Six Tips for Backpacking Hygiene

If you haven’t backpacked before or wondered how people stay clean on the trail without running water, here are a few helpful tips.

1. Follow Leave No Trace principles

The only sustainable method to keep long-distance hiking trails open for the foreseeable futures is by following the guidelines that Leave No Trace presents to all people who venture into the backcountry. The two highlights from LNT regarding hygiene are:

 – Please distance yourself (200-plus feet) between water sources, shelters, tents, and the trail when you go to the bathroom.

 – Pack out toilet paper, wet wipes, and other hygiene products.

2. Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands with water away from water sources

After the bathroom, before meals, and before you get in your tent to sleep are all great times to clean up. Frequently clean your hands to avoid potential illnesses that can keep you off trail and sick in town for multiple days instead of hiking through the woods with your trail family.

3. Pound it! Fist bumps are encouraged instead of handshakes when you meet new friends on trail

This is an important step to avoid norovirus when you come in contact with people throughout the day.

4. Wet wipes are your friend

For your bum and your feet, wet wipes will keep you clean from infection, blisters, trench foot, and additional chafing. Remember that wet wipes are not considered LNT, even the biodegradable ones. If you use these, you need to pack them out.

5. Carry a trowel. They don’t weight much and sticks are tough to make work

Try digging a six- to eight-inch cathole with a stick… OK, stop. It didn’t work this time, and it definitely won’t work when you are about to go in the woods and frantically try to dig the hole in the rain. Carry a dang trowel.

6. Wash your cooking equipment and utensils when you go into town

Get that sweet sweet ramen, instant mashed potatoes, and any other random concoctions you’ve made along the way in your pot and rinse it out with soap and water on a zero or nero day.

If you have more hygiene tips, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Stay clean and hike happy.

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Comments 3

  • Peggy R. AYERS : Mar 8th

    One damp washcloth with soap in a baggie. Good for the face. One extra of baggie for damp items. Baking soda for skin, teeth, injury, feet.

  • Glenn : Mar 9th

    Use wet wipes to clean the big five every night. Face, hands, arm pits, groin and feet.


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