"I have a product you could really use!"
I was standing in the chaos of the Vancouver Outdoors Show talking with Angela from No Limit Expeditions when someone made this statement behind me.
I turned and saw the woman from the cleaning-products booth down the aisle. I remembered her because I was puzzled why there was a booth selling environmentally friendly cleaning solutions at an outdoors show. It was Vancouver after all, a place where a bamboo taxicab pedaling down the street wouldn't raise an eyebrow.
It turns out the booth was from a company called Norwex, and the products in question where microfiber cloths, embedded with particles of silver. Not only would it protect you from Vampire attacks in the middle of the night, but the embedded silver would apparently kill any bacteria to come in contact with the cloth, leaving both the cloth and the surface (relatively) bacteria-free—and therefore not stinky, since the bacteria is responsible for stinkiness – sorry if that's getting too technical.
It all sounded very sci-fi and new-age and I wasn't really buying it, but with an open mind and no apparent downside, I decided to give it a shot.
The two cloths I received were the Enviro Cloth, in blue, 35 cm x 35 cm (about a square foot for those metrically challenged) and the Window Cloth, in purple, slightly bigger at 40 cm x 40 cm.
I used them both off and on for months, and was impressed by how well they both seemed to work. The Enviro cloth did a great job in the shower, you simply used it, rinsed it, wrung it out, hung it to dry, and it was good to go. The Window cloth was very cool. You simply wet it in hot water, and it would clean all the windows in your car, inside and out, better than using a spray cleaner, and leave no streaks behind.
However I always had a nagging doubt, that maybe if you really put the Enviro cloth to the test, would it really do the job? Would it keep you and itself from getting stinky on a trip? To find out, I put it to a serious test. I spent 3 weeks on the road, using nothing but the Enviro cloth to keep myself clean. Heck, I even used it as a towel to dry with afterwards.
If I had access to a shower (campsite, truck-stop, etc.) I took the Enviro towel into the stall, wet it (and me) down, used it as an all-purpose scrubber without soap, and after the shower, wrung it out, and used it to dry off. The micro fibre is a bit like a chamois, becoming almost dry when wrung out. So although it's small it does a good job of drying you off, and you don't need to worry about dragging it on the wet or dirty floor of a truck-stop shower. Also because it's so small it's easy to hang it up inside your car or truck to dry out, although with the antibacterial properties I found that even if I balled it up and forgot to hang it, it was not smelly the next day.
On those days when I just pulled off the roadside, or was in a primitive campsite somewhere back in the bush, when I fired up my Kelly-Kettle in the morning I heated a little bit of extra water. One cup to make coffee, and another cup to dunk the Enviro-cloth into, and I was able to do a quick and economical sponge-bath behind the truck, and be ready for whatever the day would bring.
Over the last 18 months I have used both cloths constantly, across a couple of continents, in the desert heat and in the snow, and they are both holding up well. Neither looks new, but neither are they threadbare, and the antibacterial properties are still working, so the silver is still embedded in there somehow – so I assume I can still use it to ward the vampires off if needed.
So, a year and a half later, that wonderful woman from Vancouver was right: This really is a product that Overlanders can use. Who knew?