How To Maintain Personal Hygiene While Backpacking

Maintaining good personal hygiene while on the trail can be a bit tough at times due to a lack of running hot water and the luxury of a private area. Here are some overall useful tips for keeping up with hygiene and making sure your body is in top notch condition while spending extended time in the backcountry whether it be for a weekend camping trip, multi-week backpacking adventure, or long trail thru-hike.

Change Your Underwear

Ideally, you want to carry two pairs of underwear that you can switch between. This means you can wash one of the pairs, let them dry, and switch over to the clean pair the next day. Make sure you are switching your underwear routinely.

Carry Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is a compact and lightweight way to keep your hands clean when on the trail. Sanitizer can be used to disinfect eating utensils as well. Ditch the deodorant because let's face it, hikers smell. It’s a fact. Leave the flower-scented deodorant at home. The reason why deodorant is a bad idea to bring in the woods, is because the sweet scent attracts bugs and other wildlife, including bears. Embrace your stink.

Use Biodegradable Products

When in the woods, the phosphates in soap can promote algae blooms in lakes and streams, making them a dangerous option to choose when washing your hands on a backpacking or hiking trip. Invest in a bottle of biodegradable soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s and Campsuds to be sure that you aren’t harming the environment. As always, be sure that you wash your hands and body at least 200 feet from any water source at all times.


Your feet are the most important part of any hike you go on, so you want to keep them clean as possible so that you don’t catch something itchy or fungus-y.

How To Do Your Laundry

Step 1. Fill the bag half way with lukewarm water.

Step 2. Add your clothing items and detergent and shake the bag vigorously.

Step 4. Dispose of your used water at least 200 feet away from any water source.

Step 5. Refill the bag with clean water and shake it more.

Step 6. Wring the clothing items out thoroughly and hang them somewhere to dry.

How To Bathe

Bathing on trail really just means taking a water-less shower to get the dirt off your body as much as possible. There are three legitimate options for taking a shower while on trail.

River Bathing

If it is hot out, taking a river or lake bath is an excellent option to cool off and clean up after a day of hiking. Be sure that you are far enough from where other hikers collect water, camp, or fish, and never use any soap.

Trail Showers

Another option to get clean is by taking what’s referred to as a trail shower. Start by stripping down and washing your body with biodegradable soap, a bandana or washcloth, and a few liters of water.

Sponge Bathing

Take off your clothes and squirt a tiny amount of biodegradable soap on a bandana or camp towel, with a splash of water.

How To Deal With Your Period

If you have your period while on trail, there are a few options to choose from. The most eco-friendly option for dealing with periods on the trail is to use a menstrual cup, preferably the washable, silicone kind. These cups must be emptied out properly and regularly. Another option is to carry disposable products, such as pads and tampons.

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