A word of warning here: this backpacking tip is quite personal in nature. But I want to share something with you that has helped me in the hygiene department. I hope you don’t get too grossed out! On to the tip…
As any backpacker knows, hygiene is important on the road. Nobody wants to smell. But long term travel, hot and humid conditions, and traveling light can make smelling like roses not as easy task indeed. Personally, I only travel with about five different t-shirts in my carry-on sized backpack. And although I try and wash my clothes every week or so, the reality is that sometimes I do not. I am pretty much a lazy guy most of the time – it’s okay, I’m trying to work on this!
And to make matters worse, I sweat. Sometimes a lot. Especially in hot and humid places like South East Asia where I have been traveling in for the last eight months. And most of the time me and sweat, well, we don’t get along…
I am reminded at this point of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry rightfully asks – paraphrasing here: “Why must our bodies punish us when we work out? We exercise, we stink. We exercise, we stink.” Our sweat is not kind to us indeed. And for backpackers traveling around from place to place sweat can be our worst enemy. I don’t want others to smell me. It’s not good for me, or for them, or anybody. Smelling is just bad. And for me most of my smell comes from deep under my arms.
But what if there was a way to limit the amount of body odor that exuded from that patch of hair under your arms, that was backpacker friendly?
Luckily, there is.
I stumbled across this fine nugget of backpacker wisdom from fellow travel blogger Wandering Earl. You can learn all about him at his website here.
Wandering Earl – who has been traveling around the world for years and years – used to suffer from the same “smelly armpit” condition as me. That was until he heard from a friend, who presumably heard from a friend that shaving your underarms can actually help in reducing your odor problems. He has since been a massive fan of bi-weekly armpit shaving.
After reading his post and hearing his testimonial of sorts, I became interested. Reflecting on my own “odor issues”, and embracing an open mind and my shaver, I decided to try this out myself. I shaved my underarm hair right off. First the left, and then the right.
And the result?
I am proud to say that my odor levels have reduced majorly. I can honestly say I do not stink half as much as I used to. In fact, I can now say that I hardly stink at all. TMI warning: I really need to stick my nose in there under my arms to get a good whiff. This is great news indeed!
Not only do I smell less now with my shaven underarms – which makes me feel more confident, but I no longer have to impress my bodily smells on the olfactory organs of all those who come in contact with me. This is great for Australian and what-ever-country-I-am-now-traveling-in relations. Like it or not, I am a representative of my country. Not only do I need to be on my best behaviour: I should smell good, too. I am sure the Australian tourism board would support me on this!
But apart from just smelling better than ever before, shaving your underarms also has a lot of practical use to the backpacker.
I have found that I can now wear my t-shirts for way longer before I need to wash them as they do not smell half as much as before. So instead of only wearing the same t-shirt once or perhaps twice without washing, I can now go three or four days before washing. Great for lazy travelers like me!
Before you all jump up in arms and call me “Stinky Seany”, notice that I said “I can” go three or four days. My usual practice is still to get one or two day uses out of each t-shirt. But if I cannot for whatever reason do a wash – for example, if I run out of shampoo which I usually use to wash my underwear and sometimes other items of clothing when backpacking, I know I can still travel around without leaving a trail of stinky-ness in my wake.
Try giving this backpacking tip a good go and see if it works for you. Surely myself and Wandering Earl are not alone in singing the praises of shaven armpits?
So remember: shave off your underarm hair and say goodbye to smelly armpits and embarrassing confrontations. Wear your t-shirts longer and make less frequent trips to the laundry, saving you time and money.
Until next time, happy traveling!