Soaps

12:31 a.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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Ok ,I'm out Backpacking. Just what or how do you do dishes? Clean your body? I mean there is no hot water unless you use your fuel. Just what is the BEST way?

1:16 a.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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I suggest researching Leave No Trace(LNT) http://www.lnt.org

I've had good results with both Dr. Bronner's soap and Campsuds.

Read this regarding soap use in the back country:

http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Falls/9200/biodegradable_soap.html

There are also several posts to this forum on LNT. Read these past posts, there's a wealth of information.

8:39 a.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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Somehow I missed it. Thanks

12:33 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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Hi Mike,

I use baby wipes a lot for personal cleaning but just heat a little water and use environmentally friendly soap for dishes. We often use dehydrated meals on long hauls so there are not many dishes to wash because it is eat out of the pouch meals, the garbage is packed out! I will use a reusable cloth just to wipe out beverages from a cup then rinse and reuse. Hope this helps.

1:40 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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Put off washing (your body) as long as possible. For non-smelling deodorants (not anti-perspirants) try those rock-crystal things, some kind of alu-salt I think. If your not in bear country, Aubrey Organics make a deodorant called Hi-C, I think, which works better than most natural deodorants. Then just go swimming ;o)

1:49 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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I am in bear and cat country, so no deodorants. Are there any wipes that dont leave a smell?

2:15 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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I read the link on soap that abman47 posted. Are all soaps really equal in terms of break down? I used to use a pure olive oil soap, dark green waxy type of stuff, cut from a brick.

For alcohol wipes, you could experiment with the sterets/alcohol prep pads that they use in hospitals - they don't have a fragrance and they contain quite a bit of liquid. But how many prep pads does it take for a full body clean, that is the question! The bits of paper/cloth are messy as well.

I once tried to buy 'rubbing alcohol' in the UK. The looks I got after about the fourth chemist just put me off. Methylated spirits was the suggestion I received mostly.

The rock-crystal things, as far as I know, have no fragrance at all. The salts just keep bacteria at bay. I recall that it was a substance originally mined in in Asia but is now manufactured. In the UK, Pit-Rok is a brand name. It works for days, just rub on wet skin, even feet (but not broken skin).

Edit: the crystals are potassium alum and they break easily on porcelain sinks (which is how I ended up with little pieces that are ideal for backpacking).

4:43 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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I looked at the link abman47 provided. Several things stated in that link as LNT practices do not match what I was taught in my LNT Trainer courses. In particular, one thing with respect to disposal of the used wash water we were taught was to dispose of it at the minimum 200 foot distance mentioned in the link, but by widely spreading it (not the cathole mentioned in the link). In the LNT Trainer courses, several soaps were mentioned that are biodegradable if spread in that manner, one of which is the old standby CampSuds.

There are several large bodywipes available, 2 of which are made by Adventure Medical Kits (one is roughly hand towel and the other roughly bath towel sized). These seem to work well (I used the hand towel size both in Antarctica and on Kilimanjaro, which were well over a week from real showers). Storage and disposal in bear country is the same as with any smellable - put the used ones in a ziplock and store in your bear container (in the Sierra) or bear bag (areas where the bears do not have degrees from Yosemite Bear University). The minor amount of smell evaporates from your body quickly, so no worry about the bears trying to snuggle up to you because of that.

As for the dishes, best thing is to use a minimal amount of dish/cutler/utensils. Since you need to drink plenty of fluids anyway, just go ahead and swallow the food bits in the tea or coffee, and rinse the pots and spoons in the last cup or so of hot water, then drink the very dilute cocoa/soup/plain old hot water. Hey, you need all the food bits for nutrition anyway (and you get used to it quickly by the third or fourth day out).

You can also use sand or snow as the scrubbing "powder" to remove burned or stuck food bits. Again, dispose of the water you use to do the rinse well away from water sources (200 feet+). Since you will heat water for the next cooked meal, keep in mind that the kill point for everything from giardia and crypto to viruses and the bacteria that cause internal problems for humans is 65-70°C (155-160°F), the same as used for pasteurizing milk.

8:24 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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All I can offer is what I do, and what I have been taught, it works well for me in the areas I go to.

For dishes:

Try not to get them dirty, HaHa. As already mentioned, the eat from pouch meals only require you to heat water in your pot, no cleaning necessary. Now your pot is sterile...momentarily.

If you have done a bit of real cooking, clean your pot or skillet immediately. As soon as your food is done, before you eat, add a bit of water and scrub while the pot is still good and hot, use common sense.

Most times you will not need soap to do this, only a rag or scrubby. Sand or snow works as already mentioned. I like to use one of those yellow quick dry synthetic towels cut in half for kitchen cleaning, and a damp cotton rag or glove for a pot holder.

Pour your water out well away from streams or rivers, and your campsite if in bear country, (200 ft. plus). Spread it out, don't pour it in one place. Eat all your food, don't be dumping whole food bits out around your camp, it will attract all kinds of little critters, and a couple big critters that you do not wish to attract.

For body odor:

The other half of that yellow synthetic towel for washing up. Multi-purpose biodegradable soap, and / or plain rubbing alcohol fer gettin the dirt off!

Plain ole baking soda mixed with a small amount of water in the palm of your hand for deodorant, OR you can also use antibiotic ointment for deodorant if neither of those irritate your skin. I highly recommend trying anything new at home. I have not tried the crystals mentioned above, but my friend Chris from the UK tells me they work good. One trick hunters use is pine soap, gets you clean, smells like pine trees.

OR...if you are near water, take a plunge! A good quick dip will get rid of most dirt and odor, clothes and all. Again, use common sense, don't risk hypothermia trying to be like Bear Gryls. Then again he does lots of things average people ought not to do.

Odor free in S.C. ( most of the time.)

10:37 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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I absolutely agree with Bill S as I also had a problem with the idea of disposing of waste water in a cat hole. It seems to me that if the bacteria that break down organic matter are most prevalent at a depth of 6" to 9", it would be counter productive to pour the dissolved soap past that depth. I defer to the broadcast method favored in the LNT principles. I included the link mostly to enlighten those who might think that 'biodegradable" is synonymous with "harmless". Unfortunately I had the misfortune to actually witness people (4 of them) bathing in a Sierra lake and shampooing their hair with Dr. Bronner's soap ala Woodstock.

11:04 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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Unless you're beginning to attract flys, stay dirty and smell all you want, who's going to care... the backcountry is one of the few places left where you still have this freedom (at least until body odor is added to the LNT list). When flys start swarming around you like roadkill, try witch hazel, it keeps the flys away and works great as a body cleanser. Just pour some into the palm of your hand and start "washing", no need to rinse. I don't recall it having a particular scent... it's been several months since I've been out on the trail so not certain on this.

My dog licks the bowl, so I don't have to worry about cleaning it... which is a great way to clean your own dishes (use your tongue). Nothing unsanitary about it, and it's better than washing dishes in creek water. If your're worried about germs, try a teaspoon or so of bleach in with the dish water (environmentally acceptable?)

11:30 p.m. on February 10, 2009 (EST)
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Hey laughingbear, I thought Leave No Trace included body odor. You know ....the leave no trace part! HaHa

I'll look into witch hazel, and oh yeah...I have caught my dog licking my bowl before and once he ate all my my chilli mac while I had to answer the call.

I must admit that I do like to keep things clean, I even wipe my spork with Purell before it goes in the hang bag.

7:33 a.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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methodhome.com has a line of all natural, biodegradable, unscented and scented products (such as dish soaps, all purpase cleaning wipes, shampoos etc.). I use them in my home and they really do work.

trouthunter, how can you conform to LNT when you (and the dog) are eating chili mac...and wouldn't this attract more bears than deodorant? :-)

12:33 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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Mike,

Most baby wipe producers have an unscented version, been using them for years. They give that bit of freshness that your co-hikers may require! I suppose you could wipe dishes with them as well. If they are safe to wipe a babies face and body they should be o.k. to wipe a plate or cup. You could always rinse with a little clean water afterwards. Always pack them out though!

10:02 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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laughingbear says:

"trouthunter, how can you conform to LNT when you (and the dog) are eating chili mac...and wouldn't this attract more bears than deodorant? :-)"

Thank you for your humor! My wife who often reads these threads thought that was funny too. Especially since we can not get the dog to wear deodorant. He does violate LNT on occasion but we're working on it.

Answer:

Because we eat all the chili mac and leave no trace of it. We do all our cooking, eating, and cleaning far from the tent, scented deodorant on your body would be wafting through the air continuously and could attract bears straight to your tent at night.

However, you are correct that during food prep and eating it would probably attract bears a lot faster than deodorant. The biggest concern I have is leaving my sleeping area scent free each night to avoid attracting bears and other critters. All food & smellies are hung well away from my tent each night in a bear bag. I wash up in my kitchen area and only carry fresh water back to my tent, although I don't think tea or gatorade would give off much odor in a clean, capped water bottle.

I don't advise leaving half a bag of corn chips in your tent, there's a story behind that. I seem to learn a lot of things the hard way.

10:22 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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Trouthunter and others,

What do you use for your bear bags to hang your smellies?

10:42 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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I use two nylon sacks, others use a small duffel, or an Ursack.

The idea behind hanging a bag is to make it as difficult as possible for bears and other critters to get to the bag.

I have never used the Ursack, it is supposed to be bear resistant. Bill S. has posted on it before, as I recall he was not terribly impressed with it.

I have considered getting a bear canister that you just leave on the ground, in some places they are required.

Here is a helpful website I found:

http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/training/bearbag.shtml

11:00 p.m. on February 11, 2009 (EST)
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Thanks Trouthunter. Although I have hung many bear bags when I was in the scouts, I could not remember what We used.

12:17 a.m. on February 12, 2009 (EST)
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Trouthunter, if you and the dog eat chili mac, you'll definately need a bear bag for the resulting "smellies". Now I know why your wife stays home... to avoid being in an enclosed tent with you and the dog after a meal of the stuff. On a serious note, I read on my states website that clothing worn during food prep should be hung in a bear bag. Is this necessary?

Bears are still considered endangered in my state, however their numbers are increasing due to migration from other areas. My favorite areas now have bears so I'm following the postings closely and really appreciate Trouthunter, Bill S and others for sharing their wisdom.

1:18 p.m. on February 12, 2009 (EST)
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Bearbagging and the UrSack are ok for keeping stuff from bears in most of North America. However, neither are accepted by the National Park Service or US Forest Service in the Sierra (both the National Parks and National Forests), YellowstoneNP, Teton NP, GlacierNP, or Denali NP. The UrSack people keep modifying their kevlar sack, but somehow the bears seem to keep finding ways to get into them. The semi-serious joke is that the bears conduct research and training at Yosemite University for Bears - the serious side is that bears are smart, and that the sows teach their cubs by example how to get bear bags down, tactics to use to scare backpackers into dropping their packs and running, etc. For the past 3 or 4 years, the bears in the Tahoe area have learned how to spot weak spots in cabins, break in, and raid the refrigerators and pantries, as well as cars with coolers and bags of groceries. In such areas, homeowners have to use bearproof dumpsters for their household garbage, and even then, the occasional bear will figure out how to get into the dumpster, despite latches that are puzzling to humans, despite the posted instructions.

As for the UrSack, there is a section of the Sacramento zoo that problem bears are taken to. When some company comes up with a "bear-proof" container and wants the ok for places like the Sierra, the Park Service places the container with food in it in the various bears' pens to see if and how long it takes to get in. Only those containers surviving get approval for use in the backcountry. One of the UrSack's problems is that it is soft. So the bears can, and do, pound on the sack until containers of smellables are crushed and broken inside the bag, and some of the stuff leaks out. Sometimes the bears have been able to actually get into the UrSacks. The company has tried an aluminum liner, but then you are back to a rigid bear canister, somewhat like the BearIKade. Plus, since it is only a liner, apparently some bears have been able to get a tear started in the bottom of the bag. The idea of a soft foldable bag is certainly attractive, and it does work in other areas, where the bears haven't learned the tricks yet.

Where bear bagging works, you can use any old stuff sack or ditty bag. The main thing is to get the smellables out of reach of the critters, without a haul line they can figure out. But I have found out through hard experience that raccoons, marmots, and mice can climb trees, scurry down the cord holding the bear bags on the branch (including counterbalance hanging), then bite or claw through the bag and get at the food. So I stick with the canisters. Even these aren't foolproof. Garcia, originator of the canisters, issued a recall on older canisters, noting that the resin in the plastic ages with exposure to UV and eventually gets weak enough for bears to crack the canister open with a bit of bashing against rocks (lifetime is apparently about 10 years). Bear Vault had a few of their original models opened by bears in one area of the Sierra and had to redesign the lids.

Now, in the Smokies on the AT, at night, you get inside the shelter with your food, fasten the chain mesh front opening, and the bears get to watch the humans inside the cage (inverse zoo!)

8:42 p.m. on February 12, 2009 (EST)
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Bill is not joking about the chain link on shelters located along the AT inside Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

GSMNP has a lot of bears, many of them are panhandling bears that have learned persistence pays off. Too many people will finally feed the bears thinking they will go away afterwards.

Here is a picture of Mollies shelter, just scroll down and see the human cage.

http://www.mysmokymountainvacation.com/mollies-shelter.html

Things that make you say hmmm!

3:50 a.m. on February 13, 2009 (EST)
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I thought those bears were only in Cades Cove?

 

Thankfully I have yet to bump into one while hiking around the GSMNP (knock on wood).

 

btw, have they finished renovating the cabins at Jakes Creek??

8:44 a.m. on February 13, 2009 (EST)
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I want to thank all of you for the great info on soaps, and cleaning tips. The bear bags info was a real plus. It just shows that one thing leads to another. Everything is inter-connected when camping in the backcountry. It goes without saying that you try to leave no trace. But werever I go I see garbage. I pick up as much as I can to pack out.

10:13 a.m. on February 13, 2009 (EST)
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Hey mike I remember some saying from when I was in scouts that went something like you pack out everything you take in plus at least one thing you did not I.E. trash you see. So good job!

12:08 p.m. on February 13, 2009 (EST)
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someone needs to teach LNT to the Hawaiians and the tourists there. I work in Hawaii (2-3 weeks a month) and some of the trails are HORRIBLE. Some even leave cars on it (i am not kidding, do kaena point from kaena beach).

11:02 p.m. on February 13, 2009 (EST)
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Hey guys,

Yeah, I sure don't mind carrying out a little trash, we shouldn't have to, but oh well.

Cades Cove is one of several relocation points, at least it has been in the past according to the studies I've read. Some of the bears are relocated outside the park in remote hunt units to reduce the chances of the bears returning, or homing. Some are moved to another park. The last report I read said there were 1600 black bears in GSMNP. ( I'll double check)

I posted a link to several studies and sites in the Bears and Deodorant thread, Cades Cove is discussed in at least one of them.

3:28 a.m. on February 14, 2009 (EST)
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aye?

 

I just read that Arizona has black bears near the Four Peaks wilderness. That kinda shocked me a bit. Good thing we're doing the Barnhardt Expressway Trail tomorrow.... wouldn't want to run into those critters!

3:29 a.m. on February 14, 2009 (EST)
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btw, trout, is that how you got like a gazillion more posts than me, considering I've been here like 4 more years than you???

 

moderators: I demand some sort of slotted senority in here! how can trout be more senior than me?! unless he's hikin with his walker....

12:58 p.m. on February 14, 2009 (EST)
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Nate,

I looked at your profile. Looks like you did a gear review in August 2003, then disappeared until 2007. Were you walkabout for 4 years? Or (more likely) your absence was due to the accident you mention in your profile? Or maybe trout just double clicks the "post" button a lot ;)

1:13 p.m. on February 14, 2009 (EST)
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HaHa, my wireless conection sometimes gives me the "Took to long to Respond" message and asks if I would like to re-send. Obviously I did.

Um, nate I got more posts 'cause I posted more. Also I'm trying to find out about the cabins at Jakes Creek, I couldn't find anything on the official website. But I know a wildlife officer there and I'm waiting on him to return my call, they were out counting Elk or something.

ps are you reffering to the old cabins on the road close to the trailhead at Elkmont?

1:37 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Bill ->

 

I was in Florida doing a lot of stuff to Belize, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. Add to that the VPN at work blocks this site (boo).

 

Mikey -> yea, the homes in Elkmont are what i'm talking about, but you have the two rivers, the ones by Jakes Creek are the only ones being rehabilitated. I'm thinking all we need are more people to destroy that park, as if the Dollywood crowd isn't enough :( :( :(

10:29 p.m. on February 18, 2009 (EST)
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There are only a couple of the "fenced in" shelters left in the Smokies. I did a winter hike there in '98 and felt very secure inside the "cage". I went to the "Happy Hiker" outfitter in Gatlinburg back in November and was informed that most of the shelters have been remodeled and the fences are gone. The have a dedicated area for the storage of food now, plus built in benches and such. The pictures I've seen are impressive but I'd surely miss the fencing.

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