Are you planning your next hike into the great outdoors? You're not alone: 42.1 million Americans choose hiking as their way to enjoy outdoor activities.
Along with the amazing views, brushes with nature, and excellent cardio, your hike also comes with less pleasant side effects, including chafing. The irritating condition happens when your skin rubs against itself or clothing. The result of all that friction can include as little as minor itching but as much as painful blisters.
Before you rethink your hike, check out these these anti chafing tips to keep your skin feeling great.
1. Choose Synthetic Fabrics
That cotton T-shirt you love is great for lounging on the couch, but skip the natural fabrics when you hike. Cotton is one of the worse offenders. It soaks up the sweat and keeps the damp fabric close to your skin, increasing chafing.
Synthetic fabrics from head to toe reduce the harmful rubbing that causes chafing. Polyester, nylon, and tech fabrics designed to wick moisture away from the skin are good choices. Wool socks are often a favorite of hikers.
It's easy to find synthetic, sweat-wicking shirts and shorts, but don't forget what goes under those clothes. Cotton underwear can leave your rear red, raw, and irritated. Anti chafing underwear made from synthetic materials keep your private areas dry.
Some hiking underwear also have extended legs to help protect your thighs. Underwear that extend 6 inches or more down the legs can prevent chafing by covering the sensitive groin and upper thigh skin.
2. Get the Right Fit
Getting the fit of those synthetic fabric clothes just right can also stop the chafing. Loose clothes can wrinkle up and rub against your skin more than normal. Overly tight clothes dig into your skin and also make your chafing worse.
A snug fit without being too tight is ideal. Spandex shorts or leggings keep your thighs from rubbing together. If you prefer long pants or looser fitting shorts, wear a pair of spandex shorts underneath the looser clothes to prevent friction.
Seamless and tag-less clothes can also increase comfort and decrease friction. Look for clothing with minimal seams.
Test out clothes on a short walk or hike to make sure they don't rub or increase friction. When you're ready for the real hike, don't tuck in your shirt. It can cause your sweat to run down into your shorts and increase irritation.
3. Keep Yourself Clean
Clean skin is another defense against chafing. Dried salt from sweat, bacteria, dirt, dead skin cells, and other debris build up on your skin quickly. All of that debris can cause more friction on your skin, leading to chafing.
Jump in the shower right before heading out on a hike when possible. This keeps your skin as fresh as possible when you arrive.
If you're taking a multi-day hiking trip, clean your skin after each hike to get rid of salt from sweat. If you don't have access to showers, try to take a dip in a lake or use wet wipes to wash your skin.
Bring plenty of clean clothes, so you can put on a fresh set for each day of hiking. The clothes you wore on yesterday's hike are full of potentially irritating sweat, dirt, and bacteria.
If packing space is limited, use wash bags to clean your clothes or rinse them in a lake or river. If you packed your synthetic hiking gear, it should dry quickly and be ready for the next day, sans all the sweat and grime.
4. Apply Anti Chafing Salve
Anti chafe salve works by lubricating the skin, which cuts down significantly on friction. Lubricant is particularly helpful in areas where friction is most likely, including your thighs, back, waist, groin, underarms, nipples, and feet.
Start with clean, dry skin when applying anti chafing lubricants. You might need to reapply the anti chafing cream along the hike to keep friction low.
You can also apply body powders to help absorb sweat and other moisture. Apply those powders in creases and crevices where you often sweat.
5. Choose Your Backpack Wisely
Your backpack is a key piece of hiking gear, but it can also add onto the chafing issue. The straps can irritate your shoulders, and the entire backpack can cause chafing on your back.
Choose a properly fitting backpack to make it more comfortable. Adjust the straps to ensure they're not too long. Loose, long straps can rub on your shoulders and cause irritation.
The waist strap can cause the same issues if it's too tight or loose. Adjust the waist strap to avoid uncomfortable rubbing.
A ventilated suspended mesh back on the backpack helps keep you cooler and more comfortable. Less back sweat can cut down on chafing. Keep the backpack as light as possible to reduce pressure on the straps.
6. Stay Hydrated
You want to keep your skin dry to prevent chafing, but you want to keep your body hydrated. When you keep up on your water consumption, you not only prevent dehydration, you also dilute the salt in sweat.
High salt concentrations can increase chafing. The salt can make your skin itchy and irritated as the salt crystals dry onto your skin. Start hydrating before your hike, and pack plenty of water for your hikes to lower those salt concentrations in your sweat.
7. Take Chafe Breaks
While you're hiking, pay attention to how you feel, especially in the areas prone to chafing. Don't ignore that initial tingling and itching. It's your skin letting you know that chafing has already started.
Taking a little break to let the sweat dry can help ease up on the chafing. Clean up the chafed area and dry it to help minimize additional damage. Keeping an anti chafing stick in your backpack lets you touch up those irritated areas during your break.
Master Anti Chafing Techniques for Hikes
With these simple anti chafing techniques, you can hit the trails without dealing with dreaded skin irritation later. Whether you're an occasional recreational hiker or spend all your free time on the trails, you'll be glad to master chafe prevention.
Ready to grab anti chafing products? Head to our online store for a variety of salves to keep your skin lubricated and chafe-free.