Ask Kristin

What's the Proper Teeth-Brushing Procedure in the Woods?

Is there one? Should I brush my teeth differently on the trail?


What’s the proper teeth brushing procedure in the woods? Is there one?

Submitted by – Sue, Winter Park, FL


There’s nothing like a good brush after a day of trail mix, chocolate bars, and sugary energy drinks. It’s the closest thing to a shower us backpackers get.

And while the act of tooth-brushing, itself, doesn’t change, there are a few Leave No Trace considerations. To get the scoop, I asked my colleague, BP’s Southwest editor, Annette McGivney. She literally wrote the book on LNT practices. (Check it out: Leave No Trace: A Guide to the New Wilderness Etiquette, Mountaineers Books,!)

Here’s what she says: “The art of LNT tooth-brushing is in the spray. You don’t want to spit a glob of toothpaste into the bushes because animals will eat it, making themselves sick and defoliating the bush. But you don’t want to swallow the toothpaste, either. So after you swish, stand at the far edge of camp and spray with all your might, spewing the spit and toothpaste over as vast an area as possible to diffuse any potential environmental impacts. (Just don’t face into the wind or you’ll get a Colgate shower!). If you floss, be sure to pack it out.”

As for the equipment, you can either pop a little plastic cap on your toothbrush from home, or grab on of these cool little gizmos, called the Toob, on the left (, which store about 5 days worth of your favorite paste in the handle. -KRISTIN