Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Exploring the country or the world is a dream of billions. Climbing every peak on earth is the dream of millions. Life on the mountain seems best when we are sitting and scrolling down the feed or stalking our favorite travel blogger. We all admire the life an explorer leads and wish if we could be in their place, but what we do not see is the struggle, the pain, the negative side of it. Life in mountains can get tough especially when you go out of your comfort zone and choose trekking. Trekking is an eco-friendly way to explore nature, while making sure that you take care of this beautiful environment that you have with you to adore.
Apart from taking care of the environment, it is equally important to take care of yourself as a trekker too. Most of the aspiring trekkers or adventure lovers misunderstand trekking as something where you can be untidy for several days, without taking bath, or brushing your teeth which is so not true. Yes, treks in winter forces you to make less contact with water, but that doesn't mean that you get completely detached to it. Even during the peak winter, where there are not enough water sources to utilize for bathing or washing, there is always an alternate way to make sure that you do not smell like stale food.
Although it is hard to maintain your sanitation in the mountains, specially during the high altitude treks, but we have come up with few quick alternate ideas which will answer most of your questions if you are a first time trekker or if you are experienced and yet struggling with this.
1. Can I change my clothes?
When you are out for 2-3 days trek, it is actually not that of an issue even if you do not change your clothes everyday. For treks more than 3-4 days, it is actually not advised to wear the same clothes everyday. Although during winter most of the Himalayan trek's temperature falls below -5 Degree Celsius, where it is not practically possible to take bath. Taking bath at such lower temperature can lead to Hypothermia, which means your body loses heat much faster than it can produce. Keeping the winter month aside, even if you cannot take bath during another season, just make sure to change your inner clothing or undergarment every alternate day. These are the first layers which comes in contact of your body and gets wet when you are out for your trek and can stink real bad if used regularly,
Prevent your shoes from stinking by using talcum powder everyday before stepping out for trek. And as soon as you reach your campsite make sure to open the socks and leave it in the open air. This will ensure that your socks do not smell.
2. Should I take bath?
While trekking in the high altitude it is obvious that you will have no option to take bath, until you return to your base camp. Does that mean you'll have to be untidy, for next 5-6 days? Of course No. Firstly, if you are camping alongside a river or lake and if the weather permits you to take a quick dip in the water body, then you should never miss that. You should consider yourself to be the lucky one for getting a chance to wash away all your dirt and refresh yourself. In case you are not that lucky, you can try dry bathing. In this, you need to take a towel, soak it in water and rub it all over your body properly until you see the layer of dirt getting removed, specially from the surface which is always exposed. Also make sure to clean your inner thighs, genital areas, armpits and other such places which holds sweat. After taking a dry bath, make sure to jump into new set of clothes which will naturally give you a sense of refreshment.
It is advised not to use wet wipes, as because these are non-biodegradable and has chemicals which might be harmful for your skins. Even if you use wet wipes make sure to carry them back after using, do not leave back any of your wastes.
3. What if I am on my Periods?
Periods while you are out on your trek can add another level of adventure to your entire experience. As much as the adrenaline wants you to complete the trek, your body pain might convince you to give up and take rest for a day or two than going through that summit push. We have had many travelers who went through the same and ultimately gave up on the trek because of the pain and the discomfort it causes to an individual, Periods are inevitable, and none of us can do anything to stop it. What we can do is try comforting ourselves from the pain and discomfort. If you had any experience of worst trek due to your periods, next time you can try beating it. Try to using menstrual cups instead of sanitary napkins. This takes up less space and also prevents drying up vagina unlike tampons. It helps in preserving healthy bacteria which can prevent vaginal infections. Another important reason linked to use of menstrual cup is that these are not associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which is a rare life-threatening condition linked to use of the tampon. If you do not use any of these, then you need to get used to it before your trek, else it can be uncomfortable.
If you are someone who uses sanitary napkins, please make sure to wrap them properly inside a plastic bag, and bring them down to the base city or village and then dispose them properly.
4. How to wash hands in sub zero temperature?
Weather in mountains can never be predicted, it changes a lot real quick. It can turn into a rainy day from harsh sunny day within few minutes. Although in other seasons you'll have access to water which might not be freezing cold, but in winter most of the treks have temperature as low as -5 Degree to -30 Degree Celsius, or even more. In such cases try searching for warm water with the kitchen staff, if they are able to provide then that is the option you should stick to. In case there is no availability of warm water, try using wet wipes. Rub your hands properly with 2-3 pieces of wet wipes. Please make sure to use eco-friendly wet wipes, and even if it is eco-friendly make sure to bring it down with you and dispose it carefully. After dry washing your hands properly, use hand sanitizers and then you can dive into the delicious food waiting for you.
5. Are the cutleries clean enough to be re-used by another individual?
Yes, undoubtedly, We have our campsites installed at places which is near to water bodies. While washing any utensils, our staff make sure that it is washed into hot water properly by using soaps. Even in peak winter season when most of the water bodies freezes, we make sure that we find a way out to get access to clean and fresh water. If there is a situation where all the water bodies freezes, we use the snow around to boil and extract water out of it, thus making it clean and hygienic to consume and use it for other purposes.
Apart from all these things, we always advice our trekkers to carry a set of re-usable cutleries along with them which they can wash and re-use later for their own self thus maintaining proper safety and hygiene from mouth spread viruses. We are strictly against the use of plastics and thus we never suggest our traveler to carry plastic cutleries, either you can carry cutleries made of stainless steel which you can carry back home or wooden cutleries which if disposed off will decompose in the environment slowly.
6. Do we have to defecate in the open?
This is the misconception that every traveler has, specially if they are going for trek for the first time. Many people presume that trekkers defecate in the open, which is so not true. Technically yes we do defecate in the open, but not literally. We like other operators have separate tents installed at our campsites meant only for defecating. Those toilets are of dry pit system, which means you will have zero access to water to clean yourself. So how do you do it? First, let us understand how dry pit toilet works.
A dry pit toilet is a basic toilet with pits dug into the ground. The pits dug are of around 8-10 feet deep, and on top of it toilet seats are placed to make it a bit comfortable. Please note that you may not find toilet seats installed in every campsites, and you might have to try doing it in Indian way. Later stage, involves cleaning yourself, for that you need to carry toilet papers with you. In order to use toilet paper properly, please practice it beforehand so that you do not struggle on the final day of your performance ;)
7. Are the water used clean and safe for consuming?
We at The Happy Trekkers, are extremely careful with our customers sanitation and health, and thus we take extra precaution for each and every thing. We have highly experienced trek leaders and guides with us who can go down to any extent just to make your experience a memorable one. Whenever you are at any trek with us, you'll always find that campsites are always installed nearby to a source of water. We always depend on the flowing waters directly from the Himalayas, During winters we hunt for water beneath the glaciers by digging them and making a way out. These water are never directly consumed or used for other purposes. They are boiled at first for some time, so that all the bacteria present in water dies, and then cooled a bit and then again it is boiled to make it fit for drinking purpose.
So these are the few important questions that strike in almost every trekker's mind before planning any treks. Although, some travelers who are very concerned about their sanitation might not feel the answers satisfying enough but this is what life in mountains looks like. This is the real world, way different than what we see on our Instagram feeds. Thus, we call ourselves trekkers, and not tourists because mountains teach us that nothing is impossible, it's just that we need to step out of our comfort zone and then we can conquer the world.
P.S- If you have some more questions, please feel free to comment down and we will be covering up that as well.
Happy Trekking ;)