Staying fresh during an outdoor trip can be a real problem, especially for women. You get plenty sweaty during long hikes, not to mention dirty from all the mud and dust when setting up camp and crawling into a tent. This female hygiene guide for hiking and camping will help answer any questions you have about staying clean outdoors.
Whether it’s preventing issues before they happen or dealing with them head on, we’ll cover all the details about how to stay fresh and comfortable.
HOW DO I KEEP BACTERIA AWAY?
It might seem hard to maintain your hygiene during a tough hike, but there’s plenty of ways to freshen up while you’re out in the wilderness. Whether you’re at a dusty campground or hiking all day, you can still maintain good health and hygiene by following these steps below.
1. KEEP DRY
One of the worst environments for your lady parts is a place that’s constantly moist. If your underwear never has a chance to dry, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. At the end of the day, change it out for a dry, clean pair.
2. WEAR UNDERWEAR THAT FITS
Before you pack for your trip, make sure you’re bringing underwear that fits you well. If it’s too small, it’ll constantly be rubbing against your skin. You don’t want to be uncomfortable for the rest of the trip. Try a hipster or brief style underwear to fully cover yourself.
3. CLEAN DOWN THERE (WHEN POSSIBLE)
We understand that taking a shower isn’t always an option while camping. Take advantage of the campsites that do have showers to do a full wash every so often. If the water conditions are decent in the river nearby, that’s another easy way to wash off.
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4. WASH THE UNDERWEAR YOU’RE NOT WEARING
Make a habit of washing the previous day’s underwear every night. That way they’ll have time to dry and be ready for the next day. If there’s not a river nearby, pour a small amount of water with soap over them to clean them.
The scrubba wash bag is a popular way to wash clothes in the backcountry. Just toss your dirty clothes in with a little soap and water, swish it around for a few minutes and pull them out and hang dry.
Be sure to use a biodegradable soap like Campsuds to avoid polluting the environment. And remember, just because it’s biodegradable doesn’t make it okay to wash with the soap in a lake, river or stream. It’s best practice to wash 200 feet away from any water source when using soap.
5. USE WIPES
The next best thing you can do when a shower isn’t available is to use wipes to clean any bacteria down there. Avoid ones with alcohol, as they’ll get rid of both the good and bad bacteria. A gentle baby wipe is best to get rid of sweat and odor.
WHAT ABOUT GOING TO THE BATHROOM?
1. WIPE FROM FRONT TO BACK
Whether you have a baby wipe or toilet paper, always wipe from front to back. This pushes the bacteria away to avoid getting a UTI. According to Stanford Medicine, UTIs are the most common bacterial infections that people come to the hospital with. They can be extremely painful and not something you want to deal with in the middle of your trip.
2. HAVE TO GO? DON’T HOLD IT!
Beginner hikers or campers may not be comfortable going to the bathroom in the middle of the woods. The worst thing you can do is hold it though. Find an area away from the other campers to relieve yourself.
3. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Another common mistake people make is not drinking enough water because they don’t want to go to the bathroom. Your body needs to stay hydrated, so it’s important for you drink plenty of water.
According to Section Hiker, 2 liters of water should be an adequate amount to bring on a day trip. If you plan on hiking in a very hot place or you’re going on a very long hike, bring a backpacking water purifier incase you end up drinking more than expected.
WHAT ABOUT THAT TIME OF MONTH?
Stacy from Healthy Hoo Hoo recommends to consider just how remote you’ll be and what time of the month it is for your cycle. If you’re headed for a backcountry adventure (no running water, toilets or trash disposal), you’ll pack differently than if you have services nearby.
Let’s talk about a few other considerations if you’re planning a hike around that time of the month.
1. PLAN YOUR BIRTH CONTROL AROUND IT
If you’re on birth control and able to time it well, you can plan to get your period before or after your trip. This will avoid the whole mess of dealing with it during your hike. You can take the pills during the time you’re supposed to have it, and stop them once you get home.
2. USE A DIVA CUP
A Diva Cup is a new method for dealing with your period that is becoming popular among backpackers. It’s a cup you insert in you and can leave for up to 12 hours. It’s reusable, so you don’t have to worry about packing tampons and dealing with having to pack them out with you.
3. BRING PROTECTION
If neither of the above options will work for you, you’ll need to bring a bag to put your used pads or tampons in. Keep them sealed tightly in there until you can dispose of them in a proper place. Tampons without applicators are preferred since they take up less space.
Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/Kate_Koreneva
HOW DO I FRESHEN UP EACH DAY?
1. WIPE BODY PARTS THAT SWEAT
When you’re not able to take a shower or bathe in the river, wipes will be your best friends. Do a quick swipe to your face, and use another one for any areas that sweat like your armpits and genitals. This will get rid of the odor so you can start the day on a fresher note.
There are lots of wipes that specifically made for those times when shower just isn’t an option. Healthyhoohoo wipes work great for downstairs because they are pH balanced and don’t have any harsh chemicals. Action Wipes are a great for wiping down your whole body after a long day on the trail.
2. USE A STRONG DEODORANT
You can’t prevent sweating, and you don’t want to since it’s your body’s way of cooling off. With that sweat comes an odor though, so put on deodorant first thing in the morning to help prevent that. Unscented ones are best to avoid any unwanted attention from bugs or animals.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO STAY FRESH WHILE HIKING?
1. WASH YOUR HANDS
Whenever you’re going to be in contact with sensitive body parts, make sure your hands are clean first. You can keep these areas as clean as possible, but introducing dirt-filled hands will make the problem worse. Use soap and water if possible, or hand sanitizer if you have it.
2. USE A SLEEPING BAG LINER
Not only do sleeping bag liners keep you warmer, but they help keep dirt off your sleeping bag. You can wash them and hang them to dry during the day so you’ll have a clean environment to sleep in every night. According to Backpacker, you can even make your own to save money.
3. READ UP
A great way to stay fresh on the trail is to learn more about your body, specifically your lady parts. The V Book is a classic among long distance backpacker girls. Soaking up a bit of knowledge before you hit the trail can help you catch abnormalities early before they turn into bigger problems.