Hygiene is often the first socially acceptable practice to get abandoned at the trailhead. I’ve even revelled in my filth, pushing over a week on the trail without a shower. Hygiene is essential to caring for yourself and can be why you must abandon your end-to-end.

Only some things that make hiking harder make it better.

Consider this scenario: while hiking, you develop a rash on your underarms due to dirt, poorly fitting clothes and the constant abrasion of swinging your arms underneath your bag. Suddenly, you become aware of this issue and compensate for the rash by holding your body not to aggravate the sore area. This uncomfortable position further changes your alignment by placing undue pressure on other parts of the body. The change in alignment may cause a sprain, tightness, or injury that takes you off the trail. Trail hygiene is preventative self-care, ensuring everything in your body runs smoothly. In this article, we will discuss some minor adjustments that can help you keep clean when facing a prolonged trip. 


You are not a Hobbit, get shoes that fit.

There is a whole debate between shoes vs. boots, Trail runners vs. Ultralite, or even just runners. The truth is that some shoes do not work for everyone, and walking in footwear that does not work for you is a fast way to confirm this truth. If a shoe doesn’t fit well, it will likely wear out as more stress is placed on other footwear points.  Test out your footwear in the store before you purchase a new pair of hikers. If the retailer has an inclined plane, please use this to simulate hills or uneven ground. If your feet move inside your shoes, these shoes might be too big for you or need lacing adjustments. Proper footwear is an easy way to avoid a blister and save money!  

Sizing your boots right now can avoid pain later
Gaiters keeping some mud out after stepping in an alpine bog

 “It isn’t the mountain that wears you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe” – Muhammad Ali

… So take the pebble out of your shoe, Ali! While hiking, your shoes and boots collect twigs, seeds, and gravel debris. Stopping to remove this debris will help keep you from compensating your gait for the junk in your shoes. This advice also goes for bunched socks. If you want to take this to the next level, consider purchasing a pair of summer gaiters to keep your shoes dirt-free. Dirty girl gaiters sell these in fun patterns, but I understand your hesitation with shagadelic pink. Dirty Girl Gaiters 

Cut your toenails!

Fairly self-explanatory. Cutting your toenails straight across at an appropriate length will help prevent rubbing against your footwear’s toe box and prevent in-grown toenails from hobbling you along the trail.

Clean and roll your feet:

Remove any surface dirt with water or a baby wipe. Roll out the small muscles, including the heel and toes, by stepping on the ball and moving beneath your feet. The sensation should be a dull ache, similar to a massage. If something is pinching and painful, stop immediately.

A couple of backend toenails after hiking

General Hygiene

Keep those hands clean!

Wash those hands!

Or use hand sanitizer frequently when using the toilet. Communal diseases such as Norovirus can knock you off the trail for a few days. The best deterrent for Noro is to wash your hands after using the bathroom.

A wet wipe bath helps:

Removing the layer of grime from your body before getting into your sleeping bag or sheets should help with odour and sleep. A “wipe down” is also an excellent time to check for ticks which might have found their way underneath your clothing. 

Dental hygiene:

Clean teeth are a must! Floss isn’t difficult to pack, giving you little reason not to clean those teeth. 

A general rule of thumb

Don’t skip up on the opportunity to shower or do laundry. Even if you can only do one rather than both, having clean clothes and a clean body counts.

The car after a load of laundry at a provincial park

Biodegradable Soap

Backcountry Cooking

Before we end, a quick note on biodegradable soap. It is fantastic that these products exist, though they need to be used as the package instructs. We cannot use biodegradable products such as Campsuds in water sources as the compounds are meant to be consumed by soil-based organisms. Using these products in lakes and streams is akin to polluting them as the soaps stay where they are, creating a foam or ugly sheen in the water. If you use biodegradable soap, mix it into a pot of water and then use it to clean your clothes, dishes or body. When finished, dig a small hole to pour the water into. If you are washing dishes, grab the food scraps too. Then you are done! Still clean and no pollution. 

Stay Clean!

Aaron “Talus” Holden

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