Start Smart: Stay Clean and Healthy - Backpacker

Start Smart: Stay Clean and Healthy

4 strategies to feel and smell better
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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.

Hands

  • 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 (drbronner.com, $3.75) and rub your hands for one minute.

Food

  • 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.

Body

  • 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.

Clothing

  • 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.

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