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What Are the Essential Pieces of Gear for Women on an Outdoor Adventure?

Planning a vacation as a lady comes with its own set of challenges and also special aspects to look forward to! I know how daunting it can be to try and come up with every little thing you might want or wish for while on an adventure, especially if you’ve never done a river trip before. Looking back at my first ever river trip in 2018, I can remember being incredibly grateful for all of the advice I got from friends about what their favorite and essential items were for such a journey. Now that I have guided thousands of river miles, I decided to put together a compilation of gear specifically for women that you can consider when packing your bags. This can be considered alongside our packing recommendations for everyone.

women having a laugh on the river

Solitude owner Bridget and her friend Katy taking on on the Salmon River together.

The Gear Essentials

First, we have to think about truly essential items, preparing as always for our time of the month. Having your period on the river can happen even when you don’t expect it, but doesn’t have to be wildly inconvenient. Many women of the river like to rely on reusable menstrual cups while dealing with their period because they are easily cleaned and last all day. It is important to practice inserting beforehand if you plan on using a menstrual cup for the first time while out in the backcountry. I’ve heard great things about Diva Cups, Flex Discs, and the Cora Easy-Does-It. If you prefer to use pads and tampons, don’t worry, those are river-user friendly as well! I suggest coming prepared with disposal techniques — if you have to change a pad or tampon midday you will need somewhere to store the trash until we get to camp. In the past I have taken a medium sized ziplock bag and duct taped around it to create a sturdy and opaque traveling trash bag. This can be emptied into the trash can at the groover station once you get to camp. If you plan on going on many river trips or extended outdoor adventures, a piece of gear for women to look into is the Ebb & Flo bag, specifically designed by women for hygienically handling menstrual product waste in the backcountry. Your guides will remind you again and again but it’s important to mention that there are no feminine products or anything other than toilet paper and human waste allowed in the groover!

Another item that I consider a necessity on any outdoor excursion as a woman is my Kula Cloth. This nifty little pee rag is antimicrobial, non-toxic, absorbent, and easily rinsable on the river. It’s a clever way to maintain hygiene in a place where you will most often be peeing in the wilderness without toilet paper. And you can clean it every evening at camp if you’d like with a quick rinse in clean water and a rest out in the sun.

relaxing with friends at camp

Geared up and glamorous on the river!

A Lady Never Leaves Home Without Her Screens, Balms, and Creams

The Idaho wilderness is as beautiful as it is rugged, and in order for you to also stay beautiful but not ragged is to come ready with an assortment of lotions, screens, and balms. You might not consider cocoa butter lotion as practical gear for women until your hands start to crack from dryness, becoming incredibly painful and mostly useless. To start, I like to bring a variety of sunscreens to apply in the morning and throughout the day depending on the activity. I always use a base of face sunscreen, like a classic Neutrogena. A smaller secondary facial screen to put on right before we hit the water is useful to keep in my day bag, usually a zinc mineral like Badger or All Good. Zinc screen can also be used for the tops of my hands, and for my lips! Later, when we get to camp and the sun has faded, I like to clean up with a “baby wipe bath” using a Burt’s Bees cleansing wipe. I use these on my face and on any other parts that might need refreshing. Luckily, at Solitude River Trips, you will be treated to a nightly backcountry shower if you desire, an even better way to feel refreshed. Once I’m cleaned up, I lotion up! I use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter for my hands and face, but you can feel free to bring along a container of your favorite lotion and be ready to use it liberally! I also bring some Aquaphor for my lips and to have on hand if things get desperately dry. The last product I treat myself with on the river as a lady with longer hair is leave-in conditioner. You’d better believe that those Idaho summers are dry and can be brutal on our skin and hair! I like putting on a little bit of Dr. Bronner’s hair creme in the evening to wrap up my self-care session. If your hair easily tangles, I also suggest bringing a small hair brush and utilizing braids during the day to keep those locks luscious.

Woman drying her gear at camp.

Drying out the sarong at camp.

Look Good, Feel Good

Next, it’s time to think about my favorite clothing accessories to bring on the river as a woman. A staple that you’ll almost never see me without are my colorful leggings that I like to wear every day on the water. I wear a thin, quick-dry pair of leggings to serve mostly as sun protection, but also as a way to cool down in the hottest summer months. It might seem counterintuitive to wear long leggings and cool off, but I get them wet and as long as they are wet, I’m significantly cooler! And if I don’t get them wet, they can serve as an extra bit of warmth on cooler mornings. They also can be incredibly versatile as a fashion statement — the more colorfully patterned the better! Once we get to camp, it’s a great feeling to peel off those river layers and put on your comfy cozies — usually my favorite cotton items. I like to air out in a sundress or skirt, or rock my favorite loose pants and Hawaiian shirt (costumes might not be considered essential by some, but you can really never go wrong throwing your most festive party shirt into your pack). Remember that it can be really nice to put on your favorite cotton undergarments as well. I use a Kikoi sarong or large quick dry towel to change on the river and at camp. My sarong also doubles as a beach towel, sun protection, or a cooling garment. As far as organization goes, I like to utilize packing cubes from REI or from Eagle Creek and bring an extra empty one to put my dirty clothes in throughout the trip.

I spoke with my best friend Casey about her experience on a Solitude river trip and she loved having good socks and some comfortable shoes for lounging around camp. These could be slip-on shoes like Teva or Chaco flip flops or a pair of Crocs to keep in your overnight bag. It feels great to kick off your wet river shoes and slide on some dry flops at camp. The last item I like to bring to feel like my most fabulous river-woman are cheap yet sturdy earrings to accessorize with on the water and at camp! Some of this might seem superfluous, but any gear that makes you feel good, is good gear for women.

gear for women on the river

Bridget and her friend Casey on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Get Creative With Your Gear or Just Relax

My sister Shannon lives and works in Seattle and has been on a Solitude river trip as well as three other multi-day river trips with me. It’s nice to get an opinion or two about gear for women who are definitely still river ladies, but aren’t guides or outdoor professionals. Shannon suggested bringing crafts, such as a set of travel water colors and a journal. Other fun and easily packed crafty items are string for making bracelets or nail polish for a riverside salon session. Shannon is what we like to call a “bird nerd” — she knows and appreciates any and all birds and also loves to look for and identify them. River trips are usually a good venue for spotting awesome birds, so she likes to bring binoculars and a bird identification book. Something else that Shannon reminded me is that it’s useful to have some Hydrocortisone around. Be it a bee sting, mosquito bite, sun burn, rash, or an encounter with some ivy, you might get itchy at some point. Finally, it’s crucial to bring a book! Make it something you’ve always wanted to read and haven’t had the time, or a personal favorite that you know you can relax with. You’ll have time to slow down, open a book, and relax by the river, with nothing else to worry about.

Sisters admiring the view on the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

Bridget and her sister Shannon at Veil Cave on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Want to shop with local women?

Here is a little list I put together of female-run, Idaho-based, small-businesses you can peruse to stock up on cute and practical gear for your river trip:

Heidi Messner storage bag, journal, or hat
Sturdy Pine hat, toiletry bag
Bri Moore hat, headband
FunLuvin’ Fleece Wear skirt or shorts, hats, beanies, tanks and sun hoodies
Cayla in the Current river log

 

It sometimes seems like the outdoor world is more tailored to a man’s perspective. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is the beginning of a conversation about gear for women and what fits into an outdoor lifestyle. I look forward to seeing you ladies out there on the river with some of this gear, hopefully feeling fully prepared and exceptionally fabulous.

 

wearing gear for women on the river

Bridget wearing her FunLovin’ Fleece Wear skirt while driving the sweep boat on the Middle Fork.