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Keep yourself clean while backpacking and camping

  • Jan 19, 2015

Just because you're exploring the wilderness and being one with nature doesn't mean that you need to live covered in filth. In fact, the dirty conditions and sweat that are produced when you're heaving a large backpack for miles everyday are good reasons to be cleaner than you are typically. While a little dirt under your fingernails and stubble on your chin aren't bad things, you don't want to smell so bad that other hikers won't want to share a campfire with you. 

Here are a few tips that you can use to practice good hygiene and keep yourself looking respectable while you're roughing it outdoors. 

Say N.O. to B.O.  
It's natural for guys to smell a little funky after a few days on the trail, but that doesn't mean you can't do anything about it. As Lower Gear explained, there are a variety of ways that any guy can keep himself smelling fresh with minimal supplies. 

  • Bring isopropyl alcohol - This all-purpose alcohol is perfect for killing bacteria quickly, so Lower Gear recommended bringing along a few cotton balls and wiping yourself down with the quick-drying liquid in problem areas. That means wiping your armpits, feet or groin area (carefully) with a wetted cotton ball. It will brush off dirt, bacteria and odor without requiring a whole bath or shower. 
  • Wash your feet - When you get a chance to clean your feet, do it. Lower Gear explained that dirty feet leads to smelly boots, so take a five minute break when you cross a creek and wash your feet off. Just make sure you let them dry before putting your socks back on or you'll end up with blisters. 
  • Use biodegradable soap - Bring a small bar of soap along to wash your face and hands. It won't just make you look cleaner, but it can also help you simply feel better. 
  • Avoid scented deodorant - Lower Gear explained that perfumes can attract insects and even animals, so it's best to be avoided. You don't want to smell bad, but body odor is better than a harmful body spray. 

Do your laundry 
Although backpackers aren't known for wearing the cleanest clothing, sometimes you need to wash your gear - especially on long trips. Experienced backcountry traveler Ryan Grayson has a blog devoted to wilderness tips, including his way to do laundry in the wild. 

Grayson uses water, baking soda and a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. He simple puts one or two items in at a time with clean water. Then he seals it with a little air and shakes it vigorously. He drains the bag at least 200 feet from any waterways. Then Grayson refills it with water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda and leaves it overnight. After soaking, rinse clothing and hang to dry. Grayson even dries his gear from his pack with safety pins when needed. 

However, check your watch thermometer before taking on this practice. If there are freezing temperatures, you can just leave your clothes out to freeze - this kills the bacteria. Grayson also avoids detergents and opts for baking soda for environmental reasons. He doesn't want to pollute the area. 

Keep you hands clean 
While everything is bound to get dirty while backpacking and camping, it's important to practice especially good hygiene in certain circumstances for health reasons. For example, if you get a cut, whip out your first aid kit and clean the wound before bacteria can start an infection. 

Equally as important is keeping your hands clean while cooking and after using the bathroom. If you don't wash your hands during this time, you risk transferring bacteria into your mouth or eyes, infecting yourself and anyone else you're with variety of bacteria and germs. Backpacker magazine recommended people wash with alcohol-based sanitizer or concentrated alcohol as the most convenient and effective option. 

Being clean isn't just good for you but everyone around you. When out in the wilderness no one expects you to smell like peaches but not smelling offensive is nice. Be prepared with some cleaning products and gear to help you stay clean. The PRG270D-7 isn't a cleaning tool but it does have great features that can help you when you are out in the wilderness. Keep track of the temperature to know when it would be best to start washing clothes or when to avoid it.