In more than two decades of hiking and backpacking, I had never had a serious case of chafe.
Indeed, I occasionally made fun of hiking buddies who moaned and groaned about tender thighs or raw behinds. With a wry grin, I would suggest they reevaluate their on-trail hygiene and wiping techniques.
Alas, chafe karma well and truly caught up with me during the Southwestern Horseshoe in March, 2012.
After retiring my well worn, but increasingly holey/borderline indecent Macpac Cross Terrain shorts (Note: I don’t wear underpants while hiking), I decided to go with an old nylon pair I picked up from a Thrift Store. This decision, together with the combination of sand and howling winds, left my inner thighs rawer than raw. Not being prepared for my predicament, I went through an entire tube of lip balm in search of relief.
Unfortunately, the malady was not alleviated until my arrival in Escalante, Utah. It was there that my hiking buddy, Mike “The Gambler” Towne, suggested I try Bag Balm, a salve which is generally used on cows to avoid chapped udders.
I was a little skeptical; my chafe issues over the previous days had been the source of much mirth and ribbing (fully justified, I admit) and I suspected that this recommendation might not be entirely above board. However, once he had stopped laughing, Mike assured me that he had been using it for years and it had always worked wonders. With little in the way of choice I followed his advice.
Within a couple of days I was well on the road to inner-thigh recovery.
Since this experience, I have suggested Bag Balm to a number of hiker friends with chafe issues (Note: It comes in travel-tube size as well). All have reported similarly successful results.
In short, I cannot recommend Bag Balm highly enough. It’s inexpensive, widely available at drug/pet/farm supply stores in the US, and definitely comes in handy on the off chance you are overcome by the urge to milk a cow whilst out on trail.