How to Shower While Camping


An example of an outdoor shower setup.

Let’s dive into how to shower while camping. It’s pretty important. After a long day of hiking, we tend to not smell great! 

Fortunately, there are several methods of showering and getting clean that you can use!

Let’s get into it.

Showering while camping and hygiene expectations

First things first: no one likes to smell or wants to gross people out. However, we all have different thresholds on what we can take. Some folks can go a few days without showering when they’re camping, and others need that daily shower.

Knowing how often you and any other campers plan on cleaning up can help you determine what kind of showering solution you need. A campground with a shower site may be the way to go for a group, while a reservoir of water for minimal use may get the job done too.

The difference in water consumption between the methods is large and will help you choose the right method.

1. Minimize smell with appropriate camping attire

One thing that people tend to overlook is how their clothing affects how they smell. In my guide about what to wear hiking, I covered how different materials hold on to moisture. Generally speaking, you’re going to want to stick to synthetic materials as they dry faster than cotton and don’t retain moisture.

They’ll still smell eventually, but it takes a lot more before they do.

Wool is a great natural fiber that I strongly recommend as well. However, wool is known for getting saturated with moisture, so it’s not perfect.

2. How to wash hair while camping

  1. Find a water source (on premise, or from your own water if you brought it)
  2. If limited, use the bare minimum amount of water to wet your hair and mix in product.
  3. Use only what it takes to wash it out.

Where the tricky part comes in is in what comes after washing your hair while camping. You’ll want to avoid putting hair product in like gel or hair spray as that tends to make a wash more necessary.

Dry shampoo is also a fantastic option if water is limited or a long walk from camp. If you’re wondering how to shower while car camping, dry shampoo is almost a must. It’s one of the best camping hygiene hacks out there.

Convenience is not to be underestimated in the wild!

On-premise camping shower options (campgrounds, rivers)A glamping shower stall

Some campgrounds have built-in showers you can use. These are a great choice if you’re camping with a group and people have varying water needs. If you go this route, keep in mind that you’ll want to wear a pair of cheap sandals in the shower to keep your feet clean.

If you’re planning to go the more natural route, rivers can make for a great spot to get clean. It goes without saying that you should know the area well to not get surprised with any wildlife. You can just jump in and wash all the dirt away while cleaning up with a nice biodegradable soap like Dr. Bronner’s.

Rivers as an option are going to largely depend on where your campsite is. If it’s quite a walk, then it doesn’t make the most sense and could be dangerous at night time. It wouldn’t hurt to wear your bathing suit as well, since they aren’t exactly private like shower stalls.

Always make sure outdoor bathing is permitted where you’re camping.

Shower options you can bring with you

This is where things get interesting and to me, skew more towards individual use. Of course, these can also be options with groups, but probably less so unless they’re experienced campers.

1. Camping shower bags

A solar shower bag

Just like they sound, camping shower bags are affordable ways to shower out in the wild. Simply fill it up and hang it from a tree branch and you have a traditional shower! Some even come with solar heaters so you don’t have to rough it with cold water.

2. Pressurized camping showers

The next step up from the shower bag is the pressurized camping shower. These typically have a bigger reservoir of five gallons or more and have way stronger water flow.

The only downside to these is that they come at a higher price tag than the aforementioned shower bags. And since 5 gallons isn’t that much water, you still have to use your water wisely or you’ll run out fast.

If you’re looking for an amazing truck-mounted pressurized shower, take a look at the RoadShower4. It’s extremely rugged and more premium than I’d usually share, but that’s what you can get for the top of the line.

Make your water last longer while camping

Campsite by water

As you’d probably expect, you can’t shower in nature and treat it like a normal one at your own house. There are several ways you can conserve your water to make it last longer, such as:

  • Showering every other day (or less.)
  • Sponge bathing
  • Selective washing (not washing your hair every time you bathe.)

These methods aren’t the luxury options, but if you’re running out of water they can absolutely be a lifesaver. If you use them during a whole trip (and not just because you’re running out) your water will last a really long time.

If you ran out of water, not all hope is lost

Some campgrounds have public water reservoirs where you can get additional water. Just make sure you follow their guidelines and don’t take more than you’re supposed to.

And while it’s by far my least favorite option, there are public places you can shower at if you have to such as:

  • Truck stops
  • Gyms (Like the YMCA, for instance)
  • Pools (their shower stations, of course)
  • Some public parks

Sometimes you gotta get take a shower and it doesn’t matter where it happens, so you can always fall back on options like this.

Now you know how to shower effectively while camping!

As with most things related to camping, your preparation is key here.

Washing up while camping is actually pretty easy, but even for something as simple as a shower, there’s a lot you have to be ready for and plan around.

If you’re camping with multiple people, that makes things more of a challenge to accommodate. During my normal weekend trips I take with other people, we typically don’t shower in favor of just changing clothes. That, along with swimming usually helps with any odors!

However, if you’re camping longer or you just prefer to stay as clean as possible, you have options. Shower bags are incredibly cheap and viable options for most folks. Also, the next level is really the pressurized systems that you don’t have to worry about hanging the bag up with.

Don’t look down on the old fashioned ways of saving water like sponge baths though. They’re quick, cheap, and obviously less hassle than depending on devices to clean up with. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple and effective!

I hope this article has been helpful and has taught you how to bathe while you camp and prepared you for everything you might face!



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