Backcountry Breakouts? 3 Simple Steps To Care for Your Skin

Marek Bowers
How to Care for Skin Backpacking Skincare Hiking GGG Garage Grown Gear

Editor’s note:
we’re thrilled to share this guest post from Marek, creator of Rawlogy cork massage balls, the ultimate way to relieve tired feet and sore muscles. Ever innovating, Marek recently expanded to include hiker-friendly skin and bodycare products. Also, be sure to subscribe to Marek’s excellent substack, the DailySelf.

Prefer to hear the recording? (7-min listen)

The first time I attended PCT Days, I showed up with pimples and cystic acne all over my face. I was super self-conscious about how bad my skin looked and embarrassed to meet new people. Especially since I was representing my tiny start-up, Rawlogy. And I wasn’t 18… I was 38.

I never thought I’d have acne as an adult. My skin was very clear when I was young—even as a teenager—but things went downhill in my 30s when I started weekly injections of Testosterone. The hormone changed my skin chemistry, which led to frequent breakouts, especially when I was physically active, traveling, or stressed.

How to Care for Skin Backpacking Skincare Hiking GGG Garage Grown Gear

Me teaching a roll-out workshop at Fjallraven Portland before PCT Days in 2019

The week before PCT Days, I had wrapped up an ultralight
alpine climb of Bear Creek Spire (a stunning 13,713 ft peak in the California High Sierra). It was a one-night backpacking trip, sandwiched between two nights of car camping. Over 24 hours, I hiked 12 miles with 3,500 feet of elevation gain, trad climbed 800 vertical feet, and panicked about falling off a sheer rock face and dying.

✔ Physically active

✔ Traveling

✔ Stressed

Equals 100% chance of an epic breakout coming in hot. Sure enough, my face erupted shortly thereafter and looked like shit.


How to Care for Skin Backpacking Skincare Hiking GGG Garage Grown Gear

Me on top of Bear Creek Spire, exhausted and creating perfect conditions for a massive breakout

Despite all that, I continued my highly ineffective home skincare routine of scrubbing my face with Dial bar soap and moisturizing with lotion from a Hampton Inn. I also didn’t change up my standard backpacking regimen of spraying my face with Banana Boat sunscreen and wiping the sweat off at night with a damp rag that I also used as a napkin.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my skin, it’s that I dismissed the idea of using cleansers, moisturizers, serums, toners, and sunscreens as “extra” and “fancy.” I was also holding out hope that my skin issues would resolve naturally over time. Well, they didn’t, and I ended up having another epic breakout on a trip to the Grand Canyon with my sister, Jessie.

On this fateful trip, Jessie subtly said to me, “Would you like some skincare advice? You look like you need it.” 😳

How to Care for Skin Backpacking Skincare Hiking GGG Garage Grown Gear
At least she’s honest


She was right, though… I did. As it turns out, Jessie had her own skincare challenges as a woman in her early 30s dealing with work stressors (she’s a physician) and hormonal changes. But, she did her own research and created morning and evening rituals using simple (yet high quality) over-the-counter facial products. My sister taught me how to effectively apply these products to my skin, which—after just two weeks—showed drastic improvement.

After four weeks, I looked like a completely different person (no cystic acne, no whiteheads, no dry skin). And, it wasn’t just my face—I also held my head up higher, stood up straighter, and had much more confidence when speaking to others face-to-face. Even the Physician’s Assistant who does my Botox said my face was glowing.

How to Care for Skin Backpacking Skincare Hiking GGG Garage Grown Gear
Confidence 🚀


Certainly, there are many hikers out there whose skin actually appears healthier after time spent in the backcountry – no extra care needed. But if you are not one of those hikers, and do find yourself wanting tips for low-maintenance skincare on trail, check out my scaled-down 3-step backcountry regimen:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Moisturize
  3. Protect

(1) Cleanse

After you wake up and before you go to sleep (yes, TWICE per day), clean your face with a facial cleanser. Really, it’s that simple! Washing your face twice a day, in the morning and at night, is essential for removing excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells, as well as preparing your skin for moisturizer and sunscreen in the AM.

  • Use micellar water wipes for easy cleansing without any other water or rinsing involved. Micellar water contains tiny particles called "micelles" that dissolve dirt and oil.
  • Just remember to pack out the used wipes.

You can also use liquid micellar water (my favorite is rose-scented… it smells like a spa day) or a natural facial cleanser repackaged in a travel-friendly bottle or small mister. Use these liquid cleansers with a clean washcloth and be sure to follow backcountry ethics when it comes to gray water handling.

NOTE: While you can use Dr. Bronner's soap as an all-body soap, I don’t recommend it for the delicate skin on your face. It's highly concentrated and may irritate or dry out your skin. Instead, use a gentle facial cleanser to avoid stripping your natural oils and causing irritation.

How to Care for Skin Backpacking Skincare Hiking GGG Garage Grown Gear

(2) Moisturize

Moisturizing is key to keeping your skin healthy and protecting the outermost barrier by adding lipids back into it after removing oil and grime. This prevents cracking, infections, and premature wrinkles.

I prefer a light facial moisturizer or a very light body moisturizer without SPF so that I can apply my sunscreen separately and have more control over the protection factor and ingredients. Plus, I can use the same lightweight moisturizer for both morning and nighttime. I buy a regular-sized bottle (both economical and more eco-friendly) and store a travel-friendly amount in a Matador FlatPak.

(3) Protect

Wearing sunscreen is crucial for maintaining healthy skin and preventing long-term skin damage. Personally, I prefer mineral sunscreens (with Zinc Oxide as the active ingredient) over chemical sunscreens because they offer superior protection against the sun's harmful UV rays while being environmentally friendly.

Mineral sunscreens tend to leave behind a white cast, so tinted mineral facial sunscreen is a great option to consider. When shopping for sunscreen, aim for SPF 30 or higher to ensure adequate coverage from harmful rays. Additionally, select a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. 

How to Care for Skin Backpacking Skincare Hiking GGG Garage Grown Gear

Find the tinted shade that’s right for you 📸 @subtledream


Remember, we’re all unique. My basic, scaled-down backcountry regimen of cleanse, moisturize, and protect works GREAT for me, but ultimately, you need to do what’s best for your skin and style. Your dermatologist is the best person to talk to about chronic skin conditions and issues.

If you have questions or feedback about the techniques or products shared in this article, please drop a comment–I’m here to help!

Marek Bowers writes Daily Self, the most important newsletter you’ll ever read about your “self” (and one of the fastest-growing Health & Wellness newsletters on Substack). As the founder of Rawlogy, you’ve probably seen his balls.

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