How to Wash your Hiking Clothes on the Trail

Now that you’ve finally gotten up the gumption to go on your first thru-hiking trip you’ve hit your first barrier – you’re not sure how to keep your pack light and keep your clothes clean along the trail. You don’t mind getting down and dirty, but there comes a time when dirty doesn’t do much for you when you’re putting in multiple miles everyday. Chafing is no one’s best friend. Here’s a little advice on how to keeps things clean and light on the trail:

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1. Choose a Washing Spot

Depending on how long you’re staying at a location will determine how and where you should wash your clothes. If you’re planning on leaving the next morning, then your location is important. Be sure to choose a spot to wash yourself and your garments at least 200 feet away from camp, trails and water sources.  If you’re panning staying a few days then you should stick to the rules about distance from camp, but also be sure to change up your bathing place every evening to spread the residue (your dirty water and soap leftovers) over a greater area. Too much soap residue could seep down into the ground and contaminate the ground water and other water sources.

2. Choose your Washing Method

There are many different options for washing on the trail including using natural resources (like rocks) or bringing a wash bag or even a sink if it’s available. Possibly the easiest way would be through the use of a wash bag. Gather all of your soiled garments and place them into the bag with a little soap and water that you’ve collected and shake the bag until thoroughly clean. Open the bag just a bit and continue to shake the bag so that the contaminated water disperses all over, not just in one area. Other options like natural resources and sinks can also be just as useful, you just have to depend on finding the resources.

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3. Choose your Soap

After you’ve learned the tricks of the trade for laundering on the trail, it’s time to choose a biobased or biodegradable soap.  The rules of distance still apply, as you don’t want even a bio-friendly soap to contaminate the water supply for the camp. Look for no phosphate, surfactants, triclosan, or any “anti-bacterial” ingredients.

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4. Choose a Drying Method

Now that you and your clothes are all clean, it becomes time to choose a drying method. There a few different ways that you can go, none “better” than the other, it’s all based on personal preference. The only thing that helps across the board is time. We definitely suggest that as soon as you get to camp, you get to washing right away. Starting early will give your clothes maximum dry time and save you from having to start the day damp. Washers all have their own opinion on what is the fastest way to dry their clothes. Drying is ultimately up to the wearer and what you find to be most clean and comfortable.

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5. Save your back

Laundry is already a chore – so rest up and do it seated! The Leisure Chair feature full back support, rad patterns, and a convenient side table for things like your new wash bag! Enjoy 🙂

We wish you the best out on the trail and completely support your maiden thru-hiking journey! Stay clean out there!

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