Staying Healthy and Clean in the Backcountry
|“You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” Leviticus 15:31 (NIV)|
Staying clean when you are surrounded by dirt, and everything that makes dirt is definitely a mighty task. If you do a word search through the Bible, you will find a lot of information on how to remain clean both physically and spiritually. Especially in the Pentateuch, otherwise known as the first 5 books of the Bible.
It is incredible that an All Powerful God cares enough for us as His people to give us such mundane rules to help us stay clean. But, that is just it. The Israelites when they came out of Egypt had been in slavery for so long, they were unable to think past the here an now. They were in survival mode. And God wanted them to thrive in the wilderness to re-learn how to live and live a life that was full.
And, it is not so different with people who have never experienced wilderness in modern times. We are used to having clean water at our finger tips. We are used to having complex waste removal systems. These are just a few of the things that in a modern society, we have immediate access to, but do not in the wilderness. And it can be a bit of an adjustment to most of our participants coming on a course for the first time.
Here are some ways in which you and others can stay healthy, clean, and thrive.
1. Clean Body = Sound Mind
Hand-washing is the single most important habit for health and good hygiene in the field. This should be reiterated throughout your time in the wilderness. Time should be taken in the morning, after the day’s activities, and before ALL food preparation for washing hands, brushing teeth, etc. People should not feel rushed or unable to take the time to do this properly. Everyone on a trip should be required to have hand sanitizer. This should be used as a food group before every meal.
Personal items like chap-stick, water bottles, and spoons should not be shared, even among friends. For trips longer than four days, and many that may be shorter, it’s a good idea take time for swimming and bathing. Biodegradable soap and scrubbing should be encouraged and practiced by all.
**Pro Tip: When using Biodegradable soap, you want to be 200 ft from the nearest water source or else the soap gets into the water. And if that water source you are also drinking from, whoops! You drink soap. Gross!!**
2. In the Kitchen
Before preparing food, everyone should thoroughly apply hand sanitizer or wash their hands with soap. There should be NO taste-testing or licking of group utensils, even among friends.
Friends don’t give friends germs.
Use the ‘pour method’ as opposed to the ‘reaching in method’ for food. Do not allow people to stick their hands into bags of food like brown sugar or trail mix.
**Pro Tip: The ‘Pour Method’ for all food prep is a really easy way to keep yourself and your kitchen area clean in the backcounty. It reduces spills and contamination.**
3. Doing Your ‘Doo-ty’
Bathroom skills, techniques, and practices are often a tough topic to cover, but essential. In terms of hygiene, make sure that you are wiping appropriately in order to prevent ‘itchy bum.’ Snow is the best natural toilet paper option for maximum cleanliness. Think of it as a cold bidet!
Wet wipes are useful, but must be packed out. They cannot be buried in your cat-hole or trench as they do not decompose quickly or effectively. So you need to pack them out with other trash. You can wrap a small ziplock bag with duct tape for your wipes and other trash like tampons.
After going to the bathroom, it is best to wash your hands with soap and water, as this will remove any particles that may be lingering on your hands. However, hand sanitizer is an acceptable option. Fecal matter on fingers or under fingernails is the #1 cause of Giardia. And ‘Beaver Fever’ is not something you want to get. So washing your hands is a MUST!
**Pro Tip: Using wipes instead of normal toilet paper in the backcounty is an easy way to keep clean. Do not use alcohol or antibacterial wipes! You will regret it! Instead, use baby wipes or wet wipes as they are designed to be used on such areas of the human body.**
God Wants us to Thrive!
God wants us to thrive in the wilderness while we are learning and growing with Him just as much as He wanted that for Israel. And God wants that for you too. Take the time to practice these three things on your next trip, and you too will thrive, stay healthy and clean in the backcountry!
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