When you’re hiking, you’re rarely the most glamorous and hygienic version of yourself. If you’re still cringing over that hiking snack that you picked off the ground and nibbled, you’re hardly alone. Lauren’s come to confess the grossest stuff she’s done while on the trail.
Hiking Ain’t Glamorous
A quick scroll through the ‘#hiking’ hashtag on social media and you could be excused for thinking that hitting the trail is a glamorous outdoor endeavour. Attractive people, wearing vibrant red raincoats, perfectly posed against a mossy-green, fern-filled forest backdrop, or beautifully illuminated tents sitting below huge starry constellations, paints a perfect picture of some good clean fun.
Read more: The Effect Of Instagram On #Adventure
But behind the filters, the poses, and the latest hiking fashion, there’s dirt and bugs and no flushing toilets. Sure, in your normal life, you’d never eat a sandwich that you just dropped on the ground, which now may or may not have a smidge of possum poo hanging off it… but this isn’t normal life. This is the wilderness, the wild version of you, and they might have a different take on what’s hygienically acceptable behaviour.
Call it an overshare or just a healthy dose of reality, I present to you a (non-exhaustive) list of the gross stuff I’ve done whilst hiking…
What ‘Five–Second Rule’?
I consider my floor at home pretty clean, but if I drop a piece of chocolate on it, that bad boy is going in the bin. And don’t get me started on surfaces outside my home… A piece of chocolate dropped on the public footpath? I probably won’t even pick it up for fear of catching something nasty.
But that same piece of chocolate dropped in a puddle on a muddy trail, three days into a multi-day hike on a remote trail? Oh, you know that little square of sugary sustenance is going straight into my mouth, with or without a cursory brushing off of the dirt!
To Wipe or Not to Wipe
Whilst we’re on the topic of eating things, I recently completed a winter alpine hike in rainy, snowy, windy, sleety conditions. To add to the fun, I was getting over a sinus infection at the time.
As I trudged along, I sported wet gloves and numb fingers, which lacked the dexterity to fumble with the zip on my raincoat to fossick for a soggy used tissue. I’m sure I resembled Jim Carrey on the scooter in that scene from the movie Dumb and Dumber (snot icicles anyone?).
At that moment, did I lose all care factor and lick the snot off my upper lip? You know I did. And I regret nothing!
Read more: Hiking Hygiene 101
Nurse, Hand Me the Scalpel!
Blisters. The bane of many a hiking trip. There are a few theories on the best way to deal with them, but are you even a seasoned hiker if you haven’t sat on the side of a track, with your pocket knife in hand, feeling the satisfaction of slicing open a pus and blood-filled blister and bandaging it up with the entire contents of your first aid kit?
Add leech removal and digging out splinters to the list and you’ll soon discover that with the aid of a Leatherman, lighter, and hand sanitiser, you’ve practically got your own operating theatre.
A Different Kind of ‘Bucket List’
Bowel movements. Number twos. A morning constitutional. I’ve pooped in some fancy toilets in my time. Heated seats, luxuriously soft toilet paper, and a pleasantly aromatic reed diffuser are all little touches that can make the process of nature calling a little more comfortable.
But I’ve also pooped in what is essentially a bucket, affixed to a platform, whilst mosquitos munch on my butt cheeks and blowflies seem to mistake my more intimate areas as an opportunity for a caving adventure.
My biggest piece of advice for using a composting toilet on the trail? Unless you want to know way more about your fellow hiker’s digestive health than anyone ever should, don’t look down!
Read more: How To Poo In The Bush
Ready, Aim, Oops…
On the subject of toileting, you’d think that urination would be a far simpler endeavour than dealing with number twos, and for the most part, it is.
But I’d be lying if I said I’ve never crawled out of a tent in the middle of the night, donning my toasty warm down-filled camp slippers, and with only the glow of a head torch to guide me, selected a less than ideal squat-to-ground gradient.
Am I trying to say that I’ve squatted to relieve myself in my half-asleep state, and my pee has run downhill straight onto my camp slippers? Yes, yes I am. I’m not proud.
Honourable mentions go to;
- Dutch-ovening myself in a sleeping bag because it was -4 degrees and way too cold to remove my head from the bag
- That time I spent sitting on the ground pulling apart a piece of animal poo excitedly trying to work out if it belonged to a Tasmanian Devil
My non-hiking friends might read the above list and consider me a bit of a grot, and I’m ok with that. Because the truth is that for me, part of the allure of the outdoors is the freedom to let go of the sterileness of everyday life. To strip your existence back to the bare basics and just go with it. A reminder that, without the convenience of modern luxuries, you’re just a human being in a big natural world. And that alone is worth eating a few boogers for.
Feature photo by @bee_pinkydoony