Staying Clean While Backpacking
Abandoning all forms of hygiene when out on the trail is tempting especially since the convenience of modern hygiene difficult to adapt. As tempting as it is to let yourself go, keeping clean while backpacking is still very necessary. It may not be easy and will be a far stone throw from glamorous but keeping in mind that there’s life after the trail helps a lot. Additionally, staying clean is synonymous with being comfortable while backpacking. In that vein, here are some handy tips that will ensure cleanliness is part and parcel of your next backpacking trip.
1. Hand Sanitizer Is Your Friend
Having enough hand sanitizer at hand is a great first step to staying clean. Not only is it compact enough to be carried around, but it is also a sure way to keep germs at bay. Backpackers should endeavor to wash and sanitize their hands after using the bathroom, before and after cooking and also before and after meals. Any germs contracted while carrying out these activities could make their way into the mouth or eyes and there is no scenario where that bodes well for anyone. A little blob of hand sanitizer goes a long way and can even be used to sanitize utensils while out backpacking. Using water alone just doesn’t cut it, so be sure to pack enough hand sanitizer as it could save you from worlds of pain.
2. Wipe Yourself Properly After Taking A Number Two
You would think that this goes without saying, but cleanliness tends to become quite a loose term while out on the trail. Nevertheless, ensuring that your crack is wiped clean is necessary to keep you comfortable on what is probably already an uncomfortable journey. Cleaning it haphazardly could lead to chafing and a little further down the line, monkey butt. It may sound funny, but monkey butt is no joke, it is very painful, and the accompanying swelling makes it even more uncomfortable. Running out of toilet paper is no reason to slack with anal hygiene, natural materials such as sticks, rocks and leaves can suffice. In the spirit of preparedness, be sure to bring along zinc oxide cream in order to deal with inflammation related to monkey butt.
3. Launder Your Hiking Clothes
Giving them a thorough washing may be completely out of the question, but at the very least, rinsing out the sweat is doable. Walking around for the most part of the day can incur a whole lot of sweat and grime. This, in turn, makes your clothes sweaty, which can lead to skin irritation and chafing. Since sweat is basically salty water, it can simply dissolve in water during a rinse. There is no need to go all out and bring detergents, bleach or softeners, basic water will suffice. After a long day’s hike, you can soak your clothes in a collapsible bucket, or even a plastic bag if you want to be nifty. Once they are all rinsed out, you can wring and dry them out, so they are nice and crispy enough to wear comfortably. It’s also advisable to air your walking sandals or Gore-tex boots regularly. Your feet will thank you.
4. Sleep In Separate Clothes
As practical and minimalist as it may seem to sleep in the same clothes you use to hike, this may not be the best way to maintain cleanliness. Be sure to bring along a pair of clothes that is solely meant for sleeping. This simple act can save you worlds of discomfort and unnecessary washing. By sleeping in a nice pair of clean clothes and preventing tent condensation, you can equally protect your sleeping bag from the sweat and grime on your day clothes. The clothes will smell fresh for a lot longer and save you the trouble of having to wash it as much. If having extra clothes on the trail instantly gets you worried about how you’re going to wash them, fret not. Since these are only worn at night, they do not need constant rinsing out. Chances are that you will barely sweat in them.
5. Maintain Dental Hygiene
Unfortunately, halitosis and tooth decay will not take a couple of days off just because you’re off backpacking. With this in mind, it is incredibly important to maintain some sort of dental care regimen while out on the trail. Thankfully, there’s a travel-sized version of just about everything. So, be sure to bring some dental floss, a toothbrush, and toothpaste along with you. Not only is this beneficial to the health of your teeth and gums, but you will feel a lot better when your mouth is clean. As a precautionary measure, be sure to rinse out your mouth far away from your area of settlement. The scent of it could attract bears and other unwanted creatures.
6. Rotate Underwear Regularly
Since it’s backpacking and not a vacation, ideally you should have about two pairs of underwear on you. Be sure to wash the other and dry it while you have one on. There are days where this system may not completely work. In that case, flip it inside out so you can have a second go. This should not become a routine though, be sure to wash out your underwear on time and your nether regions will thank you.
7. Have A Bath
This may seem like a chore once you’re out in the open, but it’s a lot simpler once you have the basics nailed. While on the trail, you can either have a big wash or a little one, depending on how dirty you are at the time. For big ones, you will need items like a bandana, biodegradable soap such as Dr. Bronner’s and some bottled water. Three liters of water should suffice and a dab of soap is enough to get the dirt off. For the little jobs, wet wipes are your best friend. Additionally, take care of your feet when hiking. It is advisable to scrub the feet and in between the toes every night. Even if you don’t have an actual bath, this will make you feel a lot cleaner.
Most importantly, be sure to dump all water used at least 200 feet away from water bodies and other sources. This is also part and parcel of being hygienic because you’re probably going to end up drinking from the same source at some point.