5 Tips to Stay Clean in the Wilderness While Hiking
Summertime brings lots of families, friends, and outdoor enthusiasts out into untamed nature for a fun time hiking and exploring. But don’t be fooled by the natural appeal of the wilderness; there are still plenty of ways to pick up unwanted diseases by stepping in the wrong places or touching the wrong things.
You might keep to yourself on a trail and perfectly follow the posted directions and still get sick without practicing proper hygiene, which is why it’s just as important to stay clean in the wild as it is around public facilities. While the variants of germs and bacteria might be different between a restroom door and a mossy oak, they can nonetheless be just as much of a concern—if not a worse problem—in a place where insects and animals spend all their time.
Packing up for a foray into nature? Check out these 5 tips to stay clean while hiking, whether you plan on traversing woods, valleys, or even mountains!
1. Wash Yourself Frequently
Dirt is inevitable when you spend a lot of time in nature. Just accept it.
But just because it’s almost impossible to avoid collecting soil and grime as you go doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything to wipe the slate clean every now and then. That dirt could be housing bacteria or insects that could do a real number to your immune system.
If you plan to spend more than a couple of hours in the wilderness, make it a point to inspect and occasionally wash your skin. One of the most popular ways to do this is to take a quick trail shower with biodegradable soap (to keep the environment clean), water, and a washcloth or sponge. You can also pack wipes for an even faster cleaning solution—but remember to dispose of the wipes in a bag that you carry with you. Wipes aren’t biodegradable!
2. Protect Yourself from Bugs
People aren’t the only living creatures to frequent the outdoors under the hot summer sun. Swarms of newly hatched insects tend to infest your favorite hiking trails when the temperatures are on the rise. While the bugs are usually good for the ecosystem, not all of them play nice when humans are around.
Insect bites and stings can be painful, itchy, and sometimes lethal. Any skin irritation from a bug bite that causes you to scratch also puts you at risk of breaking your skin and exposing yourself to infection.
The most common bug ward is, of course, bug spray. Using DEET of varying strengths (or even opting for more natural solutions) can be a lifesaver during your hiking journeys, but take care not to apply it too often. Bug spray is not recommended for everyday use, which means you’ll want to scrub it off when you return home.
A less popular but equally effective tactic is to invest in a small bug net that covers your head and neck. It won’t protect the rest of your body, but it will keep your face bug-free without needing to resort to chemicals!
3. Bring Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer is perhaps one of the most beneficial and versatile cleaning essentials you could bring on your hike.
The alcohol within good hand sanitizer products will kill the vast majority of bacteria that latch onto your skin as you keep up with the trail. It can be particularly useful if you accidentally touch something unclean (like animal dung or mold) or rub against something irritating (like poison ivy).
You should also always clean your hands after going to the bathroom. That goes double when you need to do your business during a hike!
And while it’s not ideal, you can absolutely use hand sanitizer to disinfect scratches or wounds you might receive while hiking—assuming soap and water aren’t available.
Just be wary that most hand sanitizers will bring about dry and cracked skin if you use them too frequently. Muse Health’s Fragrance-free Hand Sanitizer reduces this problem by including natural lotions that rejuvenate your skin, so it’s worth stocking up in our store if you have sensitive skin during outdoor activities (or in general).
4. Stay Dry
Whether you mistakenly step into a shallow stream or work up quite a sweat, feeling damp during your trek bodes ill hygiene consequences for many reasons.
If your clothes get too soaked, your skin can get waterlogged and blister more easily. Unclean water and sweat might also clog up the pores on your skin and lead to acne down the line. Either way, soggy clothes and wet skin will quickly conjure up a stink that other hikers would rather not smell!
When your clothes or skin start to feel damp during a hike, dry them immediately with a small towel or cloth. Bringing lotion or face wipes along with you isn’t a bad idea either if you intend to go a while without swapping into clean, dry clothes.
5. Use Your Best Judgement!
Want to know one of the best ways to stay clean while hiking? Use common sense and avoid coming into contact with sources of dirt and bacteria altogether!
Most plants, rocks, and animals you encounter throughout your excursion are better left untouched. If you see something you can’t identify in the woods, always err on the side of keeping your hands away from it. You never truly know where rare diseases might be hiding in nature.
Some things already mentioned—like bugs, dirt, and sweat—can’t be circumnavigated in most hiking scenarios. But a lot of other potentially hazardous bacteria can be skipped simply by exercising caution and taking careful consideration on each step of your hike. Plan accordingly and stay safe!
Cleanliness in the wilderness should be a top priority for every hiker. By packing the right supplies for the journey, you can help secure not only your own health, but the health of any others sharing the trail with you. Just don’t forget to wash up properly once you get back home!