There’s nothing better than taking a shower after being in the wilderness for a week or so. Finally being able to properly clean yourself feels wonderful after being limited to the sanitation basics of the backcountry trail. However, campers must be especially vigilant about doing everything they can to practice excellent hygiene even while out in the woods.
Being isolated from society is no excuse for poor sanitation, and dangerous diseases are more likely to be contracted in the wild, where it’s more challenging to find clean water. Eating utensils are especially prone to germ transmission, so it’s important to practice good sanitation for camping knives and other utensils.
Do not use camping knives that have served non-food purposes. Before using any camping knife to cut food, ensure that it is clean. Hunters must be especially careful about meticulously cleaning camping knives that have been used to dress game. It’s best to get into the habit of cleaning plates, knives and any other utensils as soon as you’re done using them. That way, you won’t run the risk of spreading potentially deadly germs.
Clean backcountry water before human consumption. Remember that wild streams and lakes often contain nasty parasites and bacteria. Giardia is an especially prevalent parasite in backcountry water. It is deposited when cows and other game defecate and urinate near water sources. A camping knife that has been washed with untreated, unfiltered backcountry water may carry the Giardia parasite.
Once its host ingests them, Giardia parasites settle down in the intestines. The disease Giardia parasites cause is called Giardiasis, commonly known as Beaver Fever. Symptoms of this disease usually take a week or two to appear and may include excess gas, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and nausea. Extreme dehydration and nutritional loss resulting from a Giardia infection may require immediate treatment. Considering that the symptoms of Giardiasis may last for 2-6 weeks without treatment, campers certainly have powerful motivation for cleaning all backcountry water that will be used for cooking, drinking or cleaning camping knives and other utensils.
There are several techniques for cleaning backwoods water. Basically, you need to find a way to remove or kill dangerous parasites and bacteria. The oldest method of cleansing backcountry water is to boil it. However, this approach requires you to carry a backcountry stove and a reliable source of fire. Furthermore, depending on your altitude, it may take quite a while to bring water to a boil. Faster alternatives include using a water filter system or iodine water cleaning kit, both of which may be purchased from an outdoor retailer.
Wash hands frequently. Two studies conducted in the 1990s found that most indigestion among campers is caused by poor hygiene practices, not by the Giardia parasite. Unwashed hands are the main culprit; they may carry germs picked up anywhere along the trail. Wash your hands frequently while camping, using soap and water or antiseptic gel. Unwashed hands may easily spread disease to camping knives and other eating utensils, so make sure that everyone in your camping party is vigilant about washing their hands regularly, especially after eating or going to the bathroom.
Clean camping knives with biodegradable soap. Most campers know the “leave no trace” rule; they understand the importance of packing out everything that they pack in. A less widely appreciated eco-friendly camping practice is to clean camping knives and other utensils with biodegradable soap. Non-biodegradable soap fosters the growth of algae and bacteria, throwing off the balance in delicate backcountry ecosystems. Wash your dishes with biodegradable soap and stay at least 200 feet away water sources. This will give the water enough time to filter through soil before it rejoins the watershed. Avoid washing dishes directly in streams or lakes.
Store camping knives and other utensils in clean plastic bags. After you’ve carefully cleaned a camping knife or other utensil, it’s important to protect it. Store clean, dry utensils including camping knives in clean, sealable plastic bags.
To summarize, good camping hygiene requires that you carefully clean water, regularly wash hands and utensils, and take precautions to avoid contaminating the environment. By following these camping knife sanitation tips, you can prevent yourself, your family and your friends from becoming infected in the backcountry.
[ photo by: cogdog ]