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How To Stay Clean While Backpacking


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Georgeanne Gagliano



Going backpacking is an adventure that allows you to explore new places, experience different cultures, and create lasting memories. Whether you’re embarking on a long-distance hike or traveling to remote locations, it’s crucial to prioritize personal hygiene to stay healthy and comfortable throughout your journey. While it may seem challenging to maintain cleanliness while on the go, with proper planning and a few essential tips, you can ensure that you stay clean and fresh during your backpacking trip.


When you’re out in nature, it’s important to remember that practicing good hygiene not only benefits your well-being but also helps to preserve the environment around you. By following these tips, you can minimize the impact on the natural surroundings and enjoy a more enjoyable backpacking experience.


In this article, we will provide you with comprehensive tips and strategies to stay clean while backpacking. From packing essential hygiene supplies to dealing with outdoor toileting, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s dive in and discover how to maintain personal hygiene during your backpacking adventures!


Packing Essential Hygiene Supplies

When it comes to staying clean while backpacking, it’s essential to pack the right hygiene supplies. Here are some key items you should include in your backpack:

  • Toilet Paper: Always carry a small roll of toilet paper or tissue paper as it may not be readily available in all locations.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Opt for a travel-sized hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. It’s a convenient way to keep your hands clean when soap and water are not available.
  • Biodegradable Soap: Choose a biodegradable soap to minimize the impact on the environment while washing dishes, clothes, or even yourself.
  • Travel-Sized Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Maintaining oral hygiene is crucial during your backpacking trip. Pack a compact toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste.
  • Travel-Sized Shampoo and Conditioner: Look for travel-sized containers of shampoo and conditioner to keep your hair clean and refreshed. Alternatively, you can use a multipurpose soap.
  • Towel or Microfiber Towel: Carry a lightweight, quick-drying towel or a microfiber towel that takes up minimal space in your backpack.
  • Wet Wipes: These are great for refreshing your face and body when you don’t have access to a shower or need a quick clean-up on the go.
  • Deodorant: Choose a small travel-sized deodorant to keep you feeling fresh and odor-free during your adventures.

Remember to pack these items in sealable plastic bags to prevent leaks and keep them organized. Additionally, check the regulations of the places you plan to visit to ensure you comply with any restrictions on liquids or hazardous substances.


By packing these essential hygiene supplies, you’ll be well-prepared to maintain cleanliness and personal hygiene throughout your backpacking journey.


Choosing the Right Clothing

When backpacking, selecting the right clothing is crucial for staying clean and comfortable. Here are some tips to consider when choosing your travel attire:

  • Moisture-Wicking Fabrics: Opt for clothing made from moisture-wicking fabrics, such as polyester or merino wool. These materials help to keep you dry by wicking away sweat and moisture.
  • Layering: Pack clothing that allows for layering, as it helps regulate body temperature in different climates and conditions. Layering also provides the option to remove or add layers as needed.
  • Quick-Drying Clothing: Choose items that dry quickly, especially if you’re planning water activities or encountering unpredictable weather. Quick-drying clothing prevents you from staying in damp, uncomfortable clothes for extended periods.
  • Dark-Colored Clothing: Dark-colored clothing can help hide dirt and stains, making it ideal for extended periods without access to laundry facilities.
  • Convertible Pants and Shorts: Invest in convertible pants or shorts with zip-off legs. This versatile clothing allows you to switch between long pants and shorts as weather conditions change.
  • Comfortable Underwear: Opt for breathable and quick-drying underwear that keeps you comfortable throughout your journey.
  • Socks: Pack moisture-wicking and cushioned socks to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
  • Hat and Sunglasses: Protect yourself from the sun’s rays by wearing a hat and sunglasses.

Additionally, consider the cultural norms and dress codes of the places you’ll be visiting. Respect the local customs and wear appropriate clothing to show cultural sensitivity.


By choosing the right clothing, you not only stay clean and fresh, but you also ensure maximum comfort and protection during your backpacking adventure.


Keeping Your Hands Clean

Keeping your hands clean is essential to prevent the spread of germs and maintain personal hygiene while backpacking. Here are some tips to help you keep your hands clean:

  • Hand Sanitizer: Carry a travel-sized hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Use it before and after meals, using shared facilities, or when soap and water are not available.
  • Portable Hand Washing Station: Consider investing in a portable hand washing station that includes a water container, soap dispenser, and a basin. This allows you to wash your hands properly, even in remote areas.
  • Wet Wipes: Keep a pack of wet wipes in your backpack for quick hand cleaning when soap and water are not accessible. Look for biodegradable options to minimize environmental impact.
  • Avoid Touching Your Face: Be conscious of avoiding touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, as these areas are entry points for germs.
  • Use Gloves: Consider wearing gloves when handling potentially dirty items, such as garbage or camping equipment. This provides an extra layer of protection for your hands.
  • Clean Water Source: When possible, wash your hands with clean water and soap. Use a small portable bottle of biodegradable soap and a towel or microfiber towel to dry your hands.

Remember, maintaining clean hands is crucial not only for your own health but also to prevent the spread of germs to others. By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can keep your hands clean and minimize the risk of illness while backpacking.


Proper Food Handling and Sanitization

When backpacking, proper food handling and sanitization are essential to prevent foodborne illnesses. Here are some tips to ensure the safety of your food:

  • Choose Safe Foods: Select foods that have a low risk of spoiling, such as dried fruits, nuts, granola bars, and canned foods. These items are less likely to require refrigeration and are more resistant to spoilage.
  • Keep Perishable Foods Cool: If you’re carrying perishable foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, or meats, make sure to pack them in a well-insulated cooler or use ice packs to keep them cold.
  • Separate Raw and Cooked Foods: To avoid cross-contamination, keep raw meats and other perishable items separate from cooked foods in sealed containers or zip-lock bags.
  • Clean Utensils and Surfaces: Ensure that any utensils or surfaces used for food preparation are clean and sanitized. Use biodegradable soap and hot water to clean utensils and scrub any cutting boards or surfaces used for food preparation.
  • Practice Good Hygiene: Before handling food, wash your hands with soap and clean water or use hand sanitizer if water is not available. This helps prevent the transfer of germs to the food you’re preparing.
  • Cook Thoroughly: When cooking, make sure to cook foods thoroughly at the recommended temperatures to kill any harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperatures.
  • Proper Food Storage: Store leftovers in sealed containers and consume them within a safe timeframe. Discard any food that has been left out unrefrigerated for more than two hours (or one hour in hot weather).

By following these practices, you can minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses and ensure that the meals you enjoy during your backpacking trip are safe and delicious.


Staying Hydrated and Maintaining Personal Hygiene

Staying hydrated is crucial for your overall well-being while backpacking. Additionally, maintaining personal hygiene plays a key role in your comfort and health. Here are some tips to ensure you stay hydrated and maintain cleanliness during your journey:

  • Drink Plenty of Water: Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times and drink water regularly to avoid dehydration. Remember to refill it whenever you have access to clean water sources.
  • Water Purification: In areas where the water quality is questionable, use a water purification system or tablets to make water safe for drinking.
  • Take Regular Showers or Baths: If possible, take regular showers or baths to cleanse your body and refresh your senses. Use environmentally friendly soaps and shampoos, and be mindful of water conservation.
  • Wash your Face and Hands: Even without access to a shower, make sure to wash your face and hands regularly to remove dirt, sweat, and oils. This helps prevent skin irritation and breakouts.
  • Change Clothes When Needed: Pack enough spare clothes to change into when your current attire becomes dirty or sweaty. Keeping a fresh set of clothing helps maintain personal hygiene and boosts overall comfort.
  • Bring Wet Bags or Sealable Plastic Bags: Pack wet bags or sealable plastic bags to store dirty or wet clothes separately from clean ones. This prevents contamination and keeps everything organized in your backpack.
  • Use Biodegradable Products: Opt for biodegradable soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products to minimize their impact on the environment.
  • Manage Menstrual Hygiene: For individuals who menstruate, plan ahead and pack the necessary menstrual hygiene products. If camping or in remote areas, dispose of sanitary products properly to prevent environmental damage.

By staying hydrated and practicing good personal hygiene, you can prioritize your well-being and feel refreshed throughout your backpacking journey.


Dealing with Outdoor Toileting

When backpacking, proper outdoor toileting practices are crucial for maintaining cleanliness and minimizing environmental impact. Here are some tips to help you handle outdoor toileting responsibly:

  • Plan Ahead: Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the area you’ll be backpacking in. Research if there are designated toilet facilities or recommended areas for outdoor toileting.
  • Bury Human Waste: If there are no designated facilities, find a secluded spot away from water sources and trails. Dig a small hole at least 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) deep and deposit your waste. Cover it with soil and natural materials, such as leaves or rocks.
  • Carry a Trowel: Bring a lightweight, compact trowel or shovel to aid in digging your hole for waste disposal. Remember to clean and sanitize it after each use.
  • Use Biodegradable Toilet Paper: Opt for biodegradable toilet paper to minimize environmental impact. After use, either bury it with your waste or pack it out in a sealable bag.
  • Pack Out Hygiene Products: Avoid disposing of wet wipes, tampons, or other personal hygiene products in the outdoor environment. Pack them out in sealable bags and dispose of them properly in designated waste receptacles.
  • Wash Hands Properly: After using the bathroom, wash your hands thoroughly with biodegradable soap and clean water, if available, or use hand sanitizer as an alternative.
  • Leave No Trace: Leave the area as you found it and respect the natural surroundings. Minimize your impact by adhering to the principles of Leave No Trace, including packing out all trash and minimizing disturbance to the environment.

By practicing responsible outdoor toileting, you can ensure both your personal hygiene and the preservation of the environment for future backpackers to enjoy.


Camping Hygiene for Women

When it comes to camping hygiene, women have specific considerations to keep in mind to stay clean and comfortable during their outdoor adventures. Here are some tips for maintaining hygiene while camping:

  • Menstrual Hygiene: Plan ahead and pack an adequate supply of menstrual hygiene products. If camping in remote areas without proper disposal options, consider using menstrual cups or reusable cloth pads that can be emptied, washed, and reused.
  • Discreet Disposal: Properly dispose of used menstrual products in sealable bags and pack them out with your trash. Do not bury or leave them in the environment.
  • Cleanse with Water: For a more thorough cleanse during your menstrual cycle or for general personal hygiene, consider using a portable bidet or a water bottle with a spout for rinsing. This can provide added comfort and freshness.
  • Pee Standing Up: Invest in a female urination device (FUD) or learn how to use simple techniques like finding a tree or a secluded spot to pee standing up. This can help maintain personal hygiene and make outdoor toileting more convenient.
  • Privacy: Seek out private areas or use camping privacy tents when changing clothes or attending to personal hygiene needs.
  • Wash Bras and Undergarments: Pack gentle, biodegradable soap and wash your bras and undergarments regularly to maintain cleanliness and prevent odors.
  • Stay Fresh: Pack wet wipes or a portable camping shower for refreshing sponge baths. This can help you feel clean, especially during longer camping trips without access to showers.
  • Proper Skin Care: Protect your skin from the sun and bugs by using sunscreen, wearing long sleeves and pants, and applying bug repellent. Keep your skin moisturized to prevent dryness and irritation.

Remember to always follow Leave No Trace principles and properly dispose of waste. By considering these camping hygiene tips, women can ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.


Maintaining Oral Hygiene

Maintaining proper oral hygiene is essential, even when you’re backpacking. Here are some tips to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy while on your outdoor adventure:

  • Brushing: Pack a travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, using clean water and biodegradable toothpaste. If water is scarce, use a small amount of water and spit away from natural water sources.
  • Dental Floss: Carry dental floss or floss picks to clean between your teeth after meals. This helps remove food particles and prevents plaque buildup.
  • Mouthwash: Consider bringing a travel-sized bottle of mouthwash to freshen your breath and kill bacteria. Look for alcohol-free options for a more eco-friendly choice.
  • Water Bottle Technique: In situations where water is limited, use the water bottle technique to rinse your mouth. Take a small sip of water, swish it around your mouth, and spit it out. Repeat as needed.
  • Utilize Chewing Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum after meals can stimulate saliva production and help clean your teeth. It’s a convenient alternative when brushing is not possible.
  • Maintain a Balanced Diet: Eating a balanced diet and avoiding excessive sugary treats can help promote good oral health. Opt for nutrient-rich foods and limit consumption of sugary snacks and beverages.
  • Visit a Dentist Before Your Trip: If possible, schedule a dental check-up before your backpacking trip to address any existing dental issues and prevent potential problems during your journey.

Remember, oral hygiene is not just about having a fresh breath, but also about maintaining overall health. By incorporating these oral hygiene practices into your routine, you can keep your smile healthy and bright even while backpacking.


Taking Care of Your Feet

When backpacking, your feet are your most valuable asset. Taking care of them is essential to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Here are some tips to help you maintain healthy feet while backpacking:

  • Choose the Right Footwear: Invest in high-quality hiking boots or trail shoes that provide proper support and fit well. Make sure to break them in before your trip to prevent blisters and discomfort.
  • Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks: Opt for moisture-wicking socks made of synthetic or merino wool materials. These socks help keep your feet dry and prevent blisters by wicking away moisture.
  • Keep Feet Clean and Dry: Wash your feet daily with biodegradable soap and clean water when available. Dry them thoroughly, especially between your toes, to prevent fungal infections.
  • Manage Blisters: If you feel a hot spot or blister forming, address it immediately. Apply moleskin or blister pads to protect the affected area. Carry a small blister kit with the necessary supplies such as band-aids, gauze, and medical tape to treat blisters on the go.
  • Air Out Your Feet: Whenever you take breaks or make camp, take off your shoes and socks to air out your feet. This helps reduce moisture and prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi.
  • Trim and Maintain Toenails: Keep your toenails trimmed to avoid discomfort and reduce the risk of ingrown nails. Trim them straight across and file any rough edges.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is important for overall health, including foot health. Drink plenty of water to prevent swelling and keep your feet functioning optimally.
  • Rest and Elevate: Whenever possible, take breaks to rest and elevate your feet to reduce swelling. This can also help alleviate any fatigue or discomfort.
  • Stretch and Massage: Perform foot stretches and massages to relieve tension and improve circulation. This can help prevent muscle fatigue and cramps.

By following these foot care tips, you can minimize the risk of foot-related issues and maintain healthy and happy feet throughout your backpacking journey.


Proper Disposal of Waste

Proper waste disposal is not only essential for maintaining cleanliness but also for preserving the natural environment during your backpacking trip. Here are some tips for responsible waste disposal:

  • Pack It Out: Always carry a designated trash bag and pack out all your waste, including food wrappers, plastic packaging, and other non-biodegradable items. Leave no trace behind.
  • Separate and Secure: Use separate sealable bags or containers to store different types of waste, such as food waste, recyclables, and non-recyclables. This makes it easier to dispose of them properly when you have access to appropriate facilities.
  • Recycle When Possible: Look for recycling facilities or bins in nearby towns or trailheads. Separate recyclable items, such as plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and dispose of them properly.
  • Proper Food Waste Disposal: If you encounter designated food waste bins or composting facilities, dispose of your food scraps there. Otherwise, pack out your food waste in a durable and sealable bag.
  • Maintain Outdoor Toileting Practices: Follow the principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) when it comes to outdoor toileting. Bury human waste properly and pack out any hygiene products in sealable bags.
  • Respect Local Regulations: Be aware of any specific waste disposal regulations or guidelines in the areas you visit. Some places may have specific rules for waste management that you should follow.
  • Leave Nature Undisturbed: Avoid leaving any artificial or non-biodegradable materials in natural surroundings. This includes things like balloons, cigarette butts, or other waste that can harm the environment and wildlife.
  • Participate in Clean-up Efforts: If you come across trash or litter during your backpacking trip, do your part by picking it up and disposing of it properly. Leave the trail or campsite cleaner than you found it.

By practicing responsible waste disposal, you can minimize your impact on the environment and help preserve the natural beauty of the areas you visit. Remember, leave nothing behind but footprints!



Staying clean and maintaining personal hygiene while backpacking is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable journey. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can ensure that you prioritize your well-being, minimize your impact on the environment, and have a smoother backpacking experience.


Packing essential hygiene supplies, choosing the right clothing, and keeping your hands clean are the foundations of maintaining personal hygiene on the go. Taking proper care of your feet, practicing outdoor toileting responsibly, and addressing specific hygiene needs for women are additional considerations to keep in mind.


Remember to pay attention to oral hygiene, dispose of waste properly, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. By adhering to these practices, you can maintain your health, prevent discomfort, and contribute to the preservation of the natural surroundings you explore.


Finally, always follow Leave No Trace principles. Leave the areas you visit as pristine as possible and consider participating in clean-up efforts to leave a positive impact.


So, go ahead and embark on your backpacking adventure with the confidence that you can maintain personal hygiene, stay clean, and create amazing memories while exploring the great outdoors!