The next addition to my backpacking tips concerns something quite personal: your underwear.
In traveling around the world, we are limited in what we can pack in our backpacks. We must choose to carry only those items that are absolutely necessary, and preferably have multiple uses (see backpacking tips #6 for a suggestion on packing multiple-use items in your pack).
When backpacking, finding the right number of t-shirts, shorts and pants to bring is different for different people, as everyone has their own tolerance when it comes to wearing the same article of clothing again, and again, and again. I personally, am quite happy to wear the same t-shirt for 2 or 3 days straight, as long as I don’t stink too much! Hey, that is just me. But for others, a fresh t-shirt must be worn each and every day.
However, I do believe that wearing a fresh pair of underwear every day is necessary in order to maintain hygiene on the road, and to ward off any travel nasties. I carry around 7 pairs myself – one for each day of the week. I find this to be the optimum number when backpacking. It is enough to ensure cleanliness, but not too much to take up too much space.
But if we only carry 7 pairs of underwear, that means we must do our laundry every week, right? Wrong!
Sometimes when we are backpacking, getting our laundry done is annoying, or hard to come by. Or downright expensive. However, I have found that it is possible to wash your underwear with shampoo whilst taking your daily shower. Shampoo, when lathered up, is able to clean the under garment quite effectively, and the shower is great for rinsing. Further to that, underwear doesn’t take long to dry at all. How is that for one of my backpacking tips!
You will be (most likely) carrying shampoo with you anyway, and so you can use it to not only wash your hair, but your clothes. This will save you having to carry another bottle or packet of washing powder or detergent…and this situation is what you want as you want to travel as light as possible – see backpacking tips #1 for reasons why.
Here is my routine: each time I take my morning shower I wash one piece of underwear and then hang it out to dry – either inside the bathroom, or outside. 90 per cent of the time, the underwear is dry by the next morning. In this way I always have a fresh pair of unmentionables to slide into for every day of the week.
Unfortunately I have not found this method to be effective in cleaning other items of clothing, e.g., t-shirts, socks, shorts, pants, towels etc. Most of the time I find that these items are still wet the next day, and still, well, smell! I think these items need professional care!
So of course, every so often you will need to get your clothes properly washed. In my backpacking experience, I get my laundry done every 2 weeks or so. This is enough for me. And boy do I love the smell of freshly washed clothes.
So remember: whenever it’s time to take a shower, think soap, shampoo, underwear…you get it…
Stay tuned for another of my backpacking tips soon!