In "Giardia Lamblia and Giardiasis With Particular Attention to the Sierra Nevada"
, published in the Yosemite Association News Letter #4, March 18, 2002, Robert L. Rockwell, PhD, says,
"Given the casual approach to personal hygiene that characterizes most backpacking treks, hand washing is likely to be a much more useful preventative strategy than water disinfection!"
In many years of hiking in the back country I've never had problems with the water, but on several occasions cold viruses have been passed around.
In 2012 a man died in Yosemite from hantavirus
- Carry a hand sanitizer (available as a gel or as wipes; always pack out wipes). Use them after bowel movements and before handling food. Very handy for use when you're on the move or water is not nearby.
- Soap and water are considered by some experts to be a more thorough hand-cleansing option because the act physically rubs and rinses away everything from dirt to unseen microorganisms. But the rubbing action involved with sanitizers may accomplish the same result.
- Important: Never use soap directly in a water source.
- Clostridium difficile, a spore-forming bacterium sometimes found in fecal matter, is resistant to sanitizers and requires hand washing for removal.
- Always wash your hands before working with food.
- The key to keeping food safe during storage is to keep it out of the
- temperature danger zone, above 41 degrees.
- DonŐt touch shared food. Pour snacks and trail mix into your hand as opposed to reaching in a bag to grab a handful.
- Hold your bowl beside not over the pot when serving, so any spillage will not transfer pathogens from your bowl to the pot.
Viruses - Cold viruses (Rhinovirus, enterovirus, ...) hepatitis A (HAV), norovirus (NoV), rotavirus (RV), hantavirus.
This highly contagious virus causes your stomach and/or intestines to become inflamed, which leads to stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Norovirus is transmitted by contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or contaminated surfaces. The virus has a 12-48 hour incubation period and lasts 24-60 hours. Infected hikers may be contagious for 3 days to 2 weeks after recovery. Outbreaks occur more often where people share facilities for sleeping, dining, showering, and toileting.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be ineffective against norovirus, wash with biodegradable soap (200' from water sources).
Hygiene and Sanitation in the Backcountry | REI
How to Stay Clean While Backpacking and Backpacking Tips from LowerGear Rentals
Germs - Pathogens (Viruses, Bacteria, Protozoans, Fungi)
Colds | Flu
Disinfecting | Hand Sanitizer
last updated 15 Aug 2012