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September 30, 2022 4 min read

It is understood that when you plan to spend time in the wilderness, you are bound to get a little dirty. However, if you plan to be backpacking for multiple days or weeks, a little more prep is needed to keep you fresh. Read on to learn what to bring on your next backpacking trip and why.

Backpacking Hygiene Essentials Checklist


  • Microfiber towel
  • Unscented moist towelettes
  • Washcloth or cotton bandana
  • Unscented, alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Travel-sized toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Probiotics
  • Merino wool underwear and base layers


  • Toilet paper in a sealable plastic bag
  • Feminine care products

Towels & Towelettes

Before we even start talking about these items, just remember that all towels and towelettes need to be packed out and should not be left behind. Using a washcloth or cotton bandana as a “pee towel” is a great way to stay fresh, as just a few drops of urine in your underwear can start to smell. Just remember to attach it to the outside of your pack, so it has time to dry.

After a quick dip in the stream or lake, a small microfiber towel is perfect for drying off. A washcloth size or bandana size is sufficient. This type of towel is ultra-absorbent and also quick drying.

If you know that you will not be able to take a dip in the water on your trip, moist towelettes can help you to feel clean and fresh. However, please ensure they are unscented, as scents can draw in unwelcome visitors. I prefer to use one or two wipes to clean up right before bed.

Are you tempted to put on deodorant after cleaning up? Skip it! Just like scented wipes, the smell of deodorant can have the same effect on bugs and critters.

Why You Should Keep Your Hands Clean

One of the biggest hygiene problems women face while on the trail is the possibility of yeast infections and UTIs. Make sure to clean your hands each time you go to the bathroom. This is where unscented, alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer is a game changer. The bottle is small, and you do not need much sanitizer to get the job done.

Since we brought up UTIs and yeast infections, always try to wash in moving water as they tend to grow fewer bacteria than in standing water.

Can I Use Soap to Wash?

Biodegradable soap is a great item to bring when backpacking, but it does come with a few caveats. Soap should not be used in lakes and rivers as it can harm the natural environment. Instead, use your soap and water bottle to take a “trail shower” at least 200 feet from any body of water.

Don’t Skimp on Oral Hygiene

Just because you are out in the woods, there is no reason why you can’t take care of your teeth. A travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste easily fit into a pack. Don’t forget your floss! Not only can you keep your teeth healthy with flossing, but it can also double for those “MacGyver Moments” when your floss needs to double as string.

Pack the Probiotics

Probiotics pack a powerful punch for gut health and immune system support. If you do not take probiotics currently, no big deal. Start taking this good-bacteria-boosting vitamin a couple of weeks before your trip.

Underwear & Base Layers

Packing an extra base layer and a few pairs of Merino wool underwear is a must on a longer backpacking trip. Merino wool is known for its antimicrobial properties and ability to help with temperature control.

I know it might sound disgusting, but you will learn to rotate your Merino wool underwear as it is not always possible to wear a new pair every day for your trip, or you do not like washing them frequently. Merino wool is a fantastic fabric since it can be worn multiple days before it begins to smell. A single base layer can get you through quite a few days on a trip before needing to change.

Do You Need Toilet Paper?

Whether or not to bring toilet paper on your trip is strictly up to your comfort level. While some people might be fine wiping with a leaf or a smooth rock after doing their business, others might prefer toilet paper. Although most toilet paper is biodegradable, some brands are better than others. Look for those specifically categorized as biodegradable and even better if their main ingredient is wood pulp. If you decide that you want to bring toilet paper along, keep it in a sealable plastic bag so it can remain dry.

Backpacking on Your Period

The easiest way to avoid this issue is to skip your period that month if you are using birth control. However, missing a period might not work for everyone. Using a menstrual cup is the cleanest way to have your period as long as you follow regular cleaning practices. For example, remember to follow the same rules when emptying the cup as when going to the bathroom, including digging a small hole about 6-8 inches deep. Also, make sure your hands are clean when removing or replacing your cup to try to decrease the possibility of a yeast infection or UTI.

If you prefer to use pads or tampons, you must bring a sealable plastic bag to pack them out at the end of your trip.

Bottom Line

You can keep yourself not only feeling fresh but also staying healthy by packing your backpacking hygiene essentials. Is there something you like that we left off the list? Let us know in the comments.


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