The internet is a funny place. When you get on one of these hiking pages and begin discussing hiking related topics, you get a whole barrage of comments and statements. Some are meant to be in humor, others are 2nd and 3rd hand knowledge and a few are hard learned lessons from seasoned hikers. It is a wonder that any new hiker can absorb the correct info and make the correct decision.
There is one issue I see with a lot of hikers, [and some being seasoned] that opens up an entire can of worms with their entire healthy existence while living on the trail. Not only that, they take this issue and bring it to town and push it on the patrons who know nothing of Long Distance Hiking. The issue is "Living in you own filth".
When I first started ramping up my miles and hiking longer distances, I began to have new issues. I would get blisters, chafing, rashes, and basically have a miserable time trying to make my way up a trail. Once you figure out all the little things related to your gear, clothing and foot wear, there should be no reason that these things should happen.
When a person does not rinse the sweat and salt off their entire body, what begins to happen is the dust and dirt begins to stick, and the rubbing of your clothing, pack, and shoes, begin to tear at your skin. Also a lot of sicknesses people are experiencing is because they simply do not rinse daily or bi-daily.
I understand that the water can be cold, but it is a small price to pay when your back side is chafing or your pack is rubbing against your skin. I see this a lot. People get these insane rashes on their backs, and blame all sorts of things, but I know from hard earned miles that they have not rinsed their shirt, pack or skin.
Keeping clean on trail can be hard, but if you take the time and suffer the cold, it becomes routine, and the health benefit from it is unsurpassed. Not to mention, the seasoned hikers in general, sorta laugh at your filthy existence on trail.
Wearing colorful clothes helps for hiding the dirt, and light solid clothes show the dirt more, but in reality, water rinsing without soap will get you many days of cleanliness till you can finally hit a laundry mat. I also suggest wearing polyesters rather than nylon [accept for socks] because of the rinsing abilities, and the fact that the finer thread patterns do not hold the dirt so well.
Then there are the socks. There are all these new socks with warrantees and promises, but they do not do justice when it comes to the whole hiking package. The simple Nylon Dress sock is my choice because of several reasons. But the most important reason is because of its suburb rinsing abilities. They are thin and if your feet can not handle the lightweight sock at first, just put on a second pair. Eventually your feet will toughen up and it will be more comfortable, due to the breathing abilities of the sock. You will be able to clean them easily and always have a fresh pair. They are lighter, more durable, and cheaper than any other option. But most importantly, if you keep your feet clean, the dirt will not sand your feet to the point of sores or blisters.
I have a little system I do when I want to keep up my daily miles and not sit around cleaning my clothes. I like to wash myself in 3rds. I will stop at a water source, move down stream, and rinse my top half, bottom half or my feet. Considering I will most likely run into 3 water sources that day, I will just divide it up. If the water source is near non existent, I just use my water bottle to rinse.
I have seen problems related to "living in your filth" on every hike, but I figured it out myself several years ago. Sometimes I still fail to keep clean, and almost always, something painful begins to occur. Especially in cold climates when the icy water is not feeling good.
If this begins to make sense to you, this may also help: I suggest All your clothing is thin and easily dry able. It is especially important to be able to rinse your clothing, and dry it out on the back of your pack. This will also help keep some clothing dry while its raining, so that you can crawl into your bag at night with dry clothes. I would test all your clothing before you depart on your journey, by soaking them in water then ringing them out. If they are still soaked, try finding something comparable, that dries a bit faster.
I like using thin running shorts, or sometimes stretch surf trunks. I also like a thin button up dress shirt, both being 100% polyester. I also like tech shirts for added warmth and quality fleece when hiking in colder climates. I never like garmets of any type that hold water rather than repel water..
Most hikers do not really care about this, but being a Male hiker who has hiked unknown trails to the public, cleanliness is very important to the public eye. Walking into a trailside restaurant or convenient store smelling and looking homeless, are bad for the entire thru-hiking community. It is not as bad in the towns where the majority of locals know what you are doing, but never the less, nobody wants to take their family out to dinner and be sat down next to a table full of thru-hikers.
It does not take that much energy to clean yourself up as best as possible before you run into town. You will smell, look, and feel better.