Hygiene: How to Stay Clean in the Serene (Woods)

Kate Brown17 May, 2016

How many times will we take showers? What are the bathrooms like? How do I stay clean in the woods? These are questions that Adventure Treks’ students and parents ask a lot. It can be a little confusing and intimidating to try to figure out how hygiene works in the woods. While it’s definitely different than your normal, nightly bathroom routine, it’s surprisingly easy to stay clean outside.


Students are often nervous about how many times they will get to shower. But after just a few days, they usually forget that they’re not washing their hair every day! Students don’t feel unclean or “gross” because they’re in a completely different environment with different expectations. The experience of sharing meals outside with a bunch of friends surrounded by nature helps students forget that they’ve gone several days without washing their hair. We’re also near water quite often, meaning we get to splash around and “rinse off” any dirt and grime. The showers that we do take are planned strategically for when they’re most needed—like after each backpack and right before flying home.


Students will learn how to use the bathroom in a variety of ways throughout the trip. At times, we’ll be camping in the “front country,” meaning we will have some amenities like flush or vault toilets and running water. Other times, we’ll be camping in the “backcountry,” referring to a wilderness campsite that we hike, canoe, etc. to that doesn’t have amenities. At the beginning of the trip, we’ll spend time going over how to use the bathroom when there are no facilities.

Regardless of what bathrooms are available, we always have toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap on-hand.


In order to stay hygienic and avoid the spread of germs, we wash our hands all the time. We set up a dromedary, or drom for short, at every campsite. This is a storage bag with a spout that allows students to wash their hands with soap and running water, much like they would with a sink. Students wash their hands before every meal and after each trip to the bathroom, no matter where we are on the trip.


Each trip’s detailed packing list (available in CampInTouch for enrolled families) has a section on what to bring in terms of toiletries, but here are a few more “pro tips.” (We recommend putting all liquid items in Ziploc bags to prevent them from spilling in your duffel bag.)

  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving razor: Small travel bottles work best, and pack only enough for 3–4 showers. If you bring bar soap, don’t forget a case. Leave your loofa and washcloth at home—they won’t be able to dry fully and will stay wet (and smell mildewy) in your bag. Bring disposable razors instead of the reusable or more expensive ones.
  • Wipes: Students appreciate having body and/or face wipes on the trip. For backpacking where weight and space are limited, bring a smaller portion in a quart-sized Ziploc.
  • Brush/comb, hair ties, bobby pins: We recommend bringing extra hair ties. You can pack a small, travel-sized brush, hair ties, and bobby pins/clips in one Ziploc bag.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss: Bring a manual toothbrush—not an electric one, as we will not have electrical outlets to charge them. We recommend packing it in a plastic travel case or its own Ziploc bag. Bring one large (regular-sized) tube of toothpaste for front country camping, and one small travel-sized tube for backpacking. Don’t forget your floss!
  • Deodorant: It’s absolutely OK to bring deodorant, but remember: the more fragrant, the more bugs and mosquitoes it will attract! On backpacking sections, we’ll recommend that students not bring their deodorant because they’ll sweat most of it off and attract more insects. Please DO NOT bring spray deodorants, perfume, or cologne (e.g. Axe body spray). And remember—if one person is stinky, we’re all stinky!
  • Sunscreen, lip balm, lotion: We use sunscreen every single day on our trips, so lotion isn’t usually necessary. If you do need extra lotion, please bring unscented lotion and pack it in a travel-sized bottle. You’ll need to bring a few containers of lip balm with SPF.
  • Menstrual products: Due to limited space, we recommend throwing away external packaging and packing tampons, pads, and pantiliners in a Ziploc bag, nylon stuff sack, or toiletries bag. We recommend bringing a smaller, separate stuff sack or toiletries bag for backpacking. Our instructors also carry menstrual products at all times.
  • Contact lenses, solution, glasses: Bring enough contacts to last you the trip, plus one extra pair in a container; a travel-sized bottle of solution; and your normal contacts container. We also recommend bringing an extra pair of glasses, just in case.
  • Miscellaneous items: Optional items include Q-tips, tweezers, nail clippers, hand sanitizer, cotton balls, etc.

If you have any more questions about hygiene on an Adventure Treks trip, give us a call at 828-698-0399!


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