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How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods?
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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/29/2013 20:59:36 MDT Print View

Being a guy I don't really care TOO much about hygiene while I'm backpacking. If I go to bed a big dirty then so be it...

However, I think I'm starting to change my mind here. I think I want to start taking nightly showers.

I took one my last time I was out and MAN did I feel a lot better when going to bed. That was an EXCEPTIONALLY nerve racking day as I did 10 miles of bushwhacking so I was stressed out making sure I got back to the trail head.

What do you guys do here? Do you shower every night or do you just forgo showering until you get back to civilization?

I think I managed to rig up a nice ultralight shower setup.

Basically I'm going to use my wood stove to heat up 1L of water (since I have infinite fuel this isn't a problem).

Then I'm going to run a guyline from a tree to another tree with a taught line hitch (so it doesn't slide) and suspend my platypus bladder from it. The gravity will force the water out so I have plenty of water pressure.

Then I'll suspend a sponge and towel from the overhead line for quick access.

Should work fine and won't require significant extra weight... just the guyline for suspending the water bladder.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/29/2013 21:12:45 MDT Print View

Depends on effort x days.

For 20 mile days on the JMT, it's a sponge bath each night. My feet and ankles are black. All of me is dirty. I can get it done with less than a liter of water and under 10 minutes.

I use a kerchief and a drilled-out dropper bottle for soap. I use Dr. Bronners Unscented which does not require a thorough rinse. I start with my head (and beard) and work down. There is something about "freezing" my head which makes the rest of me somewhat impervious to the cold water.

This is how I spend my time while dinner is rehydrating in the cozy. I'm always done before dinner is ready.

Edited by greg23 on 06/29/2013 21:15:17 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Smoke Bath. on 06/29/2013 21:21:00 MDT Print View

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/29/2013 21:47:18 MDT Print View

" I took one my last time I was out and MAN did I feel a lot better when going to bed. "

yeah.. huh.
it sleeps better when yer clean. i use a doctrine of "continuous cleaning". in practice that means that every time i stop, something gets washed. i can NOT hardly stand to go to bed with sweaty legs. it is uncivilized. i can do it, but it's sucky.
in a 2 month long trip, i will completely destroy a washcloth.
so: maybe wash small, but wash often. that way, when you get caught short, you'll still be reasonably clean .. (ish).


Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/29/2013 22:23:23 MDT Print View

Long trail I took 3 showers at town stops in 19 days. apparently smelled like a wet dog but the only ones who noticed weren't on the trail. did laundry twice.

otherwise normally if I keep my feet and face cleaned off i'm happy.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
George Carlin's wisdom on showers on 06/30/2013 01:02:16 MDT Print View

A55 hole
And teeth

Also in Southern California water is very rare on most trails. So either pack it in, or hike a +3 miles detour.

One goal is to kill stink bacteria which can be done with smoke bath or purrell. But to rinse off dirt in a drought zone need a camelbak reservoir with a drip on off valve.

Suggestion: put the full reservoir on the outside of the pack in the sun, to warm up the cold water a little bit.

For 3 to 5 days, I forgo showers, and wet wipe with purrell.

Edited by RogerDodger on 06/30/2013 01:15:59 MDT.

Dharma Dog

Locale: The Louisiana Swamp
Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/30/2013 02:37:30 MDT Print View


Wouldn't have made it through some of my long trips without them.

Josh Garst
not often on 06/30/2013 08:14:07 MDT Print View

I usually try to just wipe off my face, feet & pits with some water each night. I'm mainly out for one to two weeks at the moment. Luckily in Tennessee there's a bunch of deep creeks and rivers to hop in. I'll usually jump in with cloths cloths on in the summer. That's the only real bathing I do, unless the park I'm at has showers, then I'll try to work it in so I'm by a shower after 5-6days.

Longest I've gone without a proper bath/rinse was 13 days in the winter... It was just to cold.

I've thought about carrying a cut up sponge and some campsoap, but I've never been able to justify carrying it.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/30/2013 08:23:50 MDT Print View

Get some Wet Ones. Dry them out. Rewet in camp and wipe yourself down before bed each night. Feels fantastic. A little warm water and a bandanna works wonders as well. Wipe and rinse yourself with less than a liter of water this way. Stay healthy, stay clean.

At least wash your hands.


Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/30/2013 08:40:24 MDT Print View

ha.. should add that I do purell in a microbottle for after bathroom stops and before eating. that's just standard hygene. teethbrushing too. i thought this was just about bathing.

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
+1 on Dry Wipes on 06/30/2013 10:59:32 MDT Print View

Ken is right , the best evening cleanse is a wet wipe that you rehydrate.
Use a bit of warm water, put 3-4 dry wipes in ziplock and add warm water- once all are warm have a nice "bath"

Michael Wainfeld
(Adox) - M

Locale: EastCoast
Another video on 06/30/2013 13:21:41 MDT Print View

I Kind of liked this video a little better:

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Another video on 06/30/2013 13:29:57 MDT Print View

Ugh. The comments are classic.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 06/30/2013 14:13:34 MDT Print View

Most trips I am either camping at lakes or stopping at them during the day, and I dive in most days for a quick rinse. Better if it's the end of the day, but either way it helps. A good-sized creek can do as well. no soap.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Washing on the trail... on 06/30/2013 14:48:55 MDT Print View

What works very well:
Mid-afternoon find a lake or creek and jump in. Rinse off some sweat and dirt. No soap of course.
After that try to take it easy until camp to avoid getting too sweaty.

At camp: Pot of water, (warm if I have spare fuel), bandanna & 1 new baby wipe (dried out before the trip), couple drops of liquid soap. Wash from head to feet with the wet bandanna. Wash stinky bits with baby wipe & water.

My hair is short and thin enough that the bandanna and slightly soapy water works fine.

Wife and daughter use the MSR gravity flow water bag with warm water. It seems to take about 2 liters to wash and rinse their hair.

I've found that using "Dry feel" or non-greasy type sunscreen reduces the amount of dirt and grime on my legs vs. traditional sunscreens. Of course long pants and no sunscreen keeps the legs cleanest.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Washing on 06/30/2013 15:57:54 MDT Print View

Standard practice for my wife and myself if near a creek is a brief swim. OK, sometimes that lasts for no more than 5 seconds if the water is snow melt, but it is wondefully refreshing. And yes, we sleep a lot better for a wash.


Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods?" on 07/01/2013 11:11:22 MDT Print View

I've done the wet ones option in a dry camp.

If there's a nearby waterfall or creek, I will clean up in that. A good rinse in cold water is very refreshing. Sand will clean you up well without polluting the water like soap would.

I always have a bandana with me, so even if there isn't a lot of water present, a sponge-bath is always possible.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: How often do you take showers (and deal with hygiene) while in the woods? on 07/01/2013 11:40:39 MDT Print View

I'll clean up with a very small packtowel (MSR Nano). I'll wet it, add a few drops of Dr. B's and start head to toe. Washing up after a sweaty day makes me feel less clammy during the night and my face (sunscreen) and feet (filthy) especially appreciate it. If camping near water, I've setup my gravity filter as high as I can reach on a tree limb that can support it (sometimes you gotta crouch), and strip down to my boxers while standing on a small foam mat. Wonderfully refreshing with cold water!

This has me thinking about making a black nylon bag to put over a platypus and place in the sun. Wonder if it would heat the water enough to have a hot shower and if so, how long?

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
towel baths on 07/01/2013 15:24:42 MDT Print View

Argh. I simply hate going to bed dirty and sweaty, and I very often have my wife along sleeping with me under a double quilt so we always wash up as best we can.

This is one very strong reason why I like a cook pot big enough for a decent towel bath.
A pot of hot water, and wash cloth and some doc Bronners soap goes a very long way to making one feel decent again!

!Towel bath

Cycle touring is worse because with the faster pace I can’t help but sweat quite a bit during the day.
I like to stop at the end of the day and immediately, while still hot from the ride, strip off and jump into the nearest body of water. Doesn’t matter how cold it is.

Recently I spent ten days away from home on a job. I had a company van and for five of those nights I skipped the motel thing and slept in the back of the van out on near-by BLM land.
I had my Trangia 25-3 with me ( cooked most of my meals over the thing ) and found I could fill both pots with water and set ‘em up as a sort of double boiler thing for a real nice wash down at the end of each day using surprisingly little fuel.

The first pot was used with a bit of soap and a wash cloth for a good towel bath and of course the remaining water was poured over me head.
The second pot was for a second all-over rinse down.
The overall effect was about as good as any shower at a motel. Camping out saved about 350 in motels, not to mention the coin saved by cooking most of my meals.

Trangia 25 setup double boiler fashion to heat two pots of water for a proper wash-down.

Trangia double boiler

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
swim, wash clothes, wet ones on 07/01/2013 17:54:54 MDT Print View

I take a swim at camp every day. Its unbelievable how refreshing that is. I have two pairs (of socks, shirts, and underwear). I wash everyday at camp, so I have semi clean clothes each day. I use wet ones to towel off before bed, even if I swam.

For washing clothes, I use a sylnylon stuff sack. Add clothes, add a touch of soap, fill about halfway with water, activate agitation cycle (shake it from side to side vigorously), let dirty soapy water drain. Activate rinse cycle (add clean water, shake like crasy) let water drain off. Spread clothes on rocks to drain and dry.

With that routine I could go a month and not be smelling terribly.

The stuff sack has a shower head, and hung from a tree is a great quickie shower. Being clean is way better than stinking. Plus being stinky and greasy is hard on sleeping bags.