While it’s a lot of fun, bikepacking is a sure-fire way to work up a sweat. You’re also likely to acquire a thin coating of dirt. Obviously, this isn’t the most hygienic - or comfortable, for that matter! Even without access to the amenities at home, getting hygiene on the road is as important as ever.
To help you out, here are some simple, sometimes clever ways for bikepackers to stay clean and fresh every day:
In cold weather, you’re probably not going to want to jump into a lake or a river. When temperatures are low, even a quick rinse under a water bottle can feel like a punishment. Luckily, a sponge bath can also do the trick, and you won’t have to get soaked.
You can also wash different parts of your body at a time, so to stay warmer. Keep the sponges themselves hygienic and effective by cleaning them thoroughly and frequently with a biodegradable soap bar.
The ingredients in most soap are unnatural. This makes them unsuitable for use out in nature, where they’re sure to disturb the delicate eco-system. An eco-friendly alternative is a biodegradable soap.
This can be used not only for bathing, for cleaning your clothes and any cutlery or dishes you might have - it’s a real gamechanger.
Just make sure to choose a soap that is fragrance-free, as it can otherwise attract bugs or wildlife (which is clearly not ideal). We use this soap it's totally safe to use in natural water sources. It's from Amazon called Transcentual
It may be tempting to wait to scrub out a pan or rinse mug until later. This gives the grime time to rot, however. Not to mention, it will dirty your pack. To avoid ingesting some nasty germs, clean your cookware right after you use it.
If you don’t have biodegradable soap and water available, you can also use sand to scrub the cookware. This will have a scouring effect (similar to steel wool).
When you’re out bikepacking, you may pass some water sources that are suitable to bathe in. You can take this opportunity to rinse the sweat and dirt off. Just make sure that the water is clean and clear.
You can use biodegradable soap, but many advise against applying it directly in the water.
Instead, hop in the river to get nice and wet, get out, and soap up. Then, go about 100 feet away from the water source and use a water bottle to rinse the suds off. You can also opt to forgo the soap bar.
A squeeze bottle of water can provide the water pressure necessary to help clean your hair (and any nooks and crannies). This can make the process of bathing much easier!
If you’re at a campsite with a spigot, or near a clear body of water, you can fill up a sunshower. What’s a sunshower, you ask? It’s a bit of modern luxury for on the trail: a tough plastic bag with a perforated head to shower under.
What’s more, the plastic is designed to help the sunlight heat up the water, for a pleasant, warm shower. Combined with some biodegradable soap, it will get you nice and clean in comfort.
As a biker, you will absolutely want some quality, SPF 50 or SPF 100 sunblock. Besides SPF, consistency is also something you’ll want to consider. You’re likely to experience some unpleasant build-up with residue-leaving, oily sunblock.
Not only are many sunscreens a bit sticky themselves, but they can also attract dirt. Instead, look for a sunscreen made with minerals, or one labeled as ‘oil-free,’ or ‘extra-light.’
Many suggest that bikepackers leave behind the deodorant. This is primarily because the fragrances are known to attract wildlife, including bears. In this sense, it can be a downright danger!
If you intend to bring deodorant on your trip, make sure it’s 100% fragrance-free. The best options are those made with baking powder (which eliminates odor without leaving a discernible scent of its own) or natural, fragrance-free deodorants made with salt.
Obviously, on your bikepacking trip, you’ll want plenty of toilet paper. Make sure to pack plenty. If tragedy befalls you, and you run out, leaves can also be an adequate substitute for toilet paper.
You can use snow in the winter, as a last resort (since it’s sure to be chilly).
The first step to avoiding chafing is keeping a clean undercarriage, that is, groin and rear. If chafing still occurs, zinc oxide cream can provide some much-needed relief.
At home, you can wash your hands off the faucet. You’d be surprised how many times you wash your hands without really realizing it. Until you no longer have access to that faucet.
When bikepacking, you’ll soon come to depend on hand sanitizer. This is lightweight, and it can clean your hands without the need for water. Apply it frequently, especially before you eat.
During a long bike ride, your shorts are sure to become, well, less than fresh. Sweat is a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria, and that doesn’t just mean body odor. It can also result in saddle sores, chafing, and all manner of things unpleasant.
Rather than tempt fate, wash your bike shorts after every ride. To do this, employ biodegradable soap generously, along with water.
Rinse the shorts once they have soaked in the soap (for 10 minutes or so). Also, make sure to bring a second bike shorts pair!
When it comes to bikepacking, you’ll need to take some steps in order to avoid some truly stinky feet. First off, let your shoes air out whenever you take a break.
Secondly, fill your shoes with baking soda at night. This natural deodorizer absorbs foot funk. Shake the baking soda out of your shoes in the morning, and they’re sure to be much fresher!
During a bikepacking trip, women may not always have trash or bathroom facilities available. To simplify things, something that’s recommended is a menstrual cup.
Tampons and pads also work, you’ll just need to pack them out (until you can find a trashcan).
If you want to prevent your cycle from coming altogether, there are certain types of birth control (such as a 4-week-course of patches) that will do the trick!
Brushing your teeth can seem like a bit of a pain when a long day of biking is over. This being said, it’s no less important during bikepacking than ever.
It’d be a shame to acquire some cavities over your travels, and it only takes a couple of days for unbrushed teeth to noticeably start to yellow. Brush your teeth at least once a day - twice is better!
So, there you have it: some excellent ways to stay clean and fresh every day of your bikepacking trip (or at least, much cleaner and fresher). There’s no need to breathe your own funk, or share it with your companions, either!