When we’re out in the woods, we get to do things that would make others point and stare-- or get a talking-to from our mother-- if they were done in civilization rather than the backcountry. My newest and favorite example of this is brushing your teeth according to Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.

Before our trip to Isle Royale last month, our standby solution had been to leave the toothbrush and toothpaste at home. Sure, we’d tried disposable mini-toothbrushes before, but they didn’t really get our teeth clean because they were clearly designed more to freshen your breath and remove a few stray spinach bits rather than actually doing a thorough job of cleaning your teeth. Brushing with just water could also work, but it never really felt right.

One month ago, I learned the official LNT toothbrushing method: brush as normal with toothbrush and toothpaste, but rinse with extra water and spray that toothpaste-saliva-water in AS WIDE AN ARC AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE to widely distribute fine toothpaste particles that could be washed away in the rain without attracting or sickening the wildlife. That actually sounded like fun! It sounded like it would look just like a surprised cartoon character spraying milk all over his unsuspecting buddy when told some particularly shocking news. THPffffffft!

What was even more fun was teaching my camping tripmates this technique that sounded too good to be true on our first night at camp. There was a chorus of "thpfffffft" and fits of giggles that followed. It felt good to learn something new and do the right thing.

About the Author



A slow but steady hiker, Clare spends more time behind the camera than in front of it and brakes for frogs, snails, and wildflowers.

Recomended for you...

Card image cap

Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area 4/52

The Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area is a short but rewarding hike just outside of Lodi, Wisconsin and a…

Card image cap

Glacial Drumlin State Trail (near Lake Mills,WI) 3/52

I didn't know what a drumlin was until we moved up here -- it's a feature of glacial geology…