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Chafing at Camp: Prevention and Treatment

Chafing is when your skin gets sore and raw from rubbing against clothes or other skin. It happens a lot at camp because people are moving, sweating, and wearing the same clothes. Learn how to stop chafing before it starts and what to do if you get it. Keeping your skin happy means you can have more fun at camp.

Find out about the best ways to avoid this painful condition, like choosing the right clothes and using products that protect your skin. It’s also important to keep your skin dry and clean. These steps can help you stay comfortable, even when you’re active all day.

If chafing does happen, you need to know how to take care of it so it doesn’t get worse. With the right care, you can heal your skin and get back to enjoying camp. This article is here to help you make sure chafing doesn’t spoil your fun.

Understanding Chafing

Chafing is a common issue at camp, resulting from repeated rubbing of skin against skin or clothing. This friction, especially in moist conditions, can irritate and damage the skin, leading to discomfort and sometimes even painful rashes. It often occurs in areas where skin touches skin, like the thighs, underarms, and feet, but it can happen anywhere on the body.

Moisture plays a significant role. Sweat, or even humidity, increases the risk by softening the skin and making it more susceptible to damage. The type of clothing you wear also affects chafing; non-breathable fabrics can trap sweat and increase friction.

Understanding the causes of this condition is the first step to preventing it. Keeping skin dry, wearing appropriate clothing, and using preventive products can help you enjoy your camp experience without the discomfort of chafed skin.


To prevent chafing during camping activities, consider these strategies:

  • Choose the Right Clothing: Wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes that fit well. Avoid cotton, as it retains moisture. Opt for synthetic fabrics designed for exercise.
  • Stay Dry: Keep your skin as dry as possible. Use talcum powder or cornstarch in areas prone to moisture to absorb sweat.
  • Use Anti-Chafing Products: Apply anti-chafing creams, balms, or gels to vulnerable areas. These products form a protective barrier that reduces friction.
  • Hydrate and Eat Well: Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet. This helps reduce the salt in your sweat, which can exacerbate chafing.
  • Proper Hygiene: Cleanse your skin regularly with gentle soap and water, especially after sweating. Dry thoroughly before dressing.
  • Dress in Layers: Wearing layers allows you to adjust your clothing based on activity level and weather, helping you manage sweat and reduce chafing.
  • Check Your Gear: Make sure backpacks and other gear fit properly and don’t rub against your skin. Use protective padding if necessary.
  • Avoid Wet Clothes: Do not walk around in wet clothes, such as swimsuits, for long periods. Wet fabric can increase friction and significantly raise the risk of chafing.

By following these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of chafing and enjoy a more comfortable camping experience.


If this condition occurs despite preventive measures, treating it promptly can help heal the skin and prevent further irritation. Here’s how to treat chafed skin:

  • Clean the Area: Gently clean the chafed skin with lukewarm water and mild soap. Avoid scrubbing, which can further irritate the skin.
  • Dry Thoroughly: Pat the area dry with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing, as this can cause more irritation.
  • Apply a Healing Ointment: Use a fragrance-free healing ointment or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation and discomfort. For very mild chafing, aloe vera gel can soothe the skin.
  • Protect the Skin: Cover the area with a sterile bandage or gauze to protect it from further friction. If you need to continue wearing clothes over the chafed area, consider using a soft, protective barrier like a bandage to prevent direct contact with clothing.
  • Rest: Give your skin time to heal by avoiding activities that exacerbate the chafing. If you must continue being active, try to modify your activity to reduce friction on the affected area.
  • Wear Soft, Loose Clothing: Until the area heals, wear soft, loose-fitting clothing that won’t rub against the chafed skin.
  • Monitor the Area: Watch for signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, warmth, or pus. If you notice these signs or if the chafing doesn’t improve within a few days, seek medical advice.

Prompt treatment can help the skin heal quickly, allowing you to return to your activities with greater comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if what I have is chafing?

Chafing typically appears as skin irritation that can look red or feel raw. It’s often painful or itchy and occurs in areas where skin rubs against skin or clothing.

Can chafing lead to an infection?

Yes, if chafed skin is not properly treated, it can become infected. Signs of infection include increased pain, swelling, redness, warmth, and possibly fever. If you notice these symptoms, seek medical attention.

How often should I apply anti-chafing products?

It depends on the product and your activities. Generally, apply before you start your day and reapply as needed, especially if you’re swimming or sweating a lot.

Can I still camp or hike if I have chafing?

Yes, but you may need to adjust your activity level and take steps to protect the chafed area from further irritation. Use protective barriers and dress in soft, loose clothing.

Are there any natural remedies for chafing?

Aloe vera gel is known for its soothing properties and can help calm mild cases. However, more severe cases may require medicated creams or ointments.

How long does it take for chafing to heal?

With proper care, mild it can heal within a few days. More severe chafing may take longer and require additional treatment.

Is it better to use powder or cream for chafing prevention?

It depends on your skin type and activities. Powders are good for absorbing moisture, while creams can provide a protective barrier. Some people find a combination of both works best for them.

Keeping the Adventure Comfortable

Chafing doesn’t have to be an unavoidable part of camping. By taking preventive steps and knowing how to treat it if it occurs, you can keep your focus on the fun and adventure of being outdoors. Remember, the key to prevention lies in preparation and the right choices—from the clothes you pack to the products you use to protect your skin.

If skin irritation does strike, don’t let it dampen your spirits. Early treatment can help you recover quickly, ensuring that a little discomfort doesn’t turn into a major disruption of your camping experience. Keep the affected area clean, apply healing ointments, and adjust your activities as needed to give your skin a break.

Finally, sharing your experiences and tips with fellow campers can help spread the knowledge and strategies for chafing prevention and treatment. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned outdoors person, everyone can benefit from these insights. So, pack your bags, prep your skin, and set out on your next adventure with confidence, knowing you’re ready to tackle chafing head-on.

What is your advice about chafing? Share your experiences in the comments below.


13 responses to “Chafing at Camp: Prevention and Treatment”

  1. Marie Avatar

    Since chaffing or gaulding is actually a fungus, one of the best preventives and treatments is washing the area really well with an anti-bacterial soap such as Dial.

  2. D Baker Avatar
    D Baker

    Gold bond powder also works very well.

  3. Irene Avatar

    Dry clothes and powder are good preventive measures. Vaseline Intensive care is a great overnight remedy.

  4. j webelo Avatar
    j webelo

    What i figured out work well is Boudreaux’s Butt Paste it is a diaper rash cream and works great. Put it on thick and it will ease the pain and heal fast

  5. nnobles Avatar

    If using Gold Bond make sure it is NOT the foot powder it will course an uncomfortable burning sensation.

    Desitin or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste are great but I would put it in a small “to go” container so that the scout doesn’t get made fun of and so that if it is lost it is no big deal.

    We keep both baby powder and Desitin in our pack first aid kit. It is one of the most used things in the kit.

  6. Dee Schartiger Avatar
    Dee Schartiger

    We found a great powder that works wonders – it is called Monkey Butt Powder -sold here in Walmart, Our Camp medic has some in the med lodge to use!

  7. lela Hayward Avatar
    lela Hayward

    When I was a girl back in Kansas, my mother would put a piece of alum in the men’s pocket to keep them dry and safe from gaulding. Does anyone have information on this subject???

    1. cathy Avatar

      yes it does work

    2. Tammy Avatar

      i just read that u can actually put it on the infected area too and it works

    3. Veronica Avatar

      My dad would carry alum stones in his pockets to prevent chaffing and it worked for him. It draws the moisture away from the sweaty areas

  8. Lou Avatar

    I took several Webelos to camp one summer and they all had chafing. Our camp medic gave me Benedryl for them and it worked. I asked about the drowsiness and the medic said they are so busy they won’t even notice it and it worked within 30 minutes.

  9. Ellen Avatar

    As an overweight person, I found that a roll-on antiperspirant applied to the probable affected area (usually the thighs) prevents chafing altogether. And almost everyone has antiperspirant in their backpacks. Try it!

  10. Fati Avatar

    My son is extremely active so Body Glide is our go-to product. Works great and available at Wal-mart and Target.

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