Tips From The Team – Good Outdoor Hygiene Practices

posted in: Tips & Tricks 5
a small wash kit for outdoor use
Top to toe; A daily hygiene routine is a huge morale boost. Photo; Paul Kirtley

“One senses that, in these conditions, no amount of wet-wiping could bring true hygiene.”
― Tahir Shah, Travels With Myself.

Keeping clean and fresh whilst outdoors, whether working, camping, or travelling, is one of the most important factors in managing your own well-being. Any Frontier led course will focus on fundamental protection against bacterial infection as the basis for staying healthy, but in addition to this, we asked our team what personal hygiene tips they could share that may be useful.

Unsurprisingly, feet are high on the list, as without proper care and attention, problems in this area can ruin a trip. Below are some of the ways that the Frontier team manage their personal hygiene needs and enhance their daily routines.

Alison Delaney finds that taking a few small items add to her cleanliness comfort levels.

I always carry a bio-degradable doggy poop bag, a small pack of tissues and small alco-gel hand sanitiser in my pocket. I don’t like seeing tissue paper flapping about in the countryside and I don’t want to add to it whenever I need to pee outside.

I’m a big fan of the solid shampoo bars and toothpaste tablets from Lush. As well as being kind to the environment, the shampoo is compact and mess-free. The toothpaste tablets can be counted out accurately for the duration of a trip so you know you’re not taking more than you need or, worse, not enough. Lush also have little black screw top sample pots that are brilliant for storing their and other products in, you just need to ask.

Talcum powder on the feet at the end of the day is bliss. Removing insoles from boots overnight helps to dry them and the boots. A brilliant weight saving tip: allow a packet of wet wipes to dry out and rehydrate to use.

Sheri Lake also extolls the benefits of modern shampoo products.

I always take dry (spray in) shampoo. I can’t stand having horrible hair!!!! It’s the little things that make you feel human! I also take a collapsible bowl so I can soak my feet from time to time. If my feet get cold or wet I find it near impossible to warm them, so being able to immerse them in hot water really helps!

A collapsible bowl is a useful addition to a wash kit. Photo; Paul Kirtley

And while the ladies concentrate on up there, the gents mainly focus on down there!

Iain Gair is a committed runner, so his main priority is taking care of his feet.

If I had to prioritise then it’s going to be taking care of my feet above most other things. If your feet are ruined, you can’t help yourself. And if you can’t help yourself, you can’t help others. Probably looking after small cuts and stuff comes a close second. I normally have a small set of tweezers on my person.

I don’t know who else does it, but I saw the end from my toothbrush. It’s not so much of a weight saving thing, but more to do with packing down into a smaller wash kit.

I like wet wipes if travelling light, or in dry cold conditions. Around static camp I’m a bit old fashioned maybe and prefer to bring a bar of soap, which I keep inside two small zip lock bags which I use with a Sea to Summit wash bowl and a flannel. All this packs inside a small mesh bag left over from an old bicultural sack which hangs under my tarp.

James Bath also concentrates on his feet.

Flip flops! I Always put a pair in so my feet can breathe a bit after talc etc., at night. Good for showering in or trips to the pee tree during the night. You still need to be a bit careful where you put your feet but I find these very useful.

Paul ‘Spoons’ Nicholls swears by routinely washing, airing, and powdering his feet every night.

I use Gold Bond medicated body powder on my feet. The powder absorbs any excess moisture which stops rubbing and therefore prevents any sores or bacterial skin infections developing. It acts as a mild deodorant and calms any itching.

I like to keep my finger nails as clean as possible. I once had a gnat bite that went septic after scratching it with dirty nails. Since then I always keep them clean. I always carry tweezers and good quality nail clippers in my first aid kit as well, plus a little mirror in case I get grit in my eyes.

Everything a properly groomed gentleman needs. Photo; Paul Kirtley

Jeremy Ray feels that a daily washing routine will help lift spirits.

I use a Sea to Summit collapsible bowl – I fill it with warm water and wash completely most mornings. I shave every day with my Billy can insert plus the mirror in my Silvia compass unless it’s below zero (to preserve natural protective skin oils) or I’m in a jungle environment (cuts are bad there and don’t heal).

I will have a full shower with hair wash once a week or as time permits. Wet wipes daily are the absolute minimum hygiene standard in foul weather. I change socks often, again especially important in cold or tropical environments. In the tropics, I use antiseptic soap for the evening wash before switching to dry clothes. A daily hygiene routine is also a very good morale boost.

Martin Tomlinson is the newest addition to the Frontier team and being a keen photographer, he values his eye health. He has some wise words for those with contact lenses.

I always have eye drops for contact lenses and hold a spare pair in my pocket in case I need to take them out. It is also handy to have some sort of hand sanitiser to make sure I don’t put anything nasty in my eye or all over the contact lens.

Matt Batham agrees that cleanliness and feeling fresh helps to foster a positive mood.

On the wet wipes, I find that Pampers Aloe Vera are the best as they don’t leave an unpleasant smell or a sticky residue. Talc to feet is bliss. For the blokes, baby wipes and powder to the gentleman’s area keeps you feeling human in foul weather.

I take some sort of moisturising cream for my hands and face to prevent skin cracking and the problems with associated infection.

A good routine with feet is an absolute minimum. I’d add teeth to that because however grotty I feel, a good brush and mouthwash lifts morale. Nails; I keep them short with nail clippers and clean regularly with a nail brush.

Some sensible advice here. What’s your top tip for outdoor hygiene?

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Frontier Team blogs are literally a team collaboration, bringing together the collective experiences of members of the Frontier team, from the most junior to the most senior.

5 Responses

  1. Craig
    | Reply

    Good, thought-provoking article. Thanks for the heads up on Lush stuff.
    Some suggestions /comments:
    > Talc: AVOID. Known to cause cancer, there has been a recent successful case against J&J babty talc ($110 million!!). Replace with Gewhol & Bag balm (see below)
    > Feet: Gewhol foot cream fantastic (get the cream not lotion, latter too runny).
    > Bag balm: great for skin issues (research it’s many clinical benefits); also fab fire starter (i.e. multiple uses).
    > Soap: Dr Brunner’s fantastic; biodegradable; a little goes a long way; multiple uses (especially if get the unscented one).
    > Essential oils: t-tree, lavender, eucalyptus oil (all have key uses).
    > Towel: large bandanna or mini trek towel.

  2. R.Lewis
    | Reply

    An effective talc can be made from Cornflour and lavender oil., just add a few drops of oil, shake and leave to infuse. No toxic issues there. I like bergamot essential oil as an end of day foot rub, it’s anti microbial effects, deodorant and pain relief attributes are bliss on the feet. Of course you can choose your own essential oil based on preference and environment, tea tree for example excels in many ways.

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi Roy, thanks for your tips. I’ll have to give this a try, particularly the bergamot. What quantity of cornflour are you adding the few drops of oil to?

      Warm regards,


  3. Neeman
    | Reply

    Good to see an often non-discussed topic
    In addition to all the above
    I carry two small flannels/washcloths:
    A clean one for face and body
    A dirty one for groin and feet
    These are very effective for soaping and removal and get into all the required places
    Also (diabetes) I carry a small piece of worn scotch abrasive to give my feet a light going over to clean off dead and dried skin to keep them very clean and fresh

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