How to Stay Clean on Long-Distance Hikes and Camping Trips

Exercise These Tips for Good Hygiene While in the Backcountry

When you’re hiking or camping in the wilderness, you’ll enjoy a peaceful break from the stress of day to day life. Surrounded by tranquil lakes, pine-scented forests and the sound of birdsong, you can fully relax and get away from it all.

Unfortunately, you’ll also be miles away from the nearest hot shower. So, how do you stay clean and stop yourself from stinking while you’re on the trail, for the sake of your comfort and your fellow camp mates?

Here are some tips for how to stay clean while backpacking, no matter how far away from civilization you might find yourself.

Bring Biodegradable Wipes

Wet wipes are the easiest way to keep yourself clean when you are deep in the backcountry. You can use them to freshen up smelly pits, wipe after going to the bathroom — you name it.

When you are hiking make sure you bring along environmentally friendly biodegradable wipes. That way, you can dispose of them knowing they will break down quickly, rather than littering the beautiful forests forever.

Use a Sleeping Bag Liner

Using a liner on your sleeping bag will not only keep you warmer, it will also help keep the dirt and oil from your skin away from the sleeping bag itself.

You’ll be able to wash it and hang it to dry during the day, so you have a clean place to sleep every night. There’s no need to buy an expensive one either — you can make your own sleeping bag liner quite easily.

Set up a Camp Shower

Yes, it is possible to shower in the woods — you can use a solar-powered camp shower. It’s simply a portable bag you bring along with you, then fill with water. You can hang it from a branch and let the sun heat the water within the bag. Then when you’re ready you can open up the nozzle and let gravity control the water flow.

Don’t forget to bring along a quick-dry microfiber towel. Also, make sure you shower at least 200 feet from a lake, stream or ravine so you don’t add soap to the water source.

Washing the sweat off your body is one thing, but not everyone likes to wash their hair every day. If you want to freshen up, using dry shampoo can be a great solution. This will help soak up the grease in your hair and ensure you don’t get an itchy scalp. Those who are intent on keeping their pack light may not want to bring dry hair shampoo along, but if you’re not bringing a shower and aren’t going far it can be a great option.

Wash Your Clothes

An easy way to wash your clothes on the trail is to bring along a clothes line and a laundry wash bag, or just a large plastic garbage bag. Place the clothes inside with some soap and water. Shake the bag around to simulate the spin cycle of the washing machine, then rinse them with clean water and hang them to dry. Of course, remember to use an eco-friendly detergent!

When it comes to choosing clothes to wear on your trip, look for fabrics that are labeled “moisture-wicking” or “fast-drying” such as nylon and spandex. Avoid cotton, as it holds onto water and takes a long time to dry.

Don’t Forget the Hand Sanitizer

Bringing along a small bottle of hand sanitizer is a great way to stay hygienic while camping. You can use it to clean your hands after going to the bathroom, before cooking and before eating. This will help you avoid getting germs from your hands in your eyes and mouth, which can make you sick.

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Avoid Scented Products

When it comes to staying clean in nature, try to avoid scented deodorant, perfume, hairspray, shampoo (including dry shampoo) and soap. Sure, it will make you smell nicer, but the aroma can also attract insects and even bears. Instead, look for unscented, eco-friendly products that are designed to be used while out in the bush.

Swim in a Flowing River

If you have the opportunity, taking a dip in a cool flowing stream is not only wonderfully refreshing, it will keep you clean on your hiking trip. Flowing water is best, rather than water that is standing still, as it is less likely to have harmful bacteria.

Be sure to swim far away from where other campers are fishing or collecting water. Don’t use any soap — the phosphates can promote algae blooms in the lakes and streams. Instead, just let the water rinse away the sweat and dirt on your body.

Stay Clean and Have Fun on the Trail!

Of course, while hiking you’re never going to be as fresh, clean and pleasant-smelling as you would be at home. You’ll have to make do with the level of cleanliness available to you on the trail, which is part of the adventure. However, with these strategies you can stay healthy and avoid skin irritation, infections and generally feeling gross.

Have fun and happy hiking!

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