Backpacking is one of life’s greatest pleasures — and challenges. You can work up a sweat out there on the trail, but good luck finding places to get clean.
However, keeping tidy matters, especially if you venture into the wild for several days or longer. What should you know to prepare for your trek? Here are ten tips for personal hygiene while backpacking.
1. Pack It In, Pack It Out
It’s always wise to brush up on proper trail etiquette before you go — including guidelines affecting your grooming routine. Your number one rule to remember is if you pack it in, you pack it out.
This principle applies to some of the stuff you might use to stay clean, like wipes. You don’t want the smelly, used things contaminating your pack. Your solution is the right airtight storage container with a natural disinfectant like thymol to minimise germs and odour while transporting your trash.
2. Polish Your Pearlies
The rule that you should brush morning and night doesn’t have an exception for backpacking. Please carry a toothbrush. You can conserve water by dipping it in your bottle to wet it instead of dumping the liquid on top.
3. Map Water Sources
If you plan to hike for more than a day, you need a reliable water source. Map these before you depart and plan nearby campsites.
4. Comb Your Hair
It’s not that you care that you look a little wild. However, combing your hair nightly removes some dirt — and bugs. Bites from them can cause nasty infections.
5. Pack Clean Socks and Underwear
Sweat contains salt, which can irritate and chafe your skin. A clean pair of undies and socks each evening can significantly improve your comfort and hygiene on your trek.
If you plan a long expedition, prepare to rinse and wash your other clothes. Though you may be able to go a few days without it, you should clean them once a week to prevent bacterial infection.
6. Sanitise Your Hands
Hand sanitiser is your best friend in the wild. Even if you only plan a one-day trek, you can use it to clean your fingers and palms before you snack.
Here’s another nifty trick. Did you know bacterial decomposition is what causes body odour? A few spritzes of an alcohol-based hand sanitiser under your armpits speeds the process, dries up those germs and leaves your underarms far less ripe.
7. Skip the Deodorant
“What?” you might exclaim. “I thought this article was about good hygiene.” It is — but this rule applies to hikes of a day or longer. Why?
Remember that body odour results from bacteria. While regular deodorant use doesn’t hurt most folks, it can build up and clog pores if you don’t have a proper shower in days. All those germs get trapped inside and can cause pit pimples. Stick to the hand sanitiser trick.
8. Learn to Conserve Your Supply
A day of hiking in the summer sun can leave you craving a hot shower, but you must be prudent with water in the wild. That’s why locating sources is vital — you don’t have to rely on your limited drinking supply to stay clean.
How can you conserve your supply if you must use drinking water? Carry an absorbent washcloth with you, as it adds negligible weight to your pack. Get it damp and use it to sponge yourself instead of dumping and wasting precious fluid.
9. Don’t Harm the Local Resources
Even if you hike along a river, you must take care of it for the next person. That means not using toxic products that could contaminate the local water supply.
You can find specialty biodegradable camp soap at nearly any outfitter. However, castile soap is also biodegradable and works for everything from hair to laundry in a pinch.
10. Sponge Down at Night
On more than one-day trips, you should sponge yourself down at night. It’ll be even better if there’s a stream nearby and it’s warm enough for a dip.
Why wash nightly? It keeps your bedding tidier and prevents excess sweat from accumulating on your clothes. Plus, it simply feels better to bed down fresh and clean.
Stay Clean While Enjoying Your Trek
It’s tricky to stay tidy in the wild. However, doing so increases your enjoyment of your trek while minimising discomfort.
Heed the ten tips above for personal hygiene while backpacking. You can enjoy going into the wild without leaving behind your more civilised habits.