Keep It Clean, Please

Out of all the things to worry about on a thru-hike, there is one major one that I can’t get out of my mind.  It’s the issue of personal hygiene. How do I stay clean? Please, help me.

Getting Dirty

Don’t get me wrong. I love to get down and dirty. Give me mud, give me grime, give me sweat, but give me a shower at the end of the day.  Bathing is one of my favorite rituals. I like to watch a hard day’s work wash off down the drain. I like clean and soft hair. I like to apply seven different concoctions to my face.  And I like to smell lovely.

I have three major areas of concern: my crazy unruly curly hair, my sensitive skin, and my stank ass feet.

Baby Wipes?!

What I’m finding is, it’s hard to find a complete and honest answer out there.  Everyone says, “Oh you’ll adjust”; “Oh, you get used to it”; “Oh, don’t worry about that!”  But will I? I do worry! I’ve done a few weeks in the backcountry, but it was summer in the Smokies, and we did a lot of swimming.  

What’s the best method? Is it really baby wipes?  I’m thinking I’ll braid my hair? Maybe I need to start using Dr. Bronner’s on my skin now.  Should I bring pumice for my feet?  But my base weight!! 

Help This Girl

I would love to hear the nitty-gritty of what worked to stay clean for the days in between town and hostels.  Help me prevent accidental dreadlocks!

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Comments 5

  • joanne m alvarez : Nov 18th

    I used 2 wipes a day before bed: Wet Ones Wipes for Hands & Face, 20 Count Travel Pack. Maybe considered woosy, but I slept much better that way! I hiked with my pup so needed to send a resupply box for his supplies so just included a pack. Enjoy!

  • Rachel Lee : Nov 18th

    I have insane curls that like to turn in to one giant dread if I go one night without combing/brushing it. When I was on the Long Trail last year, I did carry a cheap-o comb that I cut in half for the hard knots but mainly I wore my hair in pigtails every day and then at night, took them out of the pig tails, gave them a quick comb, and then put it in one giant braid to sleep in so I would not wake up to a rat’s nest. Also — I carried baby wipes. I, too, am a ritualistic shower taker and I will tell ya now – the best thing at the end of the day was wiping my face & privates down. I did not bother with my body, just the two most essential places. It also helped to have them for when I was on my period — it made me feel much more sanitary than I would have otherwise.

  • Vince P : Nov 18th

    I wash my entire body twice with a Norwex cloth at the end of everyday. If you rinse it out after use and hang it to dry after, it does a great job. Very light weight also. Some type of body lotion also helps. Good luck in your journey.
    Vince aka The Dude, SOBO, AT, ’16-’18, TBD

  • Mike S : Nov 18th

    Keep your feet dry. If they stink, that’s someone else’ problem.
    Stuff your shoes with newsprint/newspaper every night.
    It will keep your shoes dry.
    You can reuse the paper several times, before it becomes fuel or
    used another way.

    Get a buzz cut. You’ll spend 0 minutes a day fixing your hair.

    Bacteria wipes for your hands.
    Clean, potable water and a wash cloth for everything else.

    You might not think these are great ideas, but remember what Hanz and Franz said,
    “Hear me now, believe me later.”

  • Carolyn Walker : Nov 19th

    My husband Pepperpot and I thru-hiked NOBO in 2018, with a mid-February start and an early August finish. I found that in really cold weather, my primary focus was just getting warm at the end of the day, and since I didn’t sweat that much during the cold days, I didn’t feel that dirty. When it was wet (frequently), I just wanted to get dry at the end of the day, and wiping off my already wet skin with my bandanna was good enough. When it finally warmed up and I was sweaty at the end of the day, I would wipe off with my wet bandanna, rinse & wring it out and let it dry the next day on the outside of my pack. On the trail, no soap, no shampoo, we had ditched the Bonner’s in the first couple of weeks for weight. Don’t get me wrong, it was heaven to take a shower (even in the crummiest bathroom!) and wash clothes when in town; but being clean was not my focus on the trail. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t even wipe himself off, always slept in his damp sweaty hiking clothes, and was completely content.
    Read all you can about the AT, watch vids from previous hikers, think about the friends you’ll make, and try not to worry too much about not smelling “lovely” all the time. If you can embrace becoming true hiker trash, you will come to embrace the natural, non-chemical smell, of a real thru-hiker. Good Luck!
    Lucky 59, NOBO ’18


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