The question of hygiene in the hike is raised quite often, but it is discussed very generally, without understanding that for female hygiene while backpacking in the outdoors is much more important and complicated. So women backpackers out there, I am writing this article for you.
Everyone of us, with experience, has already developed her techniques and tricks on personal hygiene while camping and backpacking. And I, having been on hiking for many years including guiding Camp Caucasus tours, want to openly share my practical tips for staying clean in the backcountry. This guide to feminine care while backpacking will be useful for someone who is new to hikes, or just searching for new solutions.
Unscented wet wipes
Unscented wet wipes are suitable for normal daily hygiene in the Spartan conditions of the mountains. This is the simplest and most logical solution to the problem. But they have a couple of “but”: the weight of wet wipes can grow dramatically depending on the amount you take with you, sometimes more than 0.5 kg on longer hikes. And this is already a significant load that usually never gets lighter because you have to keep it in your personal waste bag (to minimize impact on environment). In addition, wet wipes remove dirt, but can not always cope with sunscreen. And as for me, they still leave a little sticky sensation on the skin. Better than nothing, but there are alternatives.
Biodegradable Soap for hiking
For example, on summer hikes, sometimes instead of wet wipes, I take a small bar of biodegradable soap, a very simple and logical option. Though keep in mind that the dirt on the trail is completely different than in the city. In nature, our skin is contaminated by natural dust and our sweat, and sometimes sunscreen. In the city they are all sorts of harmful gases, a ton of cosmetics that we apply ourselves, and other chemicals that just need to be washed off in the evening. In nature, the skin rests from it all and it’s not vital to wash the face every day.
I often noticed that in springs and streams water is much softer than in the city and it is harder to wash off ordinary, even baby soap. Also water is not always enough to consume it. Therefore, I often take coal tar soap. It’s washed very easily and is much healthier for the skin. For a 10-day hike, I get a full cosmetic therapy for the face and body skin due to the natural environment, proper nutrition, a lack of harmful gases, soap and sunscreen, which is applied to clean skin and moisturizes it.
Bear in mind, biodegradable soap harms the environment, especially in sensitive wilderness areas such as the high alpine, so according to Leave No Trace Principles, you need to use it further from freshwater sources like lake, river or stream.
Hair care while hiking and camping
A dry shampoo
For hair, get yourself a dry shampoo. Very handy thing. Just sprinkle to hair, and then brush it. It eliminates the need to wet your head in bad and cold weather, in the absence of water, or time for a normal shower. But even for it, there is not always a place or opportunity to buy.
That's why I use a standard feminine trick - a headband. I have a buff that I put on at the beginning of the trail and take off at the end. I have several goals at once. Often the hike takes through the villages with very strict traditions. The further you go, the stricter it is. Let the locals become accustomed to tourists, it’s safer and friendlier when you look at least approximately according to their canons. And closed hair in many regions is an important element of the female appearance.
Also, the buff protects against ultraviolet radiation, which is not good for the skin or hair. And thirdly, the buff keeps the hair cleaner throughout the hike. They don't collect dust, don't get messy by the wind and keep fresh for much longer. At night, without removing the buff, I release my hair and let it out to the opposite end, so that the hair can rest. Plus at night, the head and ears are protected from hypothermia.
Taking a shower while backpacking
For many years of hiking, I know well that 2 liters of warm water is absolutely enough for me to wash my body and head. Girls, if there is such a luxury as warm water in a campsite, then bring a glove-washcloth with you. It weighs nothing, but can save water and soap significantly. It’s faster, more pleasant and easier to wash with it. And ask our amazing men to have a pot of water hanging on a fire after dinner. A mug of boiling water can be diluted with a liter of cold water and get a washing liquid of the right temperature in sufficient quantity. Wash yourself while pouring water from a bottle, but don't completely unscrew the cap - water consumption will also decrease. This is an issue when there are many hikers, but not enough water supply.
Dealing with period while hiking
If you are “lucky” enough to get a period during the hiking trip, it does not mean you need to change your plans at all! Especially with pads, tampons or menstrual cups it is very easy to handle hygiene. For tampons and pads will be necessary to create small waste bag to not leave the trash in nature. Keep in mind, that pads in the city could be fine but in hot summer while hiking it can rub and create huge discomfort. The most eco-friendly and less fussy while camping and backpacking would be to use menstrual cup, it’s becoming popular among hikers, if you don’t know about, it’s worth a try (though you will need time to get used to it, so try in the city first).
Toilet issues on the trail
Another uncomfortable thing, if this is a trail without a specialized camping toilet, then in bad or cold weather going to the toilet is also very uncomfortable for us. It is also not any easier in an alpine zone or in a field where there is simply no bush or folds of terrain. In this case, a sleeping mat might help us. Just wrap it around you. It will cover you from the cold wind, and from the look of co-hikers. Don’t forget to cover a cathole when finished!
The list of backpacking hiking essentials for women will look as follows:
Unscented wet wipes
Unscented, biodegradable soap
A menstrual cup or feminine hygiene products and a sealable plastic bag to carry them out.
An experienced hiker will not find anything new in my recommendations. These Eco-friendly backpacking hygiene tips for women are as old as tourism, and already tested. But perhaps this will help make the hiking trip more comfortable for the beginners and minimize the impact on the trail. After all, “how to stay fresh while hiking?” - this is one of the most frequent questions that new hikers ask me. If you apply a little knowledge, then everything becomes simple and comfortable.
Have many wonderful hikes and stay clean while getting dirty in the mountains!
P. S. If you're looking for an organized sport, hiking and adventure tours in Caucasus region, contact us, we are happy to help you.