A solid majority of outdoor articles online, if not gender-neutral, are geared toward women. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what about us outdoors-folk with the external dangly bits? Surely there must be some rather unique challenges we face? Where is the trail advice for men?
I got it right here.
If you’re easily offended, best steer away. Find something else to read, like how to write a poem. Or use hiking to deal with anxiety. If you’re not easily offended and need a little help in this area, or just want a review, read on.
Ladies, pass this on to the outdoorsmen in your life. You’ll both thank me.
The Trail Advice
This is a simple article. I mean, we’re men. Why in the blue blazes would we want to make things complicated if we don’t have to?
While it’s a brief overview on physical trail advice, check back as I will expand on this advice because, let’s face it…that’s what I do. Check out my article on mental hygiene for men if you’re looking for something a little more cerebral.
Let’s jump right into the trail advice with the crudest part of being a man- your jewels. With external genitalia and walking, there are times where you rub yourself raw. This comes from a combination of sweat and friction, much like a blister on your foot, but in a much more uncomfortable place.
For the larger gentlemen out there, this can become even more problematic when your thighs get involved. When I was a much larger person, there were times my entire inner thighs and the boys down below were are red as a boiled lobster. This made me walk bowlegged like a Pony Express Rider just off of a cross-country tour.
So what is there to do?
The key is to keep your junk clean and dry.
- Go for boxer briefs that wick away moisture rather than cotton tightie-whities or loose boxers. The name of the game is supportive, yet non-restrictive, so they should fit snug. If they wear out or become less snug, ditch them. Ill-fitting and church drawers (they’re holey…get it?!) do you no good on the trail.
- Much like your socks and boots, they cost more…but don’t skimp. Invest in a couple pairs. If you’re backpacking, change them daily and wash out and dry the used ones. If you are unable to do this, go ahead and turn them inside out the next day. Try for something like REI Co-Op’s boxer-briefs, or Smartwool’s boxer-brief. The prices will vary, and you may have to try different brands to get a good fit on the thighs and waist.
- Regardless of the brand, they should be a combination of synthetics (or Merino wool) and spandex. Unless you want it turning into the swamp of Dagobah down there, avoid cotton.
- Sometimes the chaffing still happens. This affects the chicken-legged and the thunder-thighed equally, so don’t beat yourself up. Feel no shame in washing up with warm water (not hot or cold, that would hurt), and pat it dry. Give the area a little extra padding with some firmly-wrapped gauze.
- If you’re prone to chaffing, head off the problem with lubricating compounds like Chafe Stick, Fresh Balls, and Squirrel Nut Butter. These products act to head off the rubbing that occurs in the nether regions. They also work in other places that may chafe, such as armpits, chest, and feet.
- Avoid anything with talc when you’re on the trail (it can clump). When you are off the trail, apply a drying powder and rest those balls! It’s like diaper rash, so baby powder works just fine, but I’ve had particular success with Gold Bond, especially Gold Bond Medicated (the green bottle). The cooling action will put a little bounce in your step!
2. Foot Problems
Protect your most important gear at all costs. You’re going to be using your dogs for a long time, so knock off the problems before they start.
There are a number of conditions that happen with your tootsies, such as blisters, strains/sprains, and more creeping terrors. My trail advice focuses on the third one because this seems to be the one that men ignore the most.
Side note: Head off blisters with good, well-padded and moisture-wicking socks. Boots/shoes should fit snug with your socks and have proper ventilation/waterproofing for your area. I go into a little more detail here.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this is more likely to affect you if you’re male. It comes from the funguses that cause jock itch and ringworm, so if you pick at or scratch it, it just might spread to your hands. And, by extension, it could end up infesting your groin. Ugh.
Luckily, the prevention and treatment is much the same.
- Keep your feet dry, frequently change your socks (daily or whenever wet when backpacking), and give them air. Do this even if you think you can wear your boots/shoes all day. Unless it’s freezing cold out or downpouring, take your shoes and socks off whenever you rest. Turn the socks inside out and drape them over you pack. Loosen your footwear laces and let the tongue hang out like a tired dog.
- If it still happens, you’re going to need an OTC antifungal cream. Don’t ignore it or hope it will go away! If it’s still hanging around after a couple of weeks, see a doctor- you may need something stronger.
- Stop (or slow) it by washing your feet. I don’t mean just standing in water, I mean really getting in there with soap, water, and a wash cloth. Scrub the bottoms, between the toes, and around the nails. Even if this is the only reason you backpack with soap (a biodegradable soap like Camp Suds or Dr. Bronner’s, please!), use it. It will also help stave off other foot ailments (like the aforementioned athlete’s foot).
- Moisture-wicking socks and an insert into your boot may also help. I wear Keen boots, and though the odor control in the boot itself hasn’t worked for me, I have had great success by adding their Plant-Based Insole and Merino wool socks. If the insole gets funky, I can pull it out and give it air.
- If the funk does happen, you’re going to have to decontaminate your footwear. Dry them out with air or gentle heat from a boot dryer (I say gentle– not hot; that could ruin your waterproofing), and then stuff them. Use either an old sock filled with baking soda or crumpled newspaper, and let it sit for a few days.
This trail advice starts before you hit the trail. Practice regular foot maintenance.
- Keep your nails trimmed, including the cuticles, with nail clippers to prevent rubbing and ingrown nails. It doesn’t hurt to file down the edges with an Emory board (nail file). This will also save your expensive socks from disaster.
- File down any large, hard calluses (or get a pedicure- it’s okay, I give you permission!).
- Finally, get in the habit of moisturizing your feet post-washing. I like Social CBD’s Foot Renewal Cream, or First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream. If you go the route of Social CBD, be sure to use my promo code AllWild20 to get 20% off.
3. Beard Care
…or scruff. You know, whatever it is you’re sporting. No matter the length, there are times when the itch can get downright uncomfortable. When you’re out backpacking, with the constant sweating, drying, and elements exposure, it can be even worse.
You have a few options here:
- Carry a small bottle of beard oil (Badger makes a pretty good oil) or beard balm and work it in with your fingers each day. If you don’t have that, rinse off your face daily but don’t scrub it with soap. Your body makes natural oils to help protect and moisturize your skin as long as you don’t dry it out with soap. Save the soap for your feet, hands, armpits, and crotch.
- If you’re washing and need soap, use beard soap…even on your head. There is no point in bringing a ton of product with you when they do basically the same thing.
- Bring a comb and comb it out every day. The action of combing actually removed dead skin and activates the production of natural oils!
- Let it grow! Before you head into the wilds, let it grow out. Once you’re past the tough itch stage of the first two weeks or so, the itch factor comes down considerably. Plus, you know, you end up looking sort of like Grizzly Adams, which is way cool.
4. Other Considerations
Nope. Even as a guy, you still need to practice good hygiene. Lucky for you, you don’t have to go to extremes, what with the peeing standing up and all that. Consider this as extra trail advice for the refined hiker/backpacker.
- Take a toothbrush, with or without paste. If you’re worried about weight, saw off most of the handle, but store it away from your other products and don’t pack it in plastic. If you pack it in plastic, you’re inviting bacteria. As for the paste, either bring a travel size or just brush with water. Don’t you need paste? In the long-run, yes. In the short term, no. As long as you scrub your chompers (and tongue) and rinse well, you’re going to rid yourself of a lot of debris and plaque. If you go this route, switch back to paste at home.
- Wash your hands. Either use soap or carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer. For reasons I shouldn’t have to explain, this is especially important if you just went to the bathroom and you’re about to cook dinner or have a handful of trail mix. While you’re at it, scrub and trim your nails.
- Scrub your armpits. Use soap, but water works (just not as well). While we don’t care if we stink, it isn’t about other people- its about comfort. Just like your crotch and feet, built up gunk and funk under your arms can cause rubbing and bacteria growth. Again, Camp Suds or Dr. Bronner’s works well, as well as your beard soap.
That about sums it up for trail advice, physical hygiene for men edition. Like I said, there is another edition of this coming concerning mental hygiene for men, so keep an eye out for that. Just remember: you should not revert to beast-form just because you’re in the back country. We want to be all wild like, not all wild.
Let me know in the comments what your hygiene concerns are in the wild. Maybe I can give some advice.