Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

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Harlen
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Harlen » Sat Jan 20, 2018 2:10 pm

Wash clothes in the backcountry? Blaspheme!
On a week-long trip, there is really no need to wash anything besides socks, as personally, I just don't stink. In regard to any soap used though...No soap in the wilderness - ever!
My sentiments exactly, and like Mark, I don't seem to stink... either that, or my wife is too polite to tell me.*
....I can honestly see why most drivers will not pick them up!
They should get their wives to pick them up.

And SNOOOOW says he:
...almost always will jump into a lake or stream when I have decided on where to camp for the night. Nothing beats a backcountry swim after a big day with your pack on.

Well what about on a winter trip? Do you roll about in the snowbank like a husky? Whip yourself with snow-laden branches? Otherwise, I will be happy to chop a hole into an icy lake for you SNOOOOW- I look forward to it! And if you pass out from the shock, I know to revive you with medicinal Bulleit

*I rarely shower at home for that matter; it saves water in a drought, and saves energy = carbon in the atmosphere, in general.... besides, every time I shower, I get all wet.








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Scouter9
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Scouter9 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:33 pm

On many of our troop treks, we find time on Day 3 or 4 (generally of 7 on trail) to do laundry. We use a 2 gallon ziploc, Dr. Brommers soap and the shake, rinse, rinse method before drying on a paracord clothes line with genuine wooden clothes clips (because they're light and uh... vegan). We haul unfiltered water ("raw water") away to our wash site.

Based on the amount of dirty water we generate, and the renewed colors, I think it works well. It sure is nice to get that "a" shirt and socks on again when they're fresh clean. Based on the gagging tourists at trailhead, I reckon we may still be ripe, but our clothes less so. :whistle:

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by markskor » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:05 pm

To reiterate -
Don't care what it says...biodegradable? I say BS. Dr. Brommers or Dr Seuss - Doctor soap is still soap.
I choose not to use any...none at all. Rinsing is one thing, but no mater how careful you say you are, soap fouls the backcountry.
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Cross Country » Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:37 pm

My response is about more than soap. Just walking into the backcountry impacts it. Perhaps some here think that by not using soap it makes them saintly. IT DOESN'T! Not using soap in the backcountry has virtually no effect on this world in comparison to the good things and good deeds we can do for the benifit of others. It's a matter of priorities. What we do in the backcountry counts for virtually nothing. My experience is that almost all people who backpack more than a tiny bit are the good guys. To take a self rightous attitude in comparison to the rest of us is just plain looney. We are almost all of us the good guys.
If I had triple the impact on the backcountry in comparison to the average person here it would be virtually meaningless. In case you haven't noticed, the wilderness in the Sierra is enormous - HUGLEY ENORMOUS! The Sierra backcountry has been a tremendous inspiration to me but it's not a religion. Being self righteous is actually counter productive. I'm proud of the effect I have on 6 other people (two are family members and four are not).
Most people are very selfish. My education and experience tells me: follow the money (it's sad I know). The limiting wilderness permits system is the same. At heart I'm an environmentalists and by education en economist and businessman and by experience an educator. I LOVE to learn. I'm quite certain that the wilderness permit system is way more about special interests than it is inviornmental.

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:51 pm

Impact is a function of the level of use and duration. If a lake is visited twice a year, and you use a little soap up on the shore, that eventually will wash into the lake, the impact is minimal each time. Water bodies can to some degree clean themselves, given the time and a low level of use. But put one group a week at that lake, each putting a small bit of soap up on the shoreline (I will optimistically assume that most backpackers do not put soap directly into the lake). That level of impact may exceed the lake's ability to clean itself. Do this year after year, and the residual soap accumulates. It is more than just "soap"; even when broken down, soap contains nitrates. I have unfortunately seen too many Sierra lakes loaded with soap. The thing is, soap is NOT needed to get the level of clean that simply makes backpack life tolerable. All you really need to do is to rinse off the salt and you will feel better.

There are some natural sources (weathering of geologic material) that will make water look soapy - those little suds on the shore when the wind blows. I have also read that all the chemicals in the air due to venting our clothes dryers to the outside, will end up in the clouds that then will incorporate the chemicals in the drops of rain or snow. Since the Sierra are down-wind of major populations, this also contributes to pollution of mountain lakes. So it is not all our fault, as backpackers.

It is not that I feel "superior" about not using soap, I just do not need it, so why do it. A freshly rinsed shirt dried in sunshine smells pretty good. My body may not smell perfect, but just rinsing off the sweat helps. In fact, I have trouble with dry skin if I use soap. Lately, I mostly do "bucket" baths rather than jump in a lake. Mostly because stepping into muddy lake bottoms just gets me dirtier. I will submerge in a good flowing stream.

The lakes and streams are my DRINKING water source! As much as I like to be clean, I want good quality drinking water even more.

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AlmostThere
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by AlmostThere » Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:23 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote: The lakes and streams are my DRINKING water source! As much as I like to be clean, I want good quality drinking water even more.
And the filters we take won't remove soap -- or sunscreen, lotions, DEET, or any of the other chemicals you take in the lake with you.

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Harlen
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Harlen » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:23 pm

In case you haven't noticed, the wilderness in the Sierra is enormous - HUGLEY ENORMOUS!
In fact, I hadn't noticed. What I have noticed from hiking and studying in the Sierra since the 1970's is that these mountains no longer retain any semblance of true wilderness by any stretch of even the most optimistic ecological definition.* For example, animal species from grizzlies and wolves, through fisher, wolverine, badger, bighorn, and porcupine, down to yellow-legged frogs and a host of birdlife and invertebrates, have been hammered- some into extinction! The slopes and meadows on both sides of the range are full of exotic species, and the bane of the natural world- the human species**, has converted much of the western foothills and forest slopes, either by resource extraction, introduced diseases, or by simple misuse. On the eastern side of the range, the lower watershed has been dammed by humans into a drought-ridden dryland..... I suppose I have played into some people's version of a pessimistic, self-righteous bastard, oh well...
It's been said that "a pessimist is just a realist in full possession of the facts."

And I still refuse to wash, and certainly never with soap! I think for humans, every little gesture we make in the interest of lessening the damage matters a lot.

* Note that they haven't for over at least 100 years. If you travel to the center of the Brooks Range, or the Alaska Range, you have a better chance at experiencing wilderness. There the density and diversity of wildlife is stunning! Yet it is nothing close to that once found in the Sierra Nevada Range and its great valley watersheds on either side, as recently as 300 years ago.

** Note that among ecologists, there is no question that ecologically-speaking, humans have been, and continue to be, "the bane of the planet." And our is the only great extinction phase that was perpetrated knowingly.
Last edited by Harlen on Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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CAMERONM
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by CAMERONM » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:33 pm

Impact is a function of the level of use and duration. If a lake is visited twice a year, and you use a little soap up on the shore, that eventually will wash into the lake, the impact is minimal each time.
I assume that few in this informed group use any soap at the water source. I use a small amount of Bronners quite far from the water source, and I feel very good about it. As a swimmer with a sensitive nose, I might be more concerned about people jumping in lakes after dousing themselves with mosquito repellant and suntan lotion. I am sure that few people go through a pre-wash before they jump in.

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markskor
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by markskor » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:45 pm

CAMERONM wrote:
I use a small amount of Bronners quite far from the water source, and I feel very good about it.
After a good rain, where do you think your Bronners goes? You may feel good about it, but what about those who follow after you?
Mountainman who swims with trout

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by AlmostThere » Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:28 am

I waded out and used a ziploc bag to pick up probably a pound of pasta plus veggies and other remnants left in the shallows of one of the Chain Lakes over in Yosemite.

Pretty sure that is not the only thing people wash into the lake. Underwear? Other clothes? Sure they do. Just as disgusting if they don't use soap.

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