Staying hygienic while on a trek can be pretty difficult sometimes. But it is very important to avoid any kind of infections or intestinal problems. During a trek when you are spending weeks in the wilderness without bathing can make you stink. Therefore it is very important to maintain hygiene. However a trekker’s hygiene should never come at the expense of nature.
No we are not asking to follow the complete hygiene like your regular days but instead just follow the basics here.
From my experience I have learned a few points to keep ourselves hygienic during a trek. The trek can be short or long but the basics will also remain the same. So let’s get started.
Change your clothes.
No we are not asking you to change your clothes everyday. You may be wondering how often you should do it? Well there is no definite number or times. On short treks you can change your innerwear and your base layer daily. It will keep you comfortable and will keep the odour away. You will be saved from the body rashes too. However things will change when you are on longer treks. During these treks you will need to change your inner layer everyday which means your underwear. Alternate to this can be rotating the underwear so the same can be used for two days. I know carrying 10 pairs of underwear will not seem wise but if you cannot carry then you can rotate them just like I do on my long treks.
During long treks you will have to change the base layer once every two days. You can either use a t-shirt or vest. But as we have discussed in our other article that base layer should be of polyester or merino wool. These fabrics tend to absorb the sweat and wicks it out. Always change your clothes during the daytime when the temperature is a little warm.
Thermals are a big NO during your treks, they get sweaty and smell with all the walking. But you can get them into use during night. Once you have completed your day target, at your campsite you can remove your clothes and after cleanup change into thermals. This way your clothes will also get dried up from sweat and thermals will keep your warm during your sleep to ensure a sound sleep. Take off the thermals in the morning and switch to your trekking clothes.
Dry or Sponge Bath:
Yes you are reading this right, we might need to take a dry or a sponge bath during our treks. On many of the treks I have found water sources like rivers, lakes, ponds or streams. But who got the guts to jump into freezing water which is less than 0 degree celsius. Although during summer treks I have been lucky to find these and just take a dip into them although I avoid lakes and ponds since that water is stagnant. Make sure you are not using any soap or face wash when in the river. If needed then shower atleast 200 feet away from the river.
But during winter treks or high altitude treks, you will have to take a dry bath. Carry a small cotton towel and dip it in water and all you need to do is wipe yourself thoroughly. Once you have taken a bath and then only change into a new set of clothes. And do it as soon as you reach the campsite. Clean the areas like groin, armpits, toes and inner thighs properly and also you can use hand sanitizer. Use biodegradable soap only if needed.
It is advisable not to use wet wipes as they are non-biodegradable and harmful to our nature. Do not use a deodorant to remove the body odour. The smell of deodorants attract wildlife and at the same time pollute the air.
Oral hygiene is also very important. Cleaning your teeth daily is always a good practice although some might not agree with the same during a trek. You don’t want a stinky mouth or bad odour coming out of your mouth when talking with your trekmates. Now it totally depends upon you whether you wish to do dry brushing or a normal one. Dry brushing is nothing but cleaning your teeth with only the toothpaste and not using the paste. When you are at a lower altitude or during summers you always go the regular way. In case you are on high altitude or winter trek where the water is not available easily, in that case you can take some hot water and do the dry brushing, it will be good enough to maintain a good oral hygiene.
You can do basic practice like rinsing your mouth after every meal which again will work great to maintain hygiene. Try to follow your habit of cleaning your teeth even on your trek. You can ask your trek leader or your cook for some hot water. It won’t take more than 2 minutes to clean them but these couple of minutes will actually make you feel fresh and you will have clean breath as well. A bad odour can ruin your image in your group because on trek you will be exhaling the oxygen out more than usual and I am sure you also won’t like someone with bad breath. Try to clean your teeth atleast once if not twice.
It is definitely one of the ways where you will get judged by others to showcase your tidiness. I am aware that not all of us need it but someone in your group badly needs to take care of his or her foot hygiene. There should be no shame in admitting it until you are maintaining proper hygiene. You walk for hours and there can not be anyway not to make your feet sweat. No matter which type of shoes or socks you are using, the only difference a good quality of shoes and socks will make is to lessen the sweat but cannot completely wick it out. And trust me someone with bad and stinky feet inside your tent will disturb other camp buddies and you won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep. I personally have faced this situation where one of our trekmate had this issue and on the first day when we were unaware about it made the situation pathetic and totally stinky to sleep. But the next day we told him about this and took proper measures to control it.
There are few things which you need to keep in mind to maintain a foot hygiene. First of all if your feet sweat more always and always carry atleast 3 pairs of extra socks and go for merino wool socks. They will keep your feet cool in summers and warm in winters. Secondly before you start your trek and before putting on the shoes, apply talcum powder to reduce sweat and odour. You can also use antifungal foot powder instead of talcum powder if your feet sweat a lot. Thirdly once you are done with your day activity remove your shoes and socks and let them air out. Last but not the least make sure you. They can make you uncomfortable when you are wearing your shoes. You also might get injured and the nail can break if it gets struck hard on rocks or uneven surface and this will hurt you badly.
Also keep yourself hydrated as much as you can, this will reduce the sweating from your body. Wash your feet after removing your shoes at the camp and apply talcum or antifungal powder. Now as we are living in a technological world so you can also find iontophoresis machines for home use which helps in blocking the sweat temporarily.
Follow these and keep yourself and your trekmates hygienic and don’t hesitate to point out someone who has the problem. They might feel bad about it but atleast they will take certain measures which will benefit all.
This can be something a woman trekker should always take care of. We all know how hard it can get during periods and on top of that during trekking periods can be daunting. But you don’t have to worry so much about them as you can use few hygienic steps and avoid any discomfort. It is most recommended to use tampons during your periods because they are made up of cotton and take less space in your rucksack plus they won’t leak. Likewise you can always use menstrual cups and cloth pads because they can be reused and are hygienic as well. But before using any of these on your treks you should get used to them. In case you are feeling uncomfortable or uneasy, then you can always go for pads. Always wipe it properly with toilet paper and when you get time to take a bath, you can wash yourself properly.
Always keep in mind not to dispose of them there rather carry a zip lock plastic bag and bring back with you so that they can be disposed properly. These things take a lot of time to be decomposed and moreover some wildlife animals might eat them as well.
Doing a morning routine during the trek can be tricky for beginners but it does not mean that we should ignore the hygienic etiquette. First of all the very basic thing which we need to keep in mind is not to do our business anywhere near campsite or any water source. Keep atleast 100 meters distance. Now because of the popularity of trekking, companies like Indiahikes offer you with dry toilets which are actually pretty good. However if you are going individually or with your private group then you can set up a toilet tent. Also another alternative can be diggin a 6inch hole and after doing your job cover the hole with soil or leaves. Deeper hole will slow down the decomposition process. You can use toilet paper though but make sure you dumb it in the hole and properly cover it. Although if you are comfortable to use leaves then nothing is better than that.
Always use hand sanitizer after you are done with your routine otherwise you can invite a lot of germs and infections.
Using a wet wipe is again a strict NO since wet wipes are non-biodegradable. You can also use water but again it slows down the decomposition and also allows the odour to remain. An alternative to this can be taking some time to wash up with water during the after every 2 days but make sure you do the activity away from the campsite.
It stands for Bring Your Own Cutlery which means whenever you are going on a trek always carry your own cutlery and the list is pretty simple. One plate, one bowl, one spoon and one fork. This will pretty much cover all your needs on your trek. Also keep your own water bottle. Now for this there are two main reasons, first the utensils provided by your group may not be that much clean and also those have been used by a lot of others before you they will get on your hands. You cannot guarantee if they are washed and cleaned properly or not. Second reason is to reduce the usage of eating your meals with your hands. This can be really dangerous as you are walking for the whole day and touching so many things which can have certain bacteria to make you sick. And for any instance if you get sick in the wilderness then it gets really difficult for you as well as for your trekmates. Using your own cutlery will reduce the risk of hand and mouth diseases. Many trekking companies and private groups will ask you to bring your own utensils but rather than they ask you to do so, make it a habit of carrying them on your own. You can easily make a checklist about what you need to carry before you start your trek.
Moreover before you start your meal, make sure you wash your cutlery before and once done wash them again and pack them after drying them. Further follow basic routines like washing your hands well before and after your meals.
To summarize on this topic, we all know how we can maintain our personal hygiene to make sure we enjoy our time in nature and also keep our environment safe. Your personal hygiene will not only make you a better person but will also give motivation to your trekmates. Keep in mind no one likes stinky tent mates. These are very basics which we all can follow and it won’t even consume a lot of time. It makes your trek easy and comfortable.
Here are some of the Hygienic Essentials which you can carry in your rucksack and some which you should not carry.
- Hand Sanitizer (Alcohol Based)
- Biodegradable Soap
- Cotton or Natural Fibre Cloth/Towel
- Garbage Bag
- Toilet paper / Biodegradable Toilet Paper (You can also use leaves)
- Biodegradable Detergent (In case you wish to wash your clothes)
- A menstrual cup if necessary or feminine hygienic products.
- Cutlery – Plate, Bowl, Spoon, Fork
DO NOT BRING
- Non-biodegradable products
- Disposable Products (Plastic plates, spoons, forks, etc)
HAPPY TREKKING TO ALL.