Cleanliness on the trail

posted Jan 31, 2013, 12:06 PM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Jan 31, 2013, 12:15 PM ]

Life on the trail 

Lots of people ask us how we stay clean on our hiking trips.  That always brings a smile to our lips, because, of course, the answer is that we don’t.  After all, there are few trails in the Sierra that include campsites with en suite bathtubs or showers.  M enjoying one of the few sandy beaches in the Sierra!©

So we get dirty—especially our feet and ankles from the dusty trails.  And we get sweaty—particularly on a long hot afternoon, toiling uphill.  And sometimes we stay that way for days on end. 

But we also make some efforts to clean ourselves up along the way.  It’s amazing how much a little rinse of the feet in a mountain lake or stream can do to refresh you.  M is a big believer in that, and it’s usually the first thing she does when we arrive at camp.  We sent up the tent, organize the packs…and then she sits down at the nearby stream or lake, takes off her shoes, and wiggles her toes.   That's M above right, rinsing off on beach...

If the water is warm enough (and when you are really dirty, it doesn’t have to be very warm at all!) we’ll rinse off most of our bodies.  We don’t use soap, because that is a really bad idea in mountain water, but we do rinse off the bigger chunks of dirt with the water.  It’s lovely.

On longer trips, we take it one step farther, and wash our hair.  P is the expert at this, and manages to wash his hair in just about one cup of water.  Here’s how he does it, using only a washrag, comb, Dawn, plastic cup, and towel.

1.  Soak your head in water—get it very wet.  This has the added value of making you scream out loud when the water is cold enough.  Get the washrag wet as well.

2.  Fill the cup full of water, and take everything on the list to an isolated spot far (200 feet or more) from the water.  Sandy soil is best. 

3.  Put some Dawn in your hair and lather up.  We like Dawn because it is very concentrated, and it is used by environmental agencies to remove oil from birds during oil spills.  It’s gentle. 

4.  Facing down, use the washrag to rinse/rub the soap out of your hair. 

5.  Use the comb to comb as much of the soap out of your hair as you can.

6.  Now take the cup of water and slowly pour it, a little bit at a time, over your head to rinse your hair.  Scream again, if you’d like. Repeat until the entire cup is gone, and your hair is rinsed. 

7.  Dry your hair with the towel. 

8.  Comb out the tangles.  More screaming.  Use your mirrored sunglasses to see where to part your hair.

9.  Arrive back in camp looking like a million bucks, and ask innocently: “What was all that screaming about?”

10. Feel good for days afterwards. 
11. Repeat as needed.