Travel Hygiene for Cleanish Vagrants

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.

Unless you totally dig that smell, in which case, I don’t know what to tell ya. [credit]

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.

In some cultures they appreciate and even embrace that musky B.O. smell [credit]

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.

Honestly officer, it’s wrapped in a condom because I just didn’t have any bags on hand. And the mushrooms, those are just for decoration! I was going to build a centerpiece! [credit]

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.

You’ll notice that we didn’t use any of our own pictures in this article. A great man once said, “Remember me not as I am but as I used to be that day two or three weeks ago when I took a shower,” or something. [credit]


  1. Art?rs says:

    One more thing I’d like to add – avoid cotton shirts! Instead use polyester ones. It’s totally worth it as they don’t get wet so fast when you sweat, dry MUCH faster and start to smell MUCH later then cotton ones. Have done a week hiking in one polyester t-shirt and it was still ok after that, but cotton shirts are usually disgusting after the first day (or even sooner). Also don’t use cotton sweaters, but fleeces instead.
    Microfiber towel is also a must for such traveling – takes much less space in your backpack, dries MUCH faster and are somewhat antibacterial (don’t smell so bad as cotton ones). They’re really not that expensive (can get one for less then 10 bucks).
    As to hygiene – just a pack one piece of soap. It’s good for washing yourself (if it’s above freezing temperature finding a water is usually not a big problem; and in my opinion it’s better to have this “cold shower” than smell bad) and also your clothes. I always carry a decent (dry) deodorant, so don’t really see the point of using soda etc. (and I am a sweaty type :) ). I’m also ok with some 30 ml of shampoo for 2 weeks, so always carry that too (no problem at airports), but yeah – I’m a short-haired guy; long-haired girl will need a lot more.

    • dirtyv6 says:

      Oh yeah, good point with the cotton vs. polyester. I heartily agree! I always carry a microfiber towel, but they just don’t dry you as well as a real towel, so I try to borrow a real towel when I can–but that is probably because I’m a long-haired girl and boy does my hair hold a lot of water.

  2. Elena says:

    I love your blog! I’ve used chickpea flour to wash my hair, and it works fine; also, a solution of almond oil and water it’s perfect to remove facial make-up (I use the same mixture when at home, it is way less aggressive than any other product).
    Iuse pins to attach wet clothes/towels on the outside of my backpack, but maybe that’s a not so good habit when you decide to leave the countryside and walk into town looking like a clothesline ;)
    I haven’t been on the road more than two weeks as yet, but I’m planning to go away for a month next summer (still a lot of time to prepare eheh) and I’ll remember those advices!

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