Whenever I think of backpacking I imagine a rugged, dirty, and carefree experience. I don’t mind the buildup of mud under my nails, some grime in my hair, and the tan that ends up being a layer of dirt. However, these backpacking hygiene products will aid in a more comfortable experience. All while enjoying the dirty griminess that comes with backpacking. ;]
I do my best to keep my pack as light as possible, but I also don’t want to regret leaving something behind while on the trail. These backpacking hygiene products come from personal experience – and from regret. ;] From me to you, so you can be as prepared as possible for your next – or first – backpacking trip!
Backpacking Hygiene Products
Hand sanitizer ensures a healthy, germ-free backpacking experience – especially when nature calls. I also like to use it before prepping and eating food. Hand sanitizer is inexpensive and available in small bottles for easy packing. I keep mine in a bag with my toilet paper that’s kept in an outside pocket of my backpack. I believe hand sanitizer is one of if not the most crucial item on this backpacking hygiene products list.
Toilet paper is right behind hand sanitizer. They pretty much go hand in hand. After your morning coffee and delicious freeze-dried breakfast, you’re ready to go. I mean go. That’s why I like to keep both my toilet paper and hand sanitizer in one bag, so I never forget one or the other when it’s time.
Note that some trails and wilderness areas require you to pack out your toilet paper. You can always check their website if you’re unsure. I found a short video from Leave No Trace that perfectly describes how to securely pack it out. Also make sure to dig your hole 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from camp, trails, and water. I’ve made a vow to always pack out my toilet paper from here on out!
Toothbrush & toothpaste
When you don’t have access to a shower, brushing your teeth becomes the most invigorating activity imaginable. I revel in brushing my teeth while backpacking. I can’t imagine crawling into my sleeping bag at night or starting my day of adventures without brushing my teeth. Not doing so can cause bacteria to build up which leads to plaque and other not-so-good things. Toothbrushes come in all shapes and sizes. I bring the RADIUS Tour Travel Toothbrush* – it’s foldable and easy to pack.
I’m sure there are folks who feel brushing without toothpaste will suffice – at least while backpacking. Don’t get me wrong – brushing without toothpaste is better than nothing at all. However, toothpaste will help you achieve a fresh, germ-free mouth as well as clean, smooth teeth. I buy mini toothpaste tubes to save on space. They’re perfect for backpacking and usually last me several trips!
Sunscreen is so important to apply while spending any amount of time outdoors. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy – harmful UV rays can still reach you! The Skin Cancer Foundation has great resources for learning about prevention, including a helpful guide on sunscreen. Pick out the brand and SPF level that’s right for you. There are also different formulas – chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreen absorbs into your skin and absorbs UV rays, whereas physical sunscreen sits on top of your skin and reflects UV rays. I encourage you to do further research to learn more – there are a lot of great resources. I personally like Badger Sport Sunscreen*. I tuck my sunscreen into an outside mesh pocket on my backpack for easy access while on the trail.
I just bring the whole floss container with me. You could even cut several pieces to bring to save on space. I thought of floss first when making this 5 bonus backpacking hygiene products list. It’s so uncomfortable and annoying to have bits of food jammed between your teeth. Plus, I have a metal bar glued behind my front bottom teeth from having braces. Food wedges behind it sometimes and it’s super uncomfortable! Floss is my saving grace. I highly recommend bringing some form of floss – whether it’s a floss pick, pre-cut pieces, or the whole container.
There’s a funny story that goes along with this one. June 2017 I backpacked with a group of friends at Marion Lake, Oregon. We decided on a campsite and noticed two guys packing up their gear and preparing to hike out. No biggie – we patiently waited and chatted with them. Eventually one of the men complained about forgetting his chapstick. My husband, Nat, looked up from unpacking his gear and casually mentioned that I brought some. I couldn’t back out of this one. Before I knew it, I was handing over my precious chapstick to a stranger.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about sharing. Though, with hygiene products I’m a little more careful. It’s also an unwritten rule that you rub it onto your finger first and then onto your lips, right?? Well, this guy went to town on my chapstick. Needless to say I later forfeited my chapstick – Nat didn’t mind and gladly accepted it – and I willingly suffered with chapped lips. Long story short, don’t forget chapstick and then make sure to lie about having it. ;]
I’m going to get real here for a moment. Everyone gets dirty – it’s a fact. Thank goodness for showers! However, a refreshing shower is not an option while backpacking. So, the amount of dirt on one’s body increases exponentially during backpacking trips, especially in crevices. That’s ok! That’s why we’re out in nature – to explore and enjoy its beauty. At the end of the day, though, it’s not always fun to slough off dirt into your sleeping bag.
That’s where wet wipes come in. Wipe dirt and sweat off of your face and body to refresh – it’s almost as good as a shower! Nat and I received some Wilderness Wipes* as a wedding gift but haven’t used them yet. I’ve been on trips where I sure wish I had some, though! Another use for wet wipes is for going to the bathroom. Nat proudly brings wet wipes, uses them when nature calls, and then packs them out in a sealed bag. Toilet paper can only do so much – wet wipes clean up the rest. Nat actually uses them exclusively.
There are a variety of brands and options to choose from. Some are even available in small travel-size packs. Just make sure they’re safe for use on the face and body – and for bathroom use if that’s your plan.
I personally haven’t used biodegradable soap on a backpacking trip yet, but I’ve had friends bring it on past trips. Even though most biodegradable soaps state they’re safe for use in water, I would still err on the side of caution. For me personally, I would probably lather up away from any water sources and wipe suds off with a damp cloth. Plus, I’m guessing I would only use it on longer trips, such as 4+ nights. Or if I know it’s going to be really hot. When Nat and I backpacked for 3 nights around Waldo Lake, Oregon, we didn’t use biodegradable soap or wet wipes. (Are we gross??) I’ve decided that’s my limit for no washing, though!
A lightweight towel will come in super handy if you plan to rinse off with water or biodegradable soap. Again, I’ve never purchased one for myself, but I might just do so soon! They come in different sizes – from washcloths to body towels. Double check the specs and ensure it’s big or small enough for your needs. You’ll also want to make sure you choose a fabric that works for you. Personally, I’m not a fan of microfiber. It just seems to push water around instead of absorbing it right away. I’m usually a natural fiber kind of gal anyway – so I would opt for cotton or bamboo. If you’re still unsure which size or fabric to purchase, I recommend browsing towels in person.
It’s always so hard for me to limit what I pack for travel. Backpacking has been a great way for me to learn what’s important and what can be left behind. I hope my list of backpacking hygiene products helps you minimize your toiletries for your next trip.
Most if not all of the products above are available in small compact sizes. So don’t feel bad about packing your towel, wet wipes, or whatever it may be! You know you best and what will aid in an enjoyable backpacking experience for you. Just make sure to place any liquids, gels, or creams into a sealed water-proof bag in case of any leaks. Happy adventures! :]
Are you looking for more tips and advice about what to bring backpacking? Check out my other outdoor guides!
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