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May 2001

Stop Trail Chafing

Stop chafing with these tips.

Take clothing with seams, add body parts, a shoulder harness and hipbelt attached to a 40-pound pack, heat, and humidity, and what do you have? The ideal recipe for chafing. The most common sites—you may already have discovered some—are under your arm around your armpits, under backpack and bra straps, the inner thighs, and on your feet (where blisters eventually form). Here’s how to prevent friction before it starts.

  • Check for fit. Make sure your clothing and pack are the right sizes. If you chafe at a certain strap line, it could be because your shirt is too baggy or your pack doesn’t fit. If adjusting the fit doesn’t work, add padding, such as foam pieces, to your shoulder straps.
  • Wear synthetic fabrics. Clothing that wicks moisture away from the skin significantly reduces chafing. If your inner thighs chafe, try wearing spandex bicycle tights. Don a pair of hiking shorts over the spandex if you’re shy.
  • Plan for rough spots. If you chafe in a particular place, slather on a lubricant such as petroleum jelly before the rubbing starts. Keep the lube tube handy while you’re hiking so you can reapply at the first sign of a hot spot.

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