Washing Days

posted Nov 11, 2011, 7:44 PM by Paul Wagner
M enjoying one of the few sandy beaches in the Sierra!
Every two or three days that we're out on the trail, we find a warm, sunny, breezy afternoon to do some laundry.  No, it's not what you think.  There is no soap involved, just a chance to rinse out the biggest clumps of dirt, and generally give our clothes a refreshing dip in some mountain water.  Then we'll air dry them on a bush or some warm rocks.
P's famous and indestructible shirt gets a rinse and dries within an hour, looking like new.  We do the same for a pair of socks and undies, so that we can hit the trail the next morning with more or less cleaner clothes.  The socks do not end up looking like new.  In fact, even after a few washings at home in the machine, they still carry a trace of our life on the dusty trails.
And every night we'll dip our feet in the water...a soothing ritual on hot days.  That's M in the photo above, doing just that.  And if you look carefully, you can see P's shirt drying in the grass behind her.
When we are really off the trail and alone, we'll even rinse ourselves off, from top to bottom.  It's amazing what a difference that makes after a few hot days on the trail. But we're not going to post photos of that, thank you.
We have run into a few people who use soap and water--the best version we saw was a couple who emptied out their bear canister and used it for a washtub--but we've found that plain water works pretty well for most things.
Using this system, P manages to hike for at least a week with only one shirt, and one extra change of socks and undies. M ususally carries one more set of everything. 
But then she always was the stylish one.
If you've got a washday ritual in the backcountry, we've love to hear about it!