Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Share your advice and personal experiences, post a gear review or ask any questions you may have pertaining to outdoor gear and equipment.
Cross Country
Topix Fanatic
Posts: 1309
Joined: Thu Dec 24, 2009 11:16 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Cross Country » Thu Mar 29, 2018 7:59 pm

I never liked seeing soap suds in the water and worked to not do anything like that.
Except for that, I disagree with Wandering Daisey on almost everything, basically for just one reason.
Anyone who has backpacked a lot and didn't notice that the backcountry is ENORMOUS and therefore is if you don't try to foul it you JUST CAN'T.








User avatar
Harlen
Topix Expert
Posts: 462
Joined: Sat Mar 11, 2017 9:13 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: California

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Harlen » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:41 pm

On the contrary ... I find that I agree with Wandering Daisy on almost everything, also basically for just one reason- she makes sense.
Last edited by Harlen on Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Harlen
Topix Expert
Posts: 462
Joined: Sat Mar 11, 2017 9:13 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: California

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Harlen » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:42 am

"... I agree with Daisy on almost everything, .... "

Except perhaps for "the rat in Evolution Lake" bit. Was it a Norway rat- Rattus norvegicus, or the black rat- Rattus rattus? Neither should found up in the Sierra according to the maps of their distribution. So okay, which one of you "good guys" has been coffee-can transporting Rattus rattus up into the high country? Cameron has already copped to bringing in Dr. Bronners, I'll bet he was the one! ;)
Last edited by Harlen on Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Addict
Posts: 3841
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:56 am

Well, not being very good at identifying rodents, I just said "rat" because that is what was left of the disguisting thing looked like. It was bigger than a chipmunk, could have been a squirel with its tail fur rotted off. I immediately went back to camp, dumped out all my water, and walked half a mile along the lake to get new water from a side stream. Actually nice to know there are not rats in the high Sierrra!

User avatar
Satchel Buddah
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 41
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:23 pm
Experience: Level 2 Backpacker

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Satchel Buddah » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:36 am

these are a kind of luxury, but on long travels they are kind of nice to have - a pair of snow to summit foldable 5 liter sinks. I think their new version looks a little bulkier that what I have, the old models are smaller than the palm of my hand once folded and weight 48 grams a pop. One for wash, one for rinse, I would use these to wash hands before cooking dinner, a quick sponge bath/foot wash, and for laundry and dishwashing using your favorite backcountry biodegradable soap. Obviously use them far away from streams, bury the soap liquid/scatter the non soapy water following normal LNT procedures.
I hike with a day/active and an evening/night set of clothes with no spares. I do enjoy fresh clothes, I would not worry about it on a 2-3 day but longer than that I'll be happy to wash socks, undies and shirt if I see an opportunity.

So, not packing these everytime - definitely a luxury, but they certainly are rewarding to carry...

User avatar
markskor
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
Posts: 2272
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 5:41 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Mammoth Lakes

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by markskor » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:57 am

Even Biodegradable Soap Can Pollute Water Sources
http://www.backcountryattitude.com/biod ... _soap.html

All soaps, unfortunately even biodegradable ones, can contaminate fresh water sources. Using a biodegradable soap doesn't reduce its immediate environmental impact...
It just means that the soap will biodegrade in time.

We really need to clear up some misconceptions about biodegradable soap. There are many people out there with good intentions who are using biodegradable camp soap or shampoo when camping or backpacking thinking that it is good for the environment. Biodegradable soaps are preferred over other soaps but should still be used at least 200 feet from any water sources.

What does biodegradable mean? Well by definition it means capable of being decomposed by biological agents like bacteria. Materials are usually deemed biodegradable if they break down to at least 90% h2O, CO2 and biomass within 6 months, although some materials may take years to biodegrade. Keep in mind that biodegradability doesn't necessarily mean environmentally friendly.

Biodegradable Camp Soap :
Biodegradable soap is NOT biodegradable when it ends up in a river or lake because it requires soil for it to breakdown properly.
Biodegradable soap is NOT NATURAL.... it is a chemical.
If you wouldn't want to drink it then keep it out of water sources.

What to use instead of Biodegradable Soap :
Use a washcloth.
Hot water and a little scrubbing can clean mostly anything.
Scrub dirt or grime away with wet sand and/or tiny pebbles.
Use alcohol based waterless hand sanitizers to kill germs.
Soap is not 100% necessary for good personal hygiene.

If you feel you must use soap :
Make sure that any brands of biodegradable soap you use are actually biodegradable and phosphate-free.
Be sure to use biodegradable soap sparingly.
Do all washing, bathing, or cleaning at least 200 feet from any water sources.
Dispose of soapy wash and rinse water in a cathole 6 inches deep to allow bacteria in the soil to completely biodegrade the soap.

I don't use any soap whatsoever when backpacking. Washcloths work great. I prefer to keep chemicals out of the backcounty. My philosophy is that if I wouldn't want to drink it then I won't use it. I wouldn't appreciate it if chemicals washed off somebody washing upstream while I'm filtering water downstream. I swim a lot, so since I don't want to drink chemicals I wouldn't want to contaminate the water for anyone else.

The Sierra Club gives the same advice.
Mountainman who swims with trout

User avatar
Satchel Buddah
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 41
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:23 pm
Experience: Level 2 Backpacker

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by Satchel Buddah » Tue Apr 17, 2018 12:46 pm

I hear what you say about soap... best to do without.
Adding sun to your list of environmentally sound cleaning technique... UV light will kill most bacteria. Sun up your dirty stuff! :)

User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Addict
Posts: 2511
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Silicon Valley
Contact:

Re: Washing Clothes In The Backcountry

Post by SSSdave » Sun May 06, 2018 3:23 pm

Just noticed this thread. I bring 2 pairs of sock sets and wash the used set in lakes or streams after 2 or 3 days of sweaty use. Have never used soap washing clothes items. I have a sensitive sense of smell and my socks even if not washed 3 sweaty days hardly smell. Also 2 cotton t-shirts for base camp use and might wash one once over a week because I don't hike in a t-shirt but rather a nylon shell. We jump in streams or lakes every day regardless of how cold water is. Hiking, the only exposed skin is usually just my hands and face as I am always covered up otherwise.

Image

So don't use sunscreen except an uncommon situation of being hours in snowfields or bright granite landscapes. Can't even remember the last time that was as I am not a fan of early summer snow season. And note I resort snow ski a lot every winter and use sunscreen religiously. In bug season do use DEET on face and hands. Some does end up where I go into waters but since am infrequently about popular places consider my contribution very diluted thus trivial. However over the years have camped at a few popular lakes at times like Pine Lake up Pine Creek and usually first wash off my face off up on a lake shore before jumping in but have never bothered washing off my hands. I do bring a small quantity of soap on the uncommon group trips we will be fishing in order to clean fish smell off my hands. Am not concerned with any of the above though expect some might argue otherwise.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest