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Cold Weather Survival Hygiene

(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)

Although washing yourself may be impractical and uncomfortable in a cold environment, you must do so. Washing helps prevent skin rashes that can develop into more serious problems.

In some situations, you may be able to take a snow bath. Take a handful of snow and wash your body where sweat and moisture accumulate, such as under the arms and between the legs, and then wipe yourself dry. If possible, wash your feet daily and put on clean, dry socks. Change your underwear at least twice a week. If you are unable to wash your underwear, take it off, shake it, and let it air out for an hour or two.

 Steve's Notes: An "air bath" is also an opportunity to shake out your clothing, which can fluff it up so it insulates better. With an air bath, water, or a snow bath, wait until you are warmed up. If you are hot from hiking or other exercise, it is usually safe to remove clothing even in below freezing weather for a few minutes, as long as the wind isn't blowing.

If you are using a previously used shelter, check your body and clothing for lice each night. If your clothing has become infested, use insecticide powder if you have any. Otherwise, hang your clothes in the cold, then beat and brush them. This will help get rid of the lice, but not the eggs.

If you shave, try to do so before going to bed. This will give your skin a chance to recover before exposing it to the elements.

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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Cold Weather Survival Hygiene