Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

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CAMERONM
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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by CAMERONM » Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:33 am

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?
I sleep just fine. I think that the small amount of soap I use and where it percolates into the earth is a trace amount that presents no problem. My point however is that as a swimmer I know how much lotion comes off people's bodies. When I am swimming I oftentimes actually know exactly who just got in the water by what I smell. I can smell and differentiate each different lotion, and the anti-chlorine hair stuff some people put on. If I can smell it, then its pollution for sure.

We all make decisions 20 times a day about how our actions impact the earth, not just in the wilderness. I drive a car, and sometimes buy things wrapped in plastic. I feel less good about those things. Mea Culpa. The only completely LNT method is to not enter the wilderness at all.
Last edited by CAMERONM on Tue Jan 23, 2018 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.








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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:59 am

I do not see it as entirely an environmental issue. Even if a small impact in the "big picture", I do not backpack in the "big picture". I backpack in the "little picture", one specific place, one specific time. To me it is just "expedition behavior". Be nice to the next person who will camp at that spot! Suds on the ground or in the lake, even if temporary, is the same as left over toilet paper. Ugh! If you insist on soap of any kind, dig a cat hole and then cover it up. Do not spit toothpaste on vegetation- I really do not want to see that- never know when the next rain will wash it off.

As for Dr Bonners, biodegradable may still put "natural" stuff in the water that will make it taste bad. Interesting that when I was in Peru, they showed us how to make sudsy shampoo out of a native plant- they crushed it into a sudsy paste. On the flip side, even this "all natural" soap used in the streams degrades the water quality which was the worst I have ever seen. Nobody drinks out of the streams. Everyone uses bottled water.

LNT is never said you can eliminate impact, just minimize it.

Disagree the thought that the permit system is some government conspiracy - it simply is a method to reduce the cumulative impacts and give each of us a better chance at a better wilderness experience. The fact is, because the Sierra are near large population centers, use has to be limited. We should just be thankful we can still camp where we want - many backpacking areas require you to camp at established campsites with a crowed of others. Or have a local guide (a lot of international areas). Our permit system is really quite liberal and still allows you a lot of freedom of when and where you go once you leave the trail head.

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Cross Country » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:31 am

A pessimist is not a realist by definition. I don't think the permit system is a government conspiracy either. I think it's a result of well meaning environmentalists but if we had access to twice the permits allowed now the extra impact wouldn't be nearly as much as I've seen from packers. I'm not complaining about packers. More permits would make it better for the good guys - us. Also, as I've said here a lot: when we critisize each other we're criticizing the good guys.
I used soap to wash my pot. That's about all, but it's not my point.
PS: it always bothered me to see soap in the water but it never made me angry.

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Cross Country » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:32 am

If you think our permit system is quite liberal than I think you're quite conservative.

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Scouter9 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:16 pm

This took a bit of a sideways turn...

Although I suspect everyone has come across folks literally bathing with soap in lakes or streams, or noticed small bottles of Dawn dish soap in someone's gear, I haven't seen anyone suggest or infer that such is their own practice.

Whether you are washing with straight water, or a phosphate-free, actually biodegradable, oil-based castille soap like Dr. Brommers, it's only appropriate far from water. That's simple, right?

Now, if you happen to believe that any soap of any kind will have too much impact to be "responsible", you may be right or you may just be wrong. There are subjective standards and that pesky "science" involved in the equation. I, among many, have reached the conclusion that castille soap has extraordinarily low or no deleterious impacts when used smartly.

"Smartly" should at least be a goal for all of us, right? If someone has better insight or better technique, we discuss it and might make smart decisions. :soapbox:

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by balance » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:30 pm

On a seven to ten day trip, rinsing myself and my clothes every day or every other day keeps me relatively clean. I jump in the water almost every day, and have managed to get pretty chilled a couple times. Then I have to pile on all my clothes and move around until I warm up. Soap isn't necessary anytime under ten days.

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:47 pm

The Sierra permit system does still give us a lot of freedom, compared to what is common throughout much of the world. Liberal or conservative perhaps are not the correct words to describe this. Of course, it is restrictive compared to those areas that do not require permits at all. But these wilderness areas are usually far from large population centers.

I had not given a lot of thought to the sunscreen that gets into lakes when you swim in a lake. Good point. I use the "cover-up with clothes" method, rather than sunscreen.

I would not characterize all packers or those who use horses as polluters. On the whole, I do not think stock permits in the Sierra represent a very large percentage of permits given. I would not call we backpackers the "good guys" and everyone else the "bad guys". Two of the most impacted areas are due to the incredible increase in numbers of PCT and JMT "good guys", as these routes become so popular. Unfortunately I have observed the "good guys" brush teeth with toothpaste, directly in lakes, dump dishwater in lakes, and leave numerous food package wrappers along the trail. Definitely a small percentage. I am always torn between "educating" these folks or just let it go. I really do not want to play "cop" when I am backpacking, so I usually just let it go.

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Dave_Ayers » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:48 pm

Gotta start a list of those that don't bathe or launder clothes so I know who to camp upwind of. :D

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by kpeter » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:06 pm

I use a LOT of sunblock, given my family history of melanoma. The incredients in my sunblock are a mile long and do not look trivial. I also will use a fair amount of DEET when conditions warrant. For this reason I have almost never jumped into a stream or lake. I have always thought that putting a lot of sunblock and DEET into the drinking water supply was not a good idea.

I remember being very bothered when I was camped at Vernon and a troop of Boy Scouts came and all went swimming right in front of my camp where I had been getting water. I don't want to drink the chemicals in sunblock. So I am adamant about not rinsing off in lakes and streams. I will take sponge baths far away from fresh water. I carry a collapsible bucket so I can do so.

Some of you are quite adamant about not using soap, and I have seldom done so. I will sometimes use a little to wash my socks in the middle of a very long trip, but dispose of that wastewater as I would human waste. Bronner's is almost all vegetable oil and ascorbic acid. It has no detergents, phosphates, etc. Of course, getting a bunch of vegetable oil into a lake would not be a good thing, so it is best to take care even with it. But it is certainly no more impactful than whatever you rinse off your dishes--which also needs to be disposed of with care.

My cousin, a biologist with the BLM, was backpacking with me once and observed my behavior. He laughed at my avoidance of swimming. "The solution to pollution is dilution" he said. The volume of water in a medium sized lake was so enormous compared with the sunblock that would rinse off my body that I should not be concerned. So he said. I'm still not convinced, particular when multiplied by many people (such as a troop of boy scouts) at a high use lake.

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Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:47 pm

Yeh, the "dilution is the solution" is the basis for the EPA drinking water standards. Often it does work. But given the climatic variance in the Sierra, where a four-year drought can stagnate a small lake (stop inflow and outflow), a little polution from a lot of backpackers adds up. I see this along the JMT. I only use sunscreen on my face, and wash my face up at camp. I hate DEET and rarely use it. It is just my stinking body that goes into lakes and streams. Nevertheless, I would never dip in an area where there are nearby campers. It is simply rude (and I perhaps am a bit modest too). Lately, I have only done bucket-baths in lakes, with most of the water falling on the shore. I started doing this when I stepped into Evolution Lake and up came a swirl of mud with a half-decomposed rat. I about gagged. I will submerge in a flowing stream.

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