“Although wilderness visitors are placing more and more emphasis on concerns like the water-borne protozoan Giardia lamblia, they downplay their contact with other humans and other sources of disease in the outdoor environment,” reminds Buck Tilton, co-author ofCamping Healthy, Hygiene for the Outdoors, published by Globe Pequot Press.
“As increasing numbers of Homo Sapiens show up more and more often in backcountry areas, the presence of humans, even if only for a short while, builds a community of disease possibilities,” states Tilton.
One of the most obvious, but perhaps under appreciated means of staying healthy involves washing the hands after bowel movements, before attending to wounds and always before preparing food. Rough percentages indicate that between 25 and 40 percent of all food-borne illness can be traced to the hands.
For maximum clean, but not 100-percent bacteria removal, use hot water that is almost too hot to touch, between 100 to 120 degrees F. Soap up and work the lather into the skin and under the nails for at least thirty seconds. Rinse thoroughly with hot water again. Re-soap, re-rinse and then dry. Drying is perhaps one of the most overlooked and yet most important steps since washing alone will leave some bacteria suspended in the few droplets of water clinging to your skin, enhancing the possibility of a chance migration from skin to food and then…use your imagination.
Of course, in the backcountry, hot water is a rare thing indeed, unless you are packing copious volumes of fuel. For wilderness use when hot water becomes a luxury, Tilton recommends the use of a germicidal soap such as Betadine Scrub, Hibiclens or Klenz-Blu Gel. Follow the method outlined in the previous paragraph for cleaning.
“Sure, washing your hands so meticulously is a bother, but so is getting sick,” says Tilton. “Remember most of all, however, that even plain old unscientific hand washing beats no hand washing at all.”
The Condensed Hit List For “Taking the Cramps Out of Camp”
- Do not share bandannas, toothbrushes, razors, water bottles, eating utensils, etc.
- Wash and air dry all community kitchen gear.
- Anyone who is ill or appears to be ill out of the kitchen.
- Wash your hands before preparing meals and every time after you go to the bathroom.
- Purify all drinking water via water filtration, chemical treatment or boiling.