7 tips for staying clean and fresh outdoors

Dirt, grime, and sweat are some of the reasons why many people don’t care about spending time away from flushing toilets, running water, and hot showers. After all, people don’t usually enjoy having three layers of dry perspiration on their skin or having a sloppy crust on every crevice of their body—all things that are often unavoidable when you’re camping away from civilization or spending any time outdoors.

But just because you can’t avoid mud droplets drying on your legs, or sweating in humid 90-degree temperatures, doesn’t mean you can’t stay clean – relatively – odor-free while enjoying time in nature.

start with your hands

After spending years recording her and her husband’s adventures across the Pacific Northwest on her blog, first-person writer and outdoorsy worker Emily Mandaji offers to keep her camping and backpacking trips clean by washing your hands often — preferably with soap and water. But since this isn’t always possible in the great outdoors, the next best thing is hand sanitizer.

[Related: How to leave the great outdoors exactly how you found it]

Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is effective at killing germs that can live on your paws and make you sick when you touch your food, nose, mouth or eyes. Use it often, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating.

Pro tip: If you’re camping in a group, make sure everyone has their own bottle so you don’t constantly ask where the hand sanitizer is.

erase it

The easiest and most effective way to clean up when spending time outside is to use wet wipes. You’ll want something with germ-killing capabilities that’s not too harsh on your skin, so you’re better off skipping hand sanitizing wipes (which can be drying) and buttocks wipes (which don’t kill many germs). Instead, look for products from brands like Ursa Major or Allez that are effective in killing microorganisms, but also designed for outdoor use and feature natural ingredients and skin-soothing properties.

Remember, you’ll want to leave the outdoors just as you found them, so unless there are litter cans along your driveway, you’ll also want to bring a zip bag to pack any used wet wipes.

With these more compact models, water will come out from a nozzle attached to a bag that generally holds between 2 and 24 liters of water. But even smaller portable showers are bulky, so they’re better for excursions where size or weight isn’t an issue, such as camping in a car.

wash or rinse

You don’t have to have a handheld showerhead to take a shower. All you need is a bottle of water and a bit of biodegradable soap to wash your hands and any other dirt-covered areas of your body. A squeeze bottle with a sport top will do the job well, but a bottle with a perforated cap provides a more shower-like flow.

Mandagie prefers something more immersive: a quick dip in a cold lake. “It’s a refreshing way to feel clean after a long, sweaty ride.” If you choose to take a dip in a natural bathtub, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing reef-safe sunscreen, and leave any soap out of the equation. This includes the biodegradable kind, as it degrades in soil, not water, so it will contaminate natural waterways.

rent a shower

If wet wipes just don’t cut it anymore and you’re not ready for a full shower in the back of your SUV, you can often find a real, honest-to-God shower no matter where you travel. Just know that you may have to pay for it.

Actual showering is what Mandagie calls a “hygiene reset” and involves exploring local gyms or YMCAs that might provide inexpensive day use or shower passes for weary travelers. Pay at the front desk and you’ll be spotlessly clean in no time.

If they have them, camps often allow people to use their bathing facilities for a fee. Check locally owned operations to see if they’ll let visitors in and clean before heading out on their way.

Keep the bathroom toy tidy

When you spend days, or even just hours, outdoors, you will likely have to rest yourself at some point. When you do, comply with the Leaving No Trace principles: Dig a hole six to eight inches deep and at least 100 feet from a natural water source; Go into the hole and cover it with dirt when you’re done.

Before your trip, check with your local park office to make sure you are also allowed to bury waste such as used toilet paper. If they don’t, you’ll have to pack them up instead, so make sure you have zip-top bags or dog litter bags at the ready. If you want to skip toilet paper, consider biodegradable wet wipes. Just remember that most of them don’t degrade quickly in the soil, so you’ll still need to fill them up.

Alternatively, whether you’re doing your errands outdoors, in portable restrooms, or camp showers, you can hang a portable bidet. There are many brands that make purpose-built devices, but your typical sports water bottle with a squeeze cap will do the job, too. Just be sure to name it so you don’t accidentally drink it after it’s been dangerously close to your nightmare.

clean your clothes

Aside from stopping at the laundromat, there aren’t many options for washing clothes when spending time outside. But there are a few things you can do to get the bad smell out of your clothes in the meantime.

Get a spray bottle with one part rubbing alcohol and one part water. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, if you like. Spray the mixture generously on smelly clothes to get rid of the bad smell for a day or so — or until you sweat again. Keep in mind that it won’t do anything about stains or mud, but it may make you less likely to scrape off the bodily tugging if the sink is still a few days away.

[Related: How to do laundry the green way]

If you need a deeper clean, get yourself a portable laundry bag. These devices are watertight, highly compact, and fitted inside to provide excitement. Simply add soiled clothes and biodegradable soapy water, and shake it until your clothes are clean. Rinse, squeeze, and hang to dry. Dump the used water into a nearby sink if available, but if you’re only using a squeeze or two of biodegradable soap and there are no harsh chemicals, distributing the dirty water over a wide area of ​​land is okay too.

Unless you plan on waiting for the clothes to dry, we recommend using this method only on sunny or windy days, and with quick-drying fabrics, such as polyester.

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