Part of the fun of going camping is to ‘rough it’ a bit and not to have to worry too much about looking glamorous and wearing makeup or, for men, having to be bothered with shaving, for example. However, hygiene in general is perhaps even more important when camping because not only could you be putting yourself at risk but you could also be ruining the outdoors environment you’ll want to protect.
The first word on your lips should be ‘biodegradable’. Even if we’re not thinking about makeup and perfumes here, you’ll want to feel clean, even though you’ll expect to get grubby in the outdoors. If you are relying on using the natural water supplies to wash, e.g. a lake, stream or river, it’s important that sanitary items you might buy such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste are biodegradable. This will prevent you from contaminating the local water supply and the creatures that live within it. Better still, rather than taking all of these items, you could always use moist hand wipes to clean yourself with. Remember to wash or wipe your hands regularly as the outdoors, with its bugs and other living creatures can present problems with the presence of bacteria and other viruses and, as your hands are more likely to come into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and ears, it’s important you wash them regularly.
Going to the Toilet
If there are no proper toilet facilities on the campsite itself or if you are wilderness camping, you should try to relieve yourself away from the camp site itself as the odour from urine can linger for some time.
The most environmentally friendly way to do this is to urinate into some kind of suitable container and take it out of camp and dispose if it appropriately, if possible, but that might be only be practical on overnight trips. However, if you need to ‘go’ in the woods, try to look for a spot which is uphill so that your urine cannot run down hill into any nearby freshwater flow as that might be a stream which provides people with their freshwater supply.
If there is also a spot where there is a clearing with little or no vegetation, that’s also preferable as long as it’s on the flat or uphill. If you need to defecate, don’t simply go off into the woods and just ‘do it’.
Take a trowel with you and dig out a cat-hole about 6 inches deep. Once you have finished, be sure to cover the hole with the material you’ve dug out and cover it with any leaves or similar materials that may be scattered around.
Don’t forget to wash the trowel too afterwards and dispose of any toilet paper you might use in the correct way by burning it on a fire but only where that’s permitted and where it’s not – burying it is a last resort as it takes a long time to decompose which is why you should always think of carrying biodegradable toilet paper just in case this is your only option. If your trip is only a short overnighter or two, however, then, as with urine, the most environmentally friendly option is to carry it out with you and dispose of it once you reach a proper toilet facility. However, on longer trips, burning would be your only real option if permitted and burying biodegradable paper only as your only other real alternative.
Do Not Attract Unwanted Animals and Creatures
Perfumes, aftershaves and any other scented cosmetics and camping do not go together. For one thing, scents will usually attract flying insects such as mosquitoes and other bugs which will annoy you but, more importantly, if you are camping out in ‘bear country’, if abroad, strong pungent scents will also attract bears into your camp. Women who are menstruating when camping also need to be very careful of where and how they dispose of sanitary towels as bears can scent blood from miles away and will be attracted towards it.
Cooking and Washing
Take the same care regarding hygiene when cooking as you would at home to avoid cross contamination of food and make sure that if you’re washing plates and other cooking utensils in a natural water source to, once again, use biodegradable liquid or soap. The same applies for any washing of clothes you might do.
Camping doesn’t mean that you’ll need to feel unclean without taking all of life’s little cosmetic luxuries with you but you just need to be aware of what’s safe both to you and to the environment.