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Thread: Wilderness Hygiene and Sanitation

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    Default Wilderness Hygiene and Sanitation

    Wilderness Hygiene and Sanitation

    If you were in the military, then you probably have been through this school. Still, times have changed and what you were taught may no longer be the best method. If you’re a newby, then this may be some important information for you. So, for the sake of your health, and those of us that have to smell you, here is a little course on wilderness hygiene.

    I have developed a mnemonic to help you remember the three most important parts of your body that we will discuss.

    STAF

    Skin
    Teeth
    And
    Feet

    It will also remind you of a potentially nasty skin infection, STAPH, that you can contract.

    Now, technically, your feet fall within the skin category but they are such an important part of your overall well being while in the back country that they deserve to be discussed by themselves. So let’s get started.

    Skin:

    Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It makes up between 15 and 20 percent of your body weight and consists of three basic layers, the epidermis, dermis and a fatty layer of subcutaneous tissue. Each square centimeter of skin has about 6 million cells, 5 thousand sensory points and 15 sebaceous glands! It also happens to be about the neatest coat you can wear. It’s flexible, strong, waterproof and repairable (Let’s see Gortex beat that!).

    Your skin performs a lot of valuable jobs for you not the least of which is keeping germs out and your body fluids and salts in. So it makes a lot of sense for us to take extra special care of it while we’re out in the bush.

    You’ve seen the movie. It is day three of your trek and you stink. Between sweating, campfire smoke, dirt, and fecal matter you’ve been spreading around because you haven’t washed your hands, you now smell about as bad as a bloated armadillo baking in the Texas sun. And that sharp pain you just felt in your crotch? That’s Tinea cruris fluffing up his pillow and getting ready to move in. Or candidiasis or monilia or a host of other bacterial, yeast, or fungal infections. And he is about to invite several million of his cloned self to party central. You, on the other hand, are about to become miserable.

    Let’s rewind this picture and see if we can rewrite the script. First, we need to toss a few things into the old backpack.

    Waterless hand cleaner. A multi use item if ever there was one. An excellent way of keeping your hands clean, especially after number 2, avoiding cross contamination to things like your food, helps conserve your water and can be used as a fire starter. Handy dandy and light weight to boot. The smallest bottle you can buy.

    Unscented talcum powder: This is the guru of clean. It can help relieve chafed areas, absorb sweat and moisture and make you feel just plain good. A travel size is all you need.

    Biodegradable soap: A way to get clean again. There are a lot of manufacturers. Try some and pick one you like.

    Petroleum jelly: If you carry petroleum soaked cotton balls. Viola! You already have it with you. Petroleum jelly makes a great barrier cream to prevent chafing.

    EZ Towels: A frugal amount of water transforms this tiny rascal into a usable wash cloth.

    Take the above ingredients, mix together, and you can create a sponge bath. Even when it’s the coldest outside, you can still enjoy a heated sponge batch (or in this case EZ Towel bath). If you’ve constructed your camp correctly, then you are nice and warm and taking 15 minutes to wash those areas that need washed shouldn’t be a problem. Dry well and apply some talc or petroleum to the desired area and not only will you sleep a little better that night but the rest of us will be able to take the clothes pin off our noses. Take a sponge bath every couple of days and your skin will thank you for it.

    Use the waterless hand cleaner prior to food preparation and after bathroom duties as well.

    Teeth:

    Teeth are incredible little cutting and mashing machines. By nature, we have 16 teeth in the lower jaw and 16 teeth in the upper jaw. People are heterodonts. That means we have teeth of different sizes and shapes for different functions. We humans have 4 different kinds of teeth. The incisors are in the front and used for cutting food. Canines are used to tear food. Bicuspids (also called premolars) are used to crush and grind food and finally the molars where the most vigorous chewing occurs.

    Teeth Smeesh. What’s the big deal? There are three main diseases of human teeth. They are tooth decay, also called dental caries; gum disease, or periodontal disease; and problems with tooth alignment, called malocclusions.

    You might be surprised to learn that, archeologically speaking, primitive man (and also modern man of primitive cultures) rarely had dental problems from any of the three diseases. Even today, remote peoples tend to be less impacted by problems with teeth than their more urban cousins. Some studies suggest that sugars, particularly refined sugars, have led to us down the road to problem teeth. Whatever the reason, there are a number of very uncomfortable ailments our teeth can conjure up including decay, abscesses and infections. Not only can they be extremely painful but a tooth infection, left untreated, can lead to an early demise. A bad tooth can turn a trip into the wilderness into a trek of pain.

    There are also studies that suggest gums that are not maintained by brushing and flossing can allow bacteria to enter beneath the gum line and find its way to our blood stream. These studies imply that the bacteria can lead to inflammation of the arteries and even heart disease. This is some serious stuff. A simple tooth brush, a container of dental floss and a small tube of toothpaste can help prevent tooth problems and leave you with that minty fresh taste.

    Feet:

    There is nothing we depend on more in the wilderness than our dogs, hoofers, tootsies; our feet. So they deserve a little pampering. Always take a second, clean pair of socks with you and change them at least every other day. If you can’t wash them in a brook or lake then hang them up and let them air clean overnight. Sleeping without socks is another thing you can do to help prevent foot problems.

    Always keep your feet clean and dry and never hike with wet feet. Trench Foot or Immersion Foot is a problem that stems from wet feet. It is characterized by a tingling or itching accompanied by swelling, pain and numbness in the affected foot.

    You can treat the symptoms by applying warm packs to the feet for five minutes but Trench Foot is a wound to the feet making them more susceptible to infection. Because infection becomes such a serious threat, the feet should be checked often for any signs such as puss, drainage, acute inflammation or bleeding. Medical attention should be sought for any symptoms of Trench Foot.

    You can add a little talc to your feet to make them feel better and ease some tightness around a boot seem.

    If your foot is developing a “hot spot”, stop and find out what is causing it. Adjust the seam of a sock or stretch the seam of a boot a bit to ease the pressure. You can do that by wedging a small rock against the offending seam to stretch it a bit.

    You can protect the area with mole skin or duct tape but it is important that you correct the problem before it becomes a blister. If you are too late and you already have one, don’t pop it. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Unbroken skin over a blister provides a natural barrier to bacteria and decreases the risk of infection.”

    If you are having difficulty walking because of the blister, here are their
    recommendations for dealing with it:

    1. Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water.
    2. Swab the blister with iodine or rubbing alcohol.
    3. Sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.
    4. Use the needle to puncture the blister. Aim for several spots near the blister's edge. Let the fluid drain, but leave the overlying skin in place.
    5. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the blister and cover with a bandage or gauze pad.
    6. After several days, use tweezers and scissors sterilized with rubbing alcohol to cut away all the dead skin. Apply more ointment and a bandage.

    Now comes the sanitation part.

    Urine:

    Urine is generally considered to be a fairly sterile waste product. However, it can carry parasites such as schistosomes. This is particularly true in developing areas. You should try to urinate on rocks or on non-vegetated areas whenever possible and be sure to stay away from water sources when you do. Peeing in the lake is not cool.

    Feces:

    Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, folks recommended this little number be performed in something called a cat hole. Then covered up never to be seen and digested by a host of bacteria. Wrong! Poop scientists (I have no idea what their real title is) actually performed tests on cat holes and found that steamers stay steamers longer when buried. As it turns out, the real enemies of the big brown bombers are ultra violet light and bacterial action. So the best thing to do is to perform the smear technique (I don’t make this stuff up, okay?). You do that by spreading the crapola across the ground so sun light and bacteria have more surface area to do their thing. Have a really good mental image about now?

    Of course, if you are in a high use area, you may still want to use the cat hole method but you’ve been warned. It will still be waiting when you return next year. (theme of Jaws starts playing).

    Naturally, whatever method you use, you will still want to safeguard waterways by staying (or squatting as the case were) no closer that fifty yards from any stream or lake. Fecal borne pathogens, like E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, Campylobacter, Aeromonas, Candida or Cryptosporidium can be washed into waterways.

    And use that waterless hand cleaner for cryin’ out loud!
    Last edited by Rick; 01-11-2008 at 12:58 AM.


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    Senior Member Tony uk's Avatar
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    Thanks Rick, I would have off just covered myself with aftershave and say "Atleast im not smelly"
    A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.

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    hunter-gatherer Canadian-guerilla's Avatar
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    i'm single
    but it would be interesting
    watching someone, trying to convince their wife and kids to use the smear technique

    i remember an old army saying
    " you take care of your feet . . . and your feet will take care of you "
    .
    Knowledge without experience is just information


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    one picks for enjoyment of adding something to a meal,
    and the second is the person who lives mostly on ( wild ) edibles

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Trust me on this. Kids learn the smear technique at a very very early age. They are masters at it before the are out of diapers.

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    I'm not sure how much sunlight gets through in the bush floor but I have come across a campsite that the previous users had "smeared" what a disgusting place..
    We will make a larger "cat hole" and layer in our previous nights ashes to cover the "feces". I have made a toilet seat with removable coffee table legs and a "privacy screen" for the ladies when we are canoe trekking.

    Sweat dens are good to excrete toxins and clean out your bodies pores every once in a while, easily made in the bush.
    Otherwise we also use sage to "smoke" "deodorizes" ourselves where water is limited but that is seldom the situation here.
    To thyne self be true

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    Senior Member RBB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carcajou garou View Post
    I'm not sure how much sunlight gets through in the bush floor but I have come across a campsite that the previous users had "smeared" what a disgusting place..
    We will make a larger "cat hole" and layer in our previous nights ashes to cover the "feces". I have made a toilet seat with removable coffee table legs and a "privacy screen" for the ladies when we are canoe trekking.

    Sweat dens are good to excrete toxins and clean out your bodies pores every once in a while, easily made in the bush.
    Otherwise we also use sage to "smoke" "deodorizes" ourselves where water is limited but that is seldom the situation here.
    Second CG's take on the "smear" campaign.

    I do often leave my offerings out, but I wander off a long ways to the middle of a thick stand of young balsams - or some such place unlikely to see any traffic. If you are going to leave something close to a campsite - please dig a hole.

    Good point on sweat lodge. A couple of tarps and some poplar trees bowed over makes for a good sweat lodge. The white ash CG mentions can also work for personal cleansing in the absence of soap (contains lye).
    Last edited by RBB; 01-11-2008 at 03:08 PM.
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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    I just wipe with a rabbit and he runs around in the sun
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I can't imagine why someone would have smeared to the point of it being disgusting. The whole point is to break apart the excrement so nature can work a bit more efficiently not see how far you can string it. If you think about it, elk, moose, deer, bear, wolf all leave it on top the ground at it works fine for them. I'm not doubting the fact they did it just don't understand why they would. I would have been appalled, too.

    I do get the sweat lodge. I have never done that but it's on my list of to do's and something I'm going to try yet this winter.

    I don't agree with the ash, though RBB. Lye made from woodash is a pretty caustic substance. My mom used to make that stuff in a #10 wash tub. She only used it for washing clothes, though, thank God.

    Just pouring water through woodash creates lye water. The only thing missing at that point is animal fat. I use ash to clean my pots in the wild but would never use it to wash with. That's just me, though. I think it's pretty hard on the skin. I know many a folk that swear by it.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Beo - You know the old joke of the bear and the rabbit both poopin' in the woods. The bear looks over at the rabbit and asks,

    "Do you have trouble with poop sticking to your fur?"

    "No," replied the rabbit. "I can't say I ever have."

    "Good," said the bear and he picked the rabbit up and wiped with it.

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    Senior Member Tony uk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Beo - You know the old joke of the bear and the rabbit both poopin' in the woods. The bear looks over at the rabbit and asks,

    "Do you have trouble with poop sticking to your fur?"

    "No," replied the rabbit. "I can't say I ever have."

    "Good," said the bear and he picked the rabbit up and wiped with it.
    o.O Nice One Rick, Seemes like you go to a few joke sites

    Got any more that are like that ?
    A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.

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    Three guys sitting at a bar, bartender says to them: Car's being towed outside, green honda if its yours.
    1st guy says: Nope I'm an astronaut, I drive a Saturn.
    2nd guy says laughing: I'm a pimp, I drive a cheap Escort.
    3rd guy says laughing: I got ya both beat, I a proctologist and I drive a brown Probe!!!

    Har har har!!!!!!!!!!
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    Senior Member Tony uk's Avatar
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    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    I'll be up all night laughing to that one
    A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.

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    Alaska, tourists are warned to wear tiny bells on their clothing when hiking in bear country. The bells warn away MOST bears. Tourists are also cautioned to watch the ground on the trail, paying particular attention to bear droppings to be alert for the presence of Grizzly Bears. One can tell a Grizzly dropping because it has tiny bells in it.

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    Its sage, burnt in a fire= smudge used for personal cleansing, body odor.
    the fire ashes are used in the cat hole, helps to controls odor.
    Sweat lodges are great but be carefull at first till you get used to them, we use medicines to help us also.
    Last edited by carcajou garou; 01-11-2008 at 05:03 PM. Reason: clarafication
    To thyne self be true

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    Senior Member Tony uk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Alaska, tourists are warned to wear tiny bells on their clothing when hiking in bear country. The bells warn away MOST bears. Tourists are also cautioned to watch the ground on the trail, paying particular attention to bear droppings to be alert for the presence of Grizzly Bears. One can tell a Grizzly dropping because it has tiny bells in it.
    LOL Agen Rick !!!

    Love that one
    A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I would appreciate any input for primitive hygiene that could be added. RBB has suggested woodash for personal cleansing. Any others?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    I would appreciate any input for primitive hygiene that could be added. RBB has suggested woodash for personal cleansing. Any others?
    Dish soap will rinse off with ice cold water, Bar soap not so. Just plain water works fine. I just use my T-shirt for a sponge bath. That way I get a cleaner t-shirt in the deal. When Guiding in the fall season we are in the field for 10 to 12 weeks. You learn to get by, One of the hardest things to get off your body is animal fat, (fleshing hides).

    Some how that I don't understand blood makes good cleaner, I think Hog blood is the main ingredient in modern soap. I might be wrong, you could look it up.....

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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    in addition to sage, creosote bush is a wonderful plant for smudging/smoke bathing.

    my best advice is to keep hands clean prior to eating or preparing food and to keep feet dry whenever possible. take shoes off when not walking/marching/hiking and do not sleep in your shoes or even the socks you wore during the day.
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    A Laughing Wolf spiritman's Avatar
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    The blood thing kind of makes sense because it bonds to almost anything. but that doesn't make me more comfortable about bathing in it. Sounds like a bad plot device.

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    Default To Make Clear

    Quote Originally Posted by spiritman View Post
    The blood thing kind of makes sense because it bonds to almost anything. but that doesn't make me more comfortable about bathing in it. Sounds like a bad plot device.
    I just wanted to make clear. That as a Professional Hunting Guide, one spends some time fleshing and salting hides. And some time Field Dressing, and cutting up, and boneing out meat. My point was just that the blood washes off easier and cleaner than the Grease, which seems to take cleanser, or lava type soap to remove. Blood baths are for movie's. Client's are phobic enough about all the Brown/Grizzly bears in or near camp, blood baths would not be recomended.
    Last edited by Sourdough; 01-13-2008 at 01:08 AM.

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