No matter if you’re overlanding on a long-distance trail or camping in the backcountry, hygiene is an integral part of your journey. While getting clean may not always be easy, these tips will make it much simpler!
In a Nutshell: Staying Clean While Overlanding
Maintaining personal hygiene during overlanding or camping trips is essential for your overall well-being and comfort. While access to conventional amenities may be limited, there are several methods to stay clean and maintain good hygiene practices. In this guide, we will explore various approaches to personal cleanliness and hygiene during outdoor adventures.
Methods of Maintaining Personal Hygiene:
- Bathing and washing:
- Sponge bath: Use a damp cloth or sponge with mild soap to clean your body.
- Rinse-off bath: Pour water over your body using a portable shower, collapsible bucket, or even a water bottle with holes in the cap.
- Natural water sources: Bathe in rivers, lakes, or streams, but avoid using soap or other pollutants. Always follow Leave No Trace principles.
- Hand hygiene:
- Hand sanitizer: Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer for quick and convenient hand cleaning.
- Hand washing: Use biodegradable soap and water to wash your hands, especially before eating or handling food.
- Dental hygiene:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste: Pack travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste, or consider using a tooth powder or chewable toothpaste tablets.
- Mouthwash: Use an alcohol-free mouthwash to freshen your breath and maintain oral hygiene.
- Hair care:
- Dry shampoo: Apply dry shampoo to absorb excess oils and keep hair feeling fresh.
- Hairbrush or comb: Regularly brush or comb your hair to prevent tangles and promote scalp health.
- Bandanas or hats: Use these to cover your hair and protect it from dirt and dust.
- Clothing and laundry:
- Quick-drying clothes: Pack moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing to reduce the need for frequent laundering.
- Laundry: Hand wash clothes with biodegradable soap and water, or use a portable washing bag like the Scrubba Wash Bag.
- Air-drying: Hang clothes to dry using a portable clothesline or simply drape them over tree branches or rocks.
- Toilet etiquette:
- Portable toilet: Bring a portable toilet for use during your trip, or dig a cathole at least 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites.
- Toilet paper alternatives: Consider using a reusable cloth, natural materials like smooth stones or leaves, or a portable bidet.
- Sanitary waste disposal: Pack out used toilet paper, sanitary products, and other waste in a sealed bag.
- Personal grooming:
- Nail care: Bring a nail clipper or file to maintain clean and trimmed nails.
- Tweezers: Useful for removing splinters, ticks, and other foreign objects.
- Wet wipes: Use biodegradable wet wipes for quick clean-ups and refreshing.
- Foot care:
- Clean socks: Change into clean socks daily to prevent foot odor and promote foot health.
- Air out footwear: Remove shoes and air them out whenever possible to reduce moisture and odor.
- Foot powder: Apply foot powder to keep feet dry and prevent fungal infections.
Maintaining personal hygiene during overlanding or camping trips is crucial for your comfort and well-being. By employing the various methods discussed in this guide, you can stay clean and feel refreshed throughout your outdoor adventures, ensuring a more enjoyable experience overall.
Overlanding & Laundry: Yes, It’s Possible
Laundry can be a real hassle for overlanders, particularly when it’s not easily accessible or convenient. Not only that, but it’s time-consuming and costly as well.
To minimize laundry chores, overlanders should plan their clothing choices and packing strategies ahead of time. Furthermore, it’s wise to avoid wearing the same outfit more than a few times; this will save time and money in the long run while guaranteeing you always have clean clothes for your next trip!
In certain countries, local dry cleaners or tailors may offer to wash your dirty clothes for you. These services can be beneficial for overlanders who don’t want to pay hotel rates or live in an area without laundromats.
Overlanders who find themselves without access to laundry facilities can turn to portable washing machines as an alternative solution. These devices usually consume minimal water and are compact and lightweight for portability.
If you plan on doing a lot of laundry while overlanding, carrying two clotheslines is the ideal solution. A reliable multifilament polypropylene (nylon) line is ideal as it’s waterproof and mildew-resistant.
Overlanders can also hang their wet clothes on rooftop tent ladders, awnings or nearby tree branches for drying. This strategy works especially well when it comes to towels as they absorb moisture and help dry clothes quickly.
The greatest advantage of this method is that it saves both time and money by not having to transport wet clothes from the laundry room to your truck or van. Furthermore, it helps reduce environmental impacts associated with laundry by using less water, eliminating runoff from washing dirty clothes in a sink or bathtub.
Scrubba washing bags are a popular option for overlanders who don’t have access to a washing machine. This compact bag features an internal washboard-like surface that helps scrub clothes clean. This method works best when filled with clean water and minimal soap.
Overlanding & Toilets: Finding Comfort
Overlanding adventurers know the frustration of needing to go potty but being unable to locate a toilet. This is especially true if you’re traveling in countries without many restrooms along the trail, like Australia and New Zealand.
One way to prevent this problem is to incorporate a bathroom into your RV, whether it’s either a composting toilet or cassette toilet (a toilet with an attached holding tank). Doing so will make accessing the bathroom much simpler when you need it most.
However, this method can be costly and require careful planning. If you’re on a tight budget or simply don’t want to invest too much time and energy into installing a bathroom into your RV, portable toilets are another viable option.
These portable toilets are compact and lightweight, folding up into a flat box to save space in your vehicle or camper without taking up too much room.
Some models also come with a waste bag, which you can use to collect any waste that spills into the bowl after use. Doing this helps keep the area clean and free of odors after each use.
You can also bring a portable shower with you when the need arises, enabling you to take quick showers when required. However, be mindful that it uses up water quickly so be mindful not to overuse it.
Alternatively, you could take a sponge bath. This is much cheaper and more convenient than taking a shower, though it won’t be as comfortable. Nonetheless, you’ll still get clean and have the luxury of enjoying an indulgent warm shower when needed.
Finally, you can use a vinegar and water solution to eliminate mildew and mold from your toilet bowl. This will make it cleaner and prevent fungus from growing.
On an overlanding trip, the last thing you want is a smelly, dirty bathroom! That’s why being prepared is so important; pack vinegar and water solutions as well as anti-mold products to ensure your experience is as hygienic and secure as possible.
Overlanding & Hygiene Best Practices
While some of these best practices might seem fairly obvious, hopefully you won’t feel patronized or offended – we just want to cover all bases and help you figure out some of the nitty-gritties behind overlanding. Who know, one of these basic best practices might just remind you to bring a nail clippers along.
- Handwashing: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before handling food, after using the restroom, and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces. If water is limited, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
- Personal grooming: Keep your hair, nails, and body clean by bathing regularly, using biodegradable soap, and water. Wet wipes can be a useful alternative for quick clean-ups when water is scarce.
- Oral hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day and use dental floss or interdental brushes to maintain good oral health.
- Food safety: Store perishable food items in a cooler or refrigerator, cook food thoroughly, and wash your hands before and after handling food. Dispose of food waste properly to avoid attracting wildlife and pests.
- Dishwashing: Clean cooking utensils, dishes, and cutlery with biodegradable soap and water, ensuring they are thoroughly rinsed and dried before storage. Avoid washing dishes directly in natural water sources.
- Restroom hygiene: Use designated restroom facilities whenever possible. If not available, dig a “cathole” at least 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites for solid human waste. Pack out used toilet paper in a sealed bag.
- Menstrual hygiene: Pack appropriate menstrual hygiene products, such as tampons, pads, or menstrual cups, and dispose of them responsibly. Carry sealable bags to pack out used items.
- Clothing care: Wear moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing, and change clothes regularly to prevent odor and bacteria buildup. Wash clothes with biodegradable soap and water when necessary, and dry them in the sun.
- Foot care: Keep your feet clean and dry by regularly washing them, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and allowing your shoes to air out. This can help prevent blisters, fungal infections, and foot odor.
- Insect protection: Use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and use bug nets or screens to prevent insect bites and related illnesses.
- Campsite cleanliness: Keep your campsite clean and organized, disposing of trash in designated receptacles or packing it out. Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your environmental impact.
- First aid: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit and be prepared to treat minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and insect bites, to prevent infection.
- Water purification: Treat water from natural sources by filtering, boiling, or using purification tablets or UV sterilizers to remove pathogens and contaminants.
- Avoid sharing personal items: To prevent the spread of germs, avoid sharing personal items like towels, toothbrushes, and eating utensils with others.
- Handkerchief or tissue usage: Always use a handkerchief or tissue when sneezing or coughing, and dispose of used tissues properly.
- Pet hygiene: If traveling with pets, clean up after them by disposing of their waste responsibly and maintaining their overall cleanliness.
Dealing with: Contact with Animals
Around the world, people engage with animals in many ways – as companions, pets, livestock or wildlife. These relationships offer many benefits such as food, fiber, entertainment, sports and education.
However, animal-human contact also poses health risks. Animals can transmit diseases from humans that could be life-threatening or cause permanent disability in some cases; these illnesses are known as zoonoses.
Zoonoses can cause serious illness to a range of groups, but young children and the elderly are especially at risk. These illnesses may include bacterial infections such as E. coli O157 or Cryptosporidium parvum, which in humans may result in diarrhea or kidney failure.
To reduce health risks, animal-contact areas should be thoroughly cleaned after each visit. People should refrain from eating or drinking in these areas, smoking or using items that encourage hand-to-mouth contact (e.g., pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups), and they must be supervised by a responsible adult.
Overlanding and camping are both great experiences, but they differ in how people get around and what they pack for their trip. Whether you choose to backpack out of a vehicle or bring along all your own gear and camping equipment, the main objective is still the same – to get outside and experience America’s vast landscape.
Overlanding and camping offer great chances to learn new skills, connect with people with similar interests, and form new habits. But before you embark on your trip, there are a few important things to consider: know your vehicle’s specifications; map out an itinerary; research weather conditions, road conditions, meals options, as well as local wildlife sightings. With these in mind, you can safely enjoy every minute of the journey! Overlanding is an amazing way to explore the world while connecting with nature. No matter which route you take, overlanding offers wonderful opportunities to discover the world through exploration – however you choose!
Dealing with: Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can pose a health risk to humans as they carry pathogens that spread diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, malaria, encephalitis and West Nile virus. These illnesses are serious – in some cases even lethal – for humans.
The Aedes mosquitoes (family Culicidae) are one of the most hazardous groups of mosquitoes to humans. These species have been known to transmit various diseases such as malaria, dengue and Zika virus.
Aedes vexans, commonly known as the inland floodwater mosquito, breeds in flood-saturated soil and often lays eggs on top or within water-filled pits. Once matured, these larvae float to the surface and develop into adult mosquitoes.
Asian tiger mosquitoes and tree hole mosquitoes are container-bred mosquitoes that lay their eggs in water-filled holes in trees and shrubs, which can be found throughout the United States.
To reduce the population of these pests, EPA suggests people remove unwanted containers that may hold water such as old tires, empty flower pots and broken toys. Furthermore, check septic tanks and rain barrels to make sure they are covered with a tight mesh.
Insecticide spraying is a method used to kill adult mosquitoes and prevent their reproduction. While these treatments are usually successful, there can be side effects.
Malaria is caused by protozoan parasites that infect a female Anopheles mosquito, who feeds on blood. Once infected, these parasites can spread to the host’s liver and lead to life-threatening illness if left unchecked.
Mosquito-borne infections that can be transmitted to humans include Japanese encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, tularemia and filariasis; they may even cause heartworm disease in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, these illnesses tend to be extremely severe with an increasing number of deaths annually from these illnesses.
Dealing with: Environmental Hazards
The first thing to consider is the environment. It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with camping and hiking in an unfamiliar area, especially if you’re going solo.
- Lightning strikes are one of the most common hazards encountered during overlanding trips, especially those that take place in areas with a high risk of thunderstorms or lightning storms. If you find yourself caught out in a storm, seek shelter immediately! Do not stand under trees or tall objects–they provide excellent conductors for electricity and can lead directly into your body if struck by lightning. If there is no place nearby where you can get out of harm’s way (such as inside a vehicle), crouch down on hands and knees as low as possible until the storm passes by–this will help reduce your chance of being struck by lightning but does not guarantee protection against all strikes.*
- Flash floods are another concern when camping outdoors during rainy seasons; they can happen quickly without warning due to heavy rainfall over short periods of time.* Wildfires are also common during summer months when wildfires often break out due to dry conditions caused by heat waves.* Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius), which could happen if someone gets lost overnight while camping without proper clothing or shelter.
- Wildfires: Dry conditions, high winds, and human negligence can lead to wildfires. Follow local fire regulations, use designated fire rings or portable stoves, and make sure your fire is fully extinguished before leaving.
- Falling trees or branches: Camping under dead or unstable trees can be dangerous, as they may fall during high winds or storms. Inspect the area for potential
- Unstable ground: Avoid camping on loose or unstable ground, such as cliffs, steep slopes, or areas prone to landslides. Choose a flat, stable area for your campsite.
- Avalanches: When camping in snowy or mountainous areas, be aware of the risk of avalanches. Research the area, avoid camping in avalanche-prone zones, and learn avalanche safety practices.
How Do Overlanders Do Laundry?
Overlanders have several options for doing laundry while on the road, depending on their location, resources, and preferences. Here are some common methods for managing laundry during an overlanding trip:
- Laundromats: When available, laundromats provide a convenient and efficient way to do laundry. Overlanders can often find laundromats in larger towns or cities, near campgrounds, or at some truck stops.
- Campground facilities: Some campgrounds and RV parks offer laundry facilities for their guests. These facilities can be coin-operated or require tokens, so it’s a good idea to have some change on hand.
- Handwashing: In situations where laundry facilities are not available or not convenient, overlanders can handwash their clothes using a bucket or a sink. A small amount of biodegradable soap and water is used to wash the clothes, which are then rinsed and wrung out before hanging them up to dry.
- Portable washing machines: Some overlanders carry portable washing machines, which are compact, lightweight, and manually operated. These devices typically require minimal water and can be an effective way to clean clothes when facilities are not available.
- Scrubba Wash Bag: The Scrubba Wash Bag is a popular product among overlanders for its compact size and effectiveness. The bag has an internal washboard-like surface that helps to scrub clothes clean when filled with water and a small amount of soap. After washing, the bag can be rolled up and stored easily.
- Washing clothes in natural water sources: Some overlanders may choose to wash their clothes in rivers, lakes, or streams. If using this method, it’s essential to use biodegradable soap and keep a safe distance (at least 200 feet) from the water source to minimize environmental impact.
- Planning and packing: Many overlanders plan their clothing choices and packing strategies to minimize the need for laundry. Quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and odor-resistant materials can help extend the time between washes. Packing enough clothing for an extended period can also help reduce the frequency of laundry days.
Regardless of the method chosen, it’s essential for overlanders to practice good hygiene and be mindful of their impact on the environment. Using biodegradable soaps, conserving water, and adhering to Leave No Trace principles can help ensure that overlanders minimize their footprint while staying clean and comfortable on the road.
How Do Overlanders Use The Bathroom?
Overlanders use various methods to manage their bathroom needs while on the road, depending on their personal preferences, the type of vehicle they have, and the availability of facilities in the areas they are traveling. Here are some common ways overlanders handle bathroom situations:
- Public restrooms: When available, overlanders may use restrooms at gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, or other public facilities. This is often the most convenient and comfortable option.
- Portable toilets: Some overlanders carry portable toilets, such as chemical toilets or camping toilets, in their vehicles. These toilets consist of a seat, a holding tank for waste, and sometimes a flushing mechanism. After use, the waste can be disposed of at designated dump stations or taken to a proper waste disposal facility.
- Bucket-style toilets: A simple and budget-friendly option is a bucket-style toilet, which consists of a 5-gallon bucket fitted with a toilet seat lid. Waste is collected in a plastic bag, which can be sealed and disposed of properly. To reduce odor and make cleanup easier, some overlanders use absorbent materials like kitty litter or sawdust in the bag.
- Folding or collapsible toilets: Lightweight and compact, folding or collapsible toilets are designed for easy transport and storage. They typically consist of a foldable frame with a seat and a removable waste bag.
- Cathole: In remote areas without facilities, overlanders may need to dig a cathole in the ground to bury their waste. A cathole should be at least 6-8 inches deep and located at least 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites. After use, the hole should be filled in and covered to minimize environmental impact.
- Urine bottles: For those who do not want to leave their vehicle during the night or in unfavorable weather, using a wide-mouthed bottle with a tight-sealing lid can be a convenient solution for urination. The bottle should be emptied and cleaned regularly.
- Biodegradable bags: In some situations, overlanders may choose to use biodegradable bags designed for human waste disposal. These bags often contain chemicals that break down waste and neutralize odors. Once used, the bags can be buried in a cathole or packed out for proper disposal, depending on local regulations.
Regardless of the method chosen, it’s essential to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, and to adhere to Leave No Trace principles to minimize environmental impact. Proper waste disposal is crucial to protect the environment and maintain the cleanliness of the areas visited during an overlanding trip.
To find out more about overlanding & bathroom options / hygiene, read our in-depth post which covers various types of portable toilets and installable solutions plus various nature-friendly “hacks” to ensure that your bathroom breaks are not a deal breaker for your next adventure.
How Do Overlanders Shower?
Showering while overlanding can be a bit of a challenge, but there are several options available depending on your preferences, location, and available facilities. Here are some ways to shower when overlanding:
- Public facilities: When accessible, overlanders can make use of showers at campgrounds, RV parks, truck stops, or recreational centers. These facilities often provide hot water and a comfortable place to clean up.
- Portable camping showers: Many overlanders carry portable camping showers, which consist of a water container, a hose, and a showerhead. These showers can be heated by solar energy or connected to a propane stove or vehicle’s heating system. They can be hung from a tree or mounted on a vehicle, providing a convenient and private shower option.
- Solar showers: A solar shower is a bag made of heat-absorbing material that is filled with water and left in the sun to warm up. After a few hours, the water can reach a comfortable temperature for showering. Solar showers typically come with a hose and a nozzle, making them an easy and eco-friendly option.
- Battery-powered showers: These portable showers use a small, battery-powered pump to draw water from a container and push it through a showerhead. The water can be heated beforehand or left at ambient temperature, depending on your preference.
- DIY vehicle shower systems: Some overlanders create custom shower systems integrated into their vehicles. These can include built-in water tanks, water heaters, and showerheads mounted on the exterior of the vehicle. These setups can provide hot showers and privacy with the use of a shower tent or a privacy screen.
- Wet wipes or sponge baths: In situations where shower facilities or water is scarce, overlanders can use wet wipes or a damp cloth for sponge baths to clean themselves. Biodegradable, unscented wet wipes designed for camping are a practical option for a quick and water-efficient cleanup.
- Natural water sources: When in remote locations, overlanders may use rivers, lakes, or streams to bathe. It’s essential to use biodegradable soap and keep a safe distance (at least 200 feet) from the water source to minimize the impact on the environment.
Regardless of the shower method chosen, it’s crucial to be mindful of water conservation and the environment. Overlanders should use biodegradable soaps, practice good hygiene, and adhere to Leave No Trace principles to ensure they minimize their impact on the areas they visit.