How to manage your hygiene while hiking?

How to manage your hygiene while hiking?

If there is one question that torments the minds of novices, it is to know how we manage our daily hygiene during a hike or a trek. From cleaning your clothes to the crucial question of basic needs, how do you survive several days, even weeks, without a shower or toilet available?

So today it’s decided, I’m raising the (shower hehe) curtain on these existential questions with this hands-on guide to managing your hygiene during your hikes.

The toilet

How to wash without a shower?

After a good day’s walk, I must admit that generally I only expect one thing, to be able to wash myself. I know some people will tell you that they let themselves “dry out” and that 3 days without washing aren’t going to kill you. Maybe not, but I have a modicum of self-esteem and respect for the co-hiker. And frankly, I always managed to wash myself so after all, why do without. I even managed to convince the co-hiker of the benefits of showering with ice water, that nothing is impossible 😉

So how do I actually wash myself?

The basis is to be able to anticipate your bivouac location near a water point, lake or river. In this case, I use the water available on site to clean myself while respecting certain rules so as not to pollute this water.

I never wash directly in water and I don’t use soap. Even Aleppo soap. On the one hand it’s heavy and yes, there I can easily do without it for several days.

My technique is to take water in a container (cup, saucepan, Befree katadyn gourd…), to move away from the banks of the river or the lake, then to wash myself using my essential washcloth!

The washcloth has many benefits. Already, by pouring the water directly on it rather than spraying the body, this limits the fresh and invigorating side of mountain water at 5°C. You yourself know. Then, the friction of the washcloth largely replaces the need for soap. Finally, by proceeding like this we greatly limit the amount of water needed to wash.

I started using this technique during my road trip in central australiawhere dust is omnipresent and water is scarce or even non-existent, and I managed to clean myself completely (hair included) with just a large cup (about 300mL)!

Ecologically speaking, we’re pretty good.

If it’s really hot, or the water isn’t too cold, I use the spout of my Katadyn water bottle to spray myself and refresh myself a good shot, or even my camel back hanging on a tree in shower mode solar. Always away from the water source. It is also very practical for the hair 😊

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For the little trick, I use 2 gloves. One for the body and one for the private parts. And to rinse, you know the refrain… away from the water source.

To dry myself I just use a mini terry towel which sponges well and it’s very good like that.

Same thing for brushing my teeth. I use organic toothpaste tablets, we don’t do better in terms of weight. And above all, I’m careful to spit away from the water, and I clean the toothpaste residue so as not to leave traces.

It all went well, but when you can’t bivouac next to a lake or a water point, what do you do?

Once again, I anticipate when preparing my itinerary. If I see that I will not have water, I make sure to fill my camel back and my water bottles so that I can wash my cat and have enough water for the evening meal and breakfast. .

And in the worst case, I don’t wash. I prefer to reserve water for food and hydration.

lake in the alps

How to wash your clothes?

If you have captured my principle of minimalism, I limit the washing of my clothes as much as I can.

With merino wool products becoming more and more affordable, which limit odors even when sweating a lot, I don’t make a big effort by not washing my clothes every day. As a general rule, I clean my t-shirts every 2 or 3 days, less often for shorts or pants. On the other hand, as I only leave with 2 panties, no choice, there it is daily. I’m not a big fan of “reverse” 😉

In the same way that I do my toilet, I clean my fabrics without soap or detergent, apart from a water point. For drying, either I’m lucky that the weather is nice and so it dries on my backpack while I’m walking (yes, panties hanging on the backpack are very glamorous!) or else… directly on me. It’s cool but it doesn’t matter!

As in general we manage to sleep in a campsite or on the ground every 3-4 days, I take advantage of these moments to do “real” laundry.

tsate laketsate lake


Small and big needs

How come I’m not a princess? Jokes aside, the issue of toilets is on everyone’s mind. And it is rather a good point because it is by reflecting on this subject that we discover the ecological and responsible practices to follow.

Because yes, we can do something natural in nature, but we shouldn’t do anything either. Indeed, several important points must be taken into consideration:

  • the fact that unfortunately for many years, our droppings are no longer as pure as before and contain, among other things, nano plastics, pesticides and other chemical amusements
  • the fact that some regions are very arid with the risk that on the one hand our traces remain visible for a very long time after our passage and that on the other hand we risk setting fires by burning the papers
  • the fact that all the papers used are not equal in this context
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Based on this observation, the basic rules are:

  • never defecate near watercourses.
  • do not defecate in the middle of the trail, in the direct vicinity of a crossing point, next to a picnic area or a hut (it may seem silly to mention it, but if you knew what ‘you can see…).
  • NEVER use wipes. Even though it says biodegradable on it, it’s fake and it’s full of chemicals.
  • avoid paper handkerchiefs which degrade much less quickly than PQ, and favor organic and single-ply paper. The less you use it the faster it will go away. CQFD.
  • always hide the traces of your passage. In the forest you can cover with leaves and branches, in other places you can dig a hole, at least cover everything with large stones. Already, it will prevent other hikers from falling on your exploits but also to prevent animals from falling on them.
  • for paper, if you are in an area that does not fear fires, the best thing is to burn it. In drier areas, again be sure to bury your paper or wedge it under a rock. This will accelerate its degradation but also prevent it from flying away and sticking in the face of future hikers.

Finally, if you have the soul of a true adventurer, you can also decide not to use paper. At all.

Ahah, I can see your disgusted face from here looking at your hands. But rest assured, there are very clean alternatives out there. The first is to use a reusable and washable fabric (a washcloth for example). Again, you will be careful not to wash it directly in the stream. And the second option is to use only water and a towel to wipe yourself.

For women who don’t dare to pee just anywhere, there are “standing piss” of their pretty little name. This charming silicone object makes it easy to urinate, standing up, like a guy, without having to show your hindquarters to wildlife or risk being stung by a curious nettle.
How to manage your hygiene while hiking?How to manage your hygiene while hiking?

Feminine hygiene while hiking

Pee and poo, done. Let’s talk about the rules now. Because hey, unless you’re lucky enough to choose the dates of your cycle (and I don’t know if it’s lucky because it often involves the use of hormones, but I digress), there’s there is still a relatively high probability that you will have your period at least once in your life as a menstruating person, during a hike or a trek.

So, what do we do ? Do we stop hiking and eat crisps in front of the TV? We can.

Or else, we don’t let ourselves be bothered by the English and we find solutions to manage our intimate hygiene 🙂

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It’s going to be pretty quick, because there aren’t that many solutions.

  • If you use tampons or sanitary napkins, the basic is to bring small plastic bags with you to collect them and throw them in a trash can when you find one. Because obviously, it’s common sense, you don’t leave your sanitary protection in nature. We fight enough with cigarette butts and other waste of all kinds, I don’t see why this would be an exception.
  • If you use the cup, you will not empty its contents into a river, but well away and you will cover it with pebbles, leaves etc… And the cup, you can sterilize it with your stove in the evening or in the morning. You don’t have to take the same pan as to eat, you can also provide a dedicated cup.
  • If you use washable briefs, again you will have to wait until you find a sink to clean them. Using the river is not an option unless you clean them well out of the way. Imagine if another hiker fills his water bottle a little lower! As much as this solution can be considered for 1 or 2 days, but beyond that, personally, I don’t think it’s the best solution because it involves bringing a stock of panties and keeping those used in your bag.

As you can see, hygiene management while hiking is not very complicated and does not require an extreme sense of adventure. The main thing is to be well organized, to anticipate your route upstream and to use common sense to respect nature and other hikers. Well, and I admit it, you also have to be comfortable on the subject to talk about it with your teammates. Not going to relieve yourself out of fear or shame to talk about it, it’s silly and above all it can be dangerous.

If you are going in a group or with someone you don’t know too well, I can only advise you to approach the subject from the start, with humor. By defining a code for example when one of you wishes to isolate yourself or to warn if other hikers arrive in the middle of the show. Yeah, because shouting “There are people coming, quickly pull up your panties!” it’s still average. #truestory While an owl imitation, you have to admit that it’s immediately more fun. If you manage to imitate the owl before the hikers arrive, of course 🙂

And you, tell me, how do you manage your hygiene while hiking? Do you have any other tips or anecdotes to share?

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