A Trekker's Guide to Personal Hygiene
Staying hygienic whilst trekking can at times be pretty difficult. It's something that isn't often spoken about, and isn't the most glamorous topic of conversation. But it is extremely important, and so we’ve popped together some advice to help keep you as feeling as fresh as possible whilst on your challenge.
Something which you should all expect to be able to do is maintain your basic hygiene. This includes doing things like brushing your teeth and brushing your hair. All campsites will be providing clean water to be able to do this.
When it comes to the toiletries you bring on your trek with you, you should bring eco-friendly traveller's shampoo and soap. However, don't forget that you should try and use them at least 200ft way from any water sources because it cannot be broken down properly unless it's in soil. Remember, organic products will decompose more easily. Also, you are likely to be provided with toilet paper before you set off of your trek, however, it is advised that you bring 1 or 2 just in case.
On most of our treks you cannot take a shower to get rid of all the dirt from the day's trek, so instead you can use a soft handkerchief or tissue and dampen it. Make sure you wipe yourself before getting into new clothes. Please remember that you shouldn't use wet wipes whilst trekking unless you take them home with you after using them, since these are not biodegradable.
Top Tip! Apply vaseline where your body is in contact with elastic, since friction can cause chafing, which is the last thing you need during a trek.
Many of our participants worry about how many sets of fresh clothing they will need during their hike, as they have limited luggage space.
When deciding how much clothing to bring, it's important to note that the higher the altitude you trek at, the less you will need to change your clothing as you will be sweating much less. You can expect to change once every two days at this point. Also, as the days pass and the temperature cools down with increased altitude, you can use fresh pairs of clothing as a first layer and sweaty, worn clothes as the layers on top.
When it comes to underwear, it is strongly advised you bring a fresh pair for every day of your trek. Cotton undergarments will be more comfortable, as they allow your skin to breathe more. You could use panty-liners and change them every day, too. It would be useful to bring a small separate bag to put your used underwear and socks. Also, wearing a sports bra to be more comfortable.
Top Tip! Make sure that once you have taken your socks off at the end of the day's trek, that you keep them on the outer part of the tent so that it doesn't get smelly in the evening whilst you're trying to sleep! Talcum powder is useful for the inside of your socks to help with the smell.
Trekking whilst on your period can be very daunting, but there's no need to be anxious. There are several ways of avoiding any unnecessary discomfort.
Top Tip! It is recommended that you use tampons, not pads. They take up less space, they won't leak, and they're made of cotton. However, if you do not ordinarily use tampons, you should get used to them before going on your trek. If you are uncomfortable with using them, then just do what feels right!
Make sure you do not dispose of any sanitary waste whilst on your trek, they should be brought back with you to the town/city and disposed of there.
Whilst trekking, women tend two have two main worries in relation to their hygiene. Firstly, vaginal infections (e.g. yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis) and secondly, urinary tract infection (UTI). These are typically caused by bacteria, which can be spread through several conditions. Here are some ways in which you can avoid both types of infections:
1. Stay hygienic!
2. Wear comfortable underwear that will help keep you dry (which discourages bacteria growth).
3. Wipe well. One of the most frequent ways in which women get UTIs are by transmission of bacteria due to wiping in the wrong direction. So always wipe front to back. Always.
4. Stay hydrated and go to the bathroom. Another way in which UTIs are caused are by women not cleaning out their system and therefore not flushing out the bacteria. So make sure that you are drinking lots of clean, safe water and make sure you pee, even when the circumstances aren't exactly comfortable.
Certain risk factors can increase your likelihood of getting infections, so if you have a history of infections, it can mean that you are more susceptible and so should take extra precautions to reduce the likeliness of infections occurring.