Monday, February 27, 2012

Trail Hygiene

The Appalachian Trail. Where people go to not shower regularly for 4 to 7 months.

That might not be the reason people go on the Trail, but is certainly one of the side effects. From all I've heard, if you can get a shower once a week you are going really well. So six months of having a shower every week - 26 showers. Rather than daily life of having at least one shower a day - less than a months worth of showers in 6. Well, see, look at how good it is for the environment to take a hike!

But this brings up some interesting questions about... well, a lot of things. How can one have friends while on the Trail? How can anyone allow hikers in their businesses? How do people stay in the same shelter or tent? The stench really must be enormous.

Beyond just not showering for long stretches, add in more exercise and NO deodorant (you don't want to attract bears to your arm pits while you sleep, do ya?!). There is also the penchant of many male hikers to not shave or get haircuts the entire time, not my style! The smell must truly seep into everything. The sleeping bag, clothing, pack - everything.


The Plan
All of this being said - I am planning on general bodily maintenance and trying to be somewhat clean under duress. I am going to shave and cut my hair regularly - I want to be able to do a quick check for ticks with out much cover in which they could hide. Also, I figure walking through summer time I will want to be as cool as possible. And for all those ounce counters I am getting rid of unneeded weight! I will either get Cara to bring the clippers when she comes to visit, or I will bounce box the clippers ahead.

I am bringing a one gallon light weight folding bucket. I can fill the bucket from the water source after hiking all day, pull some water from it for cooking and drinking and leave the bucket in the sun so it can warm up a bit before taking a basin bath to remove some of the sweat. I am bringing a chamois towel to dry off with and Dr.Bonners soap for all my soapy needs. I will be especially careful with my feet, bathing them daily and making extra sure they get plenty of time to air dry. The nails will be checked and clipped and cleaned as well. And blisters will be taken care of, hopefully, before they start. I would love to be one of those people that doesn't get blisters, but only time will tell.

I am bringing alcohol hand sanitizer to use after bathroom breaks and before meal preparation. I would say that more likely than getting a water borne intestinal infection from a polluted water source that unsanitary outhouses and fecal cross-contamination are way more likely to make hikers sick. Gross, right?! I know it and really want to prevent that crap (ba-dum). So the sanitizer will be easily accessible on the outside of the pack.

I will be brushing my teeth daily, obviously. I had enough of those little tiny tooth-pastes to put them in the drop boxes with my food.

Cara brought up the very good point of sun screen. That is something that I had not thought about, but will need to get. Normally I don't wear it because I don't burn. But it doesn't matter that I don't burn, I really need to protect my skin from damage. I'm going to be out-of-doors for a very extended and continual basis, and protection will be needed. I want to get the sun screen that also has bug repellent to lighten the load. I will need to make applying the lotion ("It rubs the lotion on its skin ") part of the daily routine at camp break down time and again at lunch.

I will need to be disciplined. More-so than I am on weekend camping trip. Weekend camping trips I normally am not as hygienic as I should be. I figure I'm there for a short time so I don't check my feet as thoroughly as I should, if at all. I don't basin bathe. I don't apply sun screen. But I will be out there for 6 months, that is my house, that is my life. I will need to change my normal short-timer mentality to adapt to the new life style. There is no bathroom to remind me to clean up. It's all on me. I will have plenty of downtime, in the afternoons, as I plan on waking early and hiking until 4 or 5, giving me plenty of day light hours to fix myself up.

Being stinky for days on end will be a change. This is part of the experience, to show how much of the world always lives. Even the shower a week is completely outside the bounds of many cultures. The Western ideal of daily showers and ultra cleanliness is outside the bounds of the majority of the world. This will open my mind as much as hiking every day. This change in life-style is one of the reasons I'm going, not to specifically be dirty, but to just have a change. The tinting on the glass through which I see the world will be different. I hope to be better off for all of it!