The other week I posted on my Instagram asking YOU guys what are some of your beginner’s hiking questions! One of the most frequent questions I got asked was regarding hygiene?
People asked: How do I go to the bathroom on a long hike? How do I pee outside? How about have a bowel movement outside? These are great outdoor hygiene questions!
This may sound like a gross topic to you, but it should be discussed because let’s be real! We all poop and pee, so why not discuss how to appropriately do it in nature?
This article will give you more information than just how to pee in the outdoors, but how to be eco-friendly in the outdoors with your hygiene routine.
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Personal hygiene is extremely important for you and your health. Some people may avoid hiking and backpacking because they are afraid to use the bathroom outdoors or don’t know what is the appropriate way to do so I know I used to.
So, let’s get down to the dirty 😉 details of what you need to know about eco-friendly outdoor hygiene techniques.
OUTDOOR HYGIENE AND WHAT IS HYGIENE
First, let’s talk about what hygiene is. This article will be more geared toward the female hiker and backpacker, but lots of these same techniques and principals apply to males as well.
Hygiene is a condition or practice that is conducive to maintaining health and preventing diseases-through cleanliness.
It is especially important to maintain hygiene in the outdoors because you are at an increased risk for obtaining a Urinary tract infection (UTI), especially among the females. You also want to avoid sunburns, skin infections, rashes, or skin irritations while in the outdoors.
Everyone’s hygiene routine is obviously different. For example, you may only wash your hair every three days where I may wash it every day. That is ok that we all have our own routines. What is really comes down to though is that you maintain hygienic while in the outdoors.
Pick and choose what you want from this post! This is just me doing my best to help you understand and learn how to be kind to our nature family when going to the bathroom in the outdoors.
ECO-FRIENDLY OUTDOOR HYGIENE
I personally believe that it is important to know what is in the products you are using. Over the past year, my husband and I have slowly been making changes to our routine and trying to find more eco-friendly options for both our cleaning products and our hygiene products.
It is not easy to switch everything over right away, so I am not asking you to make a complete switch, but I do want to challenge you to maybe start by changing one of your products out for an eco-friendly product. Do this every few months and you will have eco-friendly hygiene products in no time!
Bring eco-friendly outdoor hygiene products into nature is also preferable. It is better for the environment and us as hikers and backpackers want to keep this world beautiful. One way we can do this is by choosing to use the eco-friendly and biodegradable products when out in nature.
Let’s try to help our planet vs harm our planet.
TAKING A BATH/SHOWER & WASHING/BRUSHING YOUR HAIR
Regularly brushing your hair is always good to do, but whether or not you want to wash your hair when out in the backcountry is up to you. It depends on how long you are in the outdoors and how often you normally wash your hair.
One thing I normally do before heading out on a trip is to wash my hair the night before. I tend to blowdry it as well the night before leaving. I find that this helps my hair from getting less greasy when outdoors.
Another great option for those with long hair like me is to wear french braids. I love wearing braids for the first few days and then taking them out for the last few days. It even offers two different hairstyles for your photos 🙂
Ok, let’s talk about bathing in the outdoors. You will be amazed and how refreshing it feels to take a bath when backpacking. Even if the water that you are using is freezing I still highly recommend bathing.
You will feel like a new person.
If you are going to bathe yourself with soap or body wash it is important to follow the Leave No Trace principles and go 200 feet away from the water source and trails. Try gathering your water in a container or in a water bladder and using that to wash yourself.
If you are going just for a dip and not using soap then you can jump right into the lake or river!
Here are some great options for sustainable and eco-friendly shampoos. This brand has tons of options for shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Dr. Bonner’s is a great body wash too.
Other great options, if you don’t feel like fully bathing, is to use a dry shampoo and some body wipes. The best option to store all these products in would be in a reusable bag. They are super easy to wash too and they save the planet!
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BRUSHING YOUR TEETH
Do not skimp on brushing your teeth just because you are now in nature! My mom is a dental hygienist, so it has been ingrained in my brain to brush my teeth every morning and night-no matter what.
If you don’t keep your teeth clean you are running the risk of cavities, gum disease, rotting teeth, and lots more health issues. There are a lot of articles that state if you don’t brush your teeth it can lead to a multitude of other health problems. Plus, who doesn’t love pretty shiny teeth and good-smelling breath!
If you don’t think you can brush your teeth twice a day out in nature, then I strongly recommend that you at least do it once a day.
Also, I recommend that you still floss while out hiking too! Here are some of my eco-friendly recommendations for brushing your teeth in nature.
You can either go the full toothbrush and toothpaste route:
Tom of Maine’s is a great eco-friendly toothpaste and you can even get eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes. Another option is to just bring along toothpaste chews and your toothbrush. These are simple because you just chew them up, kinda like gum, and brush your teeth with them.
DRINKING WATER FROM A RIVER
This is important for your physical and gut health. There can be some pretty bad bacteria in rivers and lakes that are dangerous to the body. This is one of my personal favorite outdoor hygiene tips.
It is such an easy and quick fix to turn dirty water into clean water and that is why I love it!
First off, I love using my Camelback water system because it makes drinking water so easy. Second, when you filter your water it is so simple to do with a camelback.
There are two ways you can filter your water. You can either buy a filtration system, which I personally recommend, or you can by tablets to put into your water to kill the bad bacteria.
I personally think the filtration system water tastes cleaner and more fresh and the water doesn’t look as murky as tablet water. Below are the exact items I have used.
PEEING AND POOPING IN THE OUTDOORS
Shocking fact you may not know! You still have to pee and poop when in the outdoors! Those things don’t just stop because you are in nature. So, let’s talk about everyone’s most asked questions. How do I pee and poop in the outdoors!?
Not going to lie-this one does take some time to get used to doing. It is going to feel uncomfortable at first. Of course, peeing for men is much easier than women in the wild, but don’t let that deter you.
Again when you pee outdoors, you need to make sure to follow the leave no trace principle and go 200 feet away from the trail and any water source. Ladies, this part is for you. There are a few options. You can either squat it out and wipe with toilet paper.
Either use this dry toilet paper or these wet wipes. Honestly, when I am out in nature I prefer using wet wipes to clean myself after peeing. For some reason, you feel just a little bit cleaner. Regardless of what you choose to use you need to pack it out. I know that is gross, but don’t leave it in the woods.
You can use the Shewee-it is basically a urinal for the female. You even do this while standing. It saves you from squatting, helps avoid getting urine on your clothes and shoes, and maybe even saves your little tooshy from getting poison oak.
Another option is the Kula cloth. When I first heard of this I thought it was disgusting, but now I think it is genius. The Kula cloth is a cloth that is used in place of toilet paper. You use the plain black dimpled side to absorb any residual moisture.
The other side is waterproof so you don’t have to worry about anything soaking through. This fabric is antimicrobial and silver- infused and it snaps to your backpack.
Men, you have it easy and I am jealous. That is all I have to say.
When you are done urinating make sure to cover it up with some dirt and leaves.
This requires a little bit more planning and more gear as well. If you are a daily pooper and heading out on a multi-day trip then you need to bring some gear along for this situation.
If you can, the leave no trace principle says to dig a hole 6-8 inches 200-feet away from the water source and trail. You can use this lightweight shovel to dig your hole or if you don’t want to carry that use a stick or your hands.
Once you are done, fill the hole back up with dirt and cover your waste. Place a rock over your whole after filling it up, so that no animals try to dig it out.
Regardless of whether you are peeing or pooping you should use some hand sanitizer after using the restroom. No one likes gross hands.
WOMEN SPECIFIC OUTDOOR HYGIENE
Alright, ladies! This outdoor hygiene tip is specifically for you. How annoying are periods, am I right? I mean, I feel like Aunt flow always comes at the time I am supposed to be on vacation. Grrrr
Some options that you probably already know about are either planning your trip around your cycle or if you are on birth control then just continuing the pills and skipping that month’s period.
Menstrual cups are a great option for the outdoors-I have not personally used this myself, but I know people that highly recommend these. These are a great waste-free option compared to tampons and pads, but I haven’t been able to get myself to use them yet.
If you choose to use these you need to follow the same Leave No Trace principles that you would for pooping.
If you choose to use tampons and/or pads then remember that these have to be changed more often and they need to be packed out and disposed of when you get home. The downside of this is that they will weigh more when they are used and every ounce counts when backpacking.
For further information on being in the outdoors on your period check out this article.
SUN PROTECTION AND MOISTURIZER
These are also two very important aspects of hiking and outdoor hygiene. It is key to keep yourself from getting sunburnt which can cause dehydration and it is good to keep your body moisturized because no one wants wrinkly skin when they are old.
Here are a few reef safe and eco-friendly sunscreen options:
LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES
You will find that in almost every outdoor article I write I choose to add in some information about leave no trace. There are seven principles to the Leave No Trace etiquette, one of these being “dispose of waste properly.”
This does not only pertain to poop and pee, but also to food and anything in your bag. Here are some ways that you can dispose of your waste properly.
-Pack it in and pack it out. Never leave trash behind
-Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep to have your bowel movement in
-Cover the hole you dug when done
-Use the “restroom” at least 200 feet away from any water source, trails or camping area
Think about others before you pop a squat. Think about if you were to walk by on the trail and smell urine or poop-gross, right? So, do others and yourself a favor and go far from the trail.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM YOUR OUTDOOR LOVING SAN DIEGO GIRL
I hope this guide was helpful! Outdoor hygiene is as important as indoor hygiene plus you just feel better when you feel clean-at least I know I do. Everyone does things a little differently, so take what you want from this article. 🙂
Now go out there and enjoy this beautiful world!
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