Start Smart: Stay Clean and Healthy

4 strategies to feel and smell better

Don't let backpacking's grungy reputation keep you off the trail. You don't have to give up on personal hygiene just because the nearest running water is a frigid stream. Make these hygiene tactics part of your campsite routine, and you'll look better, feel cleaner–and protect your friend's health, too.


  • To wash up, apply a dime-sized dollop of unscented sanitizer to your hands and rub vigorously for 20 seconds. If the sanitizer evaporates before that time, then you didn't use enough.
  • Soap, warm water, and friction remove fatty deposits found in food, especially meats. Use a biodegradable cleaner like Dr. Bronners Liquid Soap (, $3.75) and rub your hands for one minute.


  • Lick clean your personal dishes, then wipe them with hand sanitizer, or warm water and biodegradable soap. Air dry by fanning.
  • Sponges and scrubbing pads are prime real estate for germs. Sanitize them after repeated use with alcohol gel or submersion in boiling water.
  • Pour trail mix into a person's hand instead of letting him reach into the bag.


  • Reduce skin chafing by applying a non-greasy friction barrier like BodyGlide Anti-Blister and Chafing Stick (1.3 oz., $9) to any problem areas, especially hips and thighs.
  • Before turning in, give yourself a quick sponge bath with a damp, clean bandana. Wipe down your groin, armpits, and feet with alcohol sanitizer to eliminate bacteria.


  • Change your clothes and underwear when you're done hiking for the day.
  • Pack three pairs of hiking socks: One to wear, one to wash, and one for sleeping.