One of the most difficult things to manage while on a trip in the outdoors is personal hygiene. Whether you’re at an established camping facility complete with running water or you’re truly roughing it miles away from the nearest person, keeping clean is often a struggle. Without the modern conveniences we’ve become so accustomed to, keeping up with the bacteria, dirt, and grime that seem to be so fond of our skin and hair is a constant challenge. But with these simple tricks and a few small items, you can keep yourself relatively clean, healthy, and odor-free in the outdoors.
1. Swab yourself. It takes more than a daily rinse to keep bacteria and general grubbiness at bay when you’re on a camping trip. Often, you might find yourself completely filthy without access to running water. This predicament is partially solved with a bag of cotton balls and some hydrogen peroxide. Simply wet the cotton balls with it, and give yourself a swab on areas of high bacteria growth – the face, armpits, feet, and groin. Though far from a full cleaning, it will keep you from scaring fellow campers and wildlife due to stench.
2. Carry hand sanitizer. Though personal sanitizing products have suffered some backlash from immune system proponents in recent years, they certainly have their place in the outdoors. Before you reach for that bag of chips or begin preparing your camping party’s next meal, use a generous dollop of hand sanitizer to prevent potentially harmful bacteria from being ingested. Nasty hands are sometimes tolerable, but sickness on the campsite is simply no fun.
3. Go au natural for bathing. If you don’t have access to running water, taking a dip in a river or stream with a travel size bottle of soap is the next best thing. Be careful not to bathe in stagnant water, however, as bacteria tends to congregate where current is lacking.
4. Don’t re-wear clothes. As tempting as it might be to pack as light as possible, be sure to bring enough clothing to last the duration of your trip. It might be a pain carrying the extra luggage into the woods, but being able to put on fresh clothes in the morning is well worth it. At the very least, consider bringing some extra pairs of socks and underwear.
5. Bring a small shovel. How will a shovel help keep you and your campsite clean? Two words: bathroom breaks. When you’re deep in the woods without a restroom nearby, it takes some extra effort to take care of business in a hygienic way. The general rule is to dig a new latrine each time, and cover the hole with dirt when you’re finished. Also, keep it at least a football field’s distance from your campsite.
In reality, the principles of staying clean and hygienic while camping are pretty simple. The hard part is sticking to them – especially when you’re dog tired after a full day of outdoor activities. But for your own sake and the sake of those who might catch a whiff of you, make your hygienic practices in the outdoors a force of habit; something you do automatically.