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Bushcraft Camp Hygiene

Smoke Baths and All Natural Deodorant

The technique I use more than any other to keep from stinking is the woods has got to be taking a smoke bath. It is surprisingly effective and has long lasting effects. All you need do is to consistently expose your skin and clothes to smoke and it will not only keep you from stinking but you will smell like a well smoked roast! Yum. And this also helps to keep the bugs off

But how does a smoke bath work you ask? Well it works because smoke kills bacteria and bacteria is what causes body odor. So we kill the bacteria and we kill the smell. All the methods that we discuss below won’t be as full proof as taking a nice hot shower and scrubbing down with dial soap but it’s much more natural. One of the problems with modern hygiene is that it takes the scorched earth approach to everything. Let’s kill everything on our skin and wash away all our natural oils, and for being in the woods this a bad thing. Our natural oils help keep us warm, they help us deal with bacteria, they moisturize our skin to protect from the sun and much more. So when we clean ourselves in the wilderness, we need to do it by killing the bacteria and still maintaining the natural oils in our skin that protect us from the elements. So all the techniques discussed in this article will seek to promote just that!

Another little trick you can use for keeping your hot spots from stinking is to wipe charcoal on your exposed skin. Charcoal is a natural odor absorber and this will help tame the smells produced by bacteria.  This isn’t a technique I use very often because smoke baths usually do the job by themselves, but it does work if you need to tame the body odor. Watch the video below to see a demonstration!


Making Natural Body Wash

One of the easiest and field expedient methods for getting clean in the woods is to make a tannic acid body wash. All you need is some bark from a tree that contains tannins in it. Some of the trees that have tannic acid include: oaks, birch, hickory, aspen, poplar, and many more species. All you need to do is take the outer and inner bark off and lightly boil it in a pan until the water turns dark. The heat causes the tannins to leach out into the water and will make a great astringent cleaning solution for washing your body. If you dip a cloth in the solution and wipe your body down it will have the same effects as a good baby wipe. But much more natural! And the smell won’t scare off the animals like man made products. Not only does it make a fantastic body wash but it makes a great mouth wash also! Watch the video below to see how we make this great stuff.


Improvised Tooth Brush and Mouth Wash

Keeping your teeth clean in the woods can be difficult and you can get some funky breath built up real quick! So what do we do when we need a toothbrush and don’t have one? Well the first thing we are going to do is find a tree that has somewhat fibrous bark and also contains tannic acid in it. My favorite two natural toothbrushes are twigs from the dogwood and sassafras tree. The reason these two trees work best is because they have some good properties for cleaning such as the tannic acid I keep referring too. But these two trees are best for the toothbrush because when chewed they become very fibrous and work great to scrub your teeth. And as mentioned before the tannic acid solution is also one of the best mouthwashes you can get in the woods. Between the improvised toothbrush and a good mouthwash your dental hygiene issues will be well under control with these two techniques. Watch the video below to see how it’s done!


Improvised Methods for Hand Washing

Another one of my favorite methods for cleaning my hands in the bush is to simply find plants with saponins or anti-bacterial components and use them to clean my hands. Saponins are readily considered poisonous for internal ingestion and a lot of plants you find in your plant guides will say a plant is poisonous due to saponins. But really all saponins are is soap. So almost any plant that contains saponins can be used as an improvised soap, and these saponins are completely harmless on our skin. Yucca is just one of many thousands of plants that contain saponin and is by far my favorite plant for cleaning in the field. It contains high amounts of saponins and is also very fiberous which is good for scrubbing your hands with. Another plant I like to use that is very abundant is my favorite plant yarrow. This is one of my go to plants for quickly scrubbing my hands when in the field. Watch this video below and see how I make improvised cleansers from local plants.



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