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Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene

Facilitating the transportation of fecal hitchhikers from your exhaust pipe orifice to your fuel filler neck orifice is one of the biggest backcountry threats. Stop these illegal immigrants en route, because we all know you can't close the border!

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by Ryan Jordan | 2010-08-31 00:00:00-06

Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene


Backcountry travelers have a long list of things to fear. Here are my ten favorites:

  1. Animal attacks by mosquitoes, bears, snakes, ticks, wolves, or locusts.
  2. Drinking water poisoned with giardia, crypto, amoeba, typhoid, or the bird flu.
  3. Running out of toilet paper and having to wipe with snow, rocks, pine cones, or spruce sprigs.
  4. Having to build a fire when it really counts.
  5. Having to push the 911 button on their SPOT because they failed to build a fire when it really counted.
  6. Getting their feet wet, and then having them fall off after a progression of suprahydration, maceration, epidermal separation, fissurization, staphylococcal infestation, gangrene, and rot.
  7. Accidentally leaving something behind, or having to justify to everyone on the Internet (in the lightweight backpacking community, at least) why they can't leave something behind, like their Sling-light, Crocs, Frisbee, iPod, Newcons, or box of E&J.
  8. Hiking with other people.
  9. Hiking solo.
  10. Running out of coffee.

Of course, only #10 is a justified fear.

For the rest of you, you may be fearing the wrong things.

What you should be fearing is facilitating the transportation of fecal hitchhikers from your exhaust pipe orifice to your fuel filler neck orifice.

This article discusses how to stop these illegal immigrants en route, because we all know you can't close the border.

The Relationship Between Hand Sanitation and GI Illnesses

The problem is an age old one: minimize gastrointestinal (GI) illness that results from backcountry activities.

The two most commonly perceived GI illnesses are (1) those acquired by drinking contaminated water, and (2) those acquired as a result of poor hygiene. This article addresses the hygiene issue, and specifically, hand sanitation.

Tod Schimelpfenig, Curriculum Director at the Wilderness Medicine Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), believes that hand sanitation may play a more important role in illness transmission than drinking untreated water. "Hand washing is very important but poorly and infrequently done," says Schimelpfenig. "It's inconvenient and must be a disciplined habit." Over a period of several years, NOLS made intentional changes to their hand sanitation practices and curriculum which resulted in significant reductions in GI illnesses (Leemon and Schimelpfenig, 2003). Currently, NOLS uses alcohol gel hand sanitizers because they are readily available and inexpensive - key decision factors for sizable programs like NOLS.

My own personal experiences are deeply rooted in a desire to keep my hands clean in the wilderness.

When I was an institutional wilderness guide in the 1980s, we cared very little about and had no policies regarding wilderness hygiene. Some of our practices included:

  1. Everyone eating out of the same pot, with the same spoon (to save weight, increase simplicity, and... to improve camaraderie perhaps?!)
  2. Leaving soap out of our kits and believing that simply washing hands and scrubbing vigorously with water was enough.
  3. Never washing cookware, and believing the probable lie propagated by some "lightweight backpacking enthusiasts" that it will sterilize itself the next time you boil water in it.

If these are some of your practices, a careful read of Boulware (2006) might be a wise investment of your time.

What I thought I learned during my years of institutional guiding was that we really needed better water treatment technologies, because almost all of the guides, and many of the students, experienced GI illnesses at some point during or shortly after their treks.

What I really learned, looking back, is that our poor hygiene was probably a far greater contributor to our GI distress than contaminated water, and that specifically, I can look back and be genuinely horrified at our hand sanitation practices.

Upon reviewing much of the research that began to emerge about this topic in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I realized that especially with groups of people sharing cooking and other gear, hand sanitation would be an important part of staying healthy in the wilderness.

Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers

I've been an aficionado of using alcohol-based (EtOH) sanitizers for years, for the same reason that Tod Schimelpfenig stated above: they are cheap and easy to find. However, I've also discovered the nasty unspoken risk of using them: the dehydration of hand skin that leads to cracking. Some companies add moisturizers into these mixes, but I've found them to be marginally effective and to leave greasy residues.

Some ultralight backpackers like EtOH-based sanitizers because they can serve double duty (by disinfecting the skin around wounds for first aid treatment, or as a firestarting aid). However, I never found the weight savings to be worth it, and I've always preferred the more robust disinfecting potential of a sterile alcohol wipe, and more efficacious methods of firestarting using dedicated supplies.

In response to skin cracking, I've tried a number of reactive measures to control it, including hand lotions, Hydropel, those thin fingerless "sun gloves" that saltwater fly fishermen wear, using less sanitizer, and rubbing oils from my own forehead into the skin! I wasn't happy with any of these solutions and instead found myself caught in the vicious downward spiral of pain and discomfort by successively applying stinging alcohol gels to my cracked hands.

In addition, while I was working in the area of biofilm research in the 1990s, we discovered that cracks in the skin served as protective environments for bacterial growth, with the resulting colonies of pathogens remaining more resistant to disinfection than bacteria attached to the outside surfaces of the skin. Dyer et al. (1998) also suggest that the organic-solvent properties of EtOH strip away skin chemicals (e.g., sebum and lipids) that play a role in impeding bacterial infection.

My solution in 2008, after one particularly cold and windy spring trek with bleeding cracks on my hands, was to finally bag alcohol hand sanitizers altogether and simply use soap and water, even if it had to come from my water bottle if I wasn't near a water source.

Alternatives to Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizers

After reviewing a variety of research discussing various hand washing methods, I've reverted back to the time honored practice of good old soap and water. I carry a MiniVial containing highly concentrated castile soap (my favorite is Dr. Bronner's), and always wash my hands after bowel movements and upon arrival into camp prior to preparing the evening meal.

The efficacy of vigorous handwashing with soap relative to other methods cannot be underestimated (Simonne, 2008).

However, sometimes, washing hands with soap and water is simply inconvenient, so I do carry a benzalkonium (BAK) chloride-based hand sanitizer that is easy on the hands and has shown good efficacy in sanitization relative to alcohol-based products (Dyer et al., 1998).

A number of companies market BAK hand sanitizers, but finding them in a form useful for the ultralight backpacker has been problematic, until Adventure Medical Kits' recent introduction of a 0.5 fl. oz. pump bottle. The form factor is small (pocketable), simple to use (just pump to spray, no lids or caps to fiddle with), and lightweight (a full bottle weighs an ounce). The manufacturer claims that the bottle holds "150 Sprays" and that it should be "applied liberally". This latter point is important with any hand sanitizer, be it soap, EtOH, or BAK: if you don't coat and scrub the entire surface of your hands, it's not going to be effective.

In practice, I find that six sprays deliver enough liquid for me to wash the entire surfaces of both hands, which suggests that I can get 150 / 6 = 25 full hand washings out of the bottle. If I wash with soap and water twice a day, and use hand sanitizer 3X / day (my normal routine), then the Adventure Medical Kits 0.5 fl. oz. pump bottle is enough for an eight-day trek for me. Plus, and my wife will agree, my hands aren't "all scratchy" when I come home.


Washing with soap and water is still my preferred method of hand sanitization. It leaves my hands feeling cleaner than with any other method, and science has shown repeatedly that it remains the most effective method. I'd be awfully nervous if I saw my surgeon grab a scalpel after only a quick application of a dollop of EtOH onto the palm of his hand!

While a variety of non-soap (waterless) methods of hand sanitization exist, few of them are accessible or easy to use by wilderness backpackers. EtOH and BAK are the two primary methods available in small, light, and simple to dispense form factors. Between the two, I prefer BAK for its ability to preserve the health of my skin when used over a long period of time, and of the BAK products, I've found the Adventure Medical Kits 0.5 fl. oz. pump spray bottle to be an ideal product that fits in with my own philosophy of "simple, light, and effective."


  • Wilderness Injury, Illness, and Evacuation: National Outdoor Leadership School’s Incident Profiles, 1999–2002, by Drew Leemon and Tod Schimelpfenig, Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 14, (pp. 174-182), 2003.
  • Influence of Hygiene on Gastrointestinal Illness among Wilderness Backpackers, by David R. Boulware. Journal of Travel Medicine, 11:1 (pp. 27-33), 2006.
  • Hand Hygiene and Hand Sanitizers, by Amy Simonne, University of Florida IFAS Extension,
  • Testing a New Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer to Combat Infection, by David L. Dyer, Kenneth B. Gerenraich, and Peter S. Wadhams, AORN Journal, 68:2 (pp. 239-251), 1998.


"Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2010-08-31 00:00:00-06.


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Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene on 08/31/2010 15:54:06 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
ahhhh.... on 08/31/2010 16:41:59 MDT Print View

A satisfying nerdy treatise.

While doing a WFR recert years ago, the instructor was of the opinion that alcohol hand sanitizer's benefits were almost totally psychosomatic. Now it's ubiquitous and I have to go about the world smelling it. Ick.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene on 08/31/2010 19:59:58 MDT Print View

Boulware article

CDC on handwashing

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Poor choice of words on 09/01/2010 00:24:15 MDT Print View

Illegal immigrants as metaphor for fecal matter and bacteria? Really? Thoughtless at best, mean-spirited at worst. Not what I want to see when I am checking in w/ a website about a favorite pastime.

-edited with a better choice of words.

Edited by johnbrown2005 on 09/02/2010 00:32:34 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Soap and water on 09/01/2010 01:30:36 MDT Print View

> I've reverted back to the time honored practice of good old soap and water.

Absolutely 100+%.
If I go to the loo in the bush (happens sometimes ...), I am met on my return by Sue with soap and water waiting. ALWAYS. Never have any problems.


Kathy Hoffman

Locale: Foothills of San Gabriel Mtns.
Been There....Done That on 09/01/2010 02:57:22 MDT Print View

Aaaahhhh....I fell prey to the whole "hand sanitizers kill every germ known to man" fallacy. I used to use it routinely, until I ended up with a horrific rash, cracks, bleeding, and peeling skin that looked like leprosy. The doctor took one look at my hands and without me saying a word, exclaimed, "Use a lot of hand sanitizer, huh?" He then gave me the sage advice that only a seasoned medical professional could give. "Stop doing that."

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
Grammy was right on 09/01/2010 05:52:13 MDT Print View

The older I get, the more this becomes true. It seems that we find scientific studies and reasons why Grammy was right... eating your veggies, eat the skin of the fruit, wash your hands with soap and water.

Good article. I have often tried to convince my hiking buddies that you are at more of a risk of a GI infection from not washing your hands than debating the efficacies of the many water treatment options.


Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
The Smell on 09/01/2010 06:42:29 MDT Print View

Is there such a thing as a good unscented hand sanitizers?
I'm tired of getting bombarded with flying insects soon after application.

Also, I use Kirks Castile soap, it has very little scent, super concentrated and is a lot cheaper than Dr. Bronners?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: The Smell: Unscented on 09/01/2010 08:49:14 MDT Print View

Dr. Bronners does have an unscented version, but it is hard to find.

Edited by greg23 on 09/01/2010 08:53:13 MDT.

David Corbin

Locale: New York
"Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene" on 09/01/2010 08:56:20 MDT Print View

There is no single means of cleaning hands which is a "magic bullet." Efficacy varies depending upon the pathogen and user technique and the sanitizing agent used.

See the references which correspond to the following findings:

1) Compared to rubbing with an antibacterial liquid with a water rinse only, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer was relatively ineffective against norovirus.

2) 62% alcohol foams were only somewhat more effective than water against E. coli, because the time required for dryness often exceeds the recommended 30 seconds resulted in a small amount being used.

3) Alcohol based hand sanitizer was significantly better than soap and water with respect to reduction in levels of fecal streptococci.

4) An alcohol-based hand sanitizer with polyquaternium polymer and organic acid was superior to alcohol sanitzer against enteric viruses.

5) Antimicrobial handwashing agents were the most efficacious in bacterial removal, whereas waterless agents showed variable efficacy. Alcohol-based handrubs compared with other products demonstrated better efficacy after a single episode of hand hygiene than after 10 episodes. Effective hand hygiene for high levels of viral contamination with a nonenveloped virus was best achieved by physical removal with a nonantimicrobial soap or tap water alone.


1) Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Jan;76(2):394-9. Epub 2009 Nov 20.

Effectiveness of liquid soap and hand sanitizer against Norwalk virus on contaminated hands.

Liu P, Yuen Y, Hsiao HM, Jaykus LA, Moe C

Center for Global Safe Water, Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322


Disinfection is an essential measure for interrupting human norovirus (HuNoV) transmission, but it is difficult to evaluate the efficacy of disinfectants due to the absence of a practicable cell culture system for these viruses. The purpose of this study was to screen sodium hypochlorite and ethanol for efficacy against Norwalk virus (NV) and expand the studies to evaluate the efficacy of antibacterial liquid soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer for the inactivation of NV on human finger pads. Samples were tested by real-time reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) both with and without a prior RNase treatment. In suspension assay, sodium hypochlorite concentrations of >or=160 ppm effectively eliminated RT-qPCR detection signal, while ethanol, regardless of concentration, was relatively ineffective, giving at most a 0.5 log(10) reduction in genomic copies of NV cDNA. Using the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard finger pad method and a modification thereof (with rubbing), we observed the greatest reduction in genomic copies of NV cDNA with the antibacterial liquid soap treatment (0.67 to 1.20 log(10) reduction) and water rinse only (0.58 to 1.58 log(10) reduction). The alcohol-based hand sanitizer was relatively ineffective, reducing the genomic copies of NV cDNA by only 0.14 to 0.34 log(10) compared to baseline. Although the concentrations of genomic copies of NV cDNA were consistently lower on finger pad eluates pretreated with RNase compared to those without prior RNase treatment, these differences were not statistically significant. Despite the promise of alcohol-based sanitizers for the control of pathogen transmission, they may be relatively ineffective against the HuNoV, reinforcing the need to develop and evaluate new products against this important group of viruses.

Free full text @
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2) BMC Infect Dis. 2010 Mar 26;10:78.

Efficacy of ethanol-based hand foams using clinically relevant amounts: a cross-over controlled study among healthy volunteers.

Kampf G, Marschall S, Eggerstedt S, Ostermeyer C.

BODE Chemie GmbH, Scientific Affairs, Melanchthonstr, 27, 22525 Hamburg, Germany.


BACKGROUND: Foams containing 62% ethanol are used for hand decontamination in many countries. A long drying time may reduce the compliance of healthcare workers in applying the recommended amount of foam. Therefore, we have investigated the correlation between the applied amount and drying time, and the bactericidal efficacy of ethanol foams.

METHODS: In a first part of tests, four foams (Alcare plus, Avagard Foam, Bode test foam, Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer) containing 62% ethanol, which is commonly used in U.S. hospitals, were applied to 14 volunteers in a total of seven variations, to measure drying times. In a second part of tests, the efficacy of the established amount of foam for a 30 s application time of two foams (Alcare plus, Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer) and water was compared to the EN 1500 standard of 2 x 3 mL applications of 2-propanol 60% (v/v), on hands artificially contaminated with Escherichia coli. Each application used a cross-over design against the reference alcohol with 15 volunteers.

RESULTS: The mean weight of the applied foam varied between 1.78 and 3.09 g, and the mean duration to dryness was between 37 s and 103 s. The correlation between the amount of foam applied and time until hands felt dry was highly significant (p < 0.001; Pearson's correlation coefficient: 0.724; 95% confidence interval: 0.52-0.93). By linear correlation, 1.6 g gave an intercept of a 30 s application time. Application of 1.6 g of Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer (mean log10-reduction: 3.05 +/- 0.45) and Alcare plus (3.58 +/- 0.71) was significantly less effective than the reference disinfection (4.83 +/- 0.89 and 4.60 +/- 0.59, respectively; p < 0.001). Application of 1.6 g of water gave a mean log10-reduction of 2.39 +/- 0.57.

CONCLUSIONS: When using 62% ethanol foams, the time required for dryness often exceeds the recommended 30 s. Therefore, only a small volume is likely to be applied in clinical practice. Small amounts, however, failed to meet the efficacy requirements of EN 1500 and were only somewhat more effective than water.

Free full text @
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3) Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2010 Feb;82(2):270-8.

Efficacy of waterless hand hygiene compared with handwashing with soap: a field study in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Pickering AJ, Boehm AB, Mwanjali M, Davis J

Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, School of Earth Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Effective handwashing with soap requires reliable access to water supplies. However, more than three billion persons do not have household-level access to piped water. This research addresses the challenge of improving hand hygiene within water-constrained environments. The antimicrobial efficacy of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, a waterless hand hygiene product, was evaluated and compared with handwashing with soap and water in field conditions in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Hand sanitizer use by mothers resulted in 0.66 and 0.64 log reductions per hand of Escherichia coli and fecal streptococci, respectively. In comparison, handwashing with soap resulted in 0.50 and 0.25 log reductions per hand of E. coli and fecal streptococci, respectively. Hand sanitizer was significantly better than handwashing with respect to reduction in levels of fecal streptococci (P = 0.01). The feasibility and health impacts of promoting hand sanitizer as an alternative hand hygiene option for water-constrained environments should be assessed.

Free full text @
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4) Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Aug;74(16):5047-52. Epub 2008 Jun 27.

Improved inactivation of nonenveloped enteric viruses and their surrogates by a novel alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Macinga DR, Sattar SA, Jaykus LA, Arbogast JW

GOJO Industries, Inc., One GOJO Plaza, Suite 500, Akron, OH 44311


Norovirus is the leading cause of food-related illness in the United States, and contamination of ready-to-eat items by food handlers poses a high risk for disease. This study reports the in vitro (suspension test) and in vivo (fingerpad protocol) assessments of a new ethanol-based hand sanitizer containing a synergistic blend of polyquaternium polymer and organic acid, which is active against viruses of public health importance, including norovirus. When tested in suspension, the test product reduced the infectivity of the nonenveloped viruses human rotavirus (HRV), poliovirus type 1 (PV-1), and the human norovirus (HNV) surrogates feline calicivirus (FCV) F-9 and murine norovirus type 1 (MNV-1) by greater than 3 log(10) after a 30-s exposure. In contrast, a benchmark alcohol-based hand sanitizer reduced only HRV by greater than 3 log(10) and none of the additional viruses by greater than 1.2 log(10) after the same exposure. In fingerpad experiments, the test product produced a 2.48 log(10) reduction of MNV-1 after a 30-s exposure, whereas a 75% ethanol control produced a 0.91 log(10) reduction. Additionally, the test product reduced the infectivity titers of adenovirus type 5 (ADV-5) and HRV by > or =3.16 log(10) and > or =4.32 log(10), respectively, by the fingerpad assay within 15 s; and PV-1 was reduced by 2.98 log(10) in 30 s by the same method. Based on these results, we conclude that this new ethanol-based hand sanitizer is a promising option for reducing the transmission of enteric viruses, including norovirus, by food handlers and care providers.

Free full text @
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5) Am J Infect Control. 2005 Mar;33(2):67-77

Comparative efficacy of hand hygiene agents in the reduction of bacteria and viruses.

Sickbert-Bennett EE, Weber DJ, Gergen-Teague MF, Sobsey MD, Samsa GP, Rutala WA.

Department of Hospital Epidemiology, University of North Carolina Health Care System, North Carolina, USA.


BACKGROUND: Health care-associated infections most commonly result from person-to-person transmission via the hands of health care workers.

METHODS: We studied the efficacy of hand hygiene agents (n = 14) following 10-second applications to reduce the level of challenge organisms (Serratia marcescens and MS2 bacteriophage) from the hands of healthy volunteers using the ASTM-E-1174-94 test method.

RESULTS: The highest log 10 reductions of S marcescens were achieved with agents containing chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), triclosan, benzethonium chloride, and the controls, tap water alone and nonantimicrobial soap and water (episode 1 of hand hygiene, 1.60-2.01; episode 10, 1.60-3.63). Handwipes but not alcohol-based handrubs were significantly inferior from these agents after a single episode of hand hygiene, but both groups were significantly inferior after 10 episodes. After a single episode of hand hygiene, alcohol/silver iodide, CHG, triclosan, and benzethonium chloride were similar to the controls in reduction of MS2, but, in general, handwipes and alcohol-based handrubs showed significantly lower efficacy. After 10 episodes, only benzethonium chloride (1.33) performed as well as the controls (1.59-1.89) in the reduction of MS2.

CONCLUSIONS: Antimicrobial handwashing agents were the most efficacious in bacterial removal, whereas waterless agents showed variable efficacy. Alcohol-based handrubs compared with other products demonstrated better efficacy after a single episode of hand hygiene than after 10 episodes. Effective hand hygiene for high levels of viral contamination with a nonenveloped virus was best achieved by physical removal with a nonantimicrobial soap or tap water alone.

Abstract and link for full text purchase:

Also see comments on this paper in:

Am J Infect Control. 2005 Sep;33(7):431-4; author reply 436-7.
Am J Infect Control. 2005 Sep;33(7):435-6; author reply 436-7.
Am J Infect Control. 2005 Nov;33(9):558-60.

Am J Infect Control. 2005 Sep;33(7):429-31; author reply 436-7.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: "Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene" on 09/01/2010 09:27:25 MDT Print View

I didn't wade through your post so maybe I missed a point or two...

But... most of this stuff is for clinical settings were crud, dirt, etc. on the hands is not typical. When hands are "soiled", "sanitizers" are of little use until scrubbed clean with soap and water.

Even in clinical settings alcohols are selective, and do not kill things like Clostridium Difficile - but scrubbing with soap and water does.


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: Hand Sanitizers and TP on 09/01/2010 09:29:10 MDT Print View

Regardless of what cleaning media is used, I contend that the use of toilet paper will result in a much higher efficacy than if no toilet paper is used.

Wayne de jong
(wdj) - MLife
Hand Sanitizers for Trekking on 09/01/2010 09:50:52 MDT Print View

Our outfitter for a Kilimanjaro climb carried bleach (a brand used locally to sterilize infant formula bottles) and prepared a dilute solution before meals for the cooking staff and guests to use prior to meal prep and eating. Though it leaves a slight chlorine smell until thoroughly dried, it seems to be an effective and readily available antimicrobial treatment.

(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "Hand Sanitizers: My Journey..." on 09/01/2010 09:52:02 MDT Print View

Ryan - great article. Funny lead in. I once read the introduction of soap saved more children from infection and childhood death in third world countries than any other thing. Then as a paramedic I was taught that hand sanitizers were only good if nothing else was available and to wash your hands as soon as possible after application. So I use Dr. Bronner's when backpacking and when traveling internationally. I even wash my clothes in it when I have to do them by hand.

Again, I love how straight to the point you get.

Marco A. Sánchez
(marcoasn) - M

Locale: The fabulous Pyrenees
Re: Hand Sanitizers on 09/01/2010 10:23:00 MDT Print View

Interesting article. As noted, most stomach illnesses are caused by poor hand hygiene.

Oh! and just in time to boost sales of the Adventure Medical Kits hand sanitizer featured in the Shop :-)

Arthur Forbes
(FNF) - F
Re: Poor choice of words on 09/01/2010 10:27:41 MDT Print View

If you lived on the Mexican border and dealt with the massive problems these people cause you might find that description quite accurate.

Hans Conser
(nucleus) - F
Re: Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene on 09/01/2010 10:35:10 MDT Print View

Ryan, skin that is prone to cracking can be a sign of Vitamin A deficiency, and I wonder if that is a factor for you? Due to my work, I use EtOH sanitizer on my hands 25+ times a day on my hands and I notice no drying or cracking effects at all.

Dr. Hans Conser D.C.

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene" on 09/01/2010 11:16:26 MDT Print View

OK, that's it. Out with the stupid alcohol sanitizer... I've been waiting for this justification. I'll go get some castile bar soaps at Walgreens or something. I'm also sick of liquid soaps which are somewhat expensive considering how fast they run out when you let others in the group use it too. I always liked bar soaps in the shower and on the bathroom sink anyways.

"Illegal immigrants as metaphor for fecal matter and bacteria? Really? Thought Ryan was smarter than that."

I thought it was pretty funny! :D

Edited by edude on 09/01/2010 11:17:54 MDT.

Nathaniel McCartney
(theleafman) - MLife

Locale: Central PA
Mud or Sand as a substitute for soap? on 09/01/2010 13:11:56 MDT Print View

Thanks Ryan for being a voice of reason in the current trend of (over) use of alcohol-based sanitizers. If I've just touched something that is likely to make me ill, I want to remove this contamination from my skin, not just spread it all over both hands and hope that I used enough alcohol to really sterilize everything. While I do carry and use soap, more often than not I instead choose to use a technique my dad taught me when I was a kid- to use mud, sand, clay, or even just dirt with a bit of water to scrub my hands, then rinse them off with a bit of water. I find this technique works really well no matter what kind of crud you're trying to remove. Just how "sterile" a mud scrub can make your hands is up for debate, but my hands definitely feel cleaner using this method vs. using just soap & water. Anyone else out there use the mud scrub method?

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Alternative Disinfectant on 09/01/2010 15:06:03 MDT Print View

Thanks Ryan for this timely posting. I have used the alcohol gels in my potty kit for years with little of the effects you discuss. I think largely because I use my kit perhaps once a day.
However, hand sanitizing is an important issue and I have found a method which work for me. I use the granulated chlorine used for pool disinfection which can be found in any pool supply store, Target or Walmart for regular hand sanitation around camp. Here is what I do:
When I get to camp I haul up about 40oz of water and empty it into a camp bowl I have constructed from a Sea to Summit kitchen sink. The bowl weighs about 3.5oz. I then sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of granulated chlorine into the water and swish it around until dissolved. Then I rinse my hands in the strong solution and set about my camp chores. Before preparing meals I again rinse my hands in the solution and wash with camp soap. After dinner I add more camp soap to the solution and wash my dishes. Then a refill of the bowl with fresh water and more chlorine and a final rinse. The chlorine removes any and all food odors completely and the now clean dishes are bandana dried and set out for the morning. I also use this same water if I have to use my potty kit while in camp. I have been doing this for many years and it has worked to keep me healthy. Incidentally, a stronger solution can be made which is useful in disinfecting medical implements if necessary. I have also used the clean solution to wash my underarms to remove the stink. Works wonders for this application.

Edited by mitchellkeil on 09/02/2010 11:54:38 MDT.

Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Light, simple soap on 09/01/2010 21:12:22 MDT Print View

I love the little Sea to Summit soap wafers. Soapy, convenient, lighter than even the little alcohol bottles. Best option?

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Soap Wafers on 09/02/2010 11:58:58 MDT Print View

Great Idea but how do you keep them dry and prevent them from sticking together into one massive soap block. I have used these traveling and that seems to be the only problem with them. Otherwise, I can see them as being a good addition to the treking kitchen routine.

Evan Garrison
(MrFusion) - F
Perell .5oz bottles! on 09/02/2010 12:13:00 MDT Print View

I found that two .5oz bottles of Perell worked well during my thru-hike of the AT. I kept one in my food bag, and one with my TP. I don't like the idea of fumbling with your water bottle/camelbak after a BM in order to wash your hands...unless you want to wash the outside of your bottle/bite-valve as well.

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Cookware on 09/02/2010 12:35:52 MDT Print View

"#3 Never washing cookware, and believing the probable lie propagated by some "lightweight backpacking enthusiasts" that it will sterilize itself the next time you boil water in it."

Can you please elaborate on this? I wash my cookware regardless (though apparently doing so doesn't really jive with LNT), but why wouldn't boiling water sterilize the cookware?

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
No etoh-based skin problems on 09/02/2010 12:56:21 MDT Print View

Huh. Due to my job I probably use EtOH-based instant hand sanitizer (specifically Purell out of wall-mounted dispensers) fifty or more times a day, and I have no skin problems. In fact I've gotten into the habit of getting a spritz from every dispenser I see whether I'm about to see a patient or not. I wonder if my hospital uses a special formulation or something?

Also, there have been several studies showing that alcohol-based waterless surgical scrub solutions do a better job of killing bugs on hands than soap and water. But, mind you, these hands are pretty clean to begin with. I'd agree that for truly soiled hands soap and water is better.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Hand Sanitizers: on 09/02/2010 13:26:46 MDT Print View

"Anyone else out there use the mud scrub method?"

I do, and use hand sanitizer afterwards. Remember that both the mud and the stream water may be contaminated! But it will scour away most of the grunge from your hands. I've found, though, that getting my hands completely clean involves shampooing my hair at least twice, giving myself a thorough scalp massage each time, in the shower after the trip. Just soap and water and scrub brush don't do the job.

I very much dislike using soap out in the wilderness. Even a tiny amount getting into a water source can kill aquatic life.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Hand Sanitizers: on 09/02/2010 14:39:29 MDT Print View

I seldom if ever use hand sanitizers day to day -- what the heck for? But out on the trail, I carry a half-ounce bottle with me. It's just so light and convenient to use -- as compared to washing with soap and water (yes, water can be scarce here in sunny So Cal and and carrying it is heavy ).

Use the proper tools for the tasks at hand.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene on 09/02/2010 18:43:29 MDT Print View

Good informative report! Thanks.

Glad to see I'm in great company in my use of a mini bottle containing Dr. Bronner's soap. And supplement with wipes that I store in a ZipLoc.


Anyone ever buy the quart size DR B's and explore the writing on the label?

Timothy Murray
(timothymurray) - F
Hand sanitizers on 09/02/2010 22:23:40 MDT Print View

This conversation is ridiculous. Seriously people.

Sharon Moore
(justslm) - MLife
Another Use For Hand Gel on 09/02/2010 23:47:10 MDT Print View

If you aren't sure what to do with your leftover alcohol-based hand sanitizer, it does a great job of getting sap out of nylon hiking clothes. Gets it off your skin, too. But I always feel cleaner using biodegradable soap and water - just stay away from lakes and streams when you use it.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
hmmmm on 09/03/2010 02:10:32 MDT Print View

i'll take the CDC at face value ...

If soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast-acting.

When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

Apply product to the palm of one hand.
Rub hands together.
Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

Will Webster
post-movement hand cleansing on 09/03/2010 06:14:14 MDT Print View

My method: 4 drops of Dr B's from a BPL bottle onto palm; rub palms together; small splash of water; work up a lather; another splash; rub lather all over hands; repeat until soap seems gone; rub in a splash of Everclear 190. All done well away from water supply. I backpack with my wife so one of us always has relatively uncontaminated hands to handle the dropper and water.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: post-movement hand cleansing on 09/03/2010 08:37:12 MDT Print View

Talk about overcomplicating a simple process.

Soap and water...just like our grandparents did it.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Hand Sanitizers on 09/03/2010 09:20:04 MDT Print View

I'm with Craig. The grandparents had a lot of common sense.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Mud or Sand as a substitute for soap? on 09/03/2010 20:18:27 MDT Print View

"Anyone else out there use the mud scrub method?"

That was my standard practice for many years after cleaning fish and then after eating them. It was great for removing fish slime, odors, and fish grease. I also used it after bowel movements, but then washed with soap and water, just to be sure.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Hand Sanitizers: on 09/03/2010 20:21:03 MDT Print View

"I very much dislike using soap out in the wilderness. Even a tiny amount getting into a water source can kill aquatic life."


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: This conversation is ridiculous on 09/03/2010 20:24:07 MDT Print View

"This conversation is ridiculous. Seriously people."

Pretty strong words. Could you maybe be a little more specific about what you find ridiculous?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Live and Let Live on 09/03/2010 22:36:47 MDT Print View

There is NOTHING complicated (or ridiculous) with using soap and water -- or a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer.

Edited by ben2world on 09/03/2010 22:38:31 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Hand Sanitizers on 09/04/2010 01:20:48 MDT Print View

I use the mud/sand method to wash my hands and my food container. I also use a very small dose of hand sanitiser afterwards.
Never use the stuff at home.

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene on 09/04/2010 05:42:40 MDT Print View

Fear No. 8 is my main one.
How dangerous are my own microbes to me?

David T
(DaveT) - F
poor taste. on 09/04/2010 06:25:01 MDT Print View

"Stop these illegal immigrants en route, because we all know you can't close the border!"


Maybe you should have followed up with:

"Keep your dirty hands and your trail GORP apart, just like white women and colored men!"

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: "Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene" on 09/04/2010 14:59:13 MDT Print View

> I'll go get some castile bar soaps at Walgreens or something.

We collect those little packaged soaps you find in motels etc. Much lighter than a full-sized bar, far more convenient than a dropper bottle, and one tiny bar lasts for a year or two in the bush.


Edited by rcaffin on 09/04/2010 16:24:07 MDT.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Yours vs. others' on 09/04/2010 16:27:47 MDT Print View

I'm wondering if clean hands are less important when hiking solo. It seems very possible that your own GI fauna would be less harmful to you that that of others'.

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene on 09/05/2010 00:54:22 MDT Print View

Agreed, Eric. Your system ought to be used to them, although care should be taken as to what gets touched after a visit to the ablutions office. VSO's doctor told a bunch of us new recruits that diarrhoea means you have ingested someone else's faeces.

I also wonder if this and the issue of contaminated water come into sharper focus in hot, dry environments. My suspicion is that British backpackers have traditionally not been too concerned with hygiene and have suffered very little as a result. The Scottish Highlands have been particularly well supplied with cold, clear water this August.

Water near the summit of an excellent Munro

The glens were sodden and even summits such as that of Mullach Fraoch Choire had excellent water sources. I wish its pool hadn't been freshened up quite so frequently during my holiday.

Edited by Bukidnon on 09/05/2010 01:03:38 MDT.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Yours vs. others' on 09/05/2010 08:03:30 MDT Print View

I would agree. Good sources of water harbor few pathogens and probably quite a few of the "I've never gotten anything in the backcountry" reports are from soloists. Hell is other people (or their commensal bacteria)...

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
Re: Yours vs. others' on 09/05/2010 09:12:54 MDT Print View

Couldn't help chuckling, Tohru

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Hand Sanitizers on 09/05/2010 17:46:35 MDT Print View

"Never use the stuff at home."

Mud and sand? Or hand sanitizer?

Simon Wurster
(Einstein) - F

Locale: Big Apple
Re: Hand Sanitizers: My Journey Towards Discovering Best Practices for Wilderness Hygiene on 09/07/2010 12:46:08 MDT Print View

"just like our grandparents did" Ever watch your grandparents wash their hands? It was if they were scrubbing in on surgery. The 21st century quick wet-soap-lather-rinse ain't gonna do nothin' no-how. But if you scrub well like they did...

The BAK-based cleaners have an advantage for me as a contact lens wearer: no alcohol residue (and thus eye burn). No rinsing needed, just rub (scrub?), air dry, then continue as if at home. (I don't have to use any treated water prior to hand-meets-eye, removing that possible source of contamination as well.)

I use the Adventure Medical Kits hand sanitizer, and found that the dispenser can be refilled: take a suitable pair of pliers (I use needle-nose vise-grips) and carefully grasp the bottom plate and rock it off. It'll be scratched a bit, but it'll snap back on without any fuss (and many times too). I use either Soapopular (for backcountry as it's odorless but more expensive), or the Office Max Smart & Silky brand (the one for kids) for day-to-day use (dirt cheap). Even though these brands vary in concentration of BAK from 0.13% (Soapopular) to 0.10% (Smart & Silky), I can tell no difference in efficacy.

Richard DeLong
(Legkohod) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
washing hands solo on 09/09/2010 05:27:34 MDT Print View

My trick for washing hands in the backcountry was developed while solo-hiking the PCT. I suck water into my mouth from my Platypus or water bottle and immediately dribble it out of my mouth onto my hands while rubbing vigorously. No soap. It may sound remarkably anti-hygienic, but it allows for much better rubbing of the hands than if you pour water with one hand onto the other and try to rub and rinse the hands with each hand subsequently pouring water onto the other.

With this method I could cleanse my hands as many times a day as I wished (3-8 times) to keep them feeling clean. I used hand sanitizer only after bowel movements.

I had no GI problems then or since.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Can you infect yourself from fecal matter? on 09/09/2010 10:09:32 MDT Print View

If you're solo then you won't be infecting others

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
BAK for first aid on 09/12/2010 10:59:04 MDT Print View

You don't need alcohol sanitizer for a first aid sterilizer, BAK works fine. That is the active ingredient in Bactine.

If you need lots of sterile wash, overdose some water with purification chemicals (tablets or Aqua Mira) so there is excess sterilizer available.

Also, don't eat with your hands. Be really careful about touching food -- use a clean spoon or knife whenever you can.

FInally, learn to keep your fingers clean. For example, spread on sunscreen and insect repellent with the back of your hand, not your fingers. Don't drop your gear in the dirt so you won't be handling dirty gear. And so on.

Oh, and Dr. Bronners turns into gel in the cold. Not my favorite. I'm a Biosuds guy.

Edited by wunder on 09/12/2010 10:59:51 MDT.

John Murtiashaw
(murda) - F

Locale: Ashvegas and beyond
Where the lab tests at on 09/14/2010 14:15:58 MDT Print View

When I interned at Baxter State Park, I remember the rangers telling us that hand sani only "piXXed off" the bacteria. I use it all the time in tha woods tho, and at music festivals where there's no running water (at least until I can spring for the VIP tix). When I did wilderness therapy, we gave out sani all day but did a solid hand washing every night, but for that you need at least two people and some kind of water jug, a cook pot would work. When the little kids would really screw up at the wag bag I'd make d--- sure soap and water was in play, a bleached nail brush too. Nothing like a chemical reaction to get ya clean n godly.
PS no profanity on the message boards? wtf are we like, 6? if you're old enough to pay with a credit card I don't think you will be offended by some strong words.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Profanity on 09/14/2010 14:41:51 MDT Print View

No, we are not 6. One would expect "potty mouth" behavior from 6 year olds. We are adults, most of us, and as such don't feel the need to sprinkle profanity liberally throughout a post. One can communicate clearly, effectively and with respect for each other without it. When we disagree, which happens often enough on BPL issues, we find a way to do so without making the "other" feel badly. The object here on this site is to learn from each other, teach each other and have fun sharing good times and bad times on the trail with our gear. When we are on the trail I would assume most of us find profanity useful at times. When we are sitting at our computers in our homes or offices writing a post, we exercise a certain level of consideration for the rest of the BPL community not knowing who enjoys a little profanity and who does not.

John Murtiashaw
(murda) - F

Locale: Ashvegas and beyond
slow yo roll on 09/14/2010 16:14:15 MDT Print View

Mitchell!!! Cool down my eloquent homeboy, I wasn't advocating that you cuss up a storm, I just think if I fork over 20 bones for ninety down jacket articles I should be able to say what I please. Now go get your bedford handbook and post a reply.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: slow yo roll on 09/14/2010 16:21:03 MDT Print View

John, you didn't read the terms and conditions that you agreed to when you subscribed here.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Hand Sanitizers: on 09/14/2010 16:37:55 MDT Print View

And there are youngsters reading on these boards. Need to keep it family-friendly!

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Profanity on 09/14/2010 16:42:22 MDT Print View

Last Comment on the subject.

I don't need a Bedford Handbook to reply. I value and treasure the English language and make a practice of using it with skill and style every day -- even in a post.

We get members like you ocassionally. They last a while then drift off to some other interests they may have, or they adjust to our community and get into the spirit of things. I hope you do -- adjust that is. Meanwhile, Bob's comment that you may need to go back and read what you agreed to when you signed up for this site with your "20 bones" is a good suggestion.

mark wuethrich
Cracked hands solution on 01/04/2011 21:11:57 MST Print View

I've had to deal with the cracked hands a lot from crack climbing at T Wall in the winter. Solution: chapstick, blistex worked best for me, just rub it over the cracks and you're good to go

Craig Price
(skeets) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne, Australia
soap vs alcohol hand gel on 07/16/2011 02:22:10 MDT Print View

er, back on topic.

I gather this means that a good soap and water wash is often better. Beauty!

I've often wondered why any of us gram watchers (aren't we all on this site) would even contemplate taking gel instead of just plain simple soap leaves that are readily available at any outdoor shop. As long as you have water to use, it is lighter to take leaves. You get about 50 in a packet, and re-pack, say 10-20 in an XXS snap lock bag for any trip (overnight needs even less) and they weigh almost nothing (the biggest weight is the small pill sized snap lock bag itself, at about 1g)! Now it seems the tech data supports it also, so I can feel relaxed about it at the same time.


Edited by skeets on 07/16/2011 02:25:08 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Soap "leaves" - No thanks on 07/16/2011 09:24:02 MDT Print View

"...plain simple soap leaves that are readily available at any outdoor shop.."

I tried them. I didn't like them.

Getting the first one out is easy. Getting the second one out with wet fingers can result in one drop of water saturating the rest of the "leaves" and solidifying them.

And if you get out several before hand, they are light enough to waft away on a breeze.

If you are doing more than just a hand wash you will go through them fast.

Liquid soap, although heavier, is much easier to dispense, spread, and use.


Edited by greg23 on 07/16/2011 09:42:21 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
BAK on 07/16/2011 10:13:45 MDT Print View

Glad to see this get a mention. I use hospital grade wipes. I'll have to give the spray a try.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: BAK on 07/16/2011 10:37:53 MDT Print View

All quotes from Wiki:

"As with any disinfectant, it is recommended that surfaces are free from visible dirt.", which, I assume means all the crud in cracks and under nails.

"...benzalkonium chloride... Solutions are incompatible with soaps, and must not be mixed with anionic surfactants."

So hands need to be "visibly clean", and if soap is used, well rinsed.

A good product for a "clean" environment, but attention is needed after Day 2 of the trip, IMHO.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Re: BAK on 07/16/2011 11:24:20 MDT Print View

The same is true of alcohol sanitizers, which are also disrupted by soap and diluted by water, as well as being less effective when visible dirt is present.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
BAK causes asthma. on 07/16/2011 11:48:26 MDT Print View

BAK, Benzalkonium Chloride, is a known cause of asthma. That is, it can cause asthma in individuals that did not previously have asthma.

It is also not a safe chemical to use in the presence of asthmatics. It would be an especially bad idea to use it on a group trip; even low concentrations could cause severe problems for sensitized individuals.

Use soap and water.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Hand Sanitizers are Poison on 07/19/2011 07:21:13 MDT Print View

Lets face it, hand sanitizers are poison. They work by killing living organisms, good and bad.

If you put these poisons on your hand and then scratch mucous membranes, nose, eyes, lips, ... you can be causing irritation and killing off good organisms that could be fighting off infection.

Plus, hand sanitizers stink and/or leave some kind of disgusting slime on your hands and they don't really clean very well.

So as you know, a good washing with water is my choice.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Hand Sanitizers are Poison on 07/19/2011 07:27:01 MDT Print View

And chlorine dioxide is a poison too so maybe we should stop using it.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Soap in the Wilderness on 08/16/2011 13:23:53 MDT Print View

So, how harmful is soap rinsed off my hands to the wilderness? I'm a little worried, even if I'm far from water sources, that I'm somehow polluting if I use regular soap bars in the wilderness.


P.S. Adjunct question: is biodegradable "Camp Suds" type soap any better for the environment than everyday soap bars?

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Soap on 08/16/2011 13:40:14 MDT Print View

Camp suds is just soap.
Soap isn't any were near as bad as detergent based hand cleaners and as long as you rinse away from any body of water should be fine.

Soap also has the advantage of cleaning your hands which is more effective than sterilizing with hand sanitizers.

Mark Behringer
(StovieRay) - F
Soap is good! on 11/05/2011 11:00:01 MDT Print View

Soap is a surfactant. It causes the stuff clinging to your skin to let go so it can be rinsed away. Make foam and rinse it and you're clean. I use a cut-down gallon milk jug as a good little sink when I've set up camp. Not recommended for boiling water, though. A little nailbrush is helpful. Dig a small cathole for the used water and remember to stay as far from any water source as possible.

On the trail, alky handwash and/or antimicrobial wipes (unscented, please!) work well. Keep a spare plastic bag to drop the used wipes into - the hand wipes, not the ones for the other end. (Although if you can't burn your TP at the moment you could pack it along until you get the chance. I prefer to drop a match into the cathole. There are some odors that NEVER come out of a backpack - please, don't ask.)

I can't remember where I saw it, maybe in 'Father' Jardine's writings, but someone cut down a bar of Ivory soap and calls it their 'Ivo' bar. Light, cheap and efficient. I've also seen an article about using a food processor to shred bar soap and mixing it with water to make a liquid soap.

I carry a one or two ounce Nalgene HDPE bottle full of Dr, Bronner's Peppermint. In hot water and applied with a bandanna or washcloth, it helps soothe sore muscles at the end of the day. I also keep a small bottle of Listerine (or the cheaper store brand) in the first aid kit since that kills everything it touches, even athletes foot. Use it to cleanse an area before you put on a bandage or moleskin. Or kill morning mouth.

I've tried the Sea to Summit soap slices and they work OK but they're pricy and a little water in the package makes a mess. I might try going at my Ivo bar with a carrot peeler!

Anybody remember CampSuds? That worked well but I haven't seen it in a while.

Anyway, this is an excellent article (and website)and the comments are by and large very good. Swearing is what I do when I am too lazy or angry to think of better words. Some a**hole told me that a long time ago...probably my dad.

I agree that the illegal immigrant metaphor is lame. Maybe you could have used something along the lines of "cleaning the knife you've used to fillet a brookie before spreading peanut butter on a bagel the next morning". Again, please don't ask...

Hope to see you all on the trails soon,