Field Hygiene & Sanitation

Combat Patrol 18-20 Jan 2014 AAR #2 – Joe
January 21, 2014
Combat Patrol – Photos
January 21, 2014

QuietMan sends:

One of the few times an FM will get past me! 😉



  1. Tom S says:

    In the civil war disease was the major casualty producer.

    Merrill Marauders of WW2 when they made it to the rear area after being in the jungle for months decimated by disease but having accomplished their mission were not allowed to use rear area concrete base showers they were too dirty.

    Infantry is the point of the spear does the dirty job and is NOT allowed to use rear area shower facilities..

    A striking imbalance from reality infantry glory mission but rear area HQ does not want to share their showers!!!

  2. A Freeman says:

    In view of Max’s recent posts on gear, soldier’s loads, and patrols and this thread on hygiene, I seek Max’s indulgence for US “FM 21-18 Foot Marches” as a handy primer for those uninitiated who may have to play Moses and get the flock out of Dodge or embark on an epic Long March.

  3. QuietMan says:

    “One of the few times an FM will get past me! ”

    Challenge accepted.

  4. Submariner says:

    How do members of a four-man team clean canteen cups and spoons in the field when there is no central messing with garbage can and three cans with immersion heaters?

    • Max Velocity says:

      Wipe them off. Lick your spoon clean! If you are cooking actual food, rather than boil in the bag or dehydrated, then carry a small brillo pad to get any excess off. Garbage goes in a ziplock bag to be carried out.
      BTW, general caking of nastiness in your mug adds to the flavor! By which I mean, don’t over think it. Wipe your stuff down but there have been studies done and if you are too clean you will suffer in the field. Just like your kids should eat dirt. You need to get used to the germs. Yes you need to be careful of catching gastro-enteritis (the shits) from badly cooked local food and all that, but that is not the same as wiping out a canteen cup in which you just cooked up a bit of food.
      I have some anecdotal memory about the Aussie SAS determining that their guys were going down with illness because their hygiene standards were too stringent.

    • Thomas says:

      First, remember the heat kills bacteria. Purify with fire! To remove left over food particles, scrub your items with sand. It is a great abrasive and will take those tiny particles of matter off of the utensil surfaces.

      Like Max pointed out, too clean and you are at risk.

      Remember the five Fs: Flies, Feces, Fingers, Food, and Filth. Dirty hands will make sick quickly.

  5. The most important field hygiene tip in addition to all the other tips above is to ensure you clean your hands as best you can after taking a dump in a cat hole that you fill in when you’re done. Keep a pack of field wipes especially for that purpose, or a bottle of hand sanitizer, or a bar of soap if you think you’ll have water to spare.

    Clean the hands well, including under the fingernails. Especially under the fingernails. You don’t want to mix your feces with your coffee/tea or chow in your canteen cup inadvertently.

    As an off-set to the possibility, you may want to consider carrying a box of Immodium tablets just in case you ‘miss’ and get the shits as Max pointed out….

    • Max Velocity says:

      Very true, good advice.

    • QuietMan says:

      I remember our medic teaching the 4 F’s of disease as well: Food, flies, fingers, and feces. Wash your hands. Put up fly paper.

      Immodium rocks. I wouldn’t take a full dose as it has been known to stop you up so tight that parasites (if present) can be forced into the bloodstream.

      Ashes make good pot scrubbers. Assuming….

  6. Bergmann says:

    A hand full of wet sand makes a good scouring material for burnt up mess kits..


  7. Joseph Fahy says:

    Any recommendations on field wipes?


    • Chuck says:

      Any brand of baby wipes will do, but the best wipes I’ve used were the more expensive Cottonnelle wipes you find near the toilet paper at the grocery store. I use them for: wiping my ass (keeps the monkey butt at bay), wiping my hands, cleaning my canteen cup or mug and last, but not least, cleaning my weapon.

      They work better than regular baby wipes for that last application because they don’t leave lint behind. Strips excess carbon and dirty CLP off like nothing else, (great for a quick wipedown in the patrol base) but make sure to generously reapply CLP before reassembly, especially in our cold/wet/hot/humid mid-Atlantic climate.

      As noted above, keep plenty of little bottles of hand sanitizer squirreled away in your belt kit/chest rig/assault pack/ruck so you always have it handy after doing your business and/or before eating chow.

    • We will typically go for unscented biodegradable types that you can find in hunting sections. We get ours on sale after the hunting season at less than half the original MSRP…they stay good for another year or so….worth looking for. The Cottonelle mentioned above are good as well; we look for deals on anything that’s not scented.

  8. Ray says:

    If you wish to live in the bush long term you must bath. To clean mess gear just use boiling water (boil for a MINIMUM 10 min.)You NEED to train to boil your water anyway if you don’t want the “GIs” after your “purie tabs” run out. There are SEVERAL really good bio-degradable soaps on the Mkt. now that are unscented and can be used for humans AND their clothes (it disappears from the environment in a few days even in cold weather. In hot weather it can vanish in as little as 2-4 hrs.) Some of them come in bar form so there is nothing to spill. If you want to avoid nasty feet and crotch rot, try to carry a “billie can” that you can boil your sox and undies in(IT WORKS killing ALL the bugs and fungus-even better than bleach) It may be all macho and hard ass infantry to stay nasty in the woods. But there is really no reason at all to do it unless you just want to be dirty and die of something gross. Oh! I almost forgot you can brush your teeth with baking soda. It dose as good a job as tooth paste with no smell (you can use soda to “boil out” your rifle too, but that’s a different story)

    • Max Velocity says:

      No one’s trying to be tough and macho. Bottom line is that infantry work in the boonies is dirty and nasty. Don’t overstress it.

      As part of your admin routine in your patrol base you should be powdering your feet/crotch and changing socks (even to ‘dirty’ dry(er) ones. With wet wipes (or if you run out, tissue and water even – there are also multiple ‘waterless soap’ products that you can buy, usually in clothing sales on a base) you should be hitting the hot spots: feet, crutch, butt, armpits. The rest can wait.

      It is common to go ‘dirty patrol’ in the jungle where you don’t wash or clean teeth or anything for weeks. Smell – yes you will, but I mean preventing detection by it.

      If you are a more secure location then you can heat up water to wash with soap. I use such examples in the base in Patriot Dawn. If you can rig up showers, do it. You only need a solar shower and if it is cold you just heat up water to put in the solar shower bag. In any kind of temporary style FOB it is usual to have at least a place with washbowls and a supply of hot water. Big .mil has mobile shower units, but these are for use when ‘coming off the line’ not every day.

      Suck it up buttercup 😉

      Water only needs to be brought to the boil, if purifying by boiling, which may be your option when all your either means have run out, or to supplement those means, which you may save for when on patrol, such as ‘puri-tabs’.

      • Submariner says:

        When properly taking a dump over a cat hole or straddle trench, does one remove one foot/leg from one trouser leg or leave trousers on?

        • Max Velocity says:

          Personal preference, but I’ve only ever seen it done (yes, I’ve seen it done!) keeping boots and pants on. Just like at home. Just don’t shit in your pants and pull them back up!

  9. Ray says:

    For my self I try to train for “grid down” “No resupply”. I know that is “worst case” but it gets my mind right for “do without” and I-A-O. This winter I have been training with the .303 and the 1903. This is so that I have no nasty “unknowns” that I could have trained for. Its the same mindset I have for “Boiling Up” and hygiene, “train for the worst”. I knapp flints , build fire with F&S and fire bows , make my own bows and arrows and my own clothing and shoes(and soaps). The longest I have ever stayed in the bush “solo” was 108 days but for almost 40 years I have done at least one weeks training every summer and one week every winter (as an aside; One of my favorite things to do before cancer was hunt hogs with a boar spear or my flintlock) As I approach 60 I realize that I’ll never be the 11B I was in AIT in 1976, but I’ll bet a shinny penny I know more about living in the woods and sneaking up on things than most.