Hiking 101: How to Prevent Chafing While Hiking

Chafing: Hiker finishing a long trail in the evening with chafed legs

In this post, we'll take a look at:

If you’re into hiking, you’ve likely encountered the discomfort of chafing—a common skin issue triggered by a combination of friction, moisture, and irritating fabric.

In this post, we’ll discuss what it is, ways to prevent it, and what to do if it has already occurred. Let’s get started.

Understanding Chafing: Tips for Prevention

Chafing Explained

Chafing is pretty common for people who do activities like hiking or running because our bodies move a lot during those activities, and that movement can lead to skin rubbing against skin or clothing.

Additionally, if you’re planning a hike in the near future, consider skipping shaving. Hair tends to reduce the risk of chafing, and shaving can irritate the skin, making it more susceptible to chafing.

Chafing is a small problem that can turn into a big one if we ignore it. Let’s have a look how we can prevent it.

Prevent Chafing by Choosing the Right Clothing & Gear

Choosing the right clothing and gear for hiking, like selecting the right shoes for a sport, can help prevent chafing. Here are some tips for hiking success:

  • Perfect Fit: Just like shoes, your hiking clothes and gear should fit well. Anything too loose or too tight can cause rubbing and chafing.
  • Fabric Matters: Choose synthetic fabrics that draw moisture away from your skin. Avoid cotton, as it can become wet and exacerbate chafing, particularly in underwear. Check out our post on hiking underwear for more details.
  • Layer Up: When it’s cold, layer your clothing instead of wearing one thick piece. It helps control your body temperature and reduces sweating.
  • Spandex Help: Combat inner thigh chafing by wearing spandex tights under your hiking shorts or pants. While specialized thigh protection products are available, regular compression pants can also be effective. Opt for shorter ones if you’re hiking in warm weather.
  • Backpack Fit: Make sure your backpack fits well and has padding where needed. An uncomfortable backpack can lead to chafing on your shoulders, back, or waist.

Prevent Chafing by Using Lubrication and Protection

Now, let’s talk about how to protect your skin from chafing while hiking:

  • Apply Lubrication or Anti-Chafing Sticks: These products act as a shield for your skin, reducing friction and preventing irritation. Before your hike, apply them to areas prone to chafing to create a protective barrier. If you find gel-like lubrications uncomfortable, you can choose anti-chafing sticks—pick what suits you best. Look for a product that lasts around 8-10 hours, even in the rain. Many people favor Gold Bond products.
  • Shield Your Nipples: If you face nipple chafing, think about wearing a sports bra or using bandages for extra protection. Even as a male, I’ve encountered nipple chafing, especially with new sports shirts. In my experience, regular bandages do the job, but there are specialized products too. Just steer clear of the cheapest ones, as they may not stick well.

Emergency Substitutes: Forgot your anti-chafing products? Aloe vera gel, coconut oil, or olive oil can serve as backups, although specialized products are more effective.

Prevent Chafing by Staying Dry on the Trail

Imagine hiking, enjoying yourself, but as you sweat and your clothes cling to your skin, chafing becomes a concern. Here’s how to stay dry and prevent it:

  • The Sweat Dilemma:
    • When you hike, sweat helps cool your body. However, if it stays trapped in your clothes, it can lead to chafing. To prevent this, aim to keep your skin dry during your hike.
    • Opt for clothing made from breathable fabrics to allow moisture (sweat) to evaporate quickly, keeping your skin drier. Think of it as having a built-in air conditioner for your body. Avoid using cotton clothing.

What to Do If Chafing Occurs

Chafing: A close-up of hiker's chafed feet while going up a desert trail

Okay, so you’re on your hike, and despite all your efforts, chafing happens. It’s not the end of the world, but you’ll want to take care of it to keep enjoying your hike.

Here’s what to do if chafing becomes a problem:

  • Reduce the Rubbing: If chafing occurs on your hike, reduce rubbing by drying the area and applying a skin treatment lubricant. Changing into less abrasive clothing can also help.
  • Take a Shower: When you get to a place where you can clean up, take a shower as soon as possible. Use lukewarm water and gentle soap to clean the chafed area. It might sting a bit, but it’s necessary to prevent infection.
  • Ease the Discomfort: At camp, treat chafing like you would a minor burn. To prevent further rubbing, loosely cover the area with nonstick gauze or a clean, soft cloth. This can help reduce pain and allow your skin to heal.
  • Apply a Large Bandage: During a multi-day hike when you need to continue the next morning and chafing is severe, use a large bandage to act as a second skin. However, once you’re finished, remove it, as the wound needs to breathe for proper healing.
  • See a Doctor if Needed: For severe chafing that’s extremely painful, swollen, or bloody, it’s a good idea to check in with a doctor. They can provide guidance and ensure it’s not a more serious issue.

So, if chafing tries to put a damper on your hike, remember these steps. With a little care and attention, you can get back to enjoying the great outdoors in no time.


If you love hiking, you’ve probably experienced the discomfort of chafing. It’s that annoying irritation caused by friction while you’re out exploring nature.

In this post, we’ve provided tips to tackle chafing and enhance the enjoyment of your hiking trips. Utilizing the right gear and clothing, along with effective anti-chafing products, and emphasizing staying dry, will help you prevent chafing and keep enjoying your hikes.

Next time you hit the trail, keep these tips in mind, and be sure to steer clear of cotton clothing at all costs. Happy hiking!


How do men prevent chafing in groin area hiking?

To prevent chafing in the groin area while hiking, men can take several measures. First, selecting moisture-wicking, snug-fitting underwear can help reduce friction. Some may opt for compression shorts to provide added protection. Applying a skin lubricant or anti-chafing product to the inner thighs and groin area before the hike creates a protective barrier. Additionally, choosing well-fitted hiking shorts or pants without rough seams in these areas can significantly minimize chafing. Staying dry by wearing moisture-wicking clothing and considering breathable fabrics also plays a crucial role in chafing prevention.

Does baby powder stop chafing?

Baby powder can provide some relief from chafing, but its effectiveness varies. It’s primarily designed to absorb moisture, which can help reduce friction and chafing in certain situations. However, for more strenuous activities like hiking or running, specialized anti-chafing products may offer better protection. These products often contain ingredients that not only absorb moisture but also create a protective barrier on the skin. So, while baby powder may help with mild chafing, individuals engaging in more intense activities might benefit from dedicated anti-chafing products for better prevention.

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