Camping Hygiene: Your Guide to Staying Clean While Camping

The minimalism of camping and backpacking is one of my favorite aspects of it.

You leave the majority of your “things” behind at home, relying only on a small amount of outdoors equipment.

There’s certainly not enough space for all of your home hygiene products – and often no designated restroom or shower facility either.

But that certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to stay clean while camping.

Not only is maintaining good camping hygiene a nice gesture to those around you, but it also feels so good to wipe off the dirt and grime at the end of each day before crawling into your sleeping bag and tent.

Here are our top camping hygiene tips to stay clean while camping.


  1. Essentials
  2. Hygiene Hacks
  3. Showering
  4. Going to the Bathroom
  5. Feminine Hygiene
  6. Laundry
  7. Rules and Regulations
  8. Camping Hygiene Kit

Camping Hygiene Essentials

If you have enough room, there’s no reason not to pack all the items you use for your hygiene routine at home.

However, most campers (and especially backpackers) have a limited amount of space for their camping equipment. This necessitates a simple, straightforward hygiene routine.

Here are (in my opinion) the most camping hygiene essentials to remember:

1.     Basic Hygiene Kit

For me, the most basic camp hygiene items are my toothbrush, toothpaste, soap/shampoo, feminine hygiene products, and similar must-have items.

2.     Daily Rinse

Instead of showering on a short camping trip, I substitute a quick daily rinse with a splash of water on my face and hair plus a quick rub down with camping wipes (or baby wipes).

3.     Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is a must-have camping hygiene item if there is one. Not only is it helpful to wipe away dirt, but it’s a great substitute for soap and hot water after you go to the bathroom in the woods.

4.     Fresh Clothing

I’m definitely not a clean freak – but a set of fresh clothing is a godsend after a long day of camping in the dust and dirt. I bring along as many fresh clothes as I can pack (within reason), especially when I’m camping with my car close by. The Scrubba Wash Bag is perfect for keeping your clothes clean and fresh on any camping trip.

5.     Bathroom/Shower Knowledge

Don’t wait until your deep in the woods to learn how to shower or go to the bathroom while camping. Study up on shower guide and bathroom guide before you leave.

Do your camping hygiene essentials differ from mine? What do you make sure to include in your own kit?

Camping Hygiene Hacks

Camping hacks are practical and versatile tips and tricks you can use to make spending time in the woods easier.

Here are a few wilderness hygiene hacks geared specifically towards staying clean and fresh on your next camping trip.

1.     Sleeping Bag Liner

A sleeping bag liner helps keep your sleeping bag clean by catching dirt and oil from your body. Not only do they extend the life of your sleeping bag, but they also keep you cleaner since you can air the liner out during the day. REI has an excellent resource on buying the best sleeping bag liner for camping.

2.     Camping Wipes

Camping wipes, or plain old baby wipes, help you stay clean from head to toe while in the woods. They’re also a great way to “clean up” after going number two. I prefer biodegradable wipes like Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes.

3.     Synthetic Clothing

Especially when you’re backpacking, you usually don’t have enough room to pack along much, if any, extra clothing. Synthetic clothing – made of moisture wicking materials – limits bacteria, wicks away sweat, and keeps you feeling fresh.

4.     Dots and Slivers

It’s not a big deal when you’re camping, but there’s no reason to pack a full tube of toothpaste or bar of soap when backpacking. A great camping hack is to place small single-use dots of toothpaste in tin foil and small slivers of bar soap in a plastic bag while planning a backpacking trip.

5.     No Deodorant

I say leave the deodorant at home while backpacking. Not only can scented deodorant attract animals, like bears, it also takes up unnecessary space. And you don’t really need it since everyone you meet along the trail will be stinky anyways.

Going hammock camping? Then check out our hammock camping hacks before you begin your next adventure.

How to Shower in the Woods

There’s no better way to maintain good hygiene while camping than with a shower.

Luckily, showering while camping is a lot easier than it might sound. My absolute favorite way is to use a camp shower.

Camp showers come in all shapes and sizes. They range from simple cold showers to solar showers to portable hot water heater showers.

In my opinion, the best in-between is a solar camp shower. These devices use the heat of the sun to warm up the water. You hang the bag from a branch to let gravity power the water flow.

Don’t want to invest in a designated camping shower? There are still plenty of other ways to stay clean in the woods.

You can clean yourself off with baby wipes, bathe in a stream or lake, or even give yourself a sponge bath.

We discuss all of these ways of getting clean outdoors (and more) as well as the best camping showers in our detailed guide:

How to Set Up the Perfect Camping Shower for Every Situation 

How to Go to the Bathroom in the Woods

“How do I go to the bathroom in the woods?”

This is one of the most common questions related to camping hygiene that I hear.

Of course, going pee in the woods is easy for most people – it’s number two that gets a little trickier.

The easy solution is to buy a camping toilet. These lightweight portable toilets are designed to be used in RVs, camper vans, and by tent campers.

Other ways to go poop in the woods include burying your waste, packing out your waste, or even using a poop tube.

The key is understanding local regulations to ensure that you follow all of the rules and keep the surrounding environment safe in the process.

We talk more about both peeing and pooping in the woods as well as the best camping toilets in our detailed guide:

Your Complete Guide to Camping Toilets and Pooping in the Woods

Feminine Hygiene While Camping

Backpacking or camping on your period might seem like a deal breaker.

But there’s actually quite a few ways to make it more than manageable. According to REI, you might stress out the first time, but you’ll soon realize that backpacking with your period is no big deal.

The first order of business is making the choice between tampons and menstrual cups.

In all reality, when it comes to tampons versus menstrual cups for camping, you should just go with what you normally use at home.

Though a menstrual cup does save a little weight (a big benefit for lightweight backpackers), the downside is a lack of soap and hot water for easy cleaning.

You can skirt this issue by packing hand sanitizer and pre-moistened wipes. You could even bring a few pairs of nitrile medical gloves to really makes things clean and simple.

Another benefit of menstrual cups for camping and backpacking is the lack of waste. Unlike a tampon, there’s no need to pack out any used waste.

Once again, it all boils down to what makes you most comfortable. For most women going camping, it’s best to just stick to your normal routine.

We recommend stashing your go-to feminine hygiene supplies as part of your overall camping hygiene kit so that you’re never without the products you need on the trail.

And, despite what you may have heard, a women’s menstrual blood does not attract bears and other animals.

How to Clean Your Clothes While Camping

Have you ever wondered how to wash your clothes while camping?

Camp laundry isn’t really a concern for weekend campers, but it’s definitely something that those on long camping trips are concerned about.

Even though one of the best parts of camping is getting dirty, there’s no denying how nice it feels to wear clean clothes at the end of a long day.

Obviously, your best bet is to find a campground with dedicated laundry facilities. However, this limits you to certain campsites, excluding most free camping and undeveloped areas.

Here are the three best ways to do laundry while camping (without washing facilities):

1.     By-Hand

Fill a plastic bowl or bucket with water (warm water heated on your campfire is best). Add a little detergent and then add in your clothing. Scrub away with your hands, give the clothing a quick rinse with clean water, and then hang to dry.

2.     Trash Bag

Do your camp laundry with the trash bag method. Place your clothes in a clean garbage bag with some soap and water. Jostle the bag around (similar to a washing machine’s spin cycle), rinse with clean water, and hang to dry.

3.     Portable Laundry System

If you have a set base camp, a portable laundry system is undoubtedly the most efficient way to wash clothes while camping. The Scrubba Portable Laundry System Wash Bag is a lightweight way to quickly wash your clothes while camping.

What About Detergent?

Never use normal detergent when doing your camp laundry. Always select an eco-friendly detergent. Like always, Dr. Bronner’s is a good alternative option.

What’s your favorite way to wash your clothes while camping? Do you have any other wilderness laundry tips?

Follow Regulations and Avoid Animal Encounters

Maintaining good wilderness hygiene is about more than bringing the right items and using the right techniques.

It’s also about respecting the wilderness and adhering to the leave no trace principles.

Here are the most important things you can do to follow all regulations, protect plant and animal life, and avoid potentially dangerous animal encounters:

1.     Pack Out or Bury

Always properly pack out or bury solid human waste if you go to the bathroom in the woods without a designated toilet.

2.     Go Away from Trails and Water

Pee and poop at least 200 feet away from any trails or water sources. Some highly-sensitive areas require you to pack out all solid waste.

3.     Biodegradable Soap and Toilet Paper

Unless you pack it out, you should always use biodegradable toilet paper. The same goes for soap. Biodegradable soap, like Dr. Bronner’s, is a must for showering outdoors, whether you’re bathing in a stream/lake or using a solar camping shower.

4.     Hygiene Products Attract Animals

Any scented hygiene product has the potential to attracting animals (including bears, mosquitos, and rodents), according to REI’s food storage and handling for campers.

5.     Know How to Store Scented Items

It’s imperative to properly store all scented items, especially if you are camping in bear country. Never keep any hygiene items, even a tube of toothpaste, in your tent in an area that bears frequent.

We discuss many of these points in more detail in our complete guides to showering while camping and going to the bathroom while camping.

Build a Camping Hygiene Kit

Perhaps the most essential step to maintaining wilderness hygiene is bringing along the right items.

Here are a few of the items to always include in your camping hygiene kit:

1.     Toothbrush/Toothpaste

No one likes a funky mouth – so pack your toothbrush and toothpaste in your camping hygiene kit.

2.     Wipes and Sanitizer

Camping wipes and hand sanitizer are must-packs in my camping hygiene kit for backpacking to clean off at the end of the day as well as after I do my business in the woods.

3.     Toilet Supplies

No bathroom at your campground? Then make sure to pack toilet supplies as part of your camping hygiene kit. Helpful items include biodegradable toilet paper, wag bags, and a cat hole shovel.

4.     Dr. Bronner’s (or Dry Shampoo)

There’s a reason I mention it so much – Dr. Bronner’s is an indispensable part of my hygiene camping kit and family camping checklist. It works as shampoo, body wash, dish soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and much more. An alternative shampoo option is dry shampoo.

5.     Sunblock and Lip Balm

I never head out on a camping or backpacking trip without some sunblock and lip balm to protect my skin from the sun. Check out REI’s guide on how to choose and use sunscreen.

6.     Feminine Hygiene Products

A menstrual cup is typically easier to use when camping than tampons. If you do go with tampons, make sure to pack some extra plastic bags so that you can pack them out.

7.     Towels and Clothes Line

A quick-drying microfiber towel makes showering in the woods easier. If you plan to do laundry while camping, then a clothes line is another must-pack part of your camping hygiene kit.

I personally try to include as few items as possible in my camping hygiene kit. For instance, I typically forgo deodorant as well as shampoo/body wash unless I’m on an extended foray.

The exception is, of course, when I’m car camping with a vehicle nearby. When I park and camp, I don’t worry about the weight or size of my camping hygiene kit in the same way as when I’m backpacking.

What about you? What are your backcountry hygiene kit staples? Let me know in the comments below.

Final Thoughts

To some people, staying clean while camping sounds impossible.

But with just a little know-how, and some basic planning and preparation, it’s actually really quite easy.

Our top camping hygiene tips above show you how to go to the bathroom, shower, do laundry, and so much more in the great outdoors.

So, take our outdoor hygiene hacks to heart to make the most out of your next camping or backpacking trip.

What do you keep in your go-to camping hygiene kit? Do you have anything to add to our list?

2 thoughts on “Camping Hygiene: Your Guide to Staying Clean While Camping”

  1. I loved your article and all the information that nobody ever thinks about. Great tips and insight. Truthfully I never knew about sleeping bag liners. After reading this I have decided to take my camping trip a little more seriously and I’m sure our trips will be more enjoyable.

    1. To me, a sleeping bag liner is a must if you won’t be able to shower before crawling inside at night. Keeps the sleeping bag clean and increases its lifespan!

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