Hygiene and Personal care on the Camino
Staying clean and healthy is not only better for you and your fellow pilgrims, but also has a big impact on how your Camino is going to go.
In this article I will go over the different tips and tricks that I picked up on the Portuguese Coastal Camino to Finisterre and in many different hikes in the past.
As I am a guy I may forget some girls needs, so I called in some help from an awesome German girl who did the same Camino as I did. More on the female perspective later, or jump to that part in the jump guide down below.
Quick jump guide
- Showering on the Camino
- Toenails and fingers
- Blisters and rub marks
- Sleeping hygiene in Albergues
- Shaving or rocking a beard
- Bed bugs
- Tips for Women by a Woman
- Washing clothes on the Camino
- Tooth care on the Camino
- Buen Camino
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Showering on the Camino
As soon as you arrive at the albergue and you set up your bed for the night. You shower. After sweating and walking all day having that shower is something you will greatly start to enjoy.
Rinsing off all the sweat and grime everyday is a luxury on hiking trails, and should be exploited wherever possible on the Camino.
I like to carry a small all purpose soap bar with me when out hiking, no chance of accidental spills in your backpack. And if you buy a good quality one they can last you for a long time.
For hair and body and even for shaving you can use the same bar of soap. If the bar of soap is to heavy you can cut it up to the desired size of course. One I really like is the Grandpa’s soap with Pine tar. Works for everything. You can get it over on Amazon on the following link:
Taking care of your feet is important, try to wear your flip flops in the shower so you have less of a chance to catch something. And always try to clean them as well as possible.
Also it is very important to dry your feet well after showering on the Camino. That way you also have less off a chance of catching something since bacteria love to grow in warm wet spots.
Furthermore there are often caches available in Albergues where previous pilgrims leave hotel soap, conditioner and shampoo. Plus a bunch of other disposable bathroom products. If your missing something you can pick through those as well. Known as hiker boxes on trails like the Appalachian trail in America.
Toenails and fingers
What I say many hikers and pelgrims forget when it was their first hike was a nail clipper or scissor to trim your nails on trail. That is something that’s vital and you may forget about if you only did shorter hikes before.
But the longer you stay out there on trails and Camino’s the longer your nails are going to grow. Carrying a simple nail clipper with you is a lightweight option to keep them in check.
Toenails being the most important since if they grow to long can cause problems with hiking. Toenails that fall off or go black, cut into your feet. You name it, plenty of reasons to keep them cut and neat while out backpacking and hiking.
Fingernails are important to keep up with to, there is nothing as off putting to me than someone with unkempt fingernails that are way to long. No judging.
Blisters and rub marks
Blisters are going to show up at one point sooner or later. Whether you are a seasoned hiker, take perfect care of your feet, have the perfect socks and boots or not. You can have that one day where you put your socks on with a small pressure point that you feel too late. Or you get one between your toes from your flip flops. It will probably happen to you at some point.
What I carried with me is very small sewing kit in my first aid kit. In there a cotton thread and the lighter in my pocket to disinfect the needle with. Be sure to sanitize the cotton thread at home by soaking it in alcohol or a safe disinfectant. Bag it up in a small clean Ziploc to prevent it as much as possible from contamination.
The old trick that always works best in my opinion is to puncture the blister with the needle and dragging the cotton thread through. And leaving the thread in there for a half hour or so. That way the blister can properly drain out. Expose it to air and sunshine to speed up the process. You can follow along with the professionally made demonstration down below:
After letting the fluid drain out off the blister you can pull out the string gently. As to not damage the soft skin underneath. Air dry as best as possible. And put on fresh socks.
I do not really do anything more than that, what I always notice after is that the following day it is most of the time fine. And how my feet work is that they get a lot of callous on them, that protects my feet best.
Your opinion can always differ! This is just my experience with them during hiking trips. Be sure to share your favorite ways of dealing with blisters down below in the comments!
Carrying a little vaseline or similar product is nice to put on painful rub marks or little wounds that can develop.
For rub marks between your legs or other hot spots like your arm pits you can carry talc powder or better modern versions of it. Stuff like Chassis powder for your nether regions can make a big difference with how comfortable you are in the Spanish summer heat. Try it out for yourself on your next hike and get it on Amazon:
Sleeping hygiene in Albergues
I highly recommend bringing a sleeping bag with you on the Camino. Not only do you have an own little place to call it a night every night. But you can also better control what happens to your sleeping bag. Instead off the wool blankets that you can get from the Albergues.
If you are going to be hiking a Camino in the middle of summer you may want to decide on a Sleeping bag liner instead of a sleeping bag. That way you still have that layer of your own stuff between you and the bed. And you will save some weight when a normal sleeping bag may be to heavy or hot.
The experienced hostel sleeper would also bring a pair of ear plugs. People of all ages walk the different Camino’s. That means snoring, snoring and more snoring. You would be surprised what a racket a sleeping hall can make when people are supposed to be sleeping.
Since I mostly sleep on my stomach ear plugs do not really work that well for me. Because they are constantly pressing which I find uncomfortable. For all you back sleepers out there feel free to use them.
When the last bit of the journey to the coast again began for me I could fall asleep anywhere and the snoring didn’t really matter anymore. Vino Tinto, also helps.
Shaving or rocking a beard
Personally I don’t shave while out on trial. Rocking a beard is part of my hiking experience. I also have the issue that my skin gets very sensitive after wet shaving and being in the sun and elements all day doesn’t really help with that.
If you plan on carrying a trimmer with you keep in mind that is another “heavy” item that only serves a single purpose. And needs to be charged or carried batteries for.
When you really feel like having a shave you can plan it with the stops and rest days in the bigger cities. Grab a hotel and ask for a shaving kit at the check in counter. The better hotels should provide you with one free of charge.
Bed bugs on the Camino
Bed bugs are a known issue out on the Camino and in many other places, they can be an annoying nuisance and quite painful. However you should not fear them as much as is made out by some sources.
Yes they are sometimes a problem in the busiest times of year on the Camino. I talked to a lot of Pelgrims on my way to Finisterre, there pilgrims from all over Spain and Europe gather to walk the last bit. I did not hear one story of bed bugs in 2019 when I walked the Camino.
Beware of them and know the proper way to deal with them if it does happen. Collect all your things and stuff them in a big garbage bag. Put insecticide in it and wait the recommended time on the bottle. And try to prevent it by using your headlight to check for anything out of the ordinary in your bed.
Tips for Women by a lady Pilgrim
Hello everybody, I’m taking over here for a bit. Let me first tell you a little about myself: My name is Alexandra aka “German girl” and I walked the Camino Portuguese with my friend in 2019. We met Frank in an Albergue on the second day. We kept on running into each other, decided to walk together to Santiago, fell in love and now I’m here, writing for his website.
I didn’t need much on the Camino, but there are a few things that I wouldn’t like to miss and also things that I would do different the next time. Those tips are not only for women, but for everybody who is interested in.
I carried a small shampoo with me, which I used for Hair and Body. It was perfectly fine, but next time I would take a Hairsoap bar. I use those at home as well and I love them! You can carry that in a small soap bag, which you can also shower with. Like that you conserve soap and you get a nice scrub/peeling through the soap bag.
I also had a tiny amount of conditioner in a little crucible for creme with me. It’s nice to give your hair extra care once a while after walking all day in the sun, wind or rain.
To brush my hair I prefer a travelsize Tangle-Teezer.
To wash my face I actually just use the same as I use for my body because I don’t want to carry around so much stuff. But I could never live without a creme for my face and my body. I like to use a Softcream which moisturizes your skin but is not oily, so it can soak in very fast.
Hygiene & Period:
First thing that I’m going to change the next time: Carrying Underwear that dries quick! I took 5 pairs of underwear with me and wanted to wash them in the Albergues. Which I did. With cotton underwear. Well… I had to carry them around on the outside of my Backpack the next day, hoping that it’s not going to rain and they would be dry in the evening. Putting on still moist underwear isn’t the most fun thing i ever did.
Everything you need for your period I would just carry around in travelsize or small amounts. You can probably buy it somewhere in the next small city, but that really depends on the Camino. What I would definitely recommend is to carry small bags with you to put in used Tampons/Sanitary Napkins/ Panty Liners.
As I’m working in a drugstore I know a lot more stuff that you can get travelsized: Mini-razor, mini-washing gel, mini-toothbrush, mini-deodorant and a mini makeup remover if you plan on wearing that.
A quick side note on the blister topic, I prefer to leave the cotton string in the blister all night to really get all the moisture out. And even leave the cotton string in the blister for a day of walking to. But then keep in mind that you disinfect the blister as best as possible after.
I hope you liked my input here and maybe I could give some insight about stuff that Frank would have missed as he also had to borrow toothpaste because he was too lazy to buy some.
Buen Camino, Alexandra 🙂
Washing clothes on the Camino
Washing your clothes is not really a challenge on the Camino, in pretty much all the different hostels or Albergues you have the option to handwash your clothes. And in most you even have a washing machine.
Take quick drying clothing with you that ensures you don’t have wet clothing in the morning. With your socks that can sometimes still be an issue. You can strap them on your backpack the following day. In the breeze they will dry out quickly if you have the better socks for hiking.
Furthermore carry some coins with you for the washing machines as they are most of the time coin operated.
A trick that an older British guy used to wash his clothes is to just take them with you into the shower. He lathered them up in his hair while washing it and cleaned them as best he could.
Also an option if you are on an extreme budget. Otherwise giving your clothes a proper wash once every few days is a good idea. Especially with all the sweating your going to be doing from hiking in the Spanish or European country side.
For washing soap or powder you can use a little bit of the all in one soap, or most often you can scrounge it from somewhere in the Albergues.
Tooth care on the Camino
Taking care of your dental needs is quite easy, just take a small travel sized toothbrush that folds up. Or take a hacksaw to an ordinary toothbrush to lighten and shorten it.
Toothpaste you can get in small tubes from some pharmacy or grocery stores. Or at your dentist as a sample. Those little tubes are excellent for hiking needs.
What you can also take is Ajona Toothpaste which is an excellent travel sized toothpaste. For every time your going to be brushing your teeth all you need is a little lentil sized bit of it.
Well that’s it for every need you may have out on the Camino. Whether your going to be walking the French way, Portuguese way or one of the many.
With such a broad topic it is always possible that in another ones opinion we missed something. Let us know down in the comments what your favorite item or trick is.
Happy hiking and hike for purpose!