The Lady Hiker's Guide to Staying Fresh in the Wilderness

Just because you haven't showered in 5 days doesn't mean you can't feel like a million bucks. Use these 9 tips to stay fresh in the wilderness.
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Just because you haven't showered in 5 days doesn't mean you can't feel like a million bucks. Use these 9 tips to stay fresh in the wilderness.

1. Pack cleansing wipes.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Pack cleansing wipes.

Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes are a good alternative to baby wipes.

Baby wipes are designed to be gentle on your skin, are easy to find, and you need just one a day to freshen all your lady bits. We recommend freshening up at the end of the day before you go to bed. Getting some of the grime off helps us sleep better, keeps our sleeping bags from getting stinky, and we save time in the morning.

BONUS TIP: Try drying out your wipes at home to make them lighter and more packable, then rehydrate on the trail before using.

2. Bring extra undies.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Bring Extra Undies

We like the anti-stink properties of the SmartWool Women's PhD Seamless Bikini ($32; 1 oz; smartwool.com). (Photo by Brennah Rosenthal)

If you haven’t yet, consider wool. It’s breathable, stays warm while wet, and doesn’t get funky nearly as fast as synthetic options. This means you can bring fewer pairs and stay fresh longer.The most you should ever need is 3 pairs, even on long trips: you can wash one, and while it's drying you still have two available.

BONUS TIP: Each night, switch into the underwear you plan on wearing the next day, and say goodbye to cold bum moments in the morning.

3. Pack a pillow.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Pack a pillow.

You've got lots of compact options, like the Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core.

No, not the one off your bed. Try the Cocoon Ultralight Air-Core Pillow ($25; 3.7 oz.; designsalt.com) for a compact design; when deflated, it fits in the palm of your hand. Or, if you believe that everything in your pack should have multiple purposes then consider the REI Pillow Stuff Sack ($12-$14; 5oz-7oz; rei.com), the fleece lining on the inside makes a cozy place for your head at night. We’ve found a good night’s rest is important for our outlook the next day and to ensure we’re ready for the big days ahead.

4. Keep your mouth fresh.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Keep your mouth clean.

If you find fresh mint, by all means, chew on it! (Kham Tran / Wikimedia Commons)

Bring a travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste, and brush as often as you would at home. For an in-between freshener, consider packing a few breath mints. Consider getting ones that are individually wrapped to keep them dry and fresh. They’re not only refreshing, they can help with nausea at elevation.

BONUS TIP: Wint-O-Green Lifesavers create a spark at night when you bite down on them.

5. Carry a comb.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Carry a comb.

Or you could always do it this way. But seriously, carry a comb. (Helga Weber / Flickr)

It’s simple and totally worth its weight for getting the tangles out every day.

6. Make the most of orange peels or tea bags.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Make the most of orange peels and tea bags.

Orange peel = great face wipe. (fdecomite / Flickr)

You can use the inside of orange peels or tea bags to wipe your face in the mornings. Just be prepared for funny looks from your campmates.

BONUS TIP: Used tea bags are good for soothing bug bites.

7. Keep things friction-free.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Keep things friction-free.

Band-Aid Friction Block Stick is meant for feet but works great everywhere.

If you are one to chafe, then take preventative action. Easy-to-find options include Gold Bond powder and Band-Aid Friction Block Stick (check your local grocery or drugstore). Other tried-and-true favorites are Body Glide and Squeaky Cheeks powder. All options can be used anywhere, it comes down to personal preference... do you want to powder or glide? Regardless of your preference, apply at the first hint of rubbing. If you know you chafe in certain spots, apply before hitting the trail.

BONUS TIP: Keep it at the top of your pack to make re-applying easy.

8. Be prepared for that time of the month.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Be prepared for that time of the month.

There are several brands of menstrual cup: Diva, Lunette, Keeper...find one you like.

It happens. Aunt Flo comes to visit at the most inconvenient of times and the last thing you want to be doing is carrying around used feminine products in the backcountry. Enter The Diva Cup ($40; divacup.com), 12-hour protection that is easy-to-use and leak free. TIP: Don’t try it for the first time out backpacking, use it at home first to get used to it. And if you’re set on tampons, bring an empty coffee bag for packing out your waste. It’s opaque, re-sealable, and locks in odors.

BONUS TIP: Pack applicator-free tampons in your first-aid kit. They’re good for staunching any bleeding, whether from a wound or an unexpected menstrual visit.

9. Keep your hair under control.

Staying Fresh in the Wilderness: Keep your hair under control.

Pretty much the opposite of your goal. (Holly Lay / Flickr)

Braid it. Hat it. Buff it. Ponytail it. Cut it short. In most cases having your hair pulled back and out of the way is the most convenient: it’ll get less tangled, you’ll stay cooler, and you won’t get sweaty hair stuck to your face. But sometimes, it can actually be for your safety. There have been a number of incidents involving long hair getting caught in rappel devices, so if your adventure involves climbing pull your hair back.


What'd we miss? Share your tips in the comments!