Debunking Myths About Wilderness Hygiene and Sanitation

Debunking Myths About Wilderness Hygiene and SanitationSome people have a real phobia when it comes to exploring the great outdoors. Rather than fearing the dangerous animals that might ruin their experience, they fear something else. They are afraid of getting sick, and they believe that all those nasty bugs and bacteria living in the woods will get them. After years of traveling through the backwoods, I believe it’s time we debunk these wilderness hygiene myths.

In the civilized world, maintaining good hygiene has become a regular, automatic process. We do it without thinking much about it, and it’s a day to day habit. When it comes to the wilderness, proper hygiene is believed to be a luxury for some. Even more, it’s one of the excuses for women to remain indoors.

I honestly believe there’s a lot of misinformation regarding wilderness hygiene in general and when it comes to female-specific issues, things go crazy. If you are a male prepper and you feel uncomfortable reading about “women problems”, you should rethink your survival strategy. Rather than leaving things as they are, it’s better to get educated for your family members and learn about best practices when it comes to wilderness hygiene.

There are a few common myths associated with wilderness hygiene and the lack of proper sanitation when exploring the great outdoors. Let’s discuss about these myths and check out a few solutions to enable both you and the women in your life to thrive in the wilderness.

Wilderness hygiene and sanitation myths:

1. No matter how much you try otherwise, you are always dirty!

When it comes to getting dirty in the woods, I believe this is a choice and some people use it as an excuse to embrace their stink. They are the type of folks that do not care much about BO and they will contact an infection sooner or later. For the rest of us, common sense folks, washing our hands to prevent contaminating our food is a regular habit. Washing our armpits, genitals and other areas to prevent infections or the spread of bacteria is also something we have to do. That being said here is what you need to do to stay clean.

When water is a given:

Make sure you carry biodegradable soap in your backpack because you will love taking a bath using soap. You can find this type of soap in all sorts of recreation stores and it’s available in both liquid and bar form. My favorite is Dr.Brooner’s Castle Liquid soap.

When water is scarce:

If you find yourself in a situation when you need to ration water and you lack a reliable source of water, you will need items such as wet wipes and waterless hand sanitizer.

I for one prefer the wet wipes that are no-rinse and do not require water. The ones with a balanced pH are my first choice since I want to avoid skin irritation while traveling. There are even compostable wipes, and these are the main choice for many trail-loving individuals.

As for hand sanitizer, you can find these at any gas station or supermarket. The tip I can give you here is to avoid overusing them in sensitive areas as it may lead to fungus overgrowth and other complications.

How to improvise

Since things don’t always go as planned, you may need to improvise to stay clean. The good thing is that wilderness hygiene can be maintained with the help of Mother Nature during a long-term survival situation. You will need to rely on your skills and training because you have to options: find and use soap plants and make your own soap.

I’ve talked about soap plants and I’ve shown you in this article how to identify and use saponin-rich plants. These are the same plants Native Americans used to maintain good wilderness hygiene, and they are being used even today.  Just make sure you are able to correctly identify the plants otherwise you could face some serious health issues.

As for making your own soap, this isn’t rocket science and you can make some from fat and ashes as you will see here. Homemade soap is a great alternative to store-bought soap and it can save you quite a few bucks.

Suggested article: Survival Sanitation And How To Deal With It

2. I can’t brush my teeth

Brushing your teeth prevents a lot of health issues that can leave you incapacitated in the woods. For example, bacteria from an abscessed tooth can spread in the blood, ending up in the brain. When it comes to wilderness hygiene, a tube of toothpaste won’t take much room in your survival bag. It beats having to extract a tooth without anesthesia and just your Leatherman multi-tool.

When things go your way:

For every camping adventure, you should pack a tube a toothpaste and a toothbrush and a pack of floss. Flossing will help you remove bacteria from your teeth in places where a toothbrush can’t reach.

When you need a backup

If you don’t have the above items, or you lost them, there is still hope. There are some alternatives you can use when it comes to dental care. In fact, these alternatives were the main options for the first pioneers.

Baking soda can be used to make a paste and it is a reliable antimicrobial toothpaste substitute. It’s cheap and you can use it for other survival chores as well.

Salt and water were also used in case of a mouth sore and it can increase the pH balance of your mouth, making it difficult for bacteria to survive and multiply.

How to improvise

When all things seem lost and it’s a truly dire situation, it’s time to adapt. As you should know by now, improvisation is the mother of necessity.

You can make an improvised toothpaste by mixing wood ash with water. The advice I can give you here is to wash the ash with hot water multiple times since it’s very caustic. Also, makes sure your rinse your mouth properly to avoid gum irritation.

When it comes to improvising a toothbrush, you can make your own using twigs from birch or hazelnut or use alfalfa plants. Here’s how you can make one using the alfalfa plant:

  • Take alfalfa roots that are thick around in diameter and strip the outer skin
  • Dry the roots in direct sunlight
  • After the roots have dried, you have to cut them in 3-5 inch pieces.
  • Hit each end with a rock to break up the fibers and form a brush (beat it enough to make bristles)
  • Fold the roots in half and bundle them

Always soak the brush in warm water before using it and don’t press too hard on your gums as you may cause bleeding.

As for toothpicks, just use thorns from hawthorn plants or any other thorn bearing plant you can find. Just make sure you don’t injure yourself when using them.

Recommended article: Make Your Own Toothpaste And Mouthwash

3. I don’t like having bad hair days

Hair care is one of the main issues for the ladies and there may be times when you won’t be able to enjoy your pricey shampoo. When it comes to wilderness hygiene, some women will need to wash their hair every day and that may become a problem. Excess oil combined with dead skin cells leads to clogged hair follicles, inflammation, and overgrowth of yeast. And that’s just a no-no for the lady in your life. Make sure they are able to wash their hair, and they will thank you.

When water is a given:

With the right gear, like a portable solar shower, showering in the great outdoors becomes an enjoyable experience. For things to work out you will need to bring along the following:

Shampoo and conditioner – Get the biodegradable, eco-friendly ones.

Portable shower – there are many products available on the market, but my favorites are the Riserpro Solar Shower bag and the Kingcamp Portable Solar shower. And if money is an issue, you can always improvise and use available containers to make the lady happy.

When water is scarce:

If you need to save water or if there isn’t enough to go around, there are some products you can try.

Dry shampoo – This is a temporary solution, but it provides a great alternative when you want to soak up the oil on your scalp. You will have to rinse the dead skin cells and dirt eventually, but it will give you some spare time until you find a water source.

Hat or bandana – Another temporary solution to keep dirt away from your hair. It will work until you are able to enjoy a good hair wash.

How to improvise:

Just like with everything in life, you will need to make some decisions. Some may be easy while others may leave you in tears. Here’s what you can do

Using plant soaps – As said above there are saponin-rich plants you can use on your hair. Yucca lather does a great job of washing both your body and hair.

Using scissors – When you think about it, it’s just hair and it will grow back. Long hair takes a lot of effort to wash and in a long-term survival scenario, you might want to get rid of it.

4. I don’t want to pee in the woods, I will get a UTI!

I’ve heard this a few times before and it’s a common concern for women. Peeing in the woods doesn’t’ causes urinary tract infections, holding it in does. And if people don’t want to pee, they will hold it in and avoid flushing their system of chemicals and bacteria. This eventually leads to some nasty UTI cases. Here is what you need to do to avoid UTI when exploring the great outdoors.

When water is a given

Staying hydrated on the trail is a must and you don’t have to worry about having to find the perfect place to pee. With the help of today’s technology, women can now pee standing up. There are all sorts of female urination devices that make this possible. They are small, lightweight and hygienic. After use, you can rinse them with water or wash them with soap and water. I recommend giving these two a go: SheWee and GoGirl.

When water is scarce

Always carry a piece of cloth to wipe yourself if toilet paper is not available. It may sound gross, but you can reuse it multiple times before you can wash it. Just make sure you are able to tie it on your backpack to be dried out by the sun and let the ultraviolet rays disinfect it.

How to improvise

There’s not much about it and you should empty your bladder every time you feel like. Urine is sterile unless you have bacterial UTI, so it’s not worth troubling yourself with it. Just find the perfect spot for privacy and let it go.

5. Aunt flow will prevent me from having a good time outdoors

This is a sensitive topic for most preppers and a period can become an inconvenience when it comes to exploring the great outdoors. For women, wilderness hygiene and that time of the month are two things that do not mix. It shouldn’t be the case and you should learn what to do when the time comes.

When things go your way:

Packing feminine hygiene products is a must when the world still turns and people often stockpile these items. When it comes to wilderness hygiene, you have the following options:

Tampons and pads – In camping situation bringing these along will save you a lot of trouble. Just make sure you bring some feminine hygiene specific backs as well.

Menstrual cups – Also known as the diva cups, these reusable devices are somehow new on the market. They are gaining a lot of popularity since they can be worn up to 12 hours, washed and reused again. They can be easily cleaned with soap and water and they do not cost a fortune.

When you need a backup

When you run out of tampons and pads and there’s not a cup in sight, you should consider the alternatives.

Period underwear – This underwear can hold the equivalent of multiple tampons and companies manufacture them in all sorts of models and sizes. Keep in mind that you will need to wash them in cold water after use.

Birth control – Some women prefer the option of not having their period. Since every woman is different, it is recommended to talk with your doctor before trying this option.

How to improvise

A while ago I wrote an article on how to prep for your period. It was highly appreciated by women and ignored almost completely by men. It showed women on how to make their own pads and what other alternatives they can use. For the sake of wilderness hygiene and keeping the women in your life happy, I recommend you read it:

Related article: Prepping For Your Period – A Sensitive Topic For Preppers

A last word on wilderness hygiene

Every outdoors experience should be a memorable one, even if the sky starts to fall. You may have covered the basics such as food, water and shelter, but never let wilderness hygiene on the last spot on your to-do list. The complications of improper wilderness hygiene are difficult to treat when medical aid is not possible, so you need to take care of yourself.

The next time you pack your bag for a camping adventure, make sure you leave some room for soap, toothpaste and other hygiene items you may need. And in case you get separated from your bag, remember what you read here and put it to go

Useful resources to check out:

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

Learn To Identify this Tree – All its parts are edible!

Survival Lessons from the 1880s Everyone Should Know

This ONE THING Can Help You Terminate Your Store-Bought Dependency

Learn how to Safeguard your Home against Looters

Find Out What’s the Closest Nuclear Bunker to Your Home

1 thought on “Debunking Myths About Wilderness Hygiene and Sanitation”

  1. Living dry (without running water) seems unnatural to many today to many of grandparents and some of my parents generation it was their normal way of life. As late as 1977 I worked at cotton gin without running water in the office and used an outhouse as a toilet.

    The really critical thing is always have enough uncontaminated drinking water to prevent dehydration and enough water to wash your feet, & groin every day. Washing or sanitizing your hands before you eat, touch eyes, nose or mouth is wise especially if you have never been exposed to the wild or a farm with livestock. Those of use raised around other animals in an environment contaminated by their feces, decaying carcasses and bitten by ticks, fleas and mosquitoes that fed on wildlife develop a different immune system than city dwellers that are raised sometimes in scrupulously clean.

    Both my wife an I grew up on a farm and both our dads fed cattle in lots near the house. As adults neither on of us get food poisoning. I got food poisoning from my grandmother and great grandmother from food they fixed the night before and left out over night and served at noon the next day. I only got it once from each of them. My grandmother didn’t change the way she cooked for the next 40 years. She grew up 40 miles from the nearest ice house so refrigeration wasn’t a habit for her.


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