If someone had asked you in 2015 where you saw yourself in five years, not too many would have had the correct answer. 2020 brought us COVID-19. The world is a changed place and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Now more than any time in the past, not only longtime campers, but those just looking to get out into nature are spilling out to the lakes, woods and mountains to enjoy the outdoors. To stay safe and healthy, camping hygiene is more important than ever. Here’s a few tips to keep safe outdoors.
Keep Those Hands Clean
By now, all of us have had this message drilled into our heads. Wash your hands well and often. When out in the woods, because soap and hot water isn’t readily available, hand sanitizer should be a staple of your camp kit. The clear gel contains a concentration of ethyl alcohol that kills germs and viruses on contact. Pour some onto your hand and rub your hands together making sure you reach all the folds and crevices of your skin including fingernails and fingertips until your hands are dry.
Pro Tip: In a pinch, hand sanitizer can even be used to disinfect cutlery
Use Only Biodegradable Soap
In the city, any soap or shampoo we use that ends up going down the drain is typically treated before the water returns to the rivers or lakes. In the wild, anything you dump onto the ground ends up in the water table eventually. Regular soap will damage the environment and pollute the water, so campers should use biodegradable soap only. While not perfect, it is the better compromise and products like Campsuds require only a few drops for all cleaning tasks. The product works for personal washing, dishes and even to wash clothes. But remember, any use of biodegradable soap should only be done at least 60 metres (200 ft) from any lake, river or stream, never in the water itself.
This year, many National and Provincial Parks have chosen to not open their shower facilities. So, how do you stay clean? There are a few options.
The first, go for a swim in the lake. Offering a refreshing dip on a hot day, it also allows you to get rid of dirt and grime acquired during your outdoor activities. Pick yourself up a LOOFAH. This natural plant product often comes as a sponge or hand mitt and the rough side works perfectly to help get you clean in the lake. Remember, never use any type of soap in the water!
A portable shower unit is another option perfect for the backcountry but check campground regulations as some do not allow their use. There is plenty of choice from a Simple Shower, a shower head attached to a 2-litre plastic bottle, a NEMO HELIO-LX or vehicle mounted Road Shower, both featuring water heated by the sun or a full-on propane hot water on demand system.
A third option when water isn’t available or in limited supply is baby wipes or even better, a Shower Pouch. The Shower Pouch is a full body 2’x1’ pre-moistened cleansing wipe that is three times thicker than a baby wipe. These products work great and they now carry sanitizing body wipes with isopropyl alcohol.
When You Have to Go
Yup, it’s something we all need to do and with facilities limited this year in campgrounds or in the backcountry, once again, there are a few options. Some folks have campers with washroom facilities but for the rest of us, a camp toilet can be as simple as a bucket and a bag or even better, a portable flush toilet, compact and simple. Regardless, dispose of your waste properly by packing it out with you. Others still carry a shovel but be aware, more and more backcountry lands are banning this as in some cases, it’s hard to put your shovel in the ground without hitting someone’s previous deposit. Plan ahead and be prepared.
Plan to change clothing every evening so you don’t take the days sweat into your sleeping quarters. If you are limited with clothes on your trip, wash them in a collapsible bucket with biodegradable soap so you always have something fresh to wear.
Deodorant, perfume and aftershave are best left at home. Not only do they attract insects but they also attract bears, the last thing you want visiting your tent during the night. If you need deodorant, plan to pick up something unscented.
With more and more folks heading into the backcountry and exploring Crown Land, it’s even more important that everyone clean up after themselves and pack out everything you pack in. There’s plenty of stories emerging this year of folks disregarding this and leaving garbage all over campsites. And in response, areas are being closed to the public. Don’t be the person who causes this. Let’s all plan to leave every site cleaner than we found it!
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