Camp hygiene and staying clean on your kayaking adventure is crucial for you and your health as well as the health (and noses) of your kayaking companions. Feeling clean each night can also help you sleep and ultimately improve your sense of well-being.
Here are some or our simple wilderness hygiene tips to keep you fresh and healthy on any kayaking adventure.
COVID-19 has reminded us all the importance of washing hands regularly and it’s no different in the bush.
If using biodegradable soap or hand sanitiser, hands can be washed in fresh water collected for that purpose but not directly in the fresh water source itself which should be at least 60m away from you.
After toileting, hands should be washed with a biodegradable hand wash or in sea water followed by hand sanitiser. This makes sure there’s little chance of bacteria to make you or your kayaking buddies ill.
Ensure you use hand sanitiser before preparing or eating any food as well as after going to the toilet. Have a sanitiser with your toilet kit and one that stays nearby on the kayak and in your tent to make sure you don’t forget or can’t be bothered!
Essential equipment: hand sanitiser
To avoid the possibility of contaminating food, always pour any shared food into an individual bowl or hands. Don’t dive your hands directly into the food! This is particularly important to remember when sharing scroggin.
Rule 1 – if there is a toilet, use it. If not, dig a hole 15-20cm+ deep, at least 100m from water, camp and tracks to bury the faecal matter and toilet paper.
If you’re in a group, take a shovel (easy to strap on the top of a kayak) and dig a deep group pit, covering with a thin layer of dirt after each use, before covering fully when leaving camp. Having the shovel means you can dig much deeper than a trowel and it also minimises the number of holes around camp.
If you are paddling in fresh water and/or drinking water areas you will need to carry out all human waste. The Canberra Cross-Country Ski Club has great instructions on how to make and use poo tubes.
Essential equipment: shovel or sturdy trowel, toilet paper, hand sanitiser, poo tube (for fresh water areas)
On most wilderness adventures, including our kayak camping expeditions, there are no showers. However it’s still important for both your sense of well-being and health to wash yourself occasionally.
Being kayakers, we always have the ocean nearby. A swim in the ocean with a washer to scrub off sunscreen and then a fresh water wipe with the washer will make you feel fabulous. Freshwater swims are even better, but make sure you don’t use any soap at all in freshwater, even if it is biodegradable. If you want to use soap, collect some water to wash with and scatter the soapy water on the ground at least 60m from the fresh water.
Australian hiker has a great recommendation of using a wet Chux and a couple of drops of essential oil to wash with each night. Read more here.
Wipes are great when you can’t spare the fresh water, or you are just too tired to attempt anything else, however they are wasteful so only use when totally necessary. You will also need to carry out used wipes. If possible, purchase compostable ones to throw in the compost when you get home.
You can also bring along deodorant, however it’s not necessary and a personal choice.
Essential equipment: washer and/or chux, essential oils
Just because you’re in the wilderness doesn’t mean you should neglect your normal teeth cleaning routine. You just need a toothbrush, small travel toothpaste and some floss.
Spit out toothpaste at least 60m from freshwater sources and spray the toothpaste rather than spit, so it covers as vast an area as possible to diffuse any potential environmental impacts.
Essential equipment: toothbrush, travel toothpaste, floss.
We are big fans of merino clothing as, besides keeping us warm, it smells far less than synthetic clothing so you can wear it for many days without washing.
It’s good to pack quick drying clothing so if it does get wet kayaking or you want to wash them, they dry quickly.
Wash your smalls (undies and socks etc) regularly (or bring enough for the entire trip if you have room). Pants, tops etc can probably last on a week-long kayaking adventure but a basic hand wash in fresh water can get rid of most dirt and grime to make things more comfortable if necessary. Some string to hang washed clothes on always comes in handy too.
We recently saw this Scrubba bag advertised, which is essentially a portable mini washing bag. We haven’t tried it yet but it looks like it could be a great addition for multiday adventures.
Essential equipment: quick dry clothes, string
So, don’t get on the nose – feel fresh and healthy, show your pearly whites and add cleanliness to wilderness! Your kayaking mates will thank you!