Whatever you want to call it—monkey butt, swamp ass, or butt cheek chafing—getting your bum excessively sweaty when running or trekking can produce a really unpleasant sensation.
If you’ve ever felt this uncomfortable side effect of exercise, you understand what I’m talking about.
And if you haven’t ever experienced this issue, I strongly advise that you follow the prevention advice below so that you never have to endure this suffering.
Why Does Skin Chafing Happen While Hiking, Backpacking, Or Running?
The reason why this terrible condition happens is actually pretty simple. It’s just like when you get a blister on your feet.
You are out being active and getting all sweaty.
As you sweat, the moisture soaks your underwear.
Since you’re being active and moving, and possible carrying a pack, all that friction is actively working against you.
It’s rubbing that wet fabric and salt from your sweat against your sweaty butt cheeks (and thighs).
And before you know it, you’ve got chafed raw skin where your butt crack used to be. Ouch.
The longer this friction goes on, the more raw and painful the chafing.
For hikers, the butt crack chafing is really the most common, but it’s not the only place that you can experience this painful skin chafing. Plenty of people get chafing on their inner thighs and armpits.
Cyclist often get “saddle sores” on their butt cheeks from friction against the bike seat.
And runners, the poor souls, they can experience nipple chafing when out on long, sweaty runs.
Basically, anywhere that clothing or gear can rub against your sweat skin is a location where you can experience painful chafing.
Ways To Prevent Butt Chafing When Hiking
No one wants their time outside to be ruined by a pesky butt rash, especially me.
So, here’s some tips that I’ve found to help your butt cheeks stay pain-free.
1. Avoid Cotton Underwear
The worst possible thing that you can do for yourself is wear cotton undies.
It’s literally the worst thing you can do in this situation.
Cotton holds that moisture in when you sweat, which means more opportunity for the friction that causes the chafing.
You absolutely must wear synthetic underwear to prevent the chafe.
Specifically, it should be a material that is quick drying or moisture wicking.
Your butt crack will thank you for doing this.
And for the love of God, wear sensible underwear and not a thong!
2. Have Proper Fitting Running Clothing and Gear
While you don’t want to be wearing skin tight clothing that you can’t move around in, you also need to avoid clothing that is too loose on your body.
Loose fitting clothing is just extra fabric that can get in the way and cause chafe producing friction.
The same applies for gear, like your backpack.
Make sure that your pack fits well and doesn’t rub anywhere, like your neck, arm pits, or back.
Also make sure that your shoes fit properly and are not loosely laced, otherwise you’ll end up with blisters on your feet and chafe around your ankles.
3. Consider Using Powder Before Getting Active
Putting a bit of powder down your butt crack, on your thighs, or anywhere else you end up chafing is one way to deal with potential chafing.
Some hikers prefer to use something like Gold Bond medicated powder before setting out on the trail since it has a cooling effect.
You can use an anti-fungal powder or just some plain ole baby powder.
4. Stay Clean Before You Get Active
This should go without saying, but don’t head out on the trail after a few days of not showering.
Cause that kind of shit is just begging for a super painful chafing incident.
If you’re on a backpacking trip, then take the time to clean the areas of your body where you experience chafing.
You can do this with some wipes – just be sure that you carry them back out with you and leave no trace.
5. Consider Using A Lubricant
Some active enthusiasts like to use a lubricant, like Body Glide from REI, to prevent chafing.
You could even just use regular anti-perspirant.
You have got to apply this before you get any sign of the chafe though, because it will sting and burn if you apply it once you’ve already got the chafing rash.
In addition to Body Glide, here are some products you might want to consider:
- Assos Chamois Cream
- Paceline Products Chamois Butt’r
- Squirrels Nut Butter Anti-Chafe Stick
- Squirrels Nut Butter Anti-Chafe Salve Jar
6. Stay Hydrated
You know how when you sweat, you get all salty?
Well, that salt on your skin is bad news in terms of the chafe.
Why? Think about salt – it’s not exactly smooth and silky, is it?
No, it’s is rough and when your sweaty clothes or gear is rubbing up against the salt on your skin, well, that’s how you end up with the unwanted chafe on your skin.
The good news here is that staying hydrated reduces the salt buildup on your skin.
7. Wear Clean Running Clothes
A surefire way to get chafed is to re-wear your dirty old trail clothes.
And I get it, you’re trying to pack light and you want to take a little as possible.
Wearing dirty clothes with yesterday’s salty sweat on them is just going to speed up the chafing process today.
But if you insist on wearing the same clothes, then at least pack something like the Scrubba Wash Bag to clean them up.
8. Wipe It Away
If you find that your sweating is just uncontrollable and none of these other tips are helping, then you can always take the time to wipe away the sweat every so often.
Just be sure to use a clean, dry cloth each time that you wipe away the sweat.
You’ll be able to dry the area by removing the sweat as well as wipe away the salt buildup that contributes to the friction.
How To Treat Butt Crack Chafing (and Other Skin Chafing)
Whether its your butt crack or your thighs (or another body part), if you need relief from chafing then then solutions are all the same.
Here’s a few ways to get somme relief from the chafe.
1. Clean and Dry The Area
Now, this is going to be painful – and how much pain really depends on how bad the chafe is on your skin.
The water is going to sting, but you’ve got to get the area clean.
We suggest lukewarm water here.
You’ve also got to clean the area, and yes, the soap will also sting and burn a bit.
Try to use a good anti-bacterial soap or something like Dr. Bronner’s soap.
When you’re ready to dry the area, you need to gently pat it dry with a clean towel.
Under no circumstances should you rub the towel over the affected area, or you might yelp in pain.
A nice alternative to the towel is a hair dryer on the “cool” setting.
2. Apply A Soothing Ointment
Once it’s all clean and dry, it’s time to put an ointment on it that will both help heal the area and give you some pain relief.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Neosporin for this purpose.
Some hikers swear by baby diaper rash ointment, like Destin.
Others use coconut oil or petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
Aloe vera is another good option.
But whatever you do – avoid Gold Bond medicated powder if you already have the chafed area because it will burn like hell.
3. Wear Synthetic Clothing
Since you’ve already got the chafing, you need to avoid getting any more of it.
And the best way to do that is to avoid cotton and wear well-fitted synthetic clothing over the affected area.
So, if it’s butt crack chafe that’s got you down, wear synthetic underwear.
And if it is thigh chafe, you can look for synthetic shorts, boxers, leggings, tights, etc. You get the idea here.
4. Stop The Activity
Whatever it was you were doing that led to the discomfort, stop it.
If you were hiking, then no more hiking until this rash goes away.
If you were running, then no more running until it goes away.
And so on, and so on.
Now, I realize that if you’re backpacking, then you can’t just stop what you’re doing.
So, be smart about it in order to avoid any further discomfort.
Not sure if you have butt crack chafing? Just jump in the shower – if you experience a stinging, terrible pain when the water hits the affected area, then you’ve got it!
It will also be red, possibly raw skin, and resemble the diaper rash you might see on an infant.
image credit: daveynin, Flicker, CC2.0