That sticky feeling; we all know it. Sweat. Especially when sand or other debris decides to stick on it. It can feel disgusting and it can affect your mood and productivity. So how do you stay clean in a wilderness environment?

Because you are on an adventure, it doesn’t mean you have to become a dirty caveman or don’t clean yourself at all. It’s more likely that we pick up things with our hands and do our personal business near our base camp. Once upon a time, I came out of my tent in the early morning and smelt a strong poop odour. What is this? Were there wolves in the area last night? Or maybe a lynx? I looked down and right below me, I saw a giant gentle among the pine cones. One of my mates got out of the tent last night and decided to do a number two, right in front of the tent. It had flies on it, and flies can fly (did you know?) to other places, such as your delicious breakfast or dinner. It’s a good idea to make clear agreements where everyone’s going to wash themselves and where the cooking camp will be.

I will break down my basic wash kit which only contains the essentials for me. All items fit in a 1-litre Snugpak packbox.

01. Microfiber towel

In the morning, I like to wash my face with water. I use this microfiber and quick drying towel to dry my face and hands. I can also submerge it in water wash my body with it. I also dry my toothbrush before I put it back in the pouch.

02. (Signal) mirror

You can do multiple things with a mirror. Officially, this is a signal mirror to signal to helicopters, airplanes or cars in the distance, but I also use it for shaving or doing a tick-check on my own body.

03. Comb

This is personal preference and it obviously depends on your hair type. It might sound ridiculous, but there is a phenomenon called hair pain and it occurs when I wear a beanie or a hat for a long time. Using a comb reduces that annoying feeling and it also removes all the dirt that I collected in my hair during bush whacking. I have a stainless steel comb in my wash kit because it becomes durable and also multipurpose. If need be, I can use my comb as a striker for my firesteel to start a fire.

04. Nail clipper

Going into the great outdoors? Then your hands will get dirty. You don’t want to be that person who’s biting off your dirty finger nails (or even toe nails?). Long nails can become annoying on an adventure and they will also collect dirt. Keeping them short will also keep your nails clean.

05. Insect repellent

I prefer to use a stick that I can rub on my skin, instead of a lotion that makes everything shiny and oily. I often wear glasses or work with cameras, so I try to keep my hands oil-free. Another benefit is that it won’t leak or explode inside your bag. This particular insect repellent has 40% DEET and protects against ticks and mosquitoes. Simple and small.

06. Plantain salve

This is something a friend of mine made, but you can also make this yourself. The base ingredient is plantain, which is a medicinal crop applied to wounds, stings, and sores in order to facilitate healing and prevent infection. You can find it almost anywhere in lawns and fields or along the roadside, where is human activity. I use this salve on stings and scratches.

07. Toothpaste

I take the travel size toothpaste with a small cap. The regular size have a big cap and they take more space.

08. Toothbrush

I’d advise to go for a travel toothbrush, where you can put the actual brush inside the handle. This keeps your brush away from dirt and it also becomes more compact. I got these from Amazon and I’m satisfied.

09. Soap

Avoid bringing the regular soap bottle and bring a piece of soap block instead. They don’t leak and are a lot smaller!

10. Antibacterial gel

Not necessary all the time. We also don’t use this in our every day lives (except if you work in the hospital or something). I only use this before I start cooking and touch food or after I dropped a pine cone (that’s a metaphor).

Additional items to pack:
– Tissues for toilet paper (the big roll takes a lot of space);
– lip balm;
– razorblade.

Long term wild camping

It might happen that you are going to camp in the wilderness for a longer time. I’ve had film projects where we camped in the desert for two weeks, without a shower or running water. These four items will allow you to take a shower in the outback and wash- and dry your clothes.


01. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink 10L

This is the most lightweight version of their kitchen sinks. I mostly use this item to wash my clothes.

02. Sea to Summit pocket shower 10L

This is basically a dry bag with a water tap on the bottom of it. You’ll be surprised, but with only 10 litres of water, three people of our team were able to take a short shower and clean themselves.

03. Clothes line

I’m not sure which brands this is. But this particular clothing line allows me to pinch clothes between the line itself, without needing clothespins. You can also just bring a piece of (para)cord, but there is a possibility that your clothes will fall off the line.

04. Sea to Summit wilderness wash

All purpose soap and biodegradable. You can use this soap for cleaning your dishes and your clothes. I wouldn’t recommend it to use it on your body. It’s a very strong concentrate of soap and a friend of mine got it in his eye once. His eye almost popped out, became purple and I could see all the veins… (I’m just messing with you.) Just be careful with your eyes!