How to Prevent Chafing while Hiking
There is a certain achievable clarity when your crotch is bitten by a Rottweiler (chafing). It's hard to miss, hard to deny, and even harder to explain to those witness to your visible discomfort. Those who have experienced this sensation all agree that it is a memory not easily forgotten. Yet, sooner or later, just when you least expect it, it is entirely possible that your crotch may be victimized while doing its best to otherwise mind its own business. Fortunately, there is protection for your crotch and a fairytale ending is achievable for your gonadal apartment complex.
Photo Credit - Pedro Simões
It was about 7 years ago when my wife wanted to know why I was back from my hiking trip earlier than expected. While I assume I somehow interrupted her schedule of bachelorette parties and general debauchery for which I'm convinced she participates when I'm away from home for any length of time, the only thing I could think to say was, "I was bitten in the crotch by a Rottweiler". My bowlegged limp was as noticeable as if I was wearing a traffic cone on my head. Moving hurt, bad.
I had been solo-hiking a 50-mile section of Shenandoah National Park over the last few days. This was something not uncommon. What was uncommon was a choice I had made before the trip. I had decided to ditch a pair of synthetic boxer briefs, a style I had worn on a daily basis for many years and were a known commodity. Instead, I elected to return to the days of being an 8-year old with Superman on my underwear and opted instead for a pair of synthetic briefs by a well-known Seattle company who markets much of their clothing line to travelers.
This was to be a very hot and humid hiking trip and I planned on wearing a pair of extremely loose-fitting shorts believing that I was being smart to try to mitigate the heat and moisture as best I could. The briefs were not comfortable to me at the on-set and quite honestly I was reminded of every older person at the gym who had a propensity to parade around the locker room like a peacock in bloom while I sat uncomfortably and tried to focus in on anything other than the inhumanity of the aging and obscene male body. But I was a lightweight hiker, and dammit, this was new high-performing gear that was lighter (ooohhh ahhh) and offered the guarantees of better circulation.
The first day was a non-issue. I pushed through mileage and got to my destination just fine. I went through my normal personal hygiene process and made sure all salt and trail dirt was washed from my body as best as I could. By day two, there was some clear discomfort and I found myself tugging my shorts up righteously close to senior-citizen levels just to snug up the puny legs of the shorts high enough to allow some slipperiness between my legs. By day three, I was in definite pain and by the end of day 3 it was clear that my time playing with my inner-self was drawing to a close.
The move to get myself off the trail was cumbersome at best. Every step hurt. Were there a Western movie about a former cowboy turned backpacker being made in the woods that day, I would have had the mosey-walk down pat. I tried just about everything I could think of to ease the pain. Ibuprofen's became Pez. My shorts were permanently nipple-high. I had lubricated myself with a well-known high-dollar gel which included ingredients such as aluminum starch (to minimize greasiness) and petroleum. I had never used it, but always carried it "just in case" on the recommendation of backpacking legend Andrew Skurka. Eventually, I even used some athletic tape and gauze which I'll politely say feels like napalm when being removed.
In a nutshell, and to avoid a more vivid and awkward description or pictures which would shame generations of my family, the area between where my legs met my crotch had been chafed to the point of absurdity. This was something I had never experienced before (or since), so it was new to me. I had no barometer of what I was in for while it was happening nor how to properly treat it. Like a blister, chafing is something to be addressed at the on-set, not when a raging crotch-hungry Rottweiler appears.
Ultimately, I got home. If I thought the on-trail drama was the peak of the pain, I was entirely wrong. Unknown to me, apparently taking a warm bath is just aboutistake. Should the US ever be interested in motivating the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay to get chatty, I highly recommend trying this little torture routine. It's amazing how the wounded human body can literally levitate horizontally when prompted with the right encouragement.
Healing took weeks – literally. To me, it looked like I had been whipped and scarring was a real possibility. It's an amazingly severe injury resulting from the highly dangerous act of – walking. Since chafing is caused by skin rubbing together, the solution is to limit friction.
Lubrication - Every Hiker's Friend
How to Prevent Chafing
Lose Weight – If you're overweight, and unless you have an affinity for being bit in the crotch by a Rottweiler during any number of life events, lose some weight. The less skin rubbing together in your thigh-area the better off you'll be.
Dress Appropriately – While others may favor briefs for ventilation, I've found greater comfort in boxer briefs and bicycle shorts – anything breathable with wicking fabric and high-thigh leg coverage.
Stay Dry – Friction injuries to the skin can be aggravated by being wet. So, stay dry. Improve your ventilation where possible. While I'm trusting that my next statement won't be a free-pass for foolishness by those who supported Anthony Weiner's mayoral campaign in New York - a little exposure to sun and gonadal freedom goes a long way.
Stay Clean – As someone who has shared many nights in shelters accompanied by other hikers who left a permanent shadow on the floor from their amazingly toxic stink – stay clean. This is one of the few times where I can say that your crotch and all of humanity will thank you.
Lubricate – There are several anti-chafing products on the market which claim varied success. Do a little research and find one that works for you. My personal experience is that I wouldn't singularly rely on lubrication as a pre-treatment, however.
How to Treat Chafing
Apply petroleum jelly or similar.
Contact a doctor if necessary.
Wait for the area to be completely healed before being active again.
Impress your friends by making up a completely absurd story to explain your injury, like being bit in the crotch by a Rottweiler. After all, getting injured while walking is like tearing a rotator cuff while playing checkers.
This post was written by former Trail Ambassador, Jolly Green Giant.