External Hygiene: Clothes and Hair

I don't mind being somewhat dirty on the trail, but I do have some standards. Here are some tips that help me backpack simply, but still maintain a tolerable level of cleanliness. 

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CLOTHES: You'll get dirty, sweaty, and dirty. But instead of taking a closet-full of clothes in your pack, here are some ways to keep your load light and deal with the inevitable dirt. 

  • Embrace dirt. Everyone's dirty on the trail. It's impossible to avoid, so laugh at yourself and look around instead of looking down. There's so much glory to be seen, and it won't be what you're wearing. 
  • Wear the same thing each day. It reduces pack weight, and you really only need one outfit (plus whatever layers you'll need for weather).
  • Invest in wool. I wear a wool shirt and socks because those are my major stink areas (pits & feet). I once wore my Icebreaker Sweetheart shirt for five days in the wilderness and it never smelled bad. It's my go-to shirt!
  • Let it air out. At the end of the day, I hang everything on tree branches or wherever it can get some air flowing through it. If there's still plenty of sunlight out, it doesn't hurt to hang it in a sunny area to get some UV action on it. It'll help kill bacteria. 

DIRTY HAIR: You are bound to get some not-so-nice hair. How do you deal with a hot mop up top?

  • Wash your hair with biodegradable soap. Get something to hold water and fill it with (ideally) moving water, get at least 200ft away from the water source and wash your hair with a little bit of biodegradable all-purpose soap and then rinse. DO NOT use soap directly in a body of water. That's a huge no no. With whatever water I have left, I will dilute my hopefully not so soapy run off. (Note: I use castille soap for everything and because is suds up quite a bit, I only need a teeny bit.)
  • Wash your hair in a body of water by massaging your scalp. That's it! I'll do this for the first few days, and then if my head is a itchy and I can't tolerate the sweat build-up, I'll rinse my hair with some soap.
  • Braid that thang. Pull it back and get it out of the way. Wear a bandana. Keeping it contained sometimes help too. The pic on the left is a result of my braid after five days in the backcountry. I transformed into a lion! (Good times!!)

These aren't the only hygienic matters for us women. Next up, I'll discuss menstration and our precious vjayjays!