Text by Lizzy Scully, Photos courtesy of Ashley Hill
I spend most of my free weekends camping, climbing or otherwise exploring the woods, mountains and deserts in the Southwest where I live. And whenever possible I work on my computer on my front porch or on the patio of my favorite coffee shops. If I didn’t have to pay a mortgage, I would likely wander the natural world at least half of my waking hours. Thus, I have to be really diligent about caring for my skin and hair. As my friend Heidi once said to me, “Well I don’t want my skin to look all leathery or covered in sun spots when I’m in my 40s!”
In Part 1 of The Glampeur’s Guide to Skin & Hair Care I dove into the reasons for using sunscreen, moisturizer and why it’s important to stay clean. In Part 2, I focus on hair care and other random tips that I’ve gleaned from my friends over the years and/or from a post I put on Facebook on the topic.
Care for Your Hair:
When Heidi and I climbed a 2500-foot rock wall called the South Howser Minaret in 2002, we took our helmets off at the top, and Heidi exclaimed, “Oh my gawd! My hair!” Echoing my own feelings about my knotted mess. We had worn helmets for two days, while becoming increasingly filthy as we pioneered a first free ascent of our rock climbing route, “Bad Hair Day.” In cases like this, you simply can’t avoid a dreadful mess. However, most of us can take some simple steps to care for our hair.
You can wash your hair with anything, but without conditioner, your hair is bound to become a big knotty mess in the backcountry. Various types of 1oz-bottles of super concentrated conditioners and leave-in conditioners will go a long way. You’re not going to be bathing every day anyway, but when you do, you’ll more easily be able to work out the tangles. Some of my friends bring brushes with the handles cut off or combs. I just work my fingers through my hair after applying conditioner, and that usually keeps the dreadlocks at bay.
My friend and professional adventure athlete Ashley Hill always looks gorgeous in her Instagram photos despite the fact that she spends months at a time backpacking in the middle of nowhere. Her secret: she braids her blonde locks, and then takes the braids out for photos (or if she’s hitchhiking to town for supplies). My mom used to braid my hair when I was a kid to prevent ticks. Her reasoning was there would be fewer strands for ticks to grab onto as I walked through the brushy woods we lived in. Either way, French braids look cool, and they leave your hair wavy and stunning (in Ashley’s case at least) when you take them out!
Sleep is one of the most important techniques to stay fresh and healthy and to have glowing skin. Bring ear plugs and even a sleeping mask. I know a woman who uses both daily, regardless of whether or not she’s in the backcountry.
And don't stop feeling pretty just because you're glamping! When I was younger I just didn’t care much about how I looked because I was too focused on rock climbing. And I still don’t spend oodles of time prettying myself up in the bathroom. However, if it’s easy to look just a bit better in the backcountry, now I say, “why not?!”
Wear jewelry if you want. I actually always wear my Suspended Stone Design necklace and earrings because they are practically indestructible, and a bit of decoration just makes me feel prettier.
Mirror Mirror on the Tent Wall:
Bring a little mirror with you. In my twenties, I thought I was being egotistical checking my appearance in the backcountry. I was supposed to be getting away from all the societal focus on looks, after all! But in my 40s I just don’t care. If I want to check out the big shiny pimple on my nose, so be it.
Keep brushing your teeth twice per day. Not only is it good dental hygiene, but it’ll keep you feeling fresher. And what if you do happen to meet the person of your dreams while wandering the woods? I know, unlikely, but it happened to a thru hiking friend of mine, so why not you?
Keep The Stink at Bay:
If you do actually meet the person of your dreams, you’ll be grateful you brought deodorant. Many backcountry travelers eschew deodorant as being too heavy, and they embrace that “natural” smell. But IMO, there’s no reason to embrace multiple days of gross; I always bring a travel size stick (Green Goo makes .6oz Travel Sticks!) It’ll keep the stink at bay for at least a few days, at which time you should bathe with wipes or water anyway. The problem with bacteria and your sweat is that the dirtier you get, the more stinky you get. Sometimes you just can’t help smelling bad (thru hikers and big wall climbers, who have less access to cleaning products, for example). But, why smell bad if you don’t have to?
Random Tips From Facebook Friends:
I recently posted a note letting people know I was writing this article. These are the top three tips from my amigos:
- As far as your nails go, my friend Liz, an avid rock climber, recommends keeping your cuticles trimmed. She swears it minimizes the painful cracking and peeling.
- My friend Jean offered an awesome tip on Facebook the other day: when she spends multiple nights climbing big rock walls, such as El Capitan in Yosemite, she always brings a tiny spray bottle with lavender oil and water mixed together and a small bar of shea butter soap. She swears it “does wonders for skin recovery” and it’s “calm and refreshing”—something you don’t often feel while big wall climbing.
- Finally, Mike suggests hot water soaks for hands and feet after a long day! I especially love this idea because I’m a climber, who uses her hands and feet intensely on weekend outings. What a great way to sooth and clean the skin (because my feet are often nasty.)
Do you have any tips and tricks for taking care of yourself in the backcountry? If so, share them on the Green Goo Facebook page.
Read Lizzy's other articles, including Part 1 of "The Glampeur's Guide to Skin & Hair Care," the "Glampeur's Guide to Sex Outdoors," "The Glampeur's Guide to Fine Backcountry Cuisine" or "An Adventurer's Guide to Feminine Hygiene."