Personal Hygiene for Backpackers

You don’t have to be dirty and smelly on a backpacking trip. Say goodbye to at least some of the funk by carrying a few toiletry items, and be prepared for using the bathroom in the backcountry with a simple bathroom kit.


personal hygiene for backpacking

Instead of bringing everything that I use at home, I only take a few essential toiletry items on backpacking trips. To save pack weight and bulk, repackage toiletry items into small containers such as tubs and dropper bottles and only bring the amount that you need for each trip.

After hiking each day, I take sponge baths in my tent to wipe off sweat and dirt, as well as sunscreen and insect repellent. This not only keeps my skin in good condition and reduces chafing and rashes, it also helps to keep my sleeping quilt clean. Accumulated build up of skin oils and dirt can impact the warmth of insulated gear, not to mention that it’s nice to sleep  a clean bag each night.

Personal Hygiene Tips

  • Establish a daily ritual of washing your body after hiking each day to wipe away sweat, dirt, sunscreen, and/or insect repellant. A simple sponge bath in your tent can be done with wipes, or with water and a small pack towel.
  • Do camp laundry using a re-sealable plastic bag filled with water. Wring out as much moisture as you can and lay wet items in a sunny spot to dry.
  • If using soap, use unscented biodegradable soap and distribute dirty water on dirt or rocks, never in or near a water source.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and scrub your hands every time after using the bathroom and before preparing meals. Soap and water also work well.
  • Brush and/or floss your teeth at least once every day.
  • Bring separate base layers just for sleeping in.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry to avoid problems with bacteria. Wash your socks each day and change to a clean pair before going to bed.
  • Take a dip in a stream, pond, lake or river. Make sure to wipe off sunscreen and insect repellent before getting in. The chemicals used in these products (even those containing natural ingredients) can harm the ecosystems in water sources.

My personal hygiene kit, shown above:

  • lip balm, toothbrush, travel-size toothpaste, mini containers with sunscreen, lotion and insect repellent, hair ties, nail clippers
  • containers for various lotions and ointments – humangear GoTubb 0.9 cu. in.
  • laundry kit: cordage, gallon-size plastic bag, soap in mini dropper bottle, mini binder clips for hanging clothes
  • towels for sponge baths: REI Co-op Multi Towel Mini (0.6 oz)
  • stuff sack for toiletries: Space Bear Bags Poop-Moji Pouch  (0.3 oz)
  • bug spray: Sawyer Picaridin (not shown)

Bathroom Kit

bathroom kit for backpacking

I carry a separate kit for using the bathroom in the backcountry so I’ll have everything I need when it’s time to dig a cat hole. I always pack out all toilet paper by using an odor proof plastic bag, concealing the contents with a pet waste bag. And I use a portable bidet cap on top of a water bottle to stay fresh and clean, which also greatly reduces the amount of toilet paper needed.

  • trowel: Vargo Dig Dig Tool (1.2 oz, $24.95)
    A lightweight, heavy duty trowel with serrated edges for easier digging.
  • odor-proof bag: Loksak Opsak, 11″ x 9″
    An odor-proof bag is the best way to pack out used toilet paper. I keep one in my bathroom kit, and place a color plastic doggie bag inside it so it conceals the contents and keeps the Opsak clean. Also helpful for carrying out doggie poo.
  • bidet bottle: Cynpel Peri Bottle (2 oz, $8.99)
    There’s nothing like a strong spray of water to keep you feeling clean and refreshed on an overnight trip. This portable bidet is small and lightweight, and for going #2, it makes toilet paper almost not necessary. I use it every time I need to pee too… then my pee cloth is just used to dry off and stays cleaner.
  • hand sanitizer in mini-dropper bottle
    This brand of hand sanitizer doesn’t leave a sticky residue after use.
  • stuff sack for bathroom kit: Granite Gear Air Zipditty Pouch (0.3 oz, $17.99 – set of 2) Used for my trowel, toilet paper, wipes, hand sanitizer and an odor-proof bag for carrying out used toilet paper.
  • toilet paper or wipes in a small plastic bag (always carried out after use)
  • pee cloth: Kula Cloth (0.5 oz, $19.99)
    Instead of using tp for peeing, I like using a bidet to spray water and use the Kula cloth (which is antimicrobial) for drying off. I keep it on the outside of my pack and it dries super fast.


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