeze. In a dry environment, this may mean shaking it out and letting it air dry. In a wet environment, you may need to bundle your hair on the top of your head and secure it underneath a beanie.
(6) Try inserting Fish Warmers into your sports bra for supplemental heat that lasts—no joke—up to 24 hours.
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(7) Carry fingernail clippers in your first aid kit. These are sometimes included in various multi tools, which makes them easy to remember alongside your knife, tweezers, scissors, and more.
(8) Cut your fingernails as short as possible to prevent snagging on fabric and creating hangnails, which is easy to achieve while wearing glove liners.
(9) Cut your toenails as short as possible to prevent snagging on socks, and lost toenails due to the pressure of mountaineering boots.
(10) If you haven’t already, try bringing a female urination device on your next outdoor adventure! These inventions make peeing in the cold far more comfortable, and avoid awkward - and dangerous - stops on rope teams. They’re also ideal for using inside a tent with a pee bottle in order to avoid frequent nighttime exits while camping on snow or in hazardous terrain, as long as you…
(11) Practice using your funnel in the shower before you try it outside. Learn how it fits your body, and how to avoid leakage or spills in the comfort of your own bathroom.
(12) Practice in the position you’ll be in on your trip- whether that is standing with a harness around your knees, or leaning halfway up in the corner of a tent.
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“Down There” Hygiene
(13) Stick with synthetic underwear, as they are the easiest to wash and quickest to dry. We all know that cotton kills, and especially with a layer that stays buried and damp all day, cotton panties will get wet, and stay wet, leading to dangerous bacteria breeding sites.
(14) Pack feminine wipes (or natural, no-chemical wipes) to wash up down there after a long, sweaty day. Discard used wipes in your used TP and used feminine products plastic bag.
(15) Trim your “down there” hair to prevent snagging on zippers, accumulated moisture, and to maintain general hygiene in an environment where you won’t be showering for multiple days.
(16) Bring an extra pair of underwear to sleep in so your day pair has a chance to dry out.
(17) Leave No Trace rules go for feminine products just as well as toilet paper. Pack it in, pack it out.
(18) If you are using a Diva Cup, try it at home before you take it outdoors.
(19) Stress and other environmental factors in the wilderness can easily alter your natural cycle, so even if it’s not your typical time of the month, always carry your choice of feminine products.
(20) Pack extra tampons in your first aid kit. These can come in handy during rescues involving a lot of blood, as they expand with moisture and will hold more liquid than gauze.
Going No. 1 As A Woman
(21) Pee on an incline, so urine doesn’t pool beneath your shoes like it would on a flat surface. Be sure to pee away from rocks or other objects that can cause backsplash.
(22) Leave a bandana on your pack to use as a pee rag. Sound gross? Over time, peeing and using the “shake it off” method will undoubtedly accumulate uncomfortable moisture and smell, especially on a multi-day trip. You tell me which is worse. Pro tip: Pee rags also adhere to Leave No Trace principles more than toilet paper, which can tear and get left behind in the wilderness.
(23) Use Body Glide underneath your breasts to prevent chafing. Antiperspirant works well, too!
(24) Carry at least 2-4 extra hair ties on your wrist. These will provide useful as tying mechanisms if gear fails or during a rescue situation for splinting or securing bandages.
(25) Women’s-specific backpacks can make a huge difference in your comfort level, especially if you’re curvy. Shoulder harnesses and chest straps won’t interfere with your bust, and the hip belt should transfer the weight of your pack off of your upper back, where it could otherwise cause serious damage.
Finally, get out there and start talking about what you want from your outdoor gear. Support companies who focus on women’s-specific apparel, and share your opinions about the women’s gear you do buy. Make an impact on the entire outdoor apparel community by constantly trying out new women’s-specific gear, leaving constructive reviews and helping improve adventures for all of us.
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Photos by Matt Hage, Elise Giordano, Forest Woodward and Thomas Woodson.