Hiking and hygiene: how to stay clean and comfortable?

Even if the water is a bit cool, dipping in for a quick swim can ve very refreshing.

When I first contemplated hiking and especially sleeping in a tent, I was really sceptical about comfort and hygiene. No shower, no bathroom, that’s not for me. Well, it turns out that actually it’s not such a big deal and with some simple skills you will feel just fine. 

Here are some tips that will make you much more comfortable in the woods: 

Hand sanitizer

One thing you should take with you is hand sanitizer gel. They come in small bottles so you can keep it in your pocket so that it’s easy to reach.

Use it before you eat something, after a bathroom break, before brushing your teeth or going to sleep in your sleeping bag so that your hands are clean if you touch your face at night.

Time and again, sanitize the sanitizer gel bottle itself 😉

Use interdental brushes instead of dental floss

If using dental floss can feel a bit uncomfortable when hiking then try interdental brushes instead. Of course, clean your hands with hand sanitizer before you use them. Take the used brushes with you and throw them away when you’re back in civilization. 

Leave some warm water in your thermos bottle for the morning

Hiker on beach with hiking stove and thermos bottle

It makes sense to leave some hot water in your thermos bottle for the night so you have warm water in the morning for brushing your teeth and washing your face. It feels really good, so give it a try next time. 

Yes, you can wash yourself outdoors

You don’t actually need a ton of water to wash yourself outdoors. Boil or heat some water and mix it with cold water and you can wash yourself quite easily.

Of course, you have to start from washing your face and move to more bacteria prone areas the last.

Use soap that is ecologically safe and wash yourself away from water sources and campsites so that you won’t contaminate them. 

Use ecologically safe soap

Regular soap and shampoo should not be used while hiking. Instead buy soap that is ecologically safe. Hiking stores sell cleaning products you can use for both washing your body and your dishes.

In most cases you can keep your body clean without any chemicals. 

In the summer, bring swimwear

In the summer and while hiking near lakes, rivers, the sea or the ocean – you can go for a swim which will also freshen up your body.

If the water is cold, dip in just once or twice to feel refreshed. 

Wash your socks, underwear and shirt

You can wear the same pair of hiking pants for a week or two easily but you should bring an extra pair of underwear, socks and a shirt and wash them.

Hiking socks might not need washing every day, underwear and shirts should.

Wash them using water or ecologically safe products and dry them out on your pack during the day. 

Take a small trowel

Trowel for digging catholes when hiking

Going to the bathroom in the outdoors is not a problem. You should however bring a small trowel with you to make sure that solid waste is disposed of at least 15-20 cm deep and covered properly. Do that well away from campsites and water sources. 

Pack out tissues, toilet paper and hygiene products

You should never leave any tissues, toilet paper or hygiene products in the nature. Even if you leave them well away from campsites, the wind or animals can carry them back to the trail or it might actually be harmful to the wildlife.

The best option is to bring two plastic bags to store used toilet paper, tissues or hygiene products to prevent the bag ripping and contaminating your backpack and dispose of the waste when you’re back in the city. 

If you don’t pack out your used toilet paper, at least make sure to bury it in the cathole.

Use dry shampoo or keep some in the car

Not washing your hair for a couple of days can be annoying but it’s not terribly uncomfortable. One way to manage – is by using dry shampoo.

Some female hikers keep a bottle of it in their car so they can spray it on when they are on their way back to civilisation.

Layered clothing

You’ll feel much better if you avoid getting too hot in the first place. Layered clothing is the key to staying safe and comfortable in the outdoors. I just happen to have a post that explains the concept of layered clothing which I hope you will find useful.

City clothes can also be pretty unpractical in terms of breathability and making sure you’re feeling great throughout your hike. I have a separate blog post about why you need special hiking clothes to be safe and comfortable in the outdoors.

And if you need help with your shopping, here’s a complete list of all the clothes you need to go hiking. I hope that will help you make sensible decisions and avoid buying things you probably end up not using during your hikes.

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