Who wants to be a smelly tramp?

There’s an inescapable reality about cycle touring and wild camping: there’s no on-suite bathroom with built-in shower. Personal hygiene is important at any time, but certainly comes to the fore when cycle touring and wild camping.

Having said that, there are many things you can do to maintain personal hygiene.

Wipes or flannels to the rescue

Most wet wipes are mostly made from plastic, so please do try and avoid those. Aside from that, you can clean your entire body surprisingly well with wet wipes, or a damp flannel. You can get large wipes that are made from sustainably-sourced bamboo, but of course those come with a price tag.

A far cheaper, simpler, and more sustainable option is to carry a damp flannel in a zip-lock plastic bag. Of course, you can (and should) re-wash the flannel many times, and certainly after each use.

Anti-perspirant

Anti-perspirant isn’t just so make you smell better, but also to suppress sweating in areas prone to start smelling of sweat quite soon, like under your armpits. Sweat and the bacteria that naturally live on your skin can be a lethal-smelling combination, and you really don’t want to be the cause of the other customers of the café you just walked in to instantly go off their food, after smelling your body odour!

When cycle touring, consider cream-based antiperspirants, which tend to be more effective that sprays. If you use a cream, you’ll probably still want to use a deodorant spray.

Just be aware, especially when cycling in very hot weather, that the primary purpose of sweating is to cool your body down, so don’t go applying anti-perspirant all over! Your body’s ONLY way of cooling itself down is to sweat, and you don’t want to suppress that too much.

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Choose clothes with care

Everything in life is a trade-off of some kind, and the clothes you wear while cycling is no exception. Synthetics are preferred, as they dry far quicker than natural fibres, but it can be a minefield. Some synthetics start smelling incredibly quickly.

On the other hand, a garment made of pure wool can often goes days without developing a hint of a whiff. That needs to be balanced against the far longer drying times of wool garments.

Many synthetic cycling clothes are treated with silver, and the makers will tell you how silver-infused clothes remain odour-free. While that’s (partly) true, please avoid such clothing. For starters, the antibacterial silver ions used in making such clothes is classified as a biocide by the EU. Yes, it’s toxic to the environment.

A report by the Swedish Water & Wastewater Association conclusively shows that most of the silver (up to 90%) is washed away within the first ten machine washes. That simply means you will have paid a lot for “protection” that is toxic to the environment, and is nearly all gone after just ten washes.

Mid-ride clean-up

Though you may be wild camping, when cycle touring, you will pass many cafés, supermarkets, pubs and even public loos. Do yourself the world of favours: pop into the bathroom, taking your damp flannel along, and give yourself a quick wipedown. Don’t forget to wipe your bits! This is especially important for women.

Oh sure, when at home, or at work, you wouldn’t need to do that, but you also wouldn’t be burning 7000+ calories, and sweating a great deal. Trust me, take the time out for a mid-ride clean-up – you’ll want to thank me later!

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Besides, it will give you a good opportunity to wash your flannel, wring out the water, and pop it back into the bag, ready to be used again at the end of the day.

Magic cream!

Many cyclists use many different types of chamois cream (b.t.w. it’s pronounce “chammy”) to apply to their undercarriage. Chamois cream serves multiple purposes: decent creams are anti-bacterial, and it reduces friction, as well as the risk of saddle-sores. For long days in the saddle, I highly recommend a good cream.

Here’s the secret: you don’t have to pay through the nose for an absolutely excellent cream. Simply pop into your nearest supermarket and grab a small tub of Sudocrem. There’s a reason so many parents refer to it as “magic cream”!

Still have doubts? The women’s Guinness World Record for the fastest circumnavigation of the world is held by Jenny Graham, and she only used Sudocrem. If that doesn’t settle this matter, I don’t know what will!

Showers

At some motorway services (which can be reached without going on a motorway) have showers. Also, when passing a camp site, call in and ask if you can pay just to have a shower. No matter how well you clean yourself with a flannel, or wipes, having a shower is so much better.

Swimming

Try to avoid swimming, unless there are showers. The sad fact is all rivers in England and Wales are now so polluted with sewage that it isn’t worth risking swimming in them. The same goes for a great many beaches.

Besides, you do not want to get back on the bike without first having washed all the sea salt from your body and from your clothes!

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Laundry

If you’re going on a little 3 of 4 day tour, you can carry enough clothes to change into clean clothes daily. If going on a longer tour, you will need to wash clothes. That means you’ll need to carry laundry powder, too. Simply pop into a laundromat when you can, or failing that, wash clothes whenever you have access to enough clean water.

Avoid washing laundry in rivers or the sea! You really don’t want to end up with bacterial infections down there!

With just a modicum of care and preparation, there’s no need to end up smelling like a tramp while cycle touring!

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