When picking the single best hygiene wipe for emergency preparedness supplies, we wanted something that worked great both on your shelf at home and in your bug out bag. Clean Trek Towels checked those boxes and were the original winner of this review — but their manufacturer, Hunters Specialties, decided to pull them off the market in 2019.
Great for home supplies:
Combat Wipes Active
We’ve been testing new products not included in the original review, and although we’ll update this post later with more details, in the meantime we suggest picking up the Combat Wipes Active packs for your bulk supplies at around $8 for a single pack of 25 sheets. At 7″ x 8″, the sheets are smaller than we would prefer, requiring 2-4 sheets to properly wash an adult. We did notice some of the annoying edge curling that was a common negative found across many wipes in this test. But they did a fine job cleaning, held up better against rough areas, have decent packaging, and are well reviewed by many happy outdoor customers. Although not flushable, Combat Wipes are 100% biodegradable. They offer a “combat” version of the wipe, which is just a black material and not worth any extra cost.
Great for bags:
Goodwipes Body Wipes
We ended up really enjoying the individually wrapped wipes. They give you more flexibility, so you can choose how many to carry and can stick them in little gaps around your bag. The Goodwipes Body Wipes were surprisingly large and durable. The clean wasn’t quite as good as the larger options, like the CT Towel, but was still better than average across any size product.
- Why you should trust us
- Why you should buy hygiene wipes and how to store them
- How we picked and tested
- Best survival wet wipes: Clean Trek Towels
- Also great for bug out bags: GoodWipes
- Alternatives for ultra-compact and feminine wipes
Why you should trust us
We spent 16 hours researching and reviewing over 20 popular hygiene wipes. The top 12 were tested in the field during two camping trips and over a three week period at home by four different reviewers.
We bought and tested:
- Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes 12 pc.
- No Rinse Bathing Wipes 8 pc.
- Clean Trek Towels 12 pc.
- Clean Trek Body Wipes 24 pc.
- Archer Outdoor Gear Biodegradable Wipes 30 pc.
- Nathan Power Shower Wipes 15 pc.
- TrailBlazer Biodegradable Bamboo Outdoor Wipes 30 pc.
- Goodwipes Down There Wipes 50 pc.
- Goodwipes Body Wipes 10 pc.
- ShowerPill Athletic Body Wipe 10 pc.
- Coleman Biowipes 30 pc.
- Dead Down Wind Field Wash Cloths 20 pc.
Why you should buy hygiene wipes for survival kits
We have never seen a wet wipe that does as good of a job as water and soap. That’s why our prepping 101 checklist includes key items, such as Campsuds concentrated camp soap, which are great for cleaning your hands, body, and gear.
But it still makes sense to include wet wipes in your kits because you might find yourself in a situation where you can’t (or don’t want to) strip down and take a field shower. Maybe you don’t have access to water, or need to ration it only for drinking.
Hygiene wipes are pretty inexpensive and don’t take up much space or weight. You should have a separate pack of wipes for your home supplies, bug out bag, and get home bag.
As an added bonus, used wipes make excellent fire starters once they’ve dried out for a day. There’s not many other items you carry in a proper bug out bag that give you that extra bonus.
In a long term emergency longer than a week or two, it obviously becomes impractical to carry enough wipes. At that point you’ll have to rely on water and other methods.
On average, we received products with two years of shelf-life before the printed expiration date. Since they are a wet product that will dry out over time, it makes sense that you can’t leave these on a shelf for 10 years and expect them to work. But they’re cheap enough to update every few years in your annual prep review — just use the old pack on your next road trip.
How we picked and tested
Individual sheets vs bulk packages
Most wet wipes come in bulk packages, with 10-30 wipes inside one container. Others came individually wrapped in pouches about the size of a credit card or postcard.
You would assume that 10 individually wrapped sheets would take up more overall space than 10 wipes in a single package. But we found in practice that the individually wrapped sheets are usually bigger and more robust. You can clean more of yourself with just one sheet, which means a multi-pack of 30 sheets might be the same “space value” as 10 individually wrapped ones.
As we conducted these tests, all of the reviewers agreed that the individually wrapped wipes were very nice for bug out and get home bags. It’s easy and natural to fit them in all of the little space gaps and pockets that are hardly used anyway.
Plus, you can customize how many you want to carry or even use them for bartering. Like this scene in the movie Book of Eli where Denzel Washington trades individual KFC wet wipes:
Although not a huge deal, we preferred wipes that you could easily pull out one at a time. Many of the bulk packages fold one sheet into the other, like standard tissues, so that when you pull one out the next one is pulled along with it.
We find this annoying in the field because the convenience is not worth the hassle of a crumbled corner being pulled out that you have to push back in with your fingers, trying to get it to lay flat again so you can properly close the seal.
There are popular products that come in larger packages, holding 50 to 300 wipes. They are meant for sitting on a shelf next to a baby changing table or toilet, so we disqualified these when shopping because we felt portability is important.
Package design and durability
The biggest issue with the bulk packages is the resealable flap. The package has to be kept airtight so the wet wipes don’t dry out. When one package holds 10-50 wipes, that means there is a resealable flap that you open and close each time. Some are a hard plastic snap closure, like a Tupperware lid, but most are some kind of flexible plastic with a light adhesive or cling.
We thought the hard plastic snap closures might unintentionally flip open when tossed around in a bag full of gear. But we saw no issues after testing them in a full bug out bag and a full purse.
There was a wide variety in how manufacturers handled this part. The wipes that are marketed towards field use tended to have a more robust construction, with thicker plastic and hinge points, which made a big difference in how well they held up to abuse.
We thought about doing an over-exaggerated stress test on the flaps to force them to break, but we ended up not needing to — many of the seals ended up tearing just from normal use.
We would hold the package in one hand and open the flap with the other with normal force and speed. Tears would often happen towards the hinge at the top opening hole or along the side. Although some rips were clean enough where you could carefully put the flap back down and create an effective seal, for survival use we thought this was pretty unacceptable.
To test how durable the overall package was, we would manually crumple and twist the whole container. We also put each package inside a full bug out bag and shook it around a little bit, then remove it and dropped it from five feet onto hard ground.
A big bulky package that is soft and can be crushed is less ideal inside an emergency bag, especially with excess liquid inside the pouch that can leak out.
Wet wipe chemicals, scents, and environmental impact
Most wet wipes are pretty bad for the environment and sewer system. For example, they are one of the main causes of “fatbergs” that clog pipes.
But even for the most green-minded people, using a few wipes in a survival situation is an acceptable tradeoff. There are compostable and biodegradable options, but during testing they were usually less effective than the mainstream options.
Some wipes have an intentional fragrance added, while others can have more of a chemical smell as a result of their ingredients. In the end, we slightly preferred the products with either no scent or a subtle one.
Smell mostly comes down to personal choice — one of our testers would like a scent and another tester would dislike it, even if it was just from the cleaning chemicals.
We don’t have a strong opinion either way about whether a scent is valuable in a survival situation. While a nice subtle scent could help cover body odor, there is a lot of debate in the hunting community about what kinds of scents are preferable (if at all). So we’ll assume it’s not important in this context.
Many people are rightfully concerned about the chemicals in their skincare products. Repeatedly using alcohol on your skin can cause dryness, for example, yet alcohol is a very effective cleaner.
So, in a short-term survival situation, the few days or weeks of chemical exposure are not going to be an issue for the vast majority of people. Ignore the freak-out hysteria found on clickbait mommy-blogs warning about “wet wipes are killing your children!”
However, the Mayo Clinic released a study that a portion of people have severe reactions to methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), a chemical found in some wet toilet paper.
We paid attention to the chemicals used in each product, but MCI was the only chemical serious enough that we considered it in our recommendations. In a bit of irony, we found MCI in many of the products that are marketed to the eco-conscious crowd, like the Trailblazer biodegradable bamboo wipes.
The variety of ingredients used from one product to the next was a little surprising. Normally, every product in a category like this uses the same active ingredient. But these varied widely — perhaps each company’s way of trying to differentiate.
The wipes that cleaned the best usually had primary ingredients like Benzalkonium Chloride and PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate.
Some products promoted their lack of paraben, a very common preservative. After some research, it appears paraben is not a meaningful health risk for adults, so you can safely ignore that marketing.
Feminine hygiene and bathroom test
Unfortunately, our imperfect human meat-bags tend to need the most cleaning in the areas that are also the most sensitive. So it was important to test if these wipes were effective on every part of the body.
We thought about three scenarios: after defecating for men and women, after female urination, and during female menstruation.
There are products specifically marketed for toilet use, like the Goodwipes Down There flushable wipes. In the end, we didn’t see enough of a difference between “body” wipes and “genital” wipes to affect our recommendation for most people.
However, if you have medical needs (like a pH imbalance) or have the extra space in your home supplies storage, feel free to supplement the main body wipes with whatever works for you. There are reports of people having vaginal or anal reactions to wipes, particularly those with the chemical MCI.
After using each wipe in each scenario, we paid attention to any stinging or discomfort in addition to how well they worked. We didn’t find any difference in how well they worked compared to other parts of the body, but we did notice a difference in comfort between wipes.
Daily shower test
We did a practical test using an adult man and woman for three weeks to test how easy and effective each wipe was.
To keep things fair, we used one wipe per day at the same time, right before taking a normal shower with normal soap. Which meant each test was done after about 24 hours of normal build up with relatively consistent conditions. We excluded any days where we had an unusual amount of physical activity or dirtiness.
We tried to judge how well each wipe handled body odor. None of the wipes cleaned well enough where you would smell an armpit after and think “yeah, that smells clean!” — and some had no noticeable impact at all. Some of the failures were products that even had prominent marketing like “fights body odor!”
It’s clear that their primary value is to wipe away contamination like dirt and oil. Killing bacteria is a secondary bonus. On most parts of your body, that’s enough to feel and smell clean. But they’re not going to get you feeling and smelling as fresh as a proper shower, especially in those stinky armpit spots.
There was a noticeable difference in how well some sheets would move across skin. Some of the wipes would quickly fray or the edges would roll up in your hand as you moved, creating a balled bunch you had to stop and uncurl. Which was quite frustrating when trying to do a full body wipe down.
Beyond the normal use of wiping a sheet across your skin, we tested for sheet strength in two ways: using both hands to stretch a sheet until it broke, and cleaning off the bottoms of bare feet. The bare feet test was helpful because it’s important to take care of your feet and they are often some of the dirtiest body parts after a day in the field — yet they can be rough enough to tear up cheaper wipes and can be difficult to clean.
Size of the wipe and how much of your body it cleans
Wipes come in many different sizes. The ones we tested ranged from 6 x 6 up to 10 x 12 inches.
There was an interesting debate about whether it was better to use big or small wipes. Imagine there are two packages, one with 10 large wipes and the other with 30 small wipes. Let’s say that it takes one large wipe to clean your whole body and three small wipes to do the same. Which is better?
There are some potential “a la carte” advantages to smaller wipes, where you can use one just to wipe your hands and feet or clean the cooking utensils without wasting the rest. But in practice we found the larger sheets to be much better for a variety of reasons and did not find ourselves in many situations where we wished we had smaller sheets.
That said, it’s more important to measure “how many full body showers do I carry in my bug out bag?” rather than “how many wipes does this package have?”
In other words, it might be more space and weight efficient to have one big sheet that cleans 100% of your body than three smaller sheets to do the same job.
Some products instructed that you use one wipe for each distinct part of your body. We thought that was either silly marketing to get you to use (and buy) more or meant the wipe just wasn’t that great — in either case, we ignored those instructions and used our judgment.
We tested each wipe to see what percentage of an adult body it would clean. This was measured during the daily shower test. Each wipe-shower started on the left foot and followed the same path and method across the body. The adult man is 6’5” tall, 240 pounds and the adult woman is 5’8”, 150 pounds.
We measured how far each wipe got before we judged that it had stopped cleaning effectively. Most wipes ended up around 70% on the man and 80% on the woman, although some were as high as 100% and as low as 50%.
Cleaning food utensils
When we’re in the field, sometimes we use a wet wipe to clean off our cooking and eating utensils. It can be a quick way to wipe food off your spork before throwing it back in a bag.
We tested each wipe against a titanium spork and a high-quality plastic spork with crusted peanut butter, and a stainless steel kettle with fouling from a fire. We looked for how well the sheet held up when rubbed against these rigid surfaces and how well it cleaned.
Best survival wet wipes for most people: Clean Trek Towels
Best survival hygiene wipe for most people:
Combat Wipes Active
This was a surprisingly difficult decision. It wasn’t an issue of cleaning ability or durability — there were very clear winners and losers in that regard — but rather a few strategic decisions. Is it better to have small sheets or large? Individual or bulk? How much space can it take in an emergency bag? And so on.
We believe the Clean Trek Towels are the best survival hygiene wipes for most people. A single package contains 12 thick and durable sheets measuring a huge 10 x 12 inches. A single wipe covered 100% of a large male body with a nice, wet clean and decent smell.
The resealable flap was the nicest of any product we tested. Not only is the flap and seal itself very sturdy and solid, Clean Trek took the extra (and needed) step of putting a thick plastic reinforcement layer around the resealable flap.
The rest of the package survived any crumple and crush tests in our bags, and had a nice balance between height and width. We didn’t experience nearly as many “follow-on cling” issues when removing a towel as we did with other products.
We wish the packaging was a little more space efficient. When you fold down the wings it measures about 5.5 x 6 inches. Clean Trek could probably remove half an inch or more on each axis to bring the footprint down just a tad, or they could reconfigure the dimensions so that the sheets are more square.
Note that Clean Trek also sells a little brother version called CT Body Wipes in almost identical packaging. But we found the smaller wipes to be inferior and not worth the space savings.
At first glance, we thought the CT Towels were too big for a bug out or get home bag. They’re certainly larger than the most compact options like the Sea to Summit wipes. But when we weighed all of the tests, like the body coverage and cleaning tests, the CT Towels are pretty space efficient and worth the extra inch or two.
Individual alternative for emergency bags: Goodwipes
Great for emergency bags:
Goodwipes Body Wipes
They ship in a box of 10. Each wrapper is about the size of a credit card, yet the wipes are thick and very large at 9 x 11.5 inches. They covered 100% of an adult male’s body during our shower tests. Although, they did dry up a little quicker than our other favorite individual packs, the ShowerPill.
Goodwipes are definitely less space efficient than a bulk package, like our main pick the Clean Trek Towels. It’s roughly double — you can fit 10 CT Towels in the same space as 5 Goodwipes.
Yet they fit wonderfully in all those little space gaps that surround your larger gear and those pocket sleeves you never use anyway. Which means, in practice, they might be better for packing compared to a single bulk container since a proper bug out bag is only about 45-50 liters.
Alternatives: feminine wipes and compact bulk packages
Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes Compact
Goodwipes Down There Wipes for Women
If you’re focused on ultra-compact options, the most space efficient product we tested was the Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipe. A single package of 12 sheets measures only 3.75 x 6 inches. The trade off is smaller 6 x 8 inch sheets that only cover about 60% of the body.
Sea to Summit is a brand known for compact and lightweight travel gear, and you can tell these wipes were designed for the commuter or traveler. We personally use and love some of their other products for world travel.
The plastic seal wasn’t the worst we tried, but we did find it a little finicky to keep the sheets flat and close the seal properly — which we think is a result of the smaller overall frame providing less support.
Even when considering the benefits of the small form factor, the STS wipes just didn’t seem to clean well and were frustrating to move in your hand. The wipe was not as durable as our winners and could be pulled apart easily.
No Rinse Bathing Wipes. 8 pc bulk package. $7. Flap seal tore the very first time we opened it. The towels are large and thick. After cleaning, there was a more noticeable (and to us, unpleasant) smell than the competition.
Clean Trek Body Wipes. 24 pc bulk package. $12. 7.5 x 6 inch sheets — basically the smaller travel size of the Clean Trek Towels. Contains Aloe, Vitamin E. Made in USA. Very sturdy plastic flap seal and overall packaging. Sometimes had trouble removing a sheet without pulling out others. The sheet quality was not as pleasing as it’s bigger brother, the CT Towel. It covered about 50% of a body, curled while wiping, and was weaker than the larger towel.
Archer Outdoor Gear Biodegradable Wipes. 30 pc bulk package. $8. 8 x 11 inch sheets. Hypoallergenic, contains Aloe and Vitamin E. Compostable. Pulling out a sheet would often bring another clung to it. Only 50% body coverage with a mediocre clean. Poor sheet quality — you could easily pull it apart with your hands and the edges would roll when wiping across skin.
Nathan Power Shower Wipes. 15 pc bulk package. $5. 7.5 x 8 inch sheets. Contains MCI. Easy removal. The wipe was not as durable as our winners and could be pulled apart easily. Rigid plastic closure, which functioned fine, but contributed to the overall package not being nearly as space efficient as other options.
TrailBlazer Biodegradable Bamboo Outdoor Wipes. 30 pc bulk package. $9. 8 x 12 inch sheets. These were pretty disappointing. The seal flap was not nearly as robust as other options, and tore after just a few openings. The towels clung together, so when you pulled one out, the next would come with it. 60% body coverage and a poor clean. When moving the sheet across skin, the edges rolled up in frustrating ways. Contains MCI, Aloe, and Vit E.
ShowerPill Athletic Body Wipe. 10 pc individual wrappers. $10. Very sturdy 8 x 9 inch sheets, almost like a thick gauze. Even though the sheets are smaller than our compact pick , GoodWipes, the ShowerPills come in an unfortunately larger wrapper that’s about the size of a postcard. 95% body coverage with a nice clean and smell. Contains Aloe and Vitamin E, and claims to have more “antimicrobial” germ-killing power than it’s peers. Made in USA. Arrived with a short 16 month shelf-life.
Coleman Biowipes. 30 pc bulk package. $8. 8 x 10 inch sheets. Compostable. Contains Aloe. Made in USA. These wipes were different than any other option — rather than the typical fiber-based cloth, these were similar to wet versions of the cheap paper towels you find in a public restroom. That made it easier to clean some of the rougher spots that chewed up flimsier wipes, such as the bottom of our feet, but overall we were unhappy with how well it cleaned and disliked the paper feeling. The package is nice and compact for a 30 piece set, and the sheets pulled out nicely. But the flap seal tore on first opening.
Dead Down Wind Field Wash Cloths. 20 pc bulk package. $9. Thick and durable 8 x 8 inch sheets. Contains MCI. 90% body coverage with a good clean, but dried out faster than the Clean Trek Towel. Plastic flap seal is average, not as reinforced as the Clean Trek. Packaging is sturdy but a little inefficient with space around the edges. A decent choice, but fell short in too many ways compared to similar wipes.
Alcala Body Wipes. 30 pc individual wrappers. $29. We did not buy these for review because the individual packets were quite large compared to the Goodwipes, but with a smaller sheet. We also found that sheets made from viscose bamboo were not durable enough.
Life Elements Action Wipes. 25 pc individual wrappers. $25. To be honest, we missed these in our initial research. They look worthy of a field test and we will include them in a future update.
HyperGo After Sports Wipes. 10 pc individual wrappers. $10. 12 x 12 inch sheets. In addition to the normal Aloe and Vitamin E, they also have oatmeal. We will likely include these in a future update test because of how much we came to like the individual packets. There’s also a HyperGo bulk package that we did not buy because the flap seal looked weak.
Nasty Face & Body Wipes. 10 pc individual wrappers. $9. 10 x 12 inch sheets. We didn’t purchase because there were reviews of Nasty products smelling like Axe body spray / a scent for teenage boys, which made sense given their branding.
Dude Shower Wipes. Individual and bulk wrap options. Around $8 for three showers worth. We didn’t buy these because there are Amazon Top 500 Reviewer reports of stinging in sensitive areas, the bulk dispenser is fine for a stationary shelf but not on-the-go, and the sheets are small (8 x 10) for the size of the packaging.
Adventure Medical Kits Bath Wipes. 8 pc bulk pack. $6. This product was either going through a refresh or similar inventory issue when we started this post. The original Amazon listing had reports of the wrong product being sent. After publishing, there is now a new Amazon page with updated product branding. We will include them in future tests.
Combat One Tactical Bath. 8 pc bulk pack. $10. We didn’t buy this because the instructions are to use the entire pack of eight wipes for one whole body shower. Seemed much less efficient than the single sheet individual wraps that do the same job.