Just because you’re camping, it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to stay clean.
From using the bathroom without facilities to showering with a portable camp shower to washing dishes, camping hygiene is multi-faceted. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, staying clean while camping really doesn’t need to be complicated.
Here are our top camping hygiene tips to stay sparkling clean on your next camping trip.
Camping Hygiene Essentials
Some car campers prefer to pack all of their regular hygiene products from home. Others, especially backpackers, have limited space, so they must practice minimalism when crafting a hygiene routine.
Here are the most important hygiene essentials to remember:
- Hygiene Kit – Bring a basic hygiene kit with your toothbrush, toothpaste, soap/shampoo, and feminine hygiene products. I prefer miniature or travel size items. Serious backpackers often put even smaller amounts of these items in DIY packaging.
- Daily Rinse – A daily rinse does wonders to help you stay clean on short camping and backpacking trips. Clean your face/hair with a splash of water. Top if off with a quick rub down with baby wipes.
- Hand Sanitizer – Not only does it help wipe away dirt, but hand sanitizer is a great substitute for soap and hot water after going to the bathroom in the woods.
- Nighttime Clothing – Separate clothing just to wear at night is a godsend after a long day outdoors. There’s nothing like crawling into your sleeping bag in a clean set of clothes.
- Fresh Socks & Underwear – I always pack as many changes of clothing as I can while car camping. For backpacking, on the other hand, I make sure to pack at least a pair or two of fresh socks and fresh underwear as well as a spare tee shirt.
Top Camp Hygiene Hacks
These camping hygiene hacks are practical and versatile tricks to use to stay clean and fresh on your next camping or backpacking trip.
- Sleeping Bag Liner – Use a sleeping bag liner to keep your sleeping bag clean and extend the life of your sleeping bag. You can air the liner out during the day for an even fresher sleeping experience.
- Camping Wipes – Baby wipes, or dedicated camping wipes, are my go-to camp hygiene method. They also work great to clean up after going “number two.”
- Synthetic Clothing – Synthetic clothing helps wick away moisture while limiting bacteria growth to help you stay fresh. It’s ideal for backpacking trips where you’ll be sweating but also don’t have much room for spare clothing.
- Dots & Slivers – A dot of toothpaste and a sliver of soap is enough for a short backpacking trip. Place these items in a small piece of tin foil to conserve space/weight when you plan your next backpacking trip.
- No Deodorant – Leave the deodorant at home when backpacking. Not only can scented deodorant attract animals, like bears, it also takes up unnecessary space and you don’t really need it on the trail anyways.
How to Shower While Camping
I never pass up the opportunity to shower while camping.
Of course, the most luxurious option is to stay at a campground with actual shower facilities. But that’s not always possible.
When camping somewhere without showers, like a free dispersed camping area, I often like to bring a portable shower. Although my go-to is a simple cold-water gravity shower, other options include solar showers and even portable hot water heater showers.
For backpacking, I tend to leave the portable shower for camping at home. Instead, I use baby wipes, hop in a stream or lake, or even give myself a sponge bath.
How to Go to the Bathroom While Camping
“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 most luxurious solution (aside from going in a flush toilet or a vault toilet at your campground) is a camping toilet. These portable toilets are lightweight and take up little space. They’re designed for use by RV campers, van campers, tent campers, and more.
The key is understanding local regulations to ensure that you follow all of the rules and keep the surrounding environment safe in the process.
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 to keep it clean. 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!
How to Clean Your Clothes While Camping
Camp laundry isn’t much of a concern for weekend campers. But it’s definitely something those on long, multi-week camping trips think about. Obviously, your best bet is to find a campground with dedicated laundry facilities. However, this limits you to certain built-up campsites, excluding most rustic, undeveloped, and primitive areas.
Here are three other ways to do laundry while camping (without washing facilities):
- 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.
- Trash Bag Method – For 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.
- Portable Laundry System – If you have an established 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, portable option.
Your Camping Hygiene Kit
Perhaps the most essential step to maintaining wilderness hygiene is by bringing along the right items. Here are a few of the most important items to always include in your basic camp hygiene kit:
- Toothbrush/Toothpaste – No one likes a funky mouth – so pack your toothbrush and toothpaste in your camping hygiene kit.
- Wipes & 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.
- Toilet Supplies – No bathroom at your campground? Then make sure to pack toilet supplies. Helpful items include biodegradable toilet paper, wag bags, and a cat hole shovel.
- Dr. Bronner’s – This one-of-a-kind biodegradable shampoo works as shampoo, body wash, dish soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and much more. An alternative shampoo option is dry shampoo.
- Sunblock & Lip Balm – Never go camping or backpacking, even on a winter trip, without sunblock and lip balm to protect your skin and lips from the sun.
- Feminine Hygiene Items – A menstrual cup or tampons are imperative if you’re on your period while camping or backpacking.
- Towels & Clothesline – A quick-drying microfiber towel makes showering much easier. A clothes line is another useful tool if you do plan to do laundry at the campground.
At first, staying clean while camping might sound 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.
What do you keep in your go-to camping hygiene kit? Do you have any products or tips to add to our list?
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Since 2015, Jake has been the technical heart behind our in-depth content. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, he’s the one you’ll find crafting extensive gear reviews and detailed camping guides. With a decade of outdoor writing under his belt, Jake brings the beauty of the Sawtooth Mountains and his beloved Cascade and Olympic ranges right to your screen.