Caring For Tats, Dreads, And Piercings On The Trail

I’m sorry I’ve been a little AWOL. The last two weeks have been a little time  and energy consuming. It’s been so cold here in Michigan that my 25-year-old car decided to up and stop working. Then I found two just-hatched baby crested geckos at a pet store that were being incredibly poorly cared for and extremely malnourished. Of course, me having a super soft spot for reptiles, I got them and tried to save them. Unfortunately both of them died. I’m pretty torn up about it…. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Anyway, between these problems, intense writer’s block, and my keyboard’s space bar giving out, I wasn’t really in the mood to write. But with excuses over with, let’s talk about today’s topic!

Why Does This Matter?

In reality? It probably isn’t something you really need to think or worry about, particularly for those unadorned folk. For those of you with some body modifications, it might be something you hadn’t thought of, though, and it could save you some trouble while trekking in the snow and sand. In this post I will be covering how to care for your tattoos, piercings, and other mods while out on the trail.


This whole thought process started when I kept losing my stone 00-gauge earrings in bed when I slept. I had always managed to find them, but it was often after I had noticed several hours later that I was missing an earring.

I had started to wonder what would happen if I lost an earring on the trail. It could be in my sleeping bag or in my tent. Or in a shirt or lost. And that’s something I really don’t want to worry about. I began to think about all my piercings and how I could prevent losing them on trail, especially when losing a piece of jewelry could potentially mean losing the piercing it occupies.

My solution? Switch everything to metal. I have a few pieces of jewelry that are plastic or have plastic balls in them. This is probably not a good idea since plastic is particularly prone to chipping and breaking. This is made worse by the fact that UV radiation degrades plastic at a faster rate than it normally does, so it will be even more likely to break after weeks in the sun. By switching to all-metal jewelry, you are much less likely to lose it. Tighten every thing once in a while, and you are good to go!
My gauges I am switching to a pair of metal tunnels that have a very large flair and screw on in the back, so there is no way those are coming out of my ears. The only piece I am not changing to metal is my silicone nose screw. It is so soft and comfy that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to metal in my nose. Don’t forget that backup jewelry is super light and can go in your first aid kit, no problem. Just remember that you don’t need a backup for every piercing.


Tattooing is nothing short of amazing. A talented artist gets to take a needle and painstakingly create a piece of art on you that you then get to proudly show off forever. You become a canvas, a veritable art installation. I love tattoos. Unfortunately, the sun and tattoos don’t get along. Over time the sun can damage the ink in your tattoo, making it dull and blurry.

Luckily some snazzy science people invented this awesome concoction called sunscreen and it is capable of reflecting some of the UV radiation that damages the pigment in your fancy flying pig-in-a-blanket tattoo. Just remember to apply often and liberally to keep that tat looking sharp.

You have another line of defense against the sun’s marauding rays, though, and that is clothing. I am lucky enough to have most of my tattoos where clothes can cover them. The only exception is the large piece I have on my thigh that shorts won’t totally cover, and the one on my wrist, to which I will apply the ‘sunscreen’ method. Here is where UPF-rated clothes come in! Try to get clothes that are rated UPF 50, and these will keep you covered (literally) so that the sun can’t damage your lovely ink.
They even make sleeves and bands that are made specifically to go over tattooed arms and legs that are UPF rated if you have a really expensive piece that you want to keep intact. That way you don’t have to watch in horror as your full-sleeve masterpiece burns (literally) before your eyes.


So I throw this in for one main reason: I have dreads. Dreadlocks as a whole are pretty low maintenance. Wash them. Dry them. Maybe deal with the loose hairs when they get annoying. And that’s about it. Now this plan won’t really change on the trail, except for maybe shaking them out to try to keep the sand from working its way into the middle of a dread. I plan to bring several extra-large hair ties since the normal ones break when I try to use them, but that’s about it. Hooray low-maintenance hair!
I hope this may have got you thinking about what you’ll do with your body mods while on trail! Check back next week for a new post, I promise!
Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?