Hygienic Hiking – Tips to Smelling Fresh and Staying Clean On Long Hikes

Let’s face it – we all long to be one with nature, hiking amongst snow topped mountains or lush green hills that call out to our souls – but after a few days in the wilderness, we begin to smell like one of the wild creatures too. One whiff of your scent going downwind could possibly alert others that there is a creature they don’t want to cross paths with ahead on the trail.

Well, you don’t want that to happen, do you? Having a hot shower is not really a realistic possibility, especially if you want to be away from civilization, but here are a few tips and tricks that could have you feeling fresh and clean during your trek.

Alternatives to bathing:

If you have a water body nearby – great! Jumping into a nearby lake or stream can wash off your day’s dirt and the clear clean water can leave you invigorated and ready to face any challenge the next day may throw you. But not every hike you go on could have fresh water bodies for you to leap into – some of us are not that lucky.


Well, I’m sure you’ll be carrying a small hand towel or even a damp tissue can do the trick. Dampen your towel or tissue with a little water and you can quickly wipe your fragrant armpits and other areas before you put on a clean set of clothes.

Just a word of caution – you should do this in the afternoon when the weather is warmer, not in the early mornings or nights when the weather is at its most extreme, because this is one sure shot way of falling sick.


Lakes while hiking make for a great way to stay clean.
Lakes while hiking make for a great way to stay clean.


Many people think that wet wipes are a great thing to carry on long treks – and true, you end up smelling a lot nicer, and they do come in handy when you want to have a quick wipe if you need to ‘go.’ Those of you who want to reduce your carbon footprint can choose fabrics made of natural fibers like cotton which will also dry easily after you wipe your body and is good for your skin.

Change of Clothes:

Well, a hike isn’t a fancy walk to a five star resort, and remember, you’ll have to carry your own luggage the entire time, so packing light is being smart – for your feet and for you. That being said, you should carry a change of clothes – depending upon the length of your hike, you’ll have to carry a certain amount of clothes.


Clothes drying while camping and hiking.
Clothes drying while camping and hiking.

You can wear the same clothes day in and day out, but be sure to clean yourself in the evening and change into fresh clothes for sleeping, so you don’t sleep in your own dirt.


If necessary, you can wash or just air out your day clothes while you sleep or keep them hanging behind your bag to dry out as you walk.

The afternoon air will help dry out your clothes and the sun should work its wonders as well. If possible, try to change your underwear as well on a daily basis – keeping your privates clean is essential for good health. You can carry a change of three, one to wear, one spare and one to wash and dry.


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Quickly Air yourself on short breaks:

As any hiker should know (and first time hikers – take note), you should take a break regularly to give your body time to relax as well as give you time to take in the scenery around you.



When you do stop for your fifteen minute break, take off your shoes and socks and let them air out. This simple step shows your feet some loving – which they surely need, considering the amount of work you’ll be putting them through! If possible, wipe your feet and moisturize it to keep them from becoming too sore.


Avoid Getting Dreadlocks:

Braiding your hair or tying it up and keeping it hidden under a bandanna or hat will protect your hair from tangles.
Braiding your hair or tying it up and keeping it hidden under a bandanna or hat will protect your hair from tangles.


Sweat builds up as you hike during the day and it may not be possible to wash your hair on a regular basis, especially if you are in a location which does not allow you to do so. Don’t fancy getting dreadlocks on your long hike? That’s easy – just braid your hair or keep it under a cap/ bandanna so that your hair doesn’t get too mussed up during your hike and plus if you haven’t combed in a while, you won’t be embarrassed when you reach town.


Simple routines like brushing your hair either in the evening or morning can keep it from becoming too unruly.

If you need to go, then you need to go:

Squatting in the wild is the best way to keep your body healthy.
Squatting in the wild is the best way to keep your body healthy.


Many people feel bashful about squatting in the wild – but it’s not like you’ll be carrying your own personal porta-potty while you hike, so you have to be one with the wilderness and go do your stuff in the wild.

There are certain pointers to what to do when you go – but that’s in another post – and when you do, be sure to either bury your toilet paper if it is not in an arid landscape, or use the nature around you – like snow or fresh leaves (be sure it’s not poison ivy – you don’t want that problem on a hike). Afterwards, either use biodegradable soap and water, if you’re lucky enough to have spare, or use some hand sanitizer – this is such a hiking essential.

I cannot stress this enough – it’s so easy to have grubby hands while you hike. I know I touch the ground, stones or trees as I hike up or down and your hands invariably do get grimy – yet we don’t think of washing our hands if we’re having some trail mix or snacks along the way.

Eating with dirty hands is not acceptable at home and we should make no exception on the trail. Do use hand sanitizer – it’s better to be safe than sorry and if you’re hiking in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone coverage, you don’t want to get into a jam.

Is there anything I’ve missed?

Happy healthy hiking folks!


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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival