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December 2000

Backcountry Body Odor: What’s That Smell?

Body odor can get pretty bad on the trail. Here's how to make sure you never again hear the words, "What's That Smell?"

Simple and quick ways to take a tubless backwoods bath

Washing with good ol’ soap and water is the best way to stifle body odor, says Ward Billhimer, a senior scientist with Procter & Gamble. The more you scrub, the more bacteria you’ll eliminate, although “you’ll never wash off 100 percent of the organisms,” he says.

Antibacterial moist towelettes will give bacteria the boot in a low-impact way. Be sure to pack out the used wipes.

Or, give yourself a sponge bath with the warm water left from making dinner. If you use soap, lather up with a phosphate-free, biodegradable type well away from all water sources. Some options:

The LNT “200” Rule

Wash at least 200 yards from water sources, even if you’re using biodegradable soap. Dripping soapy water onto durable surfaces like rock or gravel is preferable. Dispose of gray (waste) water far from springs and streams.

Camp Suds is an odorless soap that’s eco-friendly, highly concentrated, and can be used to clean almost anything, including body parts.
Price: $3, 4-ounce bottle.
Contact: Sierra Dawn Products, (707) 588-0755.

No-Rinse Body Wash and Shampoo are sweet-smelling powders for use when water’s at a premium (for a review, see www.backpacker.

Price: $1.19, 2-ounce bottle.
Contact: N/R Laboratories, (800) 223-9348;

Photo by Atwater Carey

Camp-n-Travel Hygiene Kit

Camp-n-Travel Hygiene Kit: This has it all: peppermint soap, a pack towel, a dish scrubber, and a booklet, Camping Healthy, that offers advice on cleanliness in the wild. Weight: 13 ounces.
Price: $10.
Contact: Atwater Carey, (800) 359-1646; www.

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure-castile Soap

is one of the most effective all-natural soaps. It works well on body, hair, clothes, and dishes, and can be used as a shaving cream, massage solution, and mosquito, tick, and fly repellent. It’s scented, so use sparingly in bear country. Price: $2.25,4-ounce bottle.
Contact: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, (760) 743-2211;

Photo by J.P. Hamel Photography


PackTowl: This 27-by-10-inch chamoislike synthetic cloth weighs little more than a cotton bandanna, but sops up as much water as a full-size bath towel.
Price: $5.50.
Contact: Cascade Designs, (800) 531-9351; www. cascadedesigns. com.

Photo by Basic Designs

Sun Shower

Sun Shower: Fill the 3-liter bag, hang it above your head, and turn the nozzle for a shower about 2 minutes long. The bag is metallic on one side, so you can have a hot shower in about 3 hours, courtesy of the sun. Note: Cannot double as a water bladder.
Weight: 3.5 ounces
Price: $8.
Contact: Basic Designs Inc., (707) 575-1220.

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