Bikepacking tips for women
Ladies, I missed you on our trip! Most of the acquaintances on the road were men, hosts, people that talked to us, and cyclists. I was always happy to have a female interlocutor.
While planning our trip a lot of women asked me: “Do you really want to travel with little comfort and safety?” Why this skepticism and restraint? Look at the positive feelings, the freedom, and the adventure.
To cycle around the world you need self-confidence, ambition, patience, a bit of craziness, and physical strength! These are all qualities you can learn.
The good thing is, after each mountain comes a downhill and maybe a great view! And to notice that is actually quite simple, there is no good or bad on a bike trip, everything is measured in adventure and learnings.
Here are a few tips on how to solve macho, anxiety, and hygiene problems.
We want to discover a lot, and as we do, we learn about foreign countries and sometimes less open cultures.
Although I have not had any negative experiences, I do want to talk about sexual harassment because there are plenty of horror stories told by single women who traveled in countries such as Iran and India. It’s important to realise that some men and women think it’s inappropriate or even sexually arousing when women ride bicycles. They probably think you are a women with low “morality” who can be harassed. Try to ignore it as much as possible. Show confidence and use the unicorn effect to your advantage: Contradict the local image of women so massively that you can cycle past unhindered at all astonished and baffled men.
In terms of clothing, I personally have not subjected myself to any culture while cycling. Even in the blazing hot and very conservative eastern Turkey, I rode around in cycling shorts. Every woman should decide for herself in these conditions. Either you have to endure the hard looks or the hard sun. I just found it stupid to add clothes to my tightly planned bikepacking luggage just not to cause a stir. A full body covering outfit for cycling in summer at temperatures above 40°C is unfair and impractical. I feel like an athelete and a traveler, not a potential sex object. Many women and girls around the world have a similar vision. I got a lot of admiration and enthusiasm, many wanted to do selfies with the cool “alien-woman”.
On the bike and in the tent you are pretty defenseless and often rely on the good will of strangers. Thus, there are also things that you are simply scared of. I try to control my fears through realistic thinking. For example, at first I was scared of being spotted and harassed at night.
I found out that people are usually pretty positive and not interested in making our lifes difficult. They probably have better things to do than to bother us. Besides, we were the weird people who slept in the dark forest. You only notice during camping that it never really gets pitch dark anywhere on earth. We enjoyed the light of the moon and the stars, and always had a reliable source of light next to us, such as my beautiful solar lamp “Little Sun”.
There is an awful lot of living things around you and they are beautiful from a distance. How many there are becomes visible when camping. Snakes, insects, etc… We got used to them, learned about poisonous species and are now trained to remove giant insects from our tent. We have met giant spiders, snakes however have been too shy to come near us. I’m not really scared of them, but I do find them disgusting.
And then the many wild dogs. We have been barked at by many street dogs, nothing has happened yet… But the beasts are really intimidating! Our plan in an attack: Splash them with our water bottles and keep calm.
Many travelers have pepper spray to ward off humans and animals. We decided against it because we fear that the weapon could be used against ourselves. However we have a very loud rescue whistle. It serves as an emergency signal and to deter attackers (humans or animals). Also, I can whistle at Yves when he is too far and I want to chat with him :).
What I found very important on our journey was the feeling of not being alone. If one plans such trip with his or her partner, brother, sister, or friends, you will inevitably become a good team. You are constantly together with your mate and get to know each other in a completely honest way. You work together, you have to trust and satisfy each other. Take tips from each other, and help yourselves. This is sometimes difficult, especially when you’re climbing up a mountain or feeling really tired.
But sometimes man wants to boast a bit, let him have his pride and be proud of yourself.
What I find totally unfair, however, is that men often benefit from cycling because of their innate physiology. After 2 months of training, I was finally able to keep up very well, and Yves also learned to appreciate my moderate pace.
Personally, I boycott the attitude of being deterred from doing activities just because I have my period. Just take more breaks and plan shorter daily stages. In first place, I recommend total openness and insolence towards your travel partner. Men have also seen blood. On such a trip, you will often learn more about your partner than you want :). In addition, one important truth: pooping in the forest is often more pleasant and hygienic than public toilets.
The now popular menstrual cup can also be of great help here. No carrying and shopping tampons necessary, buy once and it will probably last for the whole trip. Plus, no nasty garbage. Then, although we are all super eco: baby wipes and panty liners. I do not know how many times on this trip I have already sung a song of praise to our baby wipes, because through them we enjoy a nightly, full body “baby whipes shower”. Microfiber handkerchiefs are a good alternative as-well if you want to limit produced waste, they can be used the whole trip.
Appearances are not criterias on an adventure. Cool looks can also be unkempt and dirty :).
To be honest, I am always happy when I have washed off all the products (sunscreen, bug spray) and dirt in the evening, and I have absolutely no desire to apply additional products such as make-up. My skin became more beautiful than ever after a few weeks of sun, sport and clean air! And besides, it’s so liberating not to focus on ones looks, after all, I have better things to do!
- Babywhipes, handkerchiefs / toilet paper
- Menstrual cup, panty liners
- Tampons, not available in most muslim and some asian countries
- Hair brush (Tangle Teazer is ultra light), hair ties
- Chamois cream (cools and soothes the irritated butt)
- Vaginal ointment (protects against irritated, too wet skin while biking)
- Very good sports bras
- Min. 3 cycling pants to change because I do not wear any underwear underneath
- Warm, comfortable clothes
- Multipurpose clothing e.g. an outfit that you can wear in a nice bar but also for hiking.
- “Muslim friendly” clothing, if necessary.
- A night light
Alright ladies, now you have no excuses. On to new adventures! I want to see more of you on the streets! The best way to see the world is by bike! Questions and suggestions, please in the comments!