Should you shower before a hike?

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Should you shower before hitting the trail? After all, you’re about to get sweaty either way. Here are some good reasons for (and against) a pre-hike shower, helping you make an informed decision that suits your hiking style and needs.

shower between trees

Benefits of Showering Before a Hike

Reduces Body Odor: In group hikes or hot weather, minimizing body odor is not just a matter of comfort but also of courtesy. A pre-hike shower can significantly reduce body odor, making the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

After all, body odor is caused by bacteria. So, even if you don’t smell yet, washing off all those bacteria sitting on your skin prolongs the time until you develop a stink. I can tell you from experience that it makes a massive difference!

Improves Personal Hygiene: A good shower washes away dirt, sweat, and bacteria, reducing the risk of skin irritations or infections. This is particularly vital for longer hikes where hygiene facilities may be sparse, and you don’t know when you can get a wash the next time.

Avoids attracting Insects and Wildlife: Did you know that your natural scent attracts mosquitos and other wildlife? A pre-hike shower helps keep these unwelcome guests at bay. Avoid scented products, especially floral and fruit scents, as these can also be attractive to insects.

Enhances Effectiveness of Topical Products: Are you planning to apply sunscreen or insect repellent? Showering first ensures your skin is clean, allowing these products to adhere better and offer more effective protection.

As a side note: if you plan on taking a swim in natural waters during your hike, reconsider your insect repellant use – a lot of them are toxic to water organisms.

Mental Preparedness: A shower can do wonders for your mental state. It clears your mind, reduces stress, and sets a positive tone for the day’s adventure.

Potential Downsides of Showering Before a Hike

Skin Dryness and Chafing: While showers are great for cleanliness, hot showers can strip away natural skin oils, leading to dryness and chafing. If you opt for a hot shower and tend to have problems with dry skin, use a moisturizer afterward to keep your skin hydrated.

Should I Shower Hot or Cold Before a Hike?

Warm showers do not only feel great, but also come with a range of benefits before a hike:

  • Muscle Relaxation: Warm showers are excellent for relaxing muscles, reducing the risk of strains during your hike.
  • Improved Blood Circulation: The warmth helps improve blood flow, preparing your muscles and body for the physical activity ahead.
  • Mental Relaxation: Warm showers can be soothing, helping to clear your mind and reduce stress.
  • Hygiene and Comfort: They’re more effective in cleaning your skin thoroughly, which is particularly beneficial for longer hikes.
  • Drawbacks: In hot weather, a warm shower might increase your body temperature, potentially leading to discomfort. Also, they can dry out your skin, so consider using a moisturizer afterward.

But there are also good things to be said about cold showers:

  • Refreshing and Invigorating: In hot weather, a cold shower can be a refreshing start, helping to lower your body temperature and prepare you for the heat.
  • Increased Alertness: The shock of cold water increases alertness and wakefulness, enhancing your focus and energy levels. This is especially useful when you have to wake up really early for your hike.
  • Reduced Inflammation: If you’re starting the hike with minor aches, a cold shower can help reduce inflammation and soreness.
  • Drawbacks: Cold showers can be borderline painful, and are less effective in removing dirt and oils from the skin. In cold weather, they can lower your body temperature too much, increasing the risk of hypothermia.

In the end, the choice of water temperature depends on the weather conditions and your personal preferences.

Alternatives to Showering Before a Hike

Sometimes, you just don’t have the chance – or time, or motivation – to take a shower. Here are some alternatives for those cases:

Mineral Deodorant Sticks: These natural alternatives to traditional deodorants can effectively minimize body odor without the need for a full shower. Made from mineral salts, they create a barrier against odor-causing bacteria on the skin.

Non-Stink Fabrics: Wearing clothes made from materials like merino wool or specialized synthetics can significantly reduce body odor. These fabrics are designed to be odor-resistant, wicking away sweat and minimizing the growth of bacteria.

Biodegradable Wipes: For a quick and eco-friendly option, biodegradable wipes can be used to cleanse the skin. They are effective in removing sweat and bacteria, and their biodegradable nature makes them a responsible choice for outdoor enthusiasts.

Waterless Soap: An excellent choice for hikers without access to a shower, waterless soap allows you to clean your skin effectively without the need for running water. It’s a convenient and efficient way to maintain hygiene on the trail.


Deciding whether to shower before a hike, and choosing between hot or cold, depends on various factors. Especially if you hike with other people, in hot weather, or in a mosquito-rich area, a pre-hike shower can be very beneficial.

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