Some people need a cup of coffee. Others go for a run. Some go straight to the kitchen for some bacon and eggs. These are some of the morning rituals many go through upon waking. For me, I can not get my day started without a shower and a shave. I won’t even venture into the kitchen, den, or any other part of the house without first taking a shower and shaving. It doesn’t matter if I have no where to go and all I wish to do is watch television. It doesn’t matter if I showered before bed. Shower, shaving and getting dressed is first in the morning. It is a ritual which sets the tone of my mood for the day. If I can’t have a shower, at the least I need to have a wet wipe bath. Come hell or high water though I have to shave. That scruffy feeling about my neck, from a day old growth, is a no go. So fanatic I am with that, I often shave twice a day. It doesn’t matter if I am growing a beard. The neck, however, will be shaved religiously, as well as my head. To that end, my grooming ritual can be challenged when I am camping. None the less, It must be done, or I am in a foul mood until it can happen. It is paramount in establishing my PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). After a good smooth and clean shave, I feel unstoppable and anything is possible… That is not hyperbole. As a result, I tend to spare no expense in my pursuit for shaving nirvana. Weird, right? At the same time, however, the expense has to make sense.
My Razor of Choice
I will not lie. I am a cartridge user. I’ve gone with the Merkur and Edwin Jagger, but the speed and efficiency of a good cartridge system can not be rivaled by even the most revered safety or straight razors. With the Gillette Fusion system, I can hum a song while in the shower, sans a mirror, with my eyes closed and can shave my head, neck and face in about 2-3 minutes. I know it’s a cringe worthy admission to the most ardent of traditional shavers, but it is hard to refute the speed and quality of a good cartridge system.
To that end, I consider myself a hybrid. While I use a cartridge, I pine for a good quality brush and soap or cream. I am fond of badger silver tip brushes, but do have some boar hair and synthetic brushes. My current badger silver tip provides the perfect balance of softness and stiffness.
Shaving Soaps and Creams
Shaving soaps and creams are quite the hot topic among connoisseurs of shaving. There needs to be a balance between lathering, cushion, and slickness. The lathering provides the cushion for protecting against nicks and cuts while the slickness provides for the blade gliding action over the skin as it shaves. Generally speaking, creams tend to lather easier than soaps. I tend to rotate between various shaving creams and soaps, but my go tos, perhaps because it is what I started with, are “Proraso” green, “Taylor of Old Bond Street” Sandalwood, and “Cattie’s Bubbles”. These lather beautifully in the right water and offer the perfect slickness for me. However, the right water is not always possible, especially when outdoors. And there in lies the Achilles’s heel of a good shave… the water
The Problem with Hard Water
Hard water is a fact of water ways throughout America, where water has run across limestone and chalk rich ground. Hard water has a higher mineral concentration of magnesium and calcium. This causes even the best of soaps and creams to have a harder time foaming up. To the shaving enthusiast, this can present quite the dilemma. However, being more of a car camper than backpacker, nowadays, I carry a gallon of distilled water for my shaving needs. Quite honestly, distilled water gives me an even richer lather than my soft water maker at home does. Alas, being how I balance speed and efficiency with need, I am completely satisfied with my soft water maker at home.
A Case for Cold Water
Another of the backpackers or campers obstacles is cold water. It’s not like you can just turn on the hot water spigot and have an abundance of hot water on command. If one wants hot water, they have to collect it and heat it up with either a stove or campfire, both which require time and resources. A cold water shave is an option, however.
A cold water shave is not something the normal person would ever consider. After all, our first exposure to wet shaving likely came from our dad and he showed us using hot water. Cold water shaving, however, has a few benefits.
- Cold water keeps skin tight for a closer shave
- Keeps pores closed so infection is less likely
- Reduces skin irritation. It is especially beneficial to those with sensitive skin
- Does not use resources to heat
There’s a lot more to the art of shaving, but for the outdoor enthusiast who demands a nice clean shave, this should serve as a good primer.
If you would like further information on the art of shaving, consider visiting