Underwear seems to be the question of the day. Or should I say 7 to 10 days? Simply put, you get dirty and stinky on any long haul hike. Some might even say vomit smelling worthy.
Layers: A backpacker is going to carry a number of layers to be prepared for weather. A base layer, what’s next to the skin. Mid layers to supplement the base layer while walking or sometimes in camp. Insulating layers to provide warmth when not walking. Outer layers to offer protection from wind, rain, hail, and snow.
I prefer wool base layers. Wool wicks sweat away and does a decent job providing protection while damp. Wool also does not absorb odors as much as synthetic materials which is important when traveling up to two weeks between washings. I’ll be wearing a long sleeve lightweight wool t-shirt and a pair of wool boxer briefs. The long sleeves provide some sun and insect protection. Going with a boxer brief adds chafing protection. A pair of nylon with a bit of spandex long pants is what I wear for cooler weather with a nylon running short for warmer weather.
Mid-layers: I carry a nylon windbreaker for insect and wind situations. It’s harder for insects to bite through nylon. A lightweight hooded fleece goes in my pack for mornings or cold days.
Outer layers: A heavier rain jacket for the times the hail is pounding down along with a light silnylon rain skirt that goes to my knees covers my temperate weather outerwear. When it starts getting cold in Colorado, I’ll make some adjustments.
Insulating layer: A mid-weight down jacket reserved for camp use only after I’ve walking.
Socks: Two wool pairs from Darn Tough. One on my feet, the other drying from having been rinsed the day before. I’ll add a third pair of sleeping socks when I hit Colorado.
Extras: I also carry a pair of wool gloves and two hats: A wide brimmed sun hat and a wool hat that covers my ears.
Laundry: Laundry is an interesting subject. On a walk like this, you don’t ever know for sure when you’re going to get the chance to wash clothes. I’ll rinse items in natural sources where it doesn’t cause a problem. By that I mean, if there’s flowing water or a larger lake, I’ll rinse socks, shorts, underwear, myself and carry on. If it’s a water tank or a spring, I’ll be going forward in the same smelly condition.
When a laundry mat opportunity presents, I’ll wear my rain jacket and my rain skirt and put everything else in the washer. Try not to imagine a 6’8 hairy guy in a bright green rain jacket and a brown semi-transparent skirt doing his laundry.
Sometimes I’ll land in a town where no laundry service is available. If I can get a shower, I’ll often start with all my clothes on to get as much grime out as I can. If there isn’t a shower, it’s sink washing time. Neither of these methods is satisfactory, but each gets most of the dirt and sweat out which helps alleviate chafing.
Most of the time it’s 7-14 days between these opportunities. Ha! Opportunities.