There’s nothing worse than chafing on a hike – chafing between your thighs or butt cheeks. It is absolute agony when you can’t stop because your schedule or a limited supply of food requires that you keep hiking.
Here are a few tips to prevent chafing or worst case, how to treat it, while you are hiking or backpacking.
The most important way to prevent thigh chafing is to wear synthetic underwear that will not absorb moisture. This means NO COTTON underwear. Cotton absorbs your sweat when you hike and sticks to your skin. The seams of cotton underwear will then scrunch up between your thighs and rub your skin raw.
You should also avoid wearing underwear made of modal, rayon, viscose, tencel, lyocell and bamboo. All of these materials are made of wood fibers and behave very similarly to cotton when they get damp or wet. I don’t wear wool baselayers because they absorb too much sweat and are slow to dry, but YMMV.
I recommend that your hiking underwear have at least a 6″ long leg to protect the top of your thighs from friction. In cooler weather, wearing a 9″ long leg will also keep you warmer. I prefer Under Armour Mesh Boxer Jocks in hot weather and have never had any chafing while wearing them.
Pre-Treat Your Skin
Many hikers pre-treat their skin with an anti-friction lubricant like Body Glide which is a mixture of zinc oxide and antiperspirant. If you take this route you need to apply Body Glide before your skin is rubbed raw or else it will sting like hell when you apply it.
I prefer using generic zinc oxide because it is far less expensive and can be used for prevention as well as a cure. I also use it as sun block on my nose and ears. Zinc oxide is the white cream your mum used to put on your bum when you had diaper rash. It immediately soothes and protects raw areas and lubricates them. I carry a tube with me on every hike I take, in the same bag as my TP. You can also apply it before you go to sleep to help promote healing at night. It’s amazing!
Don’t Tuck in your Shirt
If you’re wearing a backpack in summer, you are going to be sweating. That sweat is going to drip down your back and soak your underwear if you tuck your hiking shirt into your pants. So don’t tuck your shirt into your hiking pants. This works very well. It also explains why I always look like such a slob in my summer hiking photos. :-)
Washing and Clean Clothes
This is common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to wash or rinse their nether regions if they’re on a backpacking trip.
- Rinse the salt off your skin at night.
- Put on a clean pair of clothes – top and bottom – to sleep in at night – even if it’s hot.
- Rinse the salt and sweat out of your clothes every day. This is a good way to cool off in the heat too. If you wear thin synthetic clothing, it will dry off very quickly after you put it back on.
How do you prevent chafing?
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