Travel hygiene isn’t really something we like to think about, because it’s sometimes better not to remember how gross you get while backpacking. But you can’t make friends if you smell like a horse, as we learned through many sad, sad experiences. Fortunately, unlike backpackers of the olden times, you don’t have to spend two months smelling like patchouli and homeless, and you will never again have to avoid hugging your new travel friend for fear that they faint.
If I could have it my way, I’d always smell like a human and not like a farm animal. Unfortunately, when I am not attentive to my hygiene I become a disgusting wildebeest, and I’ve been mistaken for a homeless person on numerous occasions (I’m not saying this for comedic effect. This has actually happened, and it wasn’t funny). This problem is compounded because I love doing dirty things, like camping for extended periods, working outside, and living in mudhuts. I just find these activities enjoyable, so I’ve had to come up with a few ways to fake being a clean person while I’m on the road.
1. Hang your clothes to dry in a windy sunny place to blow out the smell and kill the bacteria with UV rays.
2. Don’t ever try on shoes you find on the side of the road (or floating in a river) without spraying them with some serious antifungal or bleach!
3. Pack some trash bags so you can keep your dirty clothes separated and sealed, because it sucks when you dig through your bag to find something clean and realize that it all smells the same, even when you are sure that SOMETHING was recently clean. Also, don’t be ashamed about determining clothing’s suitability for wear by conducting a sniff test – we all do it. Also, know that your sniff test standards will rapidly deteriorate with each additional month on the road, so be conscious of this fact.
4. If you have a towel that is wet and a towel that is dry, you can roll them together and squish them to average the water content (two half-wet towels will dry a lot faster than one sopping wet towel, and towels take forever to dry, unless you get one of those fancy microfiber towels).
5. Brushing your teeth dry (sans toothpaste) is way better than not brushing them at all. Seriously, how do some people not realize this? Just try to rinse your toothbrush.
6. Speaking of tooth hygiene, do you know how magic baking soda is? Baking soda is my one beauty/hygiene product that I’d have trouble doing without. Use it to brush your teeth, deodorize your armpits (it works! Not like those other organic deodorants that your smelly hippie friends swear by – it ACTUALLY works! Take it from a fellow smelly person). Check out these other nifty uses for baking soda here. Your only problem will be trying to convince airport security that this strange white powder in your bag is actually totally harmless and legal.
7. Lavender makes a good deodorant because it’s marginally antimicrobial. Other things I’ve been known to rub under my pits: Coconut oil (antimicrobial and antifungal – and much nicer feeling than baking soda!), corn starch, sea salt, tea tree oil.
8. Diluted apple cider vinegar makes a nifty facial toner if you need something in a pinch. Olive and coconut oils are awesome for removing mascara and eye makeup.
9. Pack a baggie of corn starch to use as dry shampoo, and you can add some cocoa powder if your hair is dark. It really works! Just avoid overdoing it with the corn starch, or you’ll look like you have a gnarly case of dandruff.