By Chelsea Parrott
Whether your hike is hours or months long, proper hygiene is key to staying on the trail. Neglecting simple health concerns can spell a recipe for defeat as small problems turn into issues that require extraction and front-country medicine.
Keep yourself and other hikers healthy by preparing for your journey with first aid training, physical fitness preparation, and research from local experts. Check out these 5 tips before you begin!
Trail mix, anyone? Before you stick your hand into a baggie or container of food, consider that hikers might not have clean hands due to the constant interaction with dirt, equipment, or runny noses.
Instead of grabbing snacks out of the bag, tip the container out into your mouth or into the hands of those with whom you’d like to share your unadulterated goodies.
Bros Before Nose
Runny noses are a common occurrence among hikers breathing in the crisp cold air of the mountains.
Blowing your nose on a tissue can be a waste of paper, so the typical hiker will resort to a classic “snot rocket” technique. But be kind to your fellow hiking bros by reliving your nose well-away from others.
Strive to minimize the need to clean cook-gear by only using the stove to boil water, rather than to cook foods. Cooking stoves come in all shapes and sizes, but all cookware in the backcountry is difficult to thoroughly clean.
Cook gear should never be washed directly in a water source. Food particles and soap pollution negatively impact the natural ecosystem and sensitive waterways. Easiest option? Use freeze-dried meals that can be rehydrated within their own pouch, then packed out with trash items.
Air ‘Em Out
Yeast infections, funky junk, and other annoying, stinky health issues can occur while hiking in hot and wet conditions. Try to air out your body’s crevasses whenever possible.
Hiking skirts and kilts are a great way to get airflow around one’s undercarriage. Wear loose-fitting clothing made of breathable materials or naturally antimicrobial fibers like wool. Take wet clothing off every night while backpacking and allow your body to get as dry as possible.
Heal-All to Rule Them All
Chapstick, lotion, blister cream; instead of lugging around a hodgepodge of moisturizing ointments, try to bring one balm to rule them all. Natural herbal salves based on beeswax are commonly found in health food stores. These can be used on every topical issue from windburn to friction reduction on hot spots.