Any serious camper or backpacker knows that spending time in the woods can take a toll on their grooming. Quite often, personal hygiene goes out the window, which results in long smelly nights and sometimes gut-wrenching illnesses.
Maybe you have found yourself there too – instead of packing up enough Y’s you just bring one or two and rotate them every day or just brush off dirt from fruits with the edge of your t-shirt instead of actually cleaning them.
Sure, camping is all about compromising but thinking little of your cleanliness will pave the way for viruses, bacteria, and other nasties. Your personal health and comfort and the wellbeing of your tent mates will be at stake if you don’t practice proper camping hygiene.
So we have figured out some simple camping essentials that will keep you feeling, smelling, and looking great in the wild, without adding too much weight to your backpack. We are also providing you with tips to do this in an easy and environmentally friendly way.
“Dude, you stink!” is a common phrase on the third day of backpacking. Campers find taking a shower in the woods being too much hassle because first sometimes the weather is just too cold, and second, there might not be that much water to waste on a bath. They will therefore go for days without a shower.
But seriously, it doesn’t have to be like this. There are showers designed for camping that can make your backcountry experience less intimidating. In fact, some are even operated on batteries or solar power so you can have your shower hot if you like.
Unless you want to be drilling holes in a plastic bag to make a paper shower, which is very daunting by the way, investing in a camp shower will make things very easy for you. If you have set up your tent at a place that has a good supply of water, the better because it is unlikely that you will run out of water.
2. Camping Hygiene Essentials
Basic hygiene kit: No matter how long or short your trip is, some items should never miss in your pack. Talk of shampoos, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, and feminine hygiene products – these and similar must-haves should be the first items you stash in your backpack.
Quick rinse: If your trip will only take a day, you really don’t need to bring a shower. You can substitute this with camping wipes. After the adventure, just splash your face and hair with water and dry it up with a towel.
Hand sanitizers: Bring as many of these as you can. They will help you wipe away dirt and serve as a substitute for water and soap after answering a call of nature in the woods.
Fresh clothes: These will come in handy especially if you won’t be cleaning your clothes quite often while out there. You want to feel fresh after a long day of hiking in the dirt and dust so pack up as many fresh clothes as you can.
3. Inside The Tent
Where you spend the night outdoors must be clean, as this will determine how peaceful your sleep will be.
Camping blanket: A camping blanket is an essential tool when it comes to backpacking hygiene. It provides something to sit on so you don’t collect dirt with your clothes and when laid underneath your sleeping bag, it prevents it from catching dirt and bugs from the ground.
No deodorant: Leave deodorants and other strongly scented body care products at home. Strong scents are known to attract bears and other nocturnal animals that come to feast on your food while you sleep. Plus these will just occupy unnecessary space in your bag. And hey, chances are good that everyone else in the woods will be stinking anyway!
Go hammock: If you know how to sleep properly in a hammock, you can consider packing it for the trip instead of a tent. Hanging from a tree is literally more hygienic than sleeping under it, so hammocking will be a better and cleaner option for spending the nights outdoors. Since you will be away from the ground, there will be less dirt collected than when sleeping on it. Feel like something you can consider? Then take a look at our hammock camping tips before you set out for your next trip.
4. Doing “Your Business” In The Woods
One of the things that many first time campers are afraid of is answering the call of nature while in the wild. Okay, peeing in the bush isn’t an issue for many people; the one that gets a little problematic is that other one (if you know, you just know).
The easiest and most hygienic way to go about this is buying a camp toilet. These are lightweight and can be used by tent and car campers.
If you are backpacking, however, and don’t have enough space for a camping toilet, then you may want to consider other ways to poo in the woods. These will include packing a poop tube, burying your waste, or even packing it in your bag, yup!
But even before you go, read and understand the local regulations to find out how to keep the environment clean. This will guide you into determining the best and cleanest way to pee or poo in the woods and what you should bring along for the same.
5. Cooking And Eating
Careful food preparation, serving, and storage will go a long way in maintaining proper camping hygiene. Here are a few things to remember when handling food in your camping kitchen:
- If you have open wounds on your hands, don’t participate in food preparation or serving or handling of any clean dishes. Let others help you with the job.
- Keep your food covered to prevent flies and disease-causing bacteria from contaminating it.
- If you don’t have a lunch cooler or backpack cooler for food storage, consider bringing foods that don’t need cold storage or use such foods on your first day of the trip.
- Store all foods in sealed containers to prevent smells from attracting animals to your tent and contaminating your food. Camping and backpacking food storage essentials like bear canisters offer great options for keeping your food safe and hygienic.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables with plenty of water before preparation and store them in a clean container.
- Bring drinking water from home. Make sure any water you drink outdoors is boiled or purified.
- Unless you have a cooler to keep your food chilled, carefully dispose of any leftovers as these can breed disease-causing microorganisms.
- Before handling food items, clean your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap. Remember, when camping, you may be in contact with animals and soil, and washing your hands before any food prepping or serving will ensure that no dirt is transmitted to the food.
- Wash and rinse your camping utensils If possible, use hot water and detergent to remove oils from the dishes. Just make sure any soap you use for the cleaning is biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
6. Feminine Hygiene
Camping on a period is the last thing any woman wants to do. Unfortunately, these are events that can’t be avoided and the only thing one can do is prepare for them. If you plan properly and bring the right gear, a period will be no big deal.
There are two options you should consider when deciding on what to pack for your Aunt Flo – menstrual cups versus tampons. Ideally, you should go for what works for you best and what you feel more comfortable in.
Menstrual cups are lightweight and could be something to consider but then given the fact that you might not have access to hot water and soap to clean them, the situation gets a little tricky. Nevertheless, a hand sanitizer can be a viable alternative for cleaning.
Apart from being lightweight, menstrual cups are environmentally friendly too. Unlike tampons, which you have to get rid of after use, the former can be used and reused. But as we just said, it all depends on preference and what will make your trip more comfortable. To be safe, it would be better to pack what you use normally.
We advise women going camping to have their feminine hygiene supplies in their camping hygiene kit all the time so they don’t panic when Aunt Flo comes knocking on the trail.
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To some, camping hygiene sounds and feels impossible. But if you know how to plan and prepare for it, staying groomed outdoors is quite easy.
The tips we have discussed above will help you take shower in the woods, answer your call of nature responsibly, prepare and serve clean food, and do so much more in the wilderness. You really don’t want to stink while out there, neither do you want to bring home infections. So think about how you will stay clean before packing for your camping trip.
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