There’s nothing worse than chafing on a hike or backpacking trip between your thighs or butt cheeks. Often called monkey-butt or baboon ass, it is absolute agony and gets worse with every step you take.
Here are some trail-tested ways to prevent chafing and cure it quickly if you have the bad luck to experience it.
Hiking Underwear (No Cotton)
The most important way to prevent butt and thigh chafing is to wear synthetic underwear, compression shorts, or lined running shorts 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. Wool baselayers also absorb sweat and are slow to dry, but many people prefer them because they stink less than synthetic underwear when they accumulate sweat. On the other hand you can easily rinse out synthetic underwear and it will dry a lot faster than wool.
I recommend that your hiking underwear have at least a 6″ long leg to protect the top of your thighs from friction. That means no bikini underwear or thongs! 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. Never ever. Many people also like Ex Officio Give-N-Go Boxers, which are available for men and women.
Lubricate 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. Vaseline is also an inexpensive lifesaver and a great fire starter, too
Protect and Soothe Your Skin
If you’ve got the chafe, you need the cure. I think Zinc Oxide Ointment is by far the best treatment available for chafing. It’s the same white cream your mum used to put on your bum when you had diaper rash and is the active ingredient in Desitin, Anti-Monkey-Butt Cream, and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste Diaper Rash Ointment. If you put it on at bedtime (be sure to wear some underwear to avoid getting your sleeping bag/quilt dirty) it is a VERY EFFECTIVE cure, and immediately soothes and protects raw areas, healing most overnight. Zinc oxide is also the active ingredient in Dermatone Z-cote sun block and is easily carried in a little 0.5 oz tin. It doesn’t take much to make you feel better.
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 and will keep you crack drier.
Using a ventilated backpack, one with a suspended mesh back, can also cut down on the amount of sweat dripping down you back. You’re still going to sweat, just not quite as much. See Top 10 Ventilated Backpacks, for some ideas about good ultralight and lightweight backpacks with mesh backs.
Polish That Hole
Make sure you clean your butthole carefully and completely after using the privy. It’s common sense, but you want your toilet paper to come back lilly white and clean after a deuce. Dried excrement can be a nasty skin irritant, especially when it’s mixed with your perspiration and constant friction. Yuck! Prevention is key.
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.
- 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 or cure it?
- How to Stay Clean on a Backpacking Trip
- Hiker’s Jock Itch: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment
- Bodyglide: Skin Chafing Prevention
- Zinc Oxide: A First Aid Kit Essential
Written 2018.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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