In mountainous environment, where one is limited by the amount of weight to be carried, maintaining personal hygiene often gets trickier than usual, although much needed in order to avoid cold injuries, contaminations and stomach disorders. Here are a few guidelines that are useful to ensure proper health during a trip to the mountains:
- Clean your hands before and after eating. Hands should be washed away from the camping site and water sources using biodegradable soaps. Hand sanitisers are a better option in the mountain conditions as compared to soap and water.
- Carry multiple numbers of underwear. Never wear damp underwear as it may lead to urinary tract infections, itchiness and chaffing. Disposable undergarments come handy in maintaining personal hygiene in the mountains.
- Carry sufficient number of socks for the duration of trek or expedition. Wearing damp socks can lead to cold injuries. Apply talcum powder on feet and toes before wearing the socks at the start of the day’s walk/climb and after taking them off at campsite at the end of the day. It helps to absorb sweat and keep the feet dry.
- Talcum powder also comes in handy to reduce body odour which can develop in course of long treks and expeditions.
- Sterilise drinking water to avoid stomach disorders. Water for all usage, including dishwashing and brushing of teeth, should be sanitised. In snow conditions collect clean snow for melting. Avoid sucking on snow and ice to obtain water as it can drop the body’s core temperature and lead to hypothermia. Very cold ice can burn the lips and mouth.
This section follows the principle of “Leave No Trace” to leave the wilderness intact as found and to minimise the human impact on nature.
- Urinate and defecate at least 200 feet away from watercourses, trails and campsites. Avoid urinating on vegetation, utilising bare ground and rocks instead. In snow or ice, use designated areas in camp sites or rest points for such activities. Dig a cat-hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter to bury excreta and cover yellow snow.
- Instead of toilet paper, use natural materials such as water, river rock, leaves (being careful to recognise and use safe vegetation), or snow. If toilet paper or wet wipes are used, avoid the fire hazard of burning them and instead, pack it off separately and bring them back.
- Campfires are prohibited in all National Parks by regulatory authorities, and these also are the main cause of jungle fires, and hence should be avoided. Stoves should be used for cooking purposes as they are cleaner and more convenient.
- Waste disintegration or breakdown is very slow or does not happen at all at high altitude. Improper waste disposal is an environmental hazard creating unpleasant and unhealthy trails and sites, disturbing biological material and wildlife habitat. All garbage including litter of previous groups should be packed and brought back.
- Eliminate excess food packages and wrapping during planning stage of trek or expedition. This will reduce litter at campsites and also saves weight and space.
- Carry resealable plastic bags to pack and bring back personal garbage—including used feminine-hygiene products.
- Segregate biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. The recyclable and non- recyclable material should be carried back and deposited in nearest town.
- Do not deviate from existing trail or create new trails as this will harm vegetation.
- Do not disturb or try to feed wildlife.