There’s something elemental to getting dirty when you get out into the backcountry; a feeling of being liberated from the conventions of civilization, of living life the way you did as a child playing in the sandbox. But – it’s not fun to be grubby all the time, which is why Sea to Summit has a range of soaps (both liquids and leaves), towels and sinks (and now our new Wilderness Wipes) to help you remove the grime when the time comes.
There are two aspects to cleanliness and hygiene when you’re in the backcountry. The first involves preventing gastric illnesses, the second involves keeping you feeling well.
Let’s take them in order.
Preventing gastric illnesses. Most modern backcountry users are conscientious about filtering their drinking water; something which is simple with modern filters/filter bottles. However, there’s a second step which is equally important – disinfecting your hands after using the toilet. Sea to Summit has a Hand Sanitizer as part of its Trek and Travel range – this is an essential part of your ‘Leave No Trace’ kit along with your Pocket Trowel. Make sure you and the others in your party know where the bottle is and know to use the hand sanitizer liberally after they’ve finished covering their ‘cathole’ in the forest or after each trip to the outhouse at a hut.
Keeping you feeling well. Long days of exertion, particularly at altitude can leave you both sweaty and tired. This is particularly true for those who are not used to this kind of activity level or lack of oxygen, and they may be inclined to want to ‘just collapse into a sleeping bag and rest’. At an absolute minimum, every backpacker should change into a clean set of dry base layers before they think about heading for bed; but far better is to wash the sweat and exertion from your skin before reaching for the dry garments. Some hot water from the backpacking stove, a Kitchen Sink, some Wilderness Wash and a dry Pocket Towel or Dry Lite Towel can take away the thousand-yard-stare from the most jaded hiker and change the character of the evening. And – beyond simply making you feel better, being clean and dry before you crawl into your sleeping bag will make you sleep warmer and more deeply.
Whatever you wash, and wherever you wash - Leave No Trace
Wilderness Wash Products (both the liquid and the 'leaves' of soap), are biodegradable, and some end-users misinterpret this to mean that they can use the soap directly wherever they find water in the backcountry. Biodegradable just means that the soap breaks down due to biological action and UV - it does not mean that you can use it in streams and lakes, where it will harm aquatic life. End-users should practice Leave No Trace principles, and wash/discard waste water approximately 300 feet from the closest water source. The Kitchen Sinks are ideal for this.
But – there are times when you may not have the time, or may not have the fuel to spare to prepare a bowl of water for washing. Some backcountry travelers have figured out that baby wipes are an easy and compact means of keeping clean and feeling fresh; however, there are other backcountry travelers who don’t care to smell like baby wipes. And there are yet other users who just haven’t heard of the idea of moistened wipes in the outdoors.
For all the above groups, Sea to Summit has just launched wipes which are larger and thicker than baby wipes, are unscented, contain Aloe Vera to moisturize your now-clean skin, and are compostable: Wilderness Wipes. Available in two sizes 8” x 12” (20x30cm) and 6” x 8” (15x20cm) they will wipe away the weariness of the day and leave you fresh and clean – whether you’re backpacking, ski touring, paddling or traveling.
Don’t just escape from civilization – get clean away.