A reader sent an email asking about packing and girly hygiene when attacking the Appalachian Trail. I put this question to our awesome Facebook community where Bri Leahy gladly shared her routine for personal hygiene while long-distance backpacking.
When it comes to backpacking, I’ve always tried to keep my hygiene routine as simple as possible but there are a few touches you can add to still feel feminine while on long trips.
My number one girly concern is always my face. As someone who is prone to breakouts, there are a few things I know about myself:
1. I have to keep my face clean. I recently started using Clean and Clear Dissolving Cleansing sheets while backpacking. I use them every night, but just rinse my face with water in the AM. I move these sheets into a ziplock to make sure they do not merge together due to moisture.
As a nicety, they weigh less than cleansing creams.
2. During the day, I protect all of my skin with Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Face, SPF 70. This is one of the few products that doesn’t make my skin break out.
It says face, but I use it all over so I just have to bring one sunblock.
As for my body, I wash at night with a camping washcloth and a small bar of soap. The washcloth I use is this one from MSR. It will dry hanging inside my tent overnight. I indulge in a handmade, biodegradable scented soap – usually a smell that makes me feel fresh, even when my clothes no longer tell the same tale.
Depending on how much you’re hiking each day, you might just want to consider letting the plucking/shaving go till you reach towns. At the end of a 20-mile type day, I honestly cannot imagine putting extra effort into plucking and such. This would work out well, because you could just tuck disposable razors in your resupply boxes rather than carrying with you. Besides, no one will notice your eyebrows while you’re busy being so awesome.
The other ‘treat’ I will indulge in is carrying Bonnie’s Balm Climbers Salve. I use a little on my feet, hands, and any other ultra dry spots each night. Nothing makes you feel soft and lady like than babying your skin. You don’t need to take the entire tub – just portion it out (take a single smaller amount or portion out many smaller amounts in your resupply boxes).
As for my locks, braiding hair or keeping it tied up tends to be my go-to. I use a headband or a hat to cover my hairline – more out of convenience but it will also hide how oily your hair will inevitably get. When I go a full week without an option for rinsing off (think, swimming in a lake/river), I’ll use baby powder brushed through my hair to soak up oils (don’t use gold bond, it’s way too strong). Try it at home some time (ideally when your hair is fairly oily) just so you know how it feels/how much to use.
>>Another option to try out is dry shampoo.
That Time of the Month
As many of the other ladies here have recommended, I also use the Diva Cup. Read all the details on their website to make sure you would be ok with the concept – the Diva Cup website also talks about how to clean the cup while camping.
>>Also check out how to keep the Diva Cup clean outdoors.
Other than that, just make sure you bring a minimum of 2-pair of poly or wool undies – something that will dry quickly and wash easily. Keeping our lady bits clean and dry is very important.
If you’re going to be backpacking/camping for weeks on end, make sure you have a way to trim your nails – there’s nothing worse than hiking with toenails that rub on the end of your boots.
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About the Author: I’m a 30-something Engineer living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest! I believe in working hard for your dreams and always, always chasing the next adventure! When I’m not practicing enginerdery, I’m out enjoying life with my husband and two pups (a second-hand border collie and Australian shepherd). Our adventures tend to revolve around hiking, backpacking, traveling (to backpack ;-), mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, skijoring, and triathlon’ing (the 140.6 distance is woo’ing us right now). On the side, my husband is a part of the National Guard and I am plotting my return to college to study photography!
Thank you for this! The information was extremely helpful!
for a shorter but intense camping stay like a festival where you , although you should preferably be as punk-laissez faire as possible, but still want to be just a little pretty, too, and everything is humid and the queing to the showers are endless- this is the luxury emergency solution 🙂
bring a smaller towel for your face and not just a big one.
* pull a little water into a bowl in your tent with some soap. use some sort of scrub (sugar homemade, or bought) to exfoliate, and wash your upper body at the same time, and exfoliate if you like, it ups bloodcirkulation too. wash off, bring a empty spray bottle with a diy tonique with a little alqohol and some e.o, or a bought toner, and spray on body, face and hair to feel freshed up. add lotion and the whatever perfume you have, and deo. get your clothes on. this is like taking a shower without taking a shower, and works both if its cold humid and warm humid, since it takes a fairly short time. and you will smell good. It might sound complicated and it’s not like you have to do it to stay happy but it only takes ten minutes and only includes a bowl of water, a towel and some small things you brought from home.
oh and you can also wash your hair this way, if you have time and are warm enough to let it dry
..I might evaluate the scrub and toner-concept. it might seem as something you use at a spa and not the outdoors, but the exfoliation is a classic way of getting clean and rid of dead skin-cells, the Old Greeks used to wash themselves not by taking showers but rubbing themselves with clay, sand and oils. and the toner is a stringent and takes off the humidity and the e.o in it makes you smell fresh. the lotion is good to get your skin hydrated and insulates from the weather. a towel can be used to apply water and products without mess. and these things are easy to bring on a trip, if you like to. 🙂
Using scented anything in the back country is a horrible idea – bears are attracted to odours and they don’t know the difference between your dinner and your deodorant, so for your own good, please do not EVER bring scented hygiene products into the wilderness! It MIGHT be okay on the AT where the bears are a little less inclined to investigate you but anywhere else this can be extremely dangerous. (I still would not do it on the AT. Please, use some brain cells here ladies and take the time to read about bear safety.) Please, please, for your own good leave the scented soap at home!
And, speaking from experience, I can say that absolutely NOBODY cares what you look like (or smell like) in the back country. (And in fact a bear is more likely to think checking you out is a bad idea if you stink of Eau de Human rather than Eau de Flowery Crud or Fruity Crud. Save your perfumed products for civilization. I promise that you won’t even notice how much you stink because everyone around you will be reeking it up too. Plus, you’ll be too busy smelling the forest and mountains around you, scents which are always definitely superior to whatever perfumed soap that you like to use!
Note that I am female.