025: AHEAD OF THE CURVE: The Women + Backpacking Episode

Today on The First 40 Miles, it’s our Women + Backpacking Episode! We’ll share the top 5 questions about Women and Backpacking and what to do to prepare for a successful trip. On the SUMMIT™ Gear Review, we’ll teach you the Mayan name for Bonefish and why it matters! On The Backpack Hack of the Week™ we’ll share a $1 solution to the most common female complaint on the trail. Then we’ll answer a question that applies to folks with long hair.

Show Notes: Episode 025


  •  Data about women on the trail
  • Advantages women have
  • Trail is a great equalizer
  • My first backpacking trip

Top 5 Questions about Women and Backpacking

Is it safe for women to backpack alone?

  • Should any backpacker travel alone?
  • Weapon: false sense of security
  • Trekking Poles (provide extra support, extension of arms, some protection if an animal encounter occurs)
  • Safe option for women who want to backpack “alone”: Tandem Solo Hikes
  • There is value and safety in travelling together

Is backpacking gear for women really different or is it just purple?

  • Notice difference: packs, sleeping bags, clothing (cut is different)
  • Heather’s experience with a women’s pack

Girls can’t just find a tree…so what options are out there that can help?

  • Female Urination Device or STP
  • pStyle
  • Try in shower before you try on the trail
  • Overcoming bathroom anxiety (the more you go, the more you know)

What is the best solution for feminine hygiene products on the trail?

  • Pads and tampons are still an option, however they must be packed out
  • MaskIt for packing out feminine hygiene
  • Some women prefer to use shots or pills to modify their monthly cycle
  • Menstrual Cups: No waste involved, lightweight, not associated with toxic shock syndrome
  • Use with a backup washable menstrual pad

Where can I find like-minded women backpackers who can share stories and give advice?


SUMMIT Gear Review™: Macabi Skirt


  • Supplex Nylon (Cottony-soft, breathable)
  • Pant Clip (fully adjustable length): Lets you adapt to changes in weather, activity or mood
  • Wading Snaps: Lets you go amphibious without changing your clothes
  • Fabric (SPF 25+) resists wrinkles, dries fast and wicks away moisture
  • Oversized, self-draining pockets
  • Zippered security pocket. Cell phone pocket. Tiny pocket within one of the main pockets
  • Elastic waistband, drawstring and belt loops
  • D-ring on side
  • Available in multiple lengths, colors and sizes
  • Inspector Gadget Skirt


  • Skirt, Pants, Shorts
  • Dries in 2 hours
  • You can stuff the whole skirt into the zippered security pocket


  • Hiking pants 13.8 ounces
  • Macabi Skirt Small/Regular Length weighs in at just 10.5 ounces


  • Machine wash or hand wash
  • Dry
  • No special maintenance


  • $77


  • This skirt is convertible in every sense of the word. It changes easily from skirt, to pants to shorts. And goes from survival mode to dressy mode.
  • Women have the culturally acceptable option of wearing clothing on the trail that allows them to be a little more versatile
  • Regular length was perfect hiking length
  • Feminine, functional, comfortable, durable, versatile–a skirt when I want a skirt, and pants or shorts when I want pants or shorts

Backpack Hack of the Week™: Dollar Store STP Device

In the bathroom department, women have a few challenges.

It’s potentially messy, it’s a skill that has to be learned, and it requires some balance

$1 DIY STP device options

Cut 8”x8” piece of flexible cutting board

Round corners

Flexible cutting board 8X8 cut, then roll it diagonally and use as STP device.

Backpackers Q + A: What’s the best way to keep my hair out of the way on the trail? Also, should I wash it or just let it go?


Keeping your hair tied back in braids has several benefits: it keeps your hair out of your face so you have better visibility, keeps your hair out of the fire, is less likely to snag on branches and it’s less likely to attract nesting birds.

Dealing with “flyaways”

The best way to deal with flyaways is with a tube of lip balm. Just slide it along the hair and it should stay in place. If you use Body Glide to prevent blisters, that also works to keep flyaways from getting in your face as well.

You can also use a hat. Some people use a bandana, which is fine, as long as you’re not using it to keep warm. It will get damp and pull the heat away from your head. A wool hat is a better option for keeping hair out of your face.

Take down hair at camp if you’ve been sweating to let hair dry out before the night chill comes.

Wet hair is hard to dry, I am reluctant to wash my hair on the trail. Also, washing hair would require me to dip my soapy dirty hair in a body of water…and that’s a LNT taboo.

Arrowroot powder can be used to absorb oils (like a dry shampoo) Just don’t use cornstarch or cocoa powder as they could attract bugs or cause a stink problem.

Trail Wisdom

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.”

-Rosalia de Castro