November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Cleanliness on the trail
Display Avatars Sort By:
Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 14:18:50 MDT Print View

On a one or two week backpack, hiking at least 15 miles per day, I find it very difficult to find the time to properly bathe. I've tried bath wipes that I picked up from REI but they really don't work. My basic problem is that I am a cold water wimp. Some of my hiking friends jump right into the creek or lake. Not me... brrr! I hate to admit it but I have even gone as far as mixing some boiling water into a bucket of water to soap up with (away from the creek of course). If I arrive at my destination after 6pm I really don't want to get wet though. What is the BPL suggestion?

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 14:49:54 MDT Print View

On 1-2 night trips I use wet wipes, but you're right--they don't work too well - just good enough to get by.

What works best for me is scrubbing w/water (you can warm it 1st :) ) using a bandanna. The downside for me is if I blew my nose on it I don't like washing my face with it! The surface of the bandanna is a little "rougher" and helps scrub better.

Andy Berner
(Berner9) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 15:09:02 MDT Print View

Just do it(jump in). I think everyone is a wimp about it. Some just prefer not to show it so they jump in. Once you do it a couple of times its a lot easier. Its all in your head. Just tell yourself you have been hiking 10 hours and now you only need to jump in the water for just a couple of seconds and no more than a minute.

It always cold but you always feel so much better after.

Edited by Berner9 on 09/29/2009 15:26:41 MDT.

B. F.
(thrush) - F
My way on 09/29/2009 15:23:54 MDT Print View

A few days before the tour I shave myself on every place I want to keep odor-free (don't do this the first time right before a tour, better have it done a few times before!), and right before the tour I apply a long-time deodorant (a german one called "syNeo") wich suppresses sweat for a few days, you should have similiar stuff available where you live (this stuff is excellent and safe, don't worry, but a little bit expensive). I also take a minidrop bottle of this on tour and reapply every few days. Also, I only carry pure merino underwear wich simply doesn't smell strong at all even after days and weeks of hard trekking. It is also very important to adapt your clothing constantly so you don't sweat - e.g. as soon as you climb a hill, get rid of the fleece insulation and get it back on later, only when you need it. If this still doesn't help, I would suggest small disposable tissues (I use "Uni-Tissue", tissues pressed into small tablets) because they are hygienic and don't have to dry or smell bad after use. Use a small amount of soap and keep them in your hands for a while to warm them up if needed.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Bandanna bath on 09/29/2009 15:38:44 MDT Print View

I'm another that does the bandanna bath routine. It seems to work well, and I've never had complaints (about smell!) from fellow hikers. I end up feeling pretty clean too!

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 15:48:44 MDT Print View

On the PCT I hiked for five months without changing my underwear : D

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Bandanna bath on 09/29/2009 15:56:14 MDT Print View

Well, shoot, I'm a bandanna bath guy myself, and I love that cold, cold water on a cold, cold evening.

But Bjorn has me curious about his multi-day, anti-sweat agent that fits into small dropper bottle. Anybody know the US equivalent? My wife will send her personal thanks.


Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 16:02:10 MDT Print View

The Mike Clelland way!

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
I'm with Jack ... on 09/29/2009 16:44:31 MDT Print View

My recent experience was similar to Jacks. On the PCT last year about the only time I cleaned up was when I went into a town or a campground that had showers --- that seemed to be enough. A couple of times I used a wet wipe and changed shirts so as not to offend whoever might pick me up (hitch-hiking), but that was about it, no problems.

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
googled syNeo on 09/29/2009 16:50:29 MDT Print View

I guess I should just take Andy's advice and "take the plunge". The bandana method would also help (as long as you rinse the bandana first).

I googled syNeo and came up with this...

Of course it may not be beneficial to stop sweating...

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 19:43:42 MDT Print View

I'm a newbie at this, but I've always been of the philosophy that if I know I'm going to get dirty, I don't bother to bathe. Thus, on my first trip, which was 11 days, that's how I went about it. I splashed my face off a few times, but the only thing that got bathed was my behind after I filled a cathole. I don't think you can get more lightweight than that.

Reginald Donaldson
(worth) - MLife

Locale: Wind River Range
A few of my tricks. on 09/29/2009 20:13:46 MDT Print View

Water tends to be warmer in shallow areas, small bays and areas where wave action does not stir the water. If bed rock is present, look for depressions slightly above the shoreline that has trapped water from the larger waves. By mid-afternoon the bed rock is normally hot and quickly warms the water.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 21:24:08 MDT Print View

You don't have to jump right in after all - especially when the water is coming from a snow bank!

If the water is that cold we stand in it (even icy water can be nice on your feet for a little while) and scrub down with a light cotton washer. Er ... especially around the backside. Prevents a lot of small nappy rash stuff.

The one constant is that if there is water (and privacy), we wash every night. We feel much better when we dive into the tent afterwards.


Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Cleanliness on the trail on 09/29/2009 21:36:06 MDT Print View

The best part about backpacking is that you don't have to bathe!

Backpack Jack
(jumpbackjack) - F

Locale: Armpit of California
RE: shower on 09/29/2009 23:46:35 MDT Print View

I can usaully go about 3 days before I need to wash up completely. I took a shower head off one of those solar shower bags and converted it over to my MSR bladder. I just warm up some water put it in the bladder then put on the shower head and hang it from a tree. You pull it out to turn it on and push it in to turn it off. I can usaully take a complete shower with 2 liters of water or less. I've done this in 45-50 degree weather, no problem just put on my camp shoes stripped down to my shorts and wash away. Nothing better than going to sleep feeling clean.

Edited by jumpbackjack on 09/29/2009 23:48:01 MDT.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 09/29/2009 23:56:44 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 06/16/2015 21:46:33 MDT.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: washing up. on 09/30/2009 02:02:06 MDT Print View

Ahhh good foot care.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Sweating on 09/30/2009 04:41:21 MDT Print View

My wife thanks you for the info about the Danish anti-sweating agent.

"Of course it may not be beneficial to stop sweating..."

So true. Sweat over 90 percent of the body is a good thing. When your traveling companion objects, however, stopping sweat in the big three (pits and -- ahem -- groinal region) can be helpful and won't hurt your heat loss appreciable in hot summer weather. Best way to prevent bacterial buildup and the chafing it partially causes: suck up the sweat with a bit o' bakin soda and/ or limit the sweating in that region.

As far as cold weather is concerned, the bandana-wash approach isn't really meant for the entire body, IMO. Hit the big four: head/neck, pits, groinal region, and feet. You'll feel better and those grimy feet won't kill your bag.


Edited by nerdboy52 on 09/30/2009 04:42:00 MDT.

Spruce Goose
(SpruceGoose) - F

Locale: New England
cleanliness on the trail on 09/30/2009 06:39:41 MDT Print View

>>If the water is that cold we stand in it (even icy water can be nice on your feet for a little while) and scrub down with a light cotton washer. Er ... especially around the backside. Prevents a lot of small nappy rash stuff.

The one constant is that if there is water (and privacy), we wash every night. We feel much better when we dive into the tent afterwards.<<

I just want to clarify that we're not promoting butt washing in streams or lakes...right?

I personally wouldn't want to be carrying around a dirty towel/wash cloth/whatever. And I wouldn't want to be worried about washing/rinsing one. That's why I prefer the basic method that Clelland advocates. Then you can go for a swim afterwards if you want.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Cleanliness on the trail on 09/30/2009 11:21:48 MDT Print View

There seems to be two classes of hikers, those who wash up regularly (and probably wash their clothes), and those who do neither.

Personally I'm in the former category, and I must admit I do not like meeting up with people in the latter category, especially in hot weather at the end of the day. I've had some pretty unhappy experiences in AT shelters olfactory-wise, and it is not uncommon for people to move out when a particularly ripe person or group arrives.

Warning...about to start a flame war:

Why is washing up once in a while such a big deal? It's easy and takes little time. The old proverb states "Cleanliness is next to godliness". I'm not talking about being squeaky-clean all the time, just an occasional wash-up, depending on temperature, activity level, etc.

Practical point: as you get older your skin may become more sensitive to dirt, oils, salt, etc. These days I get rashes if I don't wash up with some regularity.

Ok, now you can rip in to me for asking everyone to wash up once in a while...