Hygiene In The Field

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Outdoor Life has this post on maintaining hygiene in the field.

No one needs to step on a “landmine” when wandering the perimeter of camp for firewood. Designate a place for cat holes or utilize a proper latrine, and you will keep a great deal of dangerous filth out of your camp.

And of course, you’ll need some toilet paper!

Don’t waste valuable cloth or clothing for wiping. See what toilet paper substitutes can be found in the local environment. I like a stack of dead, dry leaves—with one green leaf in the center of the stack for structural integrity. You can also try bundles of dead grass or fibrous inner bark, or even a stack of just green leaves.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you know what poison oak, ivy, and sumac look like and avoid them! Some fuzzy leaves, like mullein, can also cause a rash.

This no-brainer only gets tricky if you get caught without soap or hand sanitizer. In that case, you can wash your hands with saponin-bearing plants. Yucca roots and leaves; sweet pepper bush flowers; bouncing bet (aka common soapwort) leaves and roots; and clematis leaves and flowers can be crushed in a little water to produce suds. Don’t just try strange plants, though. Make the wrong choice and your skin can absorb toxins and produce a rash, at the very least.

Make a toothbrush from a hardwood stick like oak or hickory by cutting off a live twig and crushing one end to make it fibrous. You can also improvise dental floss from a variety of non-toxic cordage fibers, and toothpicks from dull thorns and wood splinters. Just be careful not to injure your gums. If you do poke your gums and they feel infected later, rinse your mouth with acorn water. Acorns and their shells can be boiled to release tannic acid. Swish this water in your mouth for a few minutes at a time a few times a day, until the irritation subsides.

I’ve mentioned before how difficult hygiene is in the field and how what you think you will be able to accomplish doesn’t last past the first several days.  I think his advice to search for toilet paper substitutes is horrible if you still have toilet paper.  If not, then remember what I said about the difficulty of hygiene in the field.

Looking for natural sanitizers is clever if you know your flora.  As for toothbrushes, through-hikers on the AT carry child toothbrushes in order to have one, first of all, and in order to minimize weight, second.  Everything a through-hiker does has the ulterior motive of minimizing weight.

Prior:

Living In The Field

Living In The Field Part II

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Comments

  1. On August 7, 2013 at 8:44 am, MamaLiberty said:

    For washing hands, protective mouthwash (why wait for an infection?), there are many good plants available. Not all climates support oaks, or anything else, of course. Learn about the plants where you will be hiking/living. Many different things can be used, with excellent results.

    Some other useful plants for washing, skin/mouth irritations and even infections.

    Sage brush – steep in hot water. Available in a great many places and climates.
    Wild oregano – make a tea, not too strong. One of the best for cuts, bruises, mouth sores
    Purple cone flower (Echinacea) roots, boiled
    Pine needles – make weak tea
    Cactus pads – split and scoop out the gel to apply to burns, skin irritation. Works like aloe.

    There are many others. Lots of good books available on the subject, but my favorite is the Peterson Field Guide. I have the “Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs” editiion. The photographs are excellet to help find and identify plants and herbs exactly.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Camping and was published August 5th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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