Personal hygiene is a very hot topic. The fact that there are no hot showers, prevents a lot of people from undertaking bicycle tours. We describe on this site, how we do it.
You will laugh, when we discovered a shower tent in the Globetrotter catalog a lot of years ago, we thought seriously to purchase one. Looking back we laugh about it also, because it is of course much too heavy with more than 3 kg mass. You can only have such an idea if you travel without children, when there is adequate space in your bags ...
Claudia has read about an American bike traveler, that licks the salt from his skin, and he only washes himself when he has the opportunity to in ponds or rivers. He does it for the sake of minimalism to take as little as possible.
Heiko has been on the road in 1993 with his buddy seven weeks in Finland and Norway. Fully loaded with food for four days there remains at a daily average of more than 100 kilometers only little time for washing. Really, he can only remember three specific shower situations:
- On the third day on the Finnjet (from Travemünde to Helsinki)
- On the twelfth day on a campsite at Lake Inari in northern Finland
- At a campground somewhere in Norway after a week of continuous rain
When they purchased groceries, they were regularly alone at the cashpoint, all the other customers were looking forward to use another one. It's just the question of what you want to take by other human beings – if you have just the final secondary-school examinations in the bag that rather matters.
The vast majority of European bicycle travelers who are riding along the relevant river routes, they are staying in private rooms, hostels or hotels right on the way. This has several advantages:
- It eliminates the stress supplying with breakfast and dinner
- There is a bathroom
- There are made warm beds
A tour is then not associated with a abandonment of "civilized" life. There were buns and coffee in the morning, hot water runs out of the wall all around the clock. So you can jump on your bike in the morning, rested, freshly showered and full. Many men may facilitate their women the decision to a bicycle trip this way.
We decided for sleeping in a tent because of a number of reasons, especially because of the fact, that don't have to be at a certain place in the evening, which usually degenerates with children in worst rabble-rousing. Below you will find our tips about outdoor hygiene.
Showers and washing outdoor
We wash ourselves in the evening. This has the advantage that we are clean when we put our jammies. And we do not stink that much, that increases the chance of a bit cuddle in the evening :-)
Washing is simple, if you camp at a river or pond: hop in, wash, done. It is a benefaction, according to ancient yogic tradition, immediately after waking up in the morning to cool down the heat out of your sleeping bag in the cool pond just in the rising sun.
If you have not found a pond in the evening, the showers in high summer temperatures is still easy. Is there enough water in place, you simply apply the filled shower bag in a tree and off you go. If you exchange the dust cap of the shower bag against the so-called shower attachment, it even comes to real shower sensation. In principle, you can drill holes in the dust cover yourself.
If water runs short, we put ourselves into the Ortlieb Foldable Basin, then we do not waste much water.
When it is cool outside, it is pleasant when washing with warm water, even the children like it better. If it is not raining, you can make hot water with the KellyKettle. We have two insulated stainless steel bottles with us (1.0 litres and 0.5 litres), then Heiko makes with the KellyKettle a second pass, and then there are suddenly three liters of boiling water. It is stretched with cold water so that there are available almost ten litres of warm water for the shower: that's enough even for larger families.
In rain, cold or high winds we wash with washcloth and Foldable Basin in the protection of our apsis.
We have really tried a lot on the topic Soap. In general, we had liquid soap in a plastic bottle. Apart from the fact that driving around soap with dissolved water and thus extra weight, the plastic has disturbed us. In 2013 we had the first time Aleppo soap in a pretty round metal tin case. This really nice recommendable product lasts for the whole family at least six weeks.
The regular shaving you must not give away on a cycling trip. Although many swear on the cheap razors from the drugstore at home – outdoors they are not very suitable because there is not always hot water, and the result of shaving in cold water suffers greatly – the best is to try it out at home. For your bicycle trip, we recommend you the battery-powered Fusion razor of Gilette, but without battery, because we think the "micro-pulses" to be a publicity stunt. Without the battery the shaver is much lighter than the metal model, and it is much better to grip because of the thicker handle.
The huge clamp we also leave at home, we only take the handle and the blades in this little plastic box. After use, the blade comes in there again and can break anything.
The following additions we have for a shaved body:
- Applying sun lotion on shaved skin and removing it in the evening is easier, and since you're outside all day, you need depending on your skin type sun lotion not only when the sun shines
- Massages are more comfortable
- We don't wish you this case, but wound care is easier
Of course, women also want to go clean and easy through their menstruation. Therefore, it is advisable to rely on tried and tested articles during a cycling trip.
In principle, tampons and pads are widely available but possibly differing in size, shape and price. For example, in Denmark tampons are generally sold with an "insertion helper" per tampon. This thereby take three to four times as much space in the bags. Since not every village shop has a huge range, and not always a village shop can be found, you should either take enough, or buy then on the trip, if there is something ahead.
While pads and liners must be taken and disposed of because of the plastic content, tampons can be buried in the earth in our opinion.
Adventurous ladies may find in so-called menstrual cups or natural sponges an interesting alternative. On the trip you will not produce any rubbish, there is needed enough water for regular cleaning only.
How to shit in the woods
A major issue: the big business!
There are two outdoor manuals with the title "How to shit in the woods", one by Ulrike Katrin Peters und Karsten-Thilo Raab (February 25, 2013) and a second by Kathleen Meyer (December 12, 2011). On both books the Amazon reviews are very divided. We have neither of the two and do not know the differences.
In general we find it much more enjoyable to do big business in the great outdoors than in any stinking public outhouse. We believe that each of itself is able to develop a suitable technology. However, very helpful is the toilet paper holder by Ortlieb, in which the paper can be transported dry, and which will find a place on the outside of your every bike bags, so you must not dig in your bags, if you are in need of toilet paper.
Unfortunately cloth diapers do not work on a cycling trip, as you can not clean them up properly. However, disposable diapers take up a lot of space. You can fill completely a large rear pocket easily. This is ultimately a space and price question. In Denmark, for example, you get 20 Pampers for the same price as 120 Aldi diapers. We never accepted the price so wie always bought the big package and reserved accordingly plenty of space for it.
At home wet wipes are actually a major environmental mess and unnecessary, but on the way very handy. Although you can clean your kids with washcloth, but you must then also wash the washcloth again, preferably daily, which is not possible when you are camping wild. Per child you can calculate with one pack of wet wipes per week.
No Taboos: We talk about callused skin.
We like to run barefoot and of course we have callused skin on the feet. It also arises from the fact that we walk barefoot in our Tevas, which are made of plastic. Most barefoot running people we know have no problems with the callused skin. It's there in the summer and in the winter it disappears. But at Heiko's feet they however cause deep lateral cracks that tear under the skin while running and they are very painfu. Foot cream does not help, only removing helps. Therefore we take a small pumice stone.
We use toothbrushes with replaceable head system from Monte Bianco, who are available for Adults and children usually in the health-food shop. No joke: lightweight freaks cut to the toothbrush handle. So we do, not because of the weight but that the brushes fit into the compartments of our culture bag. For the children we have Weleda tooth gel, we adults take Ajona. A full tube of Ajona you cannot consume alone in a year, so little you have to just take. For your cycling tour you should collect used tubes, cut the empty tube back and refold it over so you come for several weeks on holiday to a mass of about 10 g for the toothpaste. Additionally the packing size is also very little.
For years we are taken in by promoters and their promises and we have used aluminum-based deodorants (Dry). They are great, and your sweat does not smell, because these aluminum salts simply clog the skin pores. In addition, the plastic bottles are very light.
Then ARTE sent the documentation The Act aluminum that you should watch on youtube. We do not use these products any longer.
[Update 2014-05-07] Benno is asking, which Deo we use. You will find in the chemist's shop dm under the trademark Alverde this Deodorant in a glass bottle. There are a lot of aluminium free deodorants made by Speick, for example this one: Speick Natural Deo Stick.
Thank you Benno for this question.[/Update]
The whole shebang for personal care we put into the Mini Waschsalon of Jack Wolfskin. There are round about 1,000 others, you should ensure that you can hang up the thing in a good way and the mirror is usable.
Having a sufficient amount of water in place is essential. Therefore we have two 4-litre water bags by Ortlieb, we fill them in the afternoon. Even if we plan to have a lake for the evening, we still take water with us, perhaps there is another beautiful place, or we are stopped by a technical defect.
Cotton towels are indeed great, but you do not get them dry outdoors. They are also heavy. After many trials we discovered the original Packtowl towels for the kids and ourselves. Completely original they are not, actually developed by MSR under the name Packtowel, they do no longer exists. Our recommended towels are the original MSR quality next. We have two of them, the PackTowl XL is so big that you ca wrap your child after showering or on the beach, and a PackTowl L, for normal drying.
As a third towel we own a Sea to Summit Pocket Towel in the smallest size S. Use it, wring it, and use it again. It is immediately dry after bit of wind or after a few minutes of sunshine. Or you swing it three times around yourself.
Equipment for outdoor personal hygiene
- Cosmetic bag, without contents 150 g, in it
- Aleppo soap, 110 g, in a metal tin, 55 g
- [Pumice stone][14 ], 60 g
- Shampoo for Claudia's hair
- Gilette Fusion razor and Replacement Blades, in total 50 g
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste for the adults, in total 40 g
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste for the children, together 80 g
- Tweezers, nail scissors, nail file
- 2 x small bottle of massage oil (midwifery), in total 50 g
- aluminum-free deodorant, 90 g
- Sea to Summit Pocket Towel Size S, 50 g
- PackTowl L,
- PackTowl XL,
- 2 x washcloths, in total 60 g
- Ortlieb foldable basin, 215 g
- KellyKettle, 990 g
- Thermos bottle 0,5 l, 340 g
- Thermos bottle 1,0 l, 530 g
- 2 x Ortlieb water bag 4 litres, together 210 g
- Ortlieb shower bag, 200 g
- Ortlieb T- Pack toilet paper bag without content 150 g, 125 g for a roll of toilet paper