Dirt, Bugs and Sweat: Keeping Your Body Clean While Camping, Backpacking and Hiking

Heading outdoors for a relaxing camping and hiking getaway sounds like a great idea to many people: get back to nature, leave the hustle and bustle of civilization behind, explore new places.

But the great outdoors, in all its glory, can get pretty messy sometimes.

Dirt, bugs, sweat and, ahem, bodily functions can be a real nuisance when you are trying to have a good time camping or hiking. Grit and grime can work their way into clothing and onto your body, causing discomfort or more potentially serious problems like rashes. When you decide to head outdoors, take a minute to make sure that you are prepared to stay clean and worry-free.


Flickr Creative Commons License 2.0 – Franck Michel

Stock Up on Small Bottles

A bevy of small, easily carried bottles can save you a lot of time getting and staying clean. Many household products that you use every day — soap, sanitizer, shampoo, rubbing alcohol — are available in portable containers than you can stuff right into your backpack or pockets.

Soap and sanitizer are the two most important items to carry. Quick, intermittent doses of sanitizer before you snack or after you go to the bathroom will kill bacteria that can make you sick. Soap will help keep your hands and body parts free of dirt that can cause chafing or other irritations that will make you uncomfortable.

Rubbing alcohol not only serves as an antimicrobial for small cuts and burns, but you can also wash with it: put a little bit on a cotton ball and watch all the dirt that comes off of you after a long day’s hike.

Just remember to use biodegradable sanitizers and soaps whenever you can.

Going to the Bathroom

Even if you are only in the woods for a little while, chances are that you or one of your companions will need to go to the bathroom. If you’re not prepared — or not sure how to go about it — this could lead to an awkward situation.

Firstly, you should know the proper way to go to the bathroom in the wilderness. If there is a campground with facilities nearby, use them. If not, then you’ll have to rough it.

For urination, you may go wherever you are comfortable, but away from any trails or camping areas. For other business, make sure you are at least 200 feet away from all water sources. Dig a hole four to six inches deep and then bury it when you are finished. Make sure to clean yourself well with toilet paper, because you could get a serious rash. There are also portable bidets available that can make sure you are as clean as possible.

Personal Hygiene

If you are going to stay clean while you are in the wilderness, then you need to pack properly. Soaps are important to staying clean, but so is your wardrobe.

Many hikers will change their clothes after setting up camp each night. This is a good practice because it not only removes sweat and dirt, but it also give you a chance to freshen up with soap or alcohol. If you choose not to change once you arrive at camp, at least change before you go to bed. Sleeping in dirty clothes is a sure-fire way to get a rash.

For short trips, you may only need to change once or, if it comes down to it, not at all. For longer trips, however, it is important to bring extra clothes. After you change, hang your old clothes on a line or some branches to air them out in case you need to wear them again.

Bug Bites

Staying clean is the first defense against insects. Not only should you keep yourself clean, you should keep your campsite free of trash and food waste, as these will undoubtedly attract ants, bees, mosquitoes and other pests that may bite.

Avoid scented fragrances if possible and wear long sleeves and pants if the weather isn’t too hot. Insects thrive in warm, wet, grassy areas, so steer clear of any marshes or swamps that may harbor unwanted pests.

Mosquito macro shot
Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

If you are bitten or stung, check to see if there is a stinger left behind and remove it. Make sure to wash the affected area with soapy water. Always monitor the victim afterward: if they show signs of nausea or dizziness, then they should get medical attention as soon as possible.

Camping and hiking can be a great way to unwind from the everyday world, but staying clean will help you enjoy it even more!

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. says: April Yap

    I really appreciated how Keeping Your Body Clean While Camping, Backpacking and Hiking. thanks for this it is so useful.

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *