Homesteading and self-reliance

Tips for Good Personal Hygiene in the Wilderness

Nadia TamaraCamping, Emergency Preparedness, Hygiene 4 Comments

Homesteading and self-reliance

The ability to take care of our body is something we often take for granted. Most of us are used to daily showers, shaving, and preparing food in a clean environment. If you’re in the woods, you may face challenges but that’s no excuse for improper hygiene. Our greatest source of knowledge should come from the experts who have learned to live off the land, including but not limited to indigenous tribes and adventure enthusiasts throughout the world.

If we have poor hygiene, we are susceptible to a vast number of diseases and infections. 

Maintaining our health through proper hygiene can be the key to our survival, especially when medical attention is not readily available nor reliable.

Remember that any time we enter the wilderness, we must consider the animals living there. The tips we are about to discuss are intended to keep us clean and healthy, while protecting the environment and leaving no trace behind.

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Hygiene for hair

Our beautiful mane, if not properly maintained, can become a central hub for all sorts of  bugs, including lice and mites. To prevent the discomfort, follow the following tips:

  • Wash: Sometimes washing your hair in the woods is not possible, but on the occasions that it is, make sure you at least rinse it once a day. If you have baking soda on hand, make a natural shampoo by creating a baking soda paste. Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with a little water and gently massage your scalp. Rinse thoroughly.

  • Brush: Brush your hair every day. If you don’t have a brush, run your fingers through your hair to prevent knots.

  • Tidy Up: Maintain a clean look by tying your hair in a bun or pony tail.

  • Trim: If possible, trim your hair. It’ll be easier to maintain and go about your daily duties without having to worry about dirty and unmanageable hair.

  • Dandruff: What’s the solution for fighting against dandruff in the wilderness? First, try not to scratch your head! If you scratch too hard, your nails may leave cuts in your scalp, which is prone to other infections if it does not heal properly. Second, wash your hair with the baking soda method I just described. Third, apply a moisturizing agent to your scalp: coconut oil works amazing and has anti-fungal properties. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil to the coconut oil (or olive oil) and rub that gently on your scalp.

  • Lice: If you have lice, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with any carrier oil: almond, coconut or jojoba. Leave this treatment on your head overnight and brush out the dead lice in the morning.

Hygiene for teeth

One of the most important parts of the body is, you guessed it, our chompers! Thanks to our pearly whites (hopefully they’re white), we are able to feast on all kinds of food and yummy snacks. Our poor food choices and hygiene, however, are the main cause of our decaying teeth and subsequently our health. Dental hygiene should be one of our main priorities.

  • Toothbrush: If you don’t have a toothbrush packed in your outdoor camping or bug out bag, stop what you’re doing and go do that now. Having to find a toothbrush in the wilderness could mean splinters in your gums, if you’re not careful.

  • Chew Stick: If you didn’t take my toothbrush advice and you find yourself in the woods without one, then try the stick method. This nifty tool was used by the Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, and continues to be used in many parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East today. Take a twig and start biting it at one end. Soon enough, that part of the twig will become loose with little fibers that act as a rough brush. It’s that easy!

  • Cloth: Another option is to take a piece of cloth, put it around your finger, and use that as an improvised toothbrush.

  • Toothpaste: If you don’t have toothpaste in the wild, try out a natural method.  Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a little water to create a paste. Rub this on your teeth to remove plaque and rinse.

  • Healing Tips:

    • Coconut Oil: If you have toothaches, bleeding gums, or bad breath, try an easy oil pulling method. Swish 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes. It’s best to do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. When the 20 minutes are up, spit it out and rinse with warm water.

    • Garlic: This herb is known for its anti-fungal properties. If you have a toothache, put a piece of garlic next to the affected tooth. If you’re brave enough to chew on it with the affected tooth, the pain might be relieved faster. Keep in mind that garlic is really strong and it may give your mouth a burning sensation.

    • Salt Water: Mix a teaspoon of salt with one cup of water. Swish it around your mouth for a few minutes, until the pain recedes.

Hygiene for ears

Keeping your ears clean is important for maintaining awareness in an outdoor environment. Staying alert of sounds and nearby predators is essential to your survival.

  • Nature Q-Tip: Wrap a piece of cloth around a small twig or stick. If the cloth is wet, it will be easier to use. Carefully clean the inside of your ear. Be especially gentle so as to not puncture your ear drum.

Hygiene for armpits

Nobody likes body odor. After a long day, our armpits might be the first to remind us why we need to take a bath. To prevent a stinky finish to the day, try these natural deodorants:

  • Salt: I learned this technique over ten years ago, and will use it for the rest of my life. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with a little bit of water- enough to create a granulated paste. Rub that under your armpits. If you’re near an ocean, take a swim and don’t rinse off afterward. The natural salt of the ocean works in the same way as the salt paste.

  • Plants: There are many plants that can be rubbed in the underarms to reduce armpit odors. I haven’t personally tried these options, but I read about them. If any of these plants become my last resort, I’ll be trying them out for sure…why not!
    • Basil
    • Beluntas Leaves (eat 10-15 of these a day, like a salad)
    • Betel Leaves
    • Etlingera Eliator
    • Ginger
    • Lemon

  • Baking Soda: Without dissolving, mix 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of water and apply to the armpit directly.

  • Charcoal: Charcoal absorbs odors and while it might stain your underarms black for the moment, it’ll do the job.

Hygiene for hands and nails

We use our hands for many things, so it should go without saying that they’re another major hygiene priority. You can never be too clean when it comes to your hands.

  • When should hands be washed? 
    • Before and after using the toilet
    • After disposing human waste, animal waste, soiled materials, and garbage
    • Before and after caring for a wound and sick persons
    • After sneezing, coughing, and blowing your nose
    • Before and after preparing meals and snacks
    • Before eating food. After eating food, if necessary.
    • After handling anything dirty.

  • Drying your hands:
    • Air drying is the best option.
    • Using a clean towel is another option, but use a different towel than the one you use to dry your dishes.

  • Nails:
    • Keep your nails as clean as possible. They can collect bacteria that may spread by scratching.
    • To file your nails, use a piece of concrete or a rock.

Hygiene for private parts

Somewhere in a hygiene article we have to mention the unmentionables. This one is especially for the ladies. Urinary Tract Infections and Yeast Infections are bacterial infections that may be prevented with proper hygiene. Make it a priority to maintain your privates clean.

  • Bathing: As discussed earlier, take a shower or at least wipe down there once a day.

  • Underwear: Ideally, you’ll have at least two pieces of underwear, that way you can wear one and wash the other one (leaving it out to dry overnight). Switch them daily so you’re wearing clean underwear every day.

  • Periods: Menstrual cups are one of the most convenient period solutions. They’re a little difficult to get used to though. Tampons and pads can also be used, as you normally would, but never leave trace of these in the woods!

Hygiene for feet

Protecting your feet is super important, since they’re the reason you get from point A to point B. Make sure you follow these tips for healthy feet:

  • Routine check: Perform a daily check on your feet. Make sure you haven’t developed blisters or open wounds.

  • Bare feet: When you’re at base camp or not hiking or walking, take off your shoes and socks to let them air out. Also, sleep without socks on.

  • Wet feet: Never hike with wet feet! This can cause blisters and cracks on your feet, both of which are painful, and depending on the severity, can be difficult to treat.

  • Washing your socks: Just like underwear, you should have at least two pairs of socks. A clean pair of socks should be worn daily (or at least every other day), while the other pair is being washed and dried overnight.

  • Refresh: To free your feet from bacteria, rub foot powder / talc all over your feet, including in between your toes. They will feel fresh!

As far as personal hygiene goes, this is the main things you should consider. Maintaining your hygiene is one of the best ways to maintain your health. Make it a priority to stay clean, regardless of what situation you’re in. There is great opportunity to get creative when you’re off the grid.

Continue reading here about keeping your campsite and/ or living headquarters clean!

Happy prepping!

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