The Best Tips and Tricks for Any Dirtbag (or Wannabe Dirtbag)

                Maybe you have a 9 to 5 and shower every day and regularly use toilet paper – but you don’t always have to! Or maybe you’re 100% dirtbag, looking how you can get deeper into your lifestyle. Here are some tips and tricks for whatever level of dirtbag you are to make you even more of a dirtbag.


By Cherie Yanek

Maybe you have a 9 to 5 and shower every day and regularly use toilet paper – but you don’t always have to! Or maybe you’re 100% dirtbag, looking how you can get deeper into your lifestyle. Here are some tips and tricks for whatever level of dirtbag you are to make you even more of a dirtbag.


Toilet Tips: Because We All Have to Go

  • Always have a poop trowel with you, like Seth Longacre. No one wants to see your poop.
  • Hotels and grocery stores almost always have public (for their guests) bathrooms. Act like you belong and no one will question you.
  • Those little packs of tissues last longer in your packs/pockets than regular TP, and one tissue usually does all the work (unless you have a major problem).
  • Really stuck without TP and have to poop? BJ Bruder recommends cutting/ripping off your shirt sleeves. His brother-in-law repeatedly used this trick to turn all of his t-shirts one summer into muscle shirts, earning the nickname “shitsleeves.”
  • It’s a bit nicer to carry your TP out – or better use, carry out comfy baby wipes. Try Jill Puleo’s “Poop Pack”


Showering/Keeping Clean

  • Pack baby wipes (face wipes are a luxurious addition), deodorant, scented lotion, and a change of clothes. I have successfully run 100 milers, covered myself in sweat and gunk and mud and probably pee, baby wiped the hell out of myself, lotioned myself up, added some deodorant, and hopped on a plane. I have even had people comment that I smell really nice! “Um, no, my hair isn’t wet from a shower….”
  • Stephanie Dar recommends signing up for a free trial membership at a gym or get a membership at one of those cheap national gyms to use their shower.
  • Bring a camping shower – fill up the bag, leave it in the back of your car in sunlight or on the roof of your car. If you’re in a pinch for a shower, this is a great way to quickly rinse off post-run. If you have a bike rack on the back of your car, you can hang it there easily and squat underneath for an easier shower. If you’re in the woods, you can find a tree branch, or if you have a friend, have them hold it above you as you clean up.
  • Leigh Scarber laughs at showers. Instead, essential oils are her jam. Just keep some in your car and put some on post-run so people don’t scrunch their nose when you come nearby. “Bonus points if you’re essential oils have patchouli in it – you will be a dirtbag magnet!” Her personal fave is Doterra’s In Tune Focus blend, and one roller has lasted her for three years.
  • Bronners can be used for everything, Seth Longacre and Chad Hinkle believe. (Personal opinion: I tried brushing my teeth with it once and it was like washing my mouth out with soap. I pack toothpaste instead or wait until later to properly brush my teeth. During 100s, I rub my clothing against my teeth to remove that layer of fuzz.)
  • Your shoes can go in a washing machine. And they should when they smell like swamp. Take out the inner soles, and loosen the laces if you remember. (I’ve done it with clothes in the machine at the same time and it’s been fine.)
  • Your tent can also go in a washing machine, but go to the laundromat for their giant ones, advises Seth Longacre. (You should take the poles out first or they won’t fit.)
  • If you accidentally run through a bunch of poison ivy or poison oak, wash yourself as soon as you can with soap and cold water. (I once took a bath in the sink of a grocery store that happened to be not too far off a trail.) Also, clean your clothing that you were wearing (including shoes) so you don’t spread it later.
  • If there’s a nearby stream and you’re hanging out for a bit, leave your socks with a rock in one of the toes or a sports bra with a rock shoved into the liner, and let the creek giving it a good rinsing, like Jenny Dalimata does. (Maybe don’t do this with super fast-moving water.)
  • When Michelle Evans backpacks in the summer, she skips the tent and uses a bug net, or just sleeps under the stars. She’s found that in cooler temps, a square down sleeping bag can be fashioned into a two-person quilt by sewing recycled thrift store silk scarves on the edges, then tucking them under the sleeping mat. This saves on weight from two bags, and is warmer with added body heat. Let’s snuggle!


Tyler Clemens & Cat Bradley – Photo by Molly Nugent


  • Crista Tappan keeps a bin full of provisions in the back of her vehicle. She stocks it with a portable stove, gas, cooking utensils, canned goods, coffee maker and coffee, and odds and ends. It makes a huge difference.
  • Chad Hinkle has found that a white gas stove will save on fuel costs and waste.
  • Carry PBR, wine, and chocolate on you at all times. Bobbi Sawchyn has discovered it’s a great way to bond with new dirtbag friends.
  • Apparently, Niki Passion discovered the dollar hamburgers that McDonald’s has never expire. So shove a few in your pack and twelve hours later, dinner.
  • Glacier lily blooms are a great trail snack, according to Jenny Dalimata.
  • In blueberry season time, go on a trail run where there are wild blueberry bushes. They’re a great way to add calories and hydration, and so much tastier than anything you will ever buy from the grocery store.
  • Jenny Dalimata buys a bag of Fritos or tortilla chips from a convenience store, and adds whatever is available and free for hot dogs (chili, cheese, peppers, pickles, whatever). Instant meal!
  • If you look like you belong, no one will question you. Jenny Dalimata has scored some free continental breakfasts at hotels this way.


  • No handheld but want to run with water? No problem. Simply grab a roll of duct tape, and fashion your own strap using multiple layers of tape (Make sure you don’t leave any sticky side exposed to your skin.). I know sub-elite ultrarunners who never buy handhelds, but simply make a new strap whenever they have a new bottle.
  • Hydration is important. Bring a squeeze top bottle of water with you into a shower (whenever that happens…) to make sure your inside is getting as wet as your outside. What else are you going to do while the shampoo is rinsing out of your hair?
  • Stephanie Dar always refills water at rest areas. They always have potable water that you can refill bottles with.



  • Cut the toe end of knee socks out, and bam, cheap arm warmers, says Michelle Evans.
  • You can also do the same with tights, and have a bit more stretch, and even easily cut a thumb hole.
  • Your running clothes stink. If you want them to not stink, add vinegar or baking soda (not both) to the machine with regular detergent, or use a sports detergent (I like WIN.). Oh, and be sure to wash running clothes separately from your non-running clothes or next time you grab a towel, you’ll get a whiff of that lovely running stank.
  • A buff can be so many things – headband, ear warmer, neck warmer, great over the mouth and nose when it’s cold, even toilet paper!



  • Always check net – Bobbi Sawchyn has found it to be a savior for finding free places to camp.
  • Chad Hinkle has found a piece of Tyvek can serve as a great ground cover if you are sleeping outside without a tent. Michelle Evans points out an emergency blanket can do the same.
  • Most Wal-Marts let you sleep overnight for free (and you can use their bathrooms in the morning!), points out Bobbi Sawchyn.
  • Don’t forget to pack a sleep mask – they’re essential, free on most red eye flights, and help block parking lot light out of your eyes.
  • Look for hot springs. Jenny Dalimata notices that there is usually free camping nearby.
  • Need a pillow? Blow up that empty bag of wine (or your hydration bladder) and it serves as a nice pillow, share BJ Brudy and Michelle Evans.
  • Don’t have a tent? Jenny Dalimata sleeps under a tree – it keeps the dew off.
  • And the tip that wins my heart: If you’re trying to sleep in an urban area and your car is too crammed full for you to comfortably sleep in, try Jenny Dalimata’s trick. Wrap yourself in a tarp and crawl into a ditch, and people will think you are an old piece of trash and no one will bother you.



  • When trying to hitchhike, make an effort, says Jenny Dalimata. Stand up straight and smile. If you get really good luck, someone will take you home, feed you, and let you use their shower. Always take out the trash or wash their dishes to thank them.
  • Put a Ziploc bag around your phone, even if rain is not expected. I once fell off a cliff and destroyed a phone this way when I fell into a river.
  • Don’t forget a first aid kit. It’s up to you what you bring, but Band-Aids, anti-diarrhea medicine, anti-chafe cream, and Tylenol are in mine. You can parse it to the barest essentials and put in a Ziploc bag.
  • Never underestimate the warmth of a heat sheet. Fold it carefully and keep it tucked into your pack at all times. You never know when you’ll need it…and it can save your life.
  • Give back and volunteer at races. It’s fun and can get you free or discounted entry to a future race! Plus, you can finally eat M&Ms without having to run 50 miles. Score!
  • Hold your head up high and don’t be ashamed of who you are. Even if you’re in a dumpster, diving for some tasty treats like Jenny Dalimata, remember, we are proud to be dirtbags.


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