Take the 2-minute tour ×
The Great Outdoors Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who love outdoor activities, excursions, and outdoorsmanship. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I love hiking but there is a serious problem - I find it disgusting to be sweaty or dirty. I am literally unable to function properly if I do not get a thorough and warm shower every morning.

This places me in a difficult position, as I do not want to give up long hikes but the discomfort is really too much for me. In the summer, a good swim every morning works OK to wash the filth off of me but there is only so much of summer and I tend to go out all year round (perhaps even more so in winter).

Are there some basic tricks to keeping clean? Or do you just try to get used to the filth? To be clear, I am speaking of keeping my body clean, not so much the clothes, since those bother me less (and I can always bring a change of clothes for longer hikes).

share|improve this question
I love the question, but I can't help - I revel in the freedom of being filthy while I hike... of course, I hike alone most of the time, so there's no one to annoy with my stank :) –  Ryley Feb 10 '12 at 18:15
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Some methods

  • Alcohol, either hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol with a microfiber towel to have a "bath"
    Advantages: Lightweight, fast.
    Disadvantages: Dries your skin, have to carry the alcohol, and breathing it isn't perfectly healthy.
  • Solar Shower
    Advantages: Can get pretty darned clean.
    Disadvantages: You have to carry it, collect water, and even with sun it's really cold in the dead of winter.
  • Towel Bath with microfiber towel, bucket of water, and soap.
    Advantages: You can heat water with your camp gear and pour it into a bucket for warm water.
    Disadvantages: Slower, uses fuel.
  • Baby wipes, just wipe down with them (some people use them, I don't personally)
    Advantages: The only one I can really think of is that it's easy.
    Disadvantages: They're expensive, heavy, and you have to pack them out with you.

Remember, if you use soap, use a biodegradable one, do not use nitrate-based soaps, and pour your dirty water well away from any water sources. Dr. Bronners makes a good camp soap.

Microfiber towels are great. Personally I buy cheap automotive ones, which seem to work just as well (for me) as the fancy ones made just for hikers.

I'd recommend either just using your camp pot (if it's large enough) or buying a collapsible bucket.

I've always used the alcohol method because all it requires is hand sanitizer. When really grungy I have on occasion also wiped down with a damp shammy.

share|improve this answer
These are probably what I'd write also. I can't use alcohol because my skin is very dry to begin with, and this seems to make it worse. Personally I use baby wipes with a dash of hot water. Helps the smell, and for a short trip I don't mind the ounces. I second the Dr. Bronners, too. –  Greg.Ley Feb 10 '12 at 18:05
@Greg.Ley -- Thanks, I updated with the skin drying. I had not thought of that (never caused me that issue) –  Russell Steen Feb 10 '12 at 18:10
I'd like to add baby/talcum poweder to the list: works in hair to cut down greasiness, in the underwear to deal with sweat/crotch rot, and in socks. –  furtive Feb 14 '12 at 0:55
add comment

After a long day on the trail, I'll take my grooming bucket (reused plastic margarine or sherbet container with lid), and go down to the water hole.

Collect some water and rinse out the bandana. Start at the head and work my way down/in. I'll pull off my shirt and then wash my torso. Pull off my socks and wash my legs. I then wash my groin area, and immediately change into my "camp" clothes. I tend to not use soap, and whenever the water in my bucket gets "icky", I'll toss onto the grassy area near where I'm washing, and refill with river water. Once I'm washed and wearing my camp clothes, then I'll fill my container and wash my clothes, and hang them up once I'm back in camp.

If the wash water was suspect, I'll frequently then take purified water and give myself a bandana-bath and dispose of that used water far from the watersource.

I tend to not use soap if at all possible, because I found that it does not always rinse cleanly, and that residue is a little annoying in the city, it's a horrible rash if it's in sensitive and high-friction areas.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.