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Backcountry Hygiene

Stay Fresh in the Wild: Backcountry Hygiene Hacks for Modern Hikers

Stay Fresh in the Wild: Backcountry Hygiene Hacks for Modern Hikers


Backcountry hiking and trekking can be an exhilarating and memorable experience. Whether you’re venturing out for a day hike or a multi-day trek, spending time in the wilderness can be a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, staying clean and fresh while in the wild can be a challenge, especially when access to clean water and soap is limited. In this article, we’ll be sharing some of our backcountry hygiene hacks for modern hikers to help you stay fresh on your next outdoor adventure.

Pack the Essentials

Before you hit the trail, make sure you have all the essentials for maintaining your hygiene in the backcountry. These include:

  • Biodegradable soap: Choose a soap that won’t harm the environment and can be used for cleaning your body, clothes, and dishes.
  • Hand sanitiser: Hand sanitiser can help prevent the spread of germs, especially when water is scarce.
  • Toilet paper: Pack a sufficient amount of biodegradable toilet paper and keep it in a waterproof bag to prevent it from getting wet.
  • Wet wipes: Wet wipes are a quick and easy way to freshen up when a shower isn’t an option.
  • Small towel: A lightweight, quick-drying towel is essential for drying off after a swim or cleaning up after a meal.

Keep Up with Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene is important, even when you’re in the backcountry. Here are some tips:

  • Brush your teeth: Even if you’re on a multi-day trek, be sure to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste. Brushing your teeth can help prevent tooth decay and bad breath.
  • Use mouthwash: Mouthwash can help kill bacteria and freshen your breath. Choose a small, travel-sized bottle to save space and weight.

Practice Proper Handwashing

Keeping your hands clean is important not just for your own health but also for preventing the spread of germs to others. Here are some tips for proper handwashing in the backcountry:

  • Use hand sanitiser: When water is scarce, hand sanitiser can be a good alternative to washing with soap and water.
  • Find a water source: If there’s a nearby water source, use biodegradable soap and water to wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Bring a hand towel or bandana: Use a small towel or bandana to dry your hands after washing.

Clean Your Body

Maintaining good personal hygiene in the backcountry can be a challenge, but it’s important for your health and comfort. Here are some tips for staying clean in the wild:

  • Take a dip: If you come across a lake, stream, or river, take a quick swim to freshen up. Be sure to use biodegradable soap and don’t use the water source for washing clothes or dishes.
  • Spot clean: If a shower isn’t an option, use wet wipes or a damp cloth to spot clean your body and freshen up.
  • Change clothes: Changing your clothes can help you feel fresh and clean. Be sure to pack clothing that’s quick-drying and moisture-wicking.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Proper waste disposal is important for the environment and other hikers. Here are some tips for disposing of waste in the backcountry:

  • Carry out all trash: Don’t leave any trash behind, even if it’s biodegradable. Pack out everything you brought with you.
  • Bury human waste: When nature calls, dig a hole at least 200 feet away from water sources, campsites, and trails. Bury all waste and toilet paper, and cover it up when you’re done.
  • Dispose of greywater properly: Greywater is water used for washing dishes and personal hygiene. Make sure to dispose of it properly, at least 200 feet away from water sources, campsites, and trails.


Maintaining good personal hygiene in the backcountry can be a challenge, but it’s important for your health, comfort, and the environment. By packing the essentials, practicing good oral hygiene, proper handwashing, and waste disposal, you can stay fresh and comfortable on your next outdoor adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions about Backcountry Hygiene for Modern Hikers

What is backcountry hygiene?

Backcountry hygiene refers to the practices and habits that are necessary to maintain personal cleanliness and sanitation while spending time in remote, outdoor environments, away from modern amenities. These include proper waste disposal, water treatment, personal hygiene, and gear maintenance.

What are some common hygiene issues that hikers face in the backcountry?

Hikers in the backcountry often face a variety of hygiene issues, including cleanliness and odor control, preventing the spread of illness and disease, and minimizing environmental impact through proper waste disposal.

How can I stay clean and fresh in the backcountry?

To stay clean and fresh in the backcountry, practice good hygiene habits such as washing your hands regularly, using biodegradable soap for cleaning yourself and your gear, and changing into clean clothes when possible. Additionally, consider using products like baby wipes or dry shampoo to freshen up between showers, and be sure to properly dispose of any waste products.

What is the best way to dispose of human waste in the backcountry?

The best way to dispose of human waste in the backcountry is to dig a small hole at least 200 feet from any water sources or popular trails, and bury any solid waste. For liquid waste, spread it out over a wide area of soil to allow it to evaporate and disperse naturally. It is also important to pack out used toilet paper and hygiene products.

How can I prevent the spread of illness or disease in the backcountry?

To prevent the spread of illness or disease in the backcountry, practice good hygiene habits such as washing your hands regularly, using hand sanitizer when clean water is not available, and avoiding contact with contaminated water sources. Additionally, be sure to properly cook and store all food to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.

What are some tips for staying fresh on multi-day hikes?

To stay fresh on multi-day hikes, pack lightweight clothing that can be easily washed and dried, and rotate between a few different outfits. Use baby wipes or other hygiene products to freshen up between showers, and consider using dry shampoo to keep your hair clean. Be sure to properly dispose of any waste products, and properly store food to prevent odors from attracting wildlife.

What are some important considerations for backcountry hygien in different environments?

The specific hygiene considerations for different environments will vary depending on a number of factors, including climate, terrain, and local laws and regulations. Be sure to research the specific hygiene requirements and recommendations for the environment you will be visiting, and plan accordingly.

Should I bring my own water filter or purification system when hiking in the backcountry?

Yes, it is highly recommended that you bring your own water filter or purification system when hiking in the backcountry. This will allow you to safely and easily obtain drinking water from natural sources, and reduce the amount of waste produced from disposable water bottles.

What are some common mistakes that hikers make when it comes to backcountry hygiene?

Common mistakes that hikers make when it comes to backcountry hygiene include failing to properly dispose of waste, using non-biodegradable soap or cleaning products, and not properly treating or filtering water sources. Additionally, hikers may fail to properly store food and garbage, leading to unpleasant odors and attracting wildlife.

Why is backcountry hygiene important?

Backcountry hygiene is important for a variety of reasons, including protecting public health and the environment, promoting a positive wilderness experience for all visitors, and minimizing the risk of wildlife encounters and injuries. Additionally, good hygiene practices can increase overall comfort and enjoyment while hiking in the backcountry.

Related Products for Backcountry Hygiene Tips

When it comes to trekking and hiking, it’s essential to prioritize your hygiene. Poor hygiene can quickly lead to infections, rashes, and other health complications. To ensure your next backcountry adventure goes smoothly, take a look at the following must-have products.

  • Body Wipes
  • Deodorant wipes are essential for keeping fresh on long hikes or after a sweaty workout. Look for wipes that are biodegradable and large enough to shower with, as some won’t cut it after several days of strenuous trekking.

  • Portable Shower
  • A portable shower is necessary when you’re on the road for several days, particularly if you’re traveling in hot weather. Most portable showers are incredibly lightweight and easy to pack, making them a perfect choice for trekkers and hikers. Look for showers with air valves, so you can control the pressure and keep your water usage to a minimum.

  • Environmentally-Friendly Soap
  • Opt for eco-friendly soap to help reduce your impact on the environment. Make sure your soap is biodegradable, and look for vegetable-based options that are gentle on your skin. Stay clear of harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances, as these can attract unwanted animals.

  • Hand Sanitizer
  • While soap and water are ideal for washing your hands, they are not always practical or available on a long trek. Pack a few travel-size bottles of hand sanitizer for on-the-go cleaning, particularly before meals or if you’re using someone else’s gear.

  • Biodegradable Toilet Paper
  • When nature calls, you need a product that is eco-friendly and easily disposable. Opt for biodegradable toilet paper that dissolves quickly in water without harming the environment. Try to avoid using other materials, such as leaves, rocks or dirt, which can introduce germs and bacteria into your system.

  • Pee Rag
  • A pee rag is an essential item for women trekkers and hikers. This product is essentially a small piece of fabric that you use to dry yourself off after urinating. Pee rags help to reduce irritation and the risk of infections and are easily washable and reusable.

  • Insect Repellent
  • Insects can quickly ruin a trek or hike if you’re not adequately prepared. Pack a high-quality insect repellent to keep bugs at bay and prevent bites and stings. Look for repellents that use natural ingredients, such as citronella or lavender, to avoid harsh chemicals.

  • Toothpaste and Toothbrush
  • Good oral hygiene is equally important when adventuring in the backcountry. Keep your teeth clean and fresh with a portable toothbrush and toothpaste. Opt for toothpaste that is fluoride-free and naturally derived, so it’s gentle on your teeth and the environment.

  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm
  • Don’t forget to protect your skin and lips from the sun’s harmful rays. Pack a high-quality sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher. Look for natural options that won’t harm the environment and are gentle on your skin.

  • Quick-Dry Towel
  • A quick-dry towel is incredibly useful on a long trek or hike. These towels are lightweight and compact, making them an excellent option for limited packing space. Look for quick-dry towels that are absorbent and easy to clean, so you don’t have to worry about unpleasant odors.

Pros & Cons: Stay Fresh in the Wild – Backcountry Hygiene Hacks for Modern Hikers


  • Cleanliness: One of the biggest advantages of maintaining good hygiene in the backcountry is that it helps keep you clean and healthy. Hygiene practices such as washing your hands, taking baths, and brushing your teeth can help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
  • Comfort: Good hygiene practices can also help increase your comfort level while in the backcountry. Staying clean can reduce the number of insect bites and skin irritations and help you feel more refreshed.
  • Odor Control: Maintaining good hygiene practices can help reduce and control body odor, which could be a major issue while hiking or camping with others.
  • Environmental Protection: Hygiene practices can help protect both the environment and wildlife in the backcountry. Properly disposing of waste and packing out toilet paper will help keep the wilderness clean and prevent the spread of disease to wildlife.
  • Increased Confidence: Practicing good hygiene can increase your confidence while in the backcountry. Knowing that you are clean and well-groomed can lead to a more positive outlook and improve your overall wellbeing.
  • Reduced Risk of Illness: Finally, maintaining good hygiene practices can help reduce the chance of contracting illnesses while in the backcountry. By keeping yourself clean and healthy, you reduce your risk of coming into contact with germs and infections.


  • Time-consuming: It can take up a significant amount of time and effort to maintain good hygiene practices while in the backcountry. Cleaning dishes, brushing teeth, and washing clothes can all add up in terms of time.
  • Limited Resources: Depending on where you are hiking or camping, there may be limited resources for maintaining proper hygiene. You may have to use natural sources for bathing and water filtration.
  • Extra Weight: Carrying hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper can add extra weight to your pack, which can be a disadvantage, especially if you are trying to keep your pack as light as possible.
  • Privacy: Maintaining good hygiene practices also requires some level of privacy. Finding a private location for bathing or using the bathroom can be challenging in some backcountry environments.
  • Extra Cost: Finally, maintaining good hygiene practices may require extra cost for items such as travel-sized soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper. These costs can add up, especially if you are on an extended trip.

In conclusion, while there are some disadvantages to maintaining good hygiene practices while in the backcountry, the benefits greatly outweigh the cons. Staying clean, healthy, and comfortable is essential to an enjoyable and safe backcountry experience.

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