Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Gear Talk: Camp Hygiene

If I go backpacking, I like to take a dip in the lake or river in the evening and wash off the sweat and dirt, or at least have a quick wash. And also keeping the teeth clean is important. Before going UL, I carried a full blown towel with me, a pouch for all the goodies and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Now that I'm lightening up, that's a no go. While I won't invest into an awefully expensive Titanium toothbrush like James, and neither cut my toothbrush smaller, I had a look around of what's available on the market.

Left UL, right UH.

Lets talk soap. Dr. Bronners is the name you read most often on other packing lists, and while its now available at Backpackinglight.co.uk for a reasonable price, I find I don't need 118 ml, though it would be a good choice because its made of some organic ingredients and is Fair Trade certified. So what else there is, in smaller sizes? I found what I was looking for at MSR with their Packsoap. Its half the size of the Dr. Bronners, thus 59 ml, and weights 79 g on my scale. Its biodegradable, so you can use it in nature and don't need to worry that you leave dangerous chemicals behind (you still should try to wash yourself away from water ways and lakes, if possible - I usually take a swim and then wash up and take a dive, though). Its for sale at Ultralight Outdoor Gear for a very reasonable 4,25€. It doubles up as detergent for the dishes as well, and I reckon with normal use you should be able to go for two to three weeks with one bottle; a drop or two is enough to get a nice lather.

MSR Packsoap.

Next up the toothbrush and paste. My normal toothbrush weights about 15 g, and the toothpaste in its huge package was about 100 or more gram. Here huge savings can be made. I had a look around in the department store, and was very happy to find the Jordan GO Travel kit. The whole kits, including toothbrush, paste and a toothpick in a container which protects them from dirt weights 41 g - WIN! I usually carry the case, as there is a smart mechanism to press out the paste and keep it closed; but if you prefer you can leave it away and save an additional 26 g and just take the paste and brush in a ziplock bag, as you can see in the photo. You need to come up with a method to keep the toothpaste in the tube, though. It cost me 5,50€ with two tubes of toothpaste, which you hopefully also can buy separately.

Jordan GO tootbrush kit.

Keeping the hands clean is another issue I pay close attention too, especially if it comes to preparing and touching food. Previously I carried around a 250 ml bottle of liquid hand sanitizer, but it was just too heavy. I was happy as I found in the pharmacy a small 50 ml bottle of hand sanitizer gel, which weights a reasonable 55 g. It works as you would expect it to work, though of course you should wash your hands before disinfecting them. I got it at my local pharmacy, where they had it in neutral and birch smell, and it costs between 2,20€ and 2,50€.

Anti Bac Hand Sanitizer.

Finally, I needed to replace my towel. It was a whopping 165 g, and even more when wet. It also needed ages to dry, as cotton usually does. While you can use certain kitchen rugs/ clothes I preferred something more refined, and again found what I was looking for at MSR with their UltraLite Packtowel. The towel is Size Medium which is enough for me, and weights 40 g. It absorbs a lot of water, and while after drying your skin feels a bit funny and still wet, I was dry. It has a loop so you can easily hang it to dry, or if you want to leave the 5 g pouch at home you could clip it to the outside of your backpack and let it dry there. Its available as well at Ultralight Outdoor Gear for 12,-€. Juha had a good point, the size of the towel is 30 x 76 cm.

MSR UltraLite Packtowel + pouch.

So, what originally was close to a kilo now got down to 221 g, without losing any comfort and useability. If I would leave the towel pouch and the toothbrush box at home, it would be 190 g. It only gets lighter with time as I use the soap and hand sanitizer, so I am truly happy with the current setup and now can put my attention towards Winter.

The complete UL hygiene kit, clocking in at 221 g - that's full bottles of soap and hand sanitizer and a dry towel!

/edit 09.10, 7.40: Juha raised a good point, the size of the towel is 30 x 76 cm. To save further weight on the bottles, one can use small dropper bottles which usually can be found at the pharmacy. BPL also sells them, and at various UL shops you're able to get small bottles as well. Baz made me aware of Muji bottles, or to ask hayfever sufferers for their old bottles. And instead of paste you can use powder. Lighthiker made me aware that a similar toothbrush is available at Shelbys. Read the comments, many useful information there!

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