Essentials For Looking Presentable Even While You Are Backpacking
The stereotype of backpackers as bedraggled, smelly folk is passé. It’s not hard to keep yourself looking fresh and presentable on a backpacking trip with the help of a few essential toiletries that double up as multitasking products for a variety of situations.
Most of these travel well and do not leak or stain. Throw a few of these in your backpack and you’ll be looking great throughout your trip.
Bar soap will be your best friend if you know how to treat it right. It’s the best multitasker since the Swiss Army Knife, and will pass almost any kind of airport security check. It neither leaks nor drips, and lasts forever if you use it right. Your bar soap can also be used to do light laundry, in addition to keeping yourself clean and fresh-smelling. Rub dry bar soap on new hiking boots to improve slip and reduce blisters. Invest in a good quality bar soap, preferably a handmade one chock full of glycerin. You’ll be able to use it as shampoo, body soap and even as a face wash.
Protip: A good bar soap does not dry out your hair, so you will probably not need to use conditioner. One caveat though – bar soap often does not foam well in areas with hard water so be sure to check out the pH of the water in the areas that you’ll be trekking through before going the bar soap route.
Rice powder will do all that bar soap cannot. In between baths, or when a shower is simply too much of a first-world luxury, dust your sweaty self with rice powder and that sticky feeling will go away in no time. Use it as a dry shampoo when water is too scarce for a proper shower and scrub-down. Put your best face forward by dabbing a tiny bit of rice powder on your face to control oil and shine especially while hiking in the tropics. Rice powder can also help to soothe and prevent heat rash and chafing. In addition to all that, rice powder is actually good for your skin as it contains several amino acids and vitamins that standard talc powder doesn’t, and does not dry out your skin as well. Those concerned about the dangers of inhaling talc powder will also appreciate that rice powder is very, very safe to use.
When you run out of soap and powder, turn to lavender oil as a last resort to keep the odors at bay. A few drops of this highly potent essential oil will do the trick. Sleepless? Try a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow and you’ll be in dreamland in no time. This multi-tasker also helps to soothe itching and bug bites, and is antibacterial to boot. Use lavender oil to keep mosquitoes at bay on hot tropical evenings, and your skin will thank you for it. Note though, that undiluted lavender oil is very potent and hence you may need to dilute it with water before directly using on skin. Do not use on open or oozing wounds either, as it will sting and possibly further aggravate your wound.
Petroleum jelly or other alternatives
Another medicine chest staple, petroleum jelly is great to have with you when travelling. This highly occlusive emollient is the gold standard to which moisturizers are measured to, so rest assured that it will work on chapped lips, dry skin and other minor irritations you may come across on your trip. Another great use for petroleum jelly is as a waterproofing agent. The highly sticky wax will keep water from seeping into your boots for a while, and smearing some on your fingers will keep things like paint from staining them.
Use petroleum jelly to tame flyaway strands of hair or to keep a wayward fringe from poking your eyes. If your jacket zips get stuck or rusted, petroleum jelly is an excellent lubricant that will remedy the problem in no time with minimal mess. For those concerned about the impact that petroleum jelly has on the environment, there are similarly effective, but more environmentally-friendly alternatives available.
CF, the author, is a born wanderer who tries to look presentable while backpacking in Yellowstone.