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Backcountry Cleanliness

Backpacking and camping basics and other general trip planning discussion for the uninitiated. Use this forum to learn where to look for the information you need, and to ask questions, related to the beginner basics of backpacking and camping, including technique and best practices.

Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby SSSdave » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:43 am

TehipiteTom wrote:I have to say, this whole thread (with a few individual exceptions) is so bizarrely alien to me that it might as well have come from another planet. The notion that people as demonstrably hardy as y'all are would turn out to be such delicate flowers that you just couldn't bear the sort of conditions prevalent for 99.99999% of human history--well, in all honesty, I never would have guessed it.

As noted, when winter snow backpacking or desert backpacking we bear being grubby Don't like be grubby, especially at night in my sleeping bag but without a choice out in the desert one deals with it. Much like the desert midday heat. Don't like it but its not going to keep me away.

And the idea that a little grime would motivate anyone to do anything as demonstrably insane as jump in water below 60 degrees--well, if I invented a story that crazy, nobody would believe me. I don't understand (most of) you. I have no idea what goes through your heads. I'm only glad I don't live there myself.

I'm like the bear that can take a few bee stings in order to enjoy that comb of honey. The discomfort of cold water is actually rather low on my list. Worse is having to monkey through a length of big talus carrying my heavy pack. Much worse is say getting out of the Subu, at the bottom of Mineral King Valley, hefting my 70 pound pack on my back and starting up the Sawtooth Pass trail. Or having to spend a night while because of limited tenting locations too close to someone that SNORZZZZZZ all night. Or having to deal with hiking several more miles after the soles of my feet are painfully sore from pounding down a trail like Sawtooth Pass.

In each case there is some honey at the end. One of my goals in the backcountry has always been figuring out how to make the experience more pleasant and fun despite having to pay some usual dues. A few seconds of cold water is small stuff. Feeling clean for hours especially in my silky clean down sleeping bag is much more the pleasure.

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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby tomcat_rc » Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:04 pm

I usually start my morning with a cup of hot tea or coffee. I boil a little extra water and then mix the leftover with some cold water for a warm pot of water. This is usually enough for face, hair, and underarms. Clean and fresh way to start each morning. This method allows me to go longer without needing a full body soak in a cold lake.
mountain hiking is addictive:
I can quit anytime I want - I just choose not to want
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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby rlown » Thu Mar 10, 2011 12:24 pm

I respect TehipiteTom's choice. If i meet him up there, I also respect him picking his camping spot first, so i can pick a spot up wind. :p

On our last meet, he didn't smell even though it was almost unbearably hot, and he was a great skeeter magnet, so we had all that going for us. The rest of us probably smelled worse, covered in DEET.

The hand sanitizer is probably the best recommendation out of this thread. On bathing, to each their own.
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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby ceragold5150 » Thu Mar 10, 2011 8:57 pm

i smell like fish the entire time. My wife won't touch me until i shower. i enjoy every moment. Clean, dirty, whatever. The only thing i try to avoid is Lighting. Exposing my fear? No. Too close every year. It follows me where ever i may roam. :rock:
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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby Cross Country » Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:55 am

2 & 3.
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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby Snow Nymph » Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:25 am

when I backpacked, I washed off everyday incl my hair. I used a 2 ltr platypus bag, campsuds and a cooking pot to pour water over me, away from water source. I had my fleece for after washing off so that stayed kinda clean for sleeping. I also rinsed (no soap) hiking clothes off everyday (2 prs of shorts, tank top, socks and underwear in case it didn't dry) On our 30 day backpack there was only 4 days we didn't wash up, due to getting to camp late (after bagging Tyndall, Williamson, Split, and one other night that I can't remember right now). I also don't like getting in my sleeping bag dirty. I'm a clean freak, but I also loved backpacking then so I made it work for me. Scott always washed up too cuz we had to sleep together. He also has long hair. :nod:
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison

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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby stevet » Mon Mar 14, 2011 7:58 pm

A solid 2, maybe 2.1

Toward the end of the day I'll jump into most any lake, or creek pool and give my clothes a rinse. I sleep better when free of salt and grime.
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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby Sierra Maclure » Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:35 pm

I'm a 2 plus. I dunk, and do a few laps, everyday before dinner and sometimes dunk in the morning just before starting out on the day's hike - better than coffee. I don't get my hair wet, though. It doesn't dry. And a wet head in low 30's at night makes me too cold. The only time I ever multi-tasked (washed me and my clothes at the same time) was during a heat wave at 6,000 ft in Kendrick Canyon. Tossed the pack and boots and walked right in. \:D/
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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby Oubliet » Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:34 am


If I get into a good camp site early enough to have enough sun to dry off, I'll take a swim and clean off the worst of the sweat and grime. I also bring a backpackers' sink and take it off and away from the water source and use a few drops of Dr Bronners to scrub the 'pits and crotch.

If I'm late into a campsite and it's already getting cold, I'll try to do the bit with the backpackers' sink at the very least. Using a bandanna to scrub my face with water is very refreshing after a hot,sweaty day of carrying the pack around on my back.

I floss after dinner and brush my teeth with a little toothpaste.

Even so, after a week on the trail, I feel pretty grubby at the end of a trip. One, I drove home right after getting off the trail. I had to leave the window cracked open on the drive, because I was too "pungent" to be in a sealed space.
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Re: Backcountry Cleanliness

Postby kpeter » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:32 pm

I have two different styles of trips.

On my "bring the kitchen sink" basecamp trips I load up my old Kelty Tioga external frame with 60 pounds of goodies, including a 2 1/2 gallon SunShower, and pack in one day and set up a basecamp. The SunShower gets filled and goes on top of a tall isolated rock with the nozzle hanging down. Each day from the basecamp I will take a light dayhike and return to camp by late afternoon--just in time for a hot shower. So on those trips I'm a 3 or 4.

On my "through hike" trips I cut the labels off of tea bags and take 35 pounds in my GoLite Odyssey. The SunShower does not come along. I don't wash my face because I am carrying a limited supply of sunblock and I want it to build up layer by layer! I wash my hands before meals and that is it. I am less than a 1.

I have not gone swimming in the high country since I was a teenager 35 years ago. I've heard the old saw about pollution and dilution, but I also remember the oily sheen on the water that was left after a troop of boy scouts went swimming in my water collection spot. If we need to be very careful about not letting soap get into a stream or lake, why on earth would we introduce Deet and sunscreen? After five days, I probably have half a tube of sunblock caked on me, and I've always thought that sticking it into the lake would be a bad idea.
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