How to Prevent and Cure Butt Chafing on a Backpacking Trip


Miles away from civilization you start to feel the tell-tale signs of monkey butt(aka diaper rash or butt chafing). Butt chafing comes on quickly. Before you know it your butts red, tender, swollen and downright painful.

On a hike, there’s no worse feeling than chafing between your thighs and butt cheeks. I’ve had broken bones that hurt less than a bad case of monkey butt. It’s absolute agony and gets worse as the day goes by. With every step you take it gets worse and worse.

You don’t have to suffer in silence, waddling like a wounded duck. Here are some trail-tested cheap and easy ways to both prevent and cure butt chafing.

How to: Cure Monkey Butt on a Hike

Sometimes you just can’t stop butt and thigh chafing. Everywhere you read says that prevention is key, but if you’re reading this it probably means you have a nasty case of diaper rash.

I’m not fat, but I’ve always been a little on the heavy side. Since I’m a little bit overweight(need to lose 20-30lbs) I chafe bad between my legs. I’ve tried every cream, powder, and gel that I could get my hands on. Nothing works better than old fashioned Zinc Oxide cream(Specifically Desitin Brand).

Zinc Oxide Cream Treats Almost Any Rash

Do yourself a favor and buy the big ol’ tub of Desitin(1lb tub should last for years). Rub it between your thighs/cheeks before heading out on the trail, and carry a small 1/2oz-3oz travel size tube to keep your pack.

This stuff is seriously worth its weight in gold when you have a nasty rash. Just put a pea-sized amount on your finger and rub it in. The only downside is you’ll be left with white cream all over your fingers(everyone knows your business).

Check out my post on all the different Zinc Oxide Uses on a hike

Common Zinc Oxide Uses

  • Anti-Chafing(Diaper Rash)
  • Poison Ivy/Oak Treatment
  • Unscented Sunscreen
  • Deodorant
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunburn, Rash, Allergy, and Abrasion Relief
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Fire Starter

Prevent Butt Chafing Before Hike

If you’re like me and suffered through chaffing in the past you’re probably looking for a way to prevent it before the pain starts.

To prevent chafing you need to lubricate your skin, reduce moisture(change underwear), practice good trail hygiene and let your backside breathe. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done if you don’t know where to start.

Choose Quality Hiking Underwear(Avoid 100% Cotton)

Choosing the right underwear is the most important step when trying to prevent butt and thigh chafing. You need to find underwear that reduces sweat without causing the dreaded swamp-butt.

Your first step is to avoid loose cotton underwear. Pay special attention to the word loose. If you wear loose boxer shorts they will rub. There’s no avoiding it. Find a pair of compression style workout underwear designed to wick away moisture.

Personally, I like to wear the Hane’s Long Leg Boxer Briefs (don’t get the cotton ones). These are the same boxer briefs that I like to wear to the gym. The long leg keeps them from slipping, protects your inner thighs and since it’s a synthetic blend you don’t have to worry about moisture.

Synthetic Blend Boxer Briefs

Unlike cotton synthetic blends help reduce sweat and moisture buildup. Cotton absorbs your sweat as you hike and causes most friction issues. Plus the seams tend to scrunch up between your legs causing hot spots.

Not every synthetic blend is the same. There’s a fine line between comfort and moisture reduction. Most of the so-called backpacking experts recommend pure synthetic blends of spandex, polyester and nylon.

Workout compression shorts are a good place to start looking. Nike and Under Armour compression shorts are great, but they’re expensive. I really like the off-brand Neleus compression shorts. They were like 1/3 of the price of my Old School Nike Pro Combats and I can’t tell the difference.

On really hot days I prefer a little bit of cotton in my boxer briefs. Synthetic/cotton blends offer excellent moisture-wicking properties while allowing your crotch to breathe. When it’s like 90 degrees I’m going to sweat regardless of my underwear so I might as well be comfortable. That’s why I have other methods to protect me from chafing.

Lube Up Your Skin With Body-Glide

Hikers have been pre-treating their skin with lubricants for decades. I’m a huge fan of body-glide brand anti-chafe balm. It’s basically a deodorant stick for your butt crack and it’s so worth the price. It’s a blend of zinc-oxid and deodorant so it will definitely work.

Just make sure you apply it before the chafing starts to set in. Once you rub your skin raw this stuff burns like crazy. Other backpackers use vaseline, but it leaves you greasy and I’ve had mixed results.

Use Zinc-Oxide Based Butt Creams

Once the chafe sets in, the only real cure is Zinc-Oxide based treatments. It’s the same cure your parents used while you were a child. Zinc Oxide has worked for decades on babies bums so it will definitely work on yours. It’s the active ingredient in every single diaper rash cream.

Best Anti-Chafing Creams

All of these creams are extremely effective. The consistencies are a little bit different, but I prefer Desitin(it’s worked for ages). Regardless of which one you choose, it’s extremely effective, immediately soothing raw areas.

Throw on a little bit before heading to bed and you’ll be healed overnight. Just carry around a little travel size tube. A little bit goes a long way.

Stay Clean

It should be common sense, but trailside hygiene is extremely important. Wipe down your sweat at night, throw on clean clothes before bed and set your clothes out to dry. Make sure you bring a few pairs of clean underwear and extra shirts.

Wash Your Butt After Pooping

Try to wash out your butthole after using the bathroom. Toss a pouch of baby wipes into your pack and clean thoroughly. Dried up poo and leftover toilet paper is both nasty and will seriously rub your skin.

Once thoroughly clean reapply your zinc-oxide cream and make sure everything is dry. Prevention is key to keeping your butt chafe-free!

Wear Light and Breezy Clothing

In 90 degree weather, it’s almost impossible to stop sweating. Stick to synthetic fabrics that offer plenty of ventilation. Long Sleeve button-down hiking shirts will keep you cool and reduce moisture.

If you’re wearing a pack in the summer you’re going to sweat. There’s no way to avoid it. Tuck in your shirt and all that sweat will drip down into your crack and soak your underwear. Leave it untucked, your pants will get wet instead of your underwear.

Ventilated backpacks will also help reduce back sweat. Look for packs that have a mesh back to allow extra ventilation. Make sure your pack is tightened and hip belt’s secure.

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