Homelessness Part 3 (Or All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go) – revisited

In Part 3 of Vanessa’s five-part series she discusses clothing needs.  This post was originally on Planet Thrive.

This is part three of a four-part series on homelessness.  The previous versions covered topics on shelter and security (part 1) and food, water and hygiene (part 2).

However, I had forgotten to describe how to dig a latrine/cat hole/pit toilet.  If you are eating right now, I recommend coming back later to read this.  First, I strongly recommend getting an army surplus folding shovel that has both a shovel and a pick (also known as a trenching tool).  The pick cuts through rocky soil, saving the shovel from being bent.  These are also fairly cheap on eBay (don’t get suckered into buying “Official Marine” shovels for $25 and up.  Yes, these are of great quality, but my experience has been that a $10 one does just fine and I am not expecting any insurgent attacks in my camp (but then again stranger things have happened).  Make sure you get one that is steel, not some other metal or alloy.  I bought a cheap one made of pig iron from China and the shovel broke only after three uses.  All components must be metal otherwise they will break or jam if they are plastic.  You can also opt for a metal hand trowel that is sold in virtually every sporting goods, outdoors store as well as the big box stores.  They are small folding trowels that are good for digging small “cat holes” when you can’t dig a larger waste pit (mine is called “U-Diggit” and it metal).

The standard depth of a latrine, etc. is 6 to 8 inches deep.  In the woods and mountains or any place where the soil is rich with decaying plant material you can get by with digging a 4 inch deep hole.  This is soil rich in microorganisms that will break down the waste efficiently.  Be sure to cover the hole with plenty of dirt and plant material so that it can’t be seen or stepped in.  Yes, I have stepped into someone’s disgusting poo where they just crapped on the ground and left it there.  A side note, Arizona was the worst for people just leaving their waste on the ground and not burying it.  Really, out of all the states I have travelled, Arizona has the horrible distinction of having people with the worst hygiene and outdoor etiquette.  The desert or arid areas are a different story.  The sand and rocks are lacking enough microorganisms to properly break down waste.  It is not recommended that you cover your waste with just rocks above ground because it will become a petrified turd and dried out toilet paper for some hapless individual to find while picking up rocks for a fire pit or tent site.  But there’s always a chance the animals will eat it, but not likely.  If you absolutely have to do this because the ground is too rocky to dig a deep hole, then dig a shallow one, place dirt over it and whatever vegetation is around and then top it off with rocks.  The decaying vegetation will help in the decomposition of the waste.

In some areas of the desert you are required to pack out your toilet paper, but can leave the solid waste behind (pun intended) so long as it is properly buried.  In the desert you may have to dig up to 10 inches to ensure the elements will not uncover your waste (i.e. sand).  However, in some national parks, national forests, BLM, you are required to pack out all of it.  Yes, you will have to poo in a bag.  Gross, but necessary.  Outdoor stores do carry solid waste bags (There are “Biobags” made of biodegradable material for handling waste, see http://www.biobagusa.com/ .  Backpackers who plan on going to these areas use these.  They are durable, but some are scented.  You can always opt for a garbage bag, but I recommend double bagging the waste so that it does not leak.  Baking soda or clay kitty litter can also be added to keep the stench down.  That’s the basics for pooping in the woods or desert.

Now, onto clothing!

Clothing:  This is another “to each his/her own” situation since people with MCS tend to have different sensitivities to various fabrics and materials.  There is a wealth of information on Planet Thrive regarding material choices and ways to mitigate/treat the fabrics to make them tolerable.  No need to rehash all that here, so I will simply list what I use and hopefully this will be of some help.

Most of my summer clothing is cotton.  Not organic cotton, just plain old shirts from some of the stores like Walmart, Shopko, etc.  Some are easy to clean and get prepped for use, others sometimes are trash.  It’s a crap shoot.  Why am I not buying organic fabrics?  Quite simply, cost.  I do not have the money to shop stores (both online and in store) that sell organic or exotic types of fabric (i.e. hemp, bamboo, etc).  I can afford a $4.00 shirt, not a $11.00 to $25 one.

I do tolerate some synthetics like nylon, polyester/nylon blends, cotton/spandex blends and some sport blends (usually wool/polyester or other wool blends).  I do not tolerate rayon and acrylics.  After becoming injured I put a top on that was my favorite top and started itching horribly with my face turning red.  I pulled it off and checked and it turned out to be 100% rayon.  Later, after the reaction subsided, I tried a different top that was also 100% rayon and the same reaction happened.   So I purged my wardrobe of all rayon or rayon blends as well as acrylic (mostly sweaters).

Living outdoors all the time you need to strike a balance.  Synthetics are great because they retain their warmth even when wet and can be layered with cotton for good breathability during the winter.  Wool is great too, but you need to get the “fisherman’s sweater” that still has high lanolin content to get a naturally water proof sweater.  This is not recommended if you have sensitivities to lanolin.  Other wools are good too, but I love my sweater because the water beads up and runs off without soaking the fabric (or me).  These are expensive, but it is an investment to keep well during freezing cold weather.  I have had mine since about 1995(?), before being injured.  This sweater was from Eddie Bauer.

The stores I shop for outdoor clothing are:  Cabelas, Sierra Trading Post, Campmor and Amazon.  I do not recommend getting clothes from eBay because people will saturate the clothes in either Febreeze or fabric softener instead of washing them which renders them toxic and not salvageable.  One pair of jeans I bought (cheap) were so bad I literally threw them outside on the ground.  I could not touch them.  I soaked them in white vinegar and water for three months and a weird yellow substance kept coming out of them.  Never again.

Basically for summer you need light clothing that can be layered in the evening.  Light fabric as well as light-colored long sleeve shirts are a must for sun protection as well as light weight shorts and pants.  From the mountains to the deserts the weather can turn very fast and temperatures can drop 30-40 degrees in a matter of hours.  Have sweatshirts, wind proof jackets and hats available at all times so you can start adding layers as the weather cools.

I have an alpaca wool sweater that is very warm for its weight.  In addition to the sweater, I have alpaca wool socks and leg warmers.  I have found that alpaca is very warm and light weight.  I wear the socks at night in the winter to keep my feet warm and add the leg warmers when it gets below 20 degrees.

Here’s a short list of what’s in my wardrobe:

* Several short-sleeved cotton shirts

* A couple of light weight/light colored long sleeve shirts that are polyester or a blend of polyester.

* Several pairs of shorts from cotton to polyester.

* Several wool blend socks (Smartwool, but Sierra Trading Post has some great deals from time to time

on other companies wool blend socks)

* A couple of alpaca wool socks and leg warmers

* Several turtle necks, cotton/polyester blend

* One padded compression bra (by Champion).  This is great on the chilly nights to keep you chest


* Several pairs of long john tops and bottoms.  I use 100% silk which is the lightest and can be easily

worn under clothing.  I have one pair of medium weight from CuddleDuds (nylon/polyester blend).

Two expedition weight (heavy material) to wear under my fleece leggings I sleep in.

* Three wool sweaters of different blends.  Two 100% wool and one 100% alpaca.

* A pair of fleece leggings (outer wear) for sleeping in.

* Three cotton hoodies (for layering).

* Several pairs of jeans, cotton/spandex blend.

One final thought on clothing, if you are a woman buy men’s outerwear or t-shirts whenever you can.  It is usually of heavier material and is cut to allow more freedom of movement.  Don’t ask me why some women’s clothing is cut so snug with such flimsy material that it’s virtually useless.  I have gotten some great deals on men’s sweatshirts and hoodies that were far more superior than the women’s equivalent and much cheaper (Cabela’s is a good one for this as well as Amazon.com and HanesOnePlace,  http://www.onehanesplace.com/ ).

This is getting lengthy, so I will stop here and discuss Survival Gear and First aid in the fourth (and hopefully final) installment.

I asked Vanessa for another photo to include with this post.  She chose the Mountain Death Camas due to its beautiful design and deadly poison.  As the name implies, its poison is equivalent to strychnine poison. 



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