How to keep the funk at bay on tour?

4 02 2011

Ortlieb folding basin - very handy!

If you are on an extended bike tour away from showers and hotels you still want to stay as clean as possible or at least keep from getting too stinky. At least I hope you do!

Here is what you do:

  • follow my advice in the previous post about butt hygiene
  • whenever possible use any showers, bath tubs, taps, streams, rivers or lakes to bath as best you can
  • put on clean clothes every few days
  • wear synthetic fast drying clothes
  • whenever you get access to water do laundry in a folding basin like the one pictured above
  • go light on the soap and use a mild biodegradable soap
  • wring clothes dry as possible and hang to dry [in the breeze and sunshine if you can]
  • repeat as needed

If you stay on top of it being clean and camping on a bike tour are not mutually exclusive.  I pack limited spare clothing and a very basic set of toiletries when I go on tour.  I manage to stay respectable and could sit down at someone’s house for supper on short notice without being embarrassed at the state of my hygiene.

It was a week since I last saw running water in this photo and I wasn't letting the funk take control....



13 responses

4 02 2011
Val Garou

Hmm, all good tips. But I think wool fights the funk better than synthetics. I mean, sheep have to smell nice for the other sheep even though they live outdoors all the time–so they’ve got the anti-funk clothes thing figured out!

4 02 2011

@Val – I’m loving wool at home where I can care for it and dry it at my leisure. I’m not sold on wool for traveling/touring [yet] because I have to think more about it than synthetics and it doesn’t dry as fast. I can wash a Patagonia button up shirt and wear it [totally dry] 30 mins later.

Having said that I’ve got more wool in my arsenal these days and I’ll see how I can get it out on tour more and how it compares there.

4 02 2011

Is that the 10L folding basin?

4 02 2011

Great tips, but I’m another one in favour of wool for touring with – I find it impossible to get the stink out of synthetic stuff if I’m just washing in cold water with mild soaps, it seems to go straight back to smelling like evil again. As long as you’ve got thin wool it doesn’t take too long to dry, and you can wear it for longer before it needs a wash anyway! *loves the wool*

(Also possibly been scarred by some unpleasant experiences with poly-pro that have turned me against all synthetics… I did a 12 hour adventure race with a boy once, accidentally ended up with his thermal top afterwards. I had to double bag it and put it in the fridge while I was waiting to get it back to him – it seemed smelly enough that it might leave the house of its own accord.)

4 02 2011

@Dan – I’m pretty sure it’s the 10L

@Megan – the new breed of synthetics have anti-microbial treatments which pretty well at keeping the stink in control. Based on my limited wool experiences I think I can wear wool longer before I need to wash it, but I’ve had no issues with my synthetics retaining odor after washing.

5 02 2011
Val Garou

Hey Vik,

I’m not sure that wool requires you to think about it any more than a synthetic. You’re right about it not drying as quickly, but it does a fine job of insulating when wet, so it’s not safety-critical.

Interesting note about the anti-microbial treatments. I, personally, have never found one that lives up to its claims. Any recommendations? (Or maybe I just really stink….) Also, how long do those treatments last? I imagine they’re only good for a certain number of washings–wool is good forever, which might matter if you’re on a tighter budget.

5 02 2011

@Val – here in Mexico it’s virtually impossible to get your laundry done without hot water and hot dryers. That, as far as I know, is a definite problem for wool.

6 02 2011
Val Garou


Fair enough about the hot water wash, but your above bullet-points suggest a slightly more “adventurous” standard of clothes care than having your laundry done for you. In the scenarios listed above–washing in a basin, going a couple days without access to water, hanging to dry–I don’t think wool needs any more thought than a synthetic.

I’ve been on a couple tours where all I could find were hot driers. At first I went and cycled the dryers on and off every 10 minutes to control the heat. Eventually I just started pulling my stuff JUST before it was dry. Nothing shrank. Hot water in an agitator washing machine, I don’t know. . . sounds like trouble.

7 02 2011

@Val – I wear the same clothes for most of my travels so I tend to grab what works with the least hassles. I’m sure you could select case by case scenarios where one works better than the other. I mentioned the situation here simply because that’s the trip I am on.

I haven’t had stink problems with synthetics which is why I don’t just jump whole heartedly onto the wool band wagon. Having said that I’m not suggesting it’s not a good option.I just enjoy not having to think about my clothes a lot so synthetics have that edge for me at the moment.

I’ll probably be wearing a bunch of wool on my rando rides this year because it’s comfy, regulates heat well and resists stink well. Washing a batch of wool at home is not a huge issue especially when there is bunch of it so I am unlikely to forget to “pull the wool” before the dryer.

8 02 2011

BTW – any suggestions for wool clothing for travel and/or cycling? So far I only know about:

– MEC [no cycling wool at the moment]
– Wabi Woolens
– Ibex
– Patagonia [doesn’t fit me well]

9 02 2011
Val Garou

I like Swobo’s merino wool short-sleeve jerseys for on-the-bike wear.

I like the Stoic line of merino shirts from for off-the-bike wear.

16 02 2011

A few more recommendations for wool brands:
-Smartwool (though I have never tried anything but their socks and arm/leg warmers)
-Icebreaker (we lucked out and scored a LOT of wool for cheap when they had a warehouse sale in Portland a few months ago)

21 02 2011

You woolists will be happy to know I picked up a thermal wool LS top and wool boxer briefs to try out. I hope they are not b-AAAAA-d…=-)

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