One of the most frequent questions I receive is how I manage my menstruation while living and traveling in a van full time. Since I started van life in 2019, dealing with periods has been a journey of multiple trials and errors. But eventually, I found the best solution that works for me.
In this post, I will share the tips I’ve learned after over 2+years on traveling in our camper van. I also share the products that I use today that have helped me to live comfortably during that ‘time of the month’.
Cups For Beginners
The Flex Cup is the best choice for first time users because they have a pull out tab, similar to what a tampon has, and you don’t have to insert your fingers to pull it out. Also the cup material is relatively firm so it’s easier to insert without having much difficulty to pop it open.
For starting out, the Flex Cup is perfect.
Cups For Experienced Users
Today, I use the Lena Menstrual Cup. Although the Flex cup was easier to use, it just wasn’t a perfect fit for me and I had some leakage.
If you think you have heavier flows than average, like me, the Lena Cup (large) is perfect for you. It is a little bit softer than the Flex cup, but I feel it seals better and the shape of the cup avoids leakage better on heavy days.
Menstruation Cup Maintenance (During Van Life)
In Public Bathroom: Wipe with tissues after emptying the cup and wash with soap (preferably non-fragrance and oil free) and water. If you don’t have access to water right away, use alcohol-free baby wipes to clean the cup, wash again with water and soap when you go back to your van.
After Every Cycle: Boil the clean cup for 5 minutes and dry it under room temperature.
Of all of the underwear products I’ve tried, I settled on Thinx organic cotton brief underwear. Made of organic cotton, Thinx is very comfortable to wear. I’ve never had leaks during light days but have had them during heavy days, even though they’re supposedly made to withstand heavy flows.
How To Care For Reusable Pads & Underwear
Don’t leave your underwear and pads soaked in blood for too long since the stains tend to remain if you don’t take care of them quickly.
Wash the underwear and pads under cold running water then machine wash again with cold water at the next opportunity.
Hang them out in the sun to dry.
Which Menstrual Products Are Best For You?
Everyone’s menstrual flow is different, so there is no exact answer as to which one you should use. You don’t even have to choose just one. In my case, I have all three in my cabinet.
On the heaviest night, I use all of them since I go without emptying my cup for at least 8+hours while I sleep. For me, even a large Lena Cup can only hold a maximum of 5 hours on the heaviest day.
On light days, I only use period underwear without wearing a cup or reusable pad. You can mix and switch methods depending on your flows and activity level.
It takes some time to find the best solution for you, but you will find one eventually as you get more comfortable living in a camper van.
Listen To Your Body And Take A Rest
Often times you don’t have access to everything you need; hot & high pressure shower, clean bathroom….van life can be hard sometimes. And this is especially true during your period.
In the end of the day, there is no way to solve the problem 100%. You probably still have PMS and feel crappy after all.
The most important thing to do is to listen to your body.
Forget about hiking in beautiful national parks and just Netflix all day instead. It is totally OK to do nothing. Just because you are doing van life don’t mean you have to be active all the time.
Normally when I have my period, I usually don’t camp for free and look to pay to sleep instead. For me, having access to a clean bathroom and shower facilities is important during my time of the month.
Final Thoughts About Dealing With Periods In Van Life
When I just started van life, I was using disposable pads & tampons because those were the products I was using back home in Japan. I never bothered to research any other options.
Then when I began to live in my van, I began to notice how inconvenient it was to use disposable menstrual products.
The pads would take up a large amount of space in my cabinets.
The waste bin would quickly fill up with waste menstrual items.
And I realized how much money I’d have to spend every months to buy pads and tampons.
Now I switched everything to reusable from disposal items. I no longer spend money on new products every month and I don’t have to reserve space for large stocks of pads and tampons. Not to mention that creating less waste is better for our planet.
Experiencing van life with a period can seem daunting at first. But it’s certainly manageable and switching to reusable from disposal menstrual products really make sense during van life.
I hope you found my article useful. If you have any van life menstrual questions, send me an email from our contact page.