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How to Shower While Camping: 5 Easy and Effective Methods

Camping hygiene made easy: Discover the secrets to showering in nature.

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Learning how to shower while camping may not always be easy. You may face challenges such as finding a suitable shower spot, having enough water and privacy, and dealing with the weather and temperature. Fortunately, several solutions exist to overcome these challenges and enjoy a refreshing shower in the wilderness.

Key Takeaways

  • Portable Camp Shower: This convenient and flexible option allows you to shower anywhere with a shower bag or a pressurized system. However, it requires a water source, accessories, and cost considerations.
  • Public Showers: An accessible and ready-to-use option available at many campgrounds, RV parks, and truck stops, but may vary in quality, availability, and privacy.
  • Natural Bath in River or Lake: A refreshing and memorable option that lets you enjoy the natural scenery but requires respect for the environment, caution for the water temperature, and compliance with local regulations.
  • Wet Wipes: A simple and portable option that can temporarily replace a shower but may be wasteful, less thorough, and potentially irritating to the skin.
  • Sponge Bath: A thorough and relaxing option that uses a basin or bucket of water and a sponge or cloth but requires planning, water sourcing, and privacy

Portable Camp Shower

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A portable camp shower allows you to shower and stay clean anywhere in the great outdoors while car camping. Typically, these showers are designed to heat up using solar energy with a shower bag or large PVC pipe on the roof rack. Others might run on propane or batteries.

These can range from a simple gravity shower to a bucket and cup to a fancy pressurized hot shower setup. An additional pop-up shower tent can increase the privacy of this setup. 

Pros

  • Convenience: Easy setup and use.
  • Adjustable: Some offer temperature control and variable pressure.
  • Flexibility: Don’t rely on campground facilities.
  • Eco-Friendly: Can lessen environmental impact by avoiding contamination of lakes and streams. 

Cons

  • Cost: It can be more expensive than other options.
  • Bulk: Certain models are hefty and less compact.
  • Water Source: Requires nearby water or hauling in your supply.
  • Accessories: You might need a shower tent or a mat for complete privacy and comfort.

Tips

  • Set up at least 200 feet from natural water sources in an area so the grey water does not impact the local environment.
  • Hang the shower bag or pocket shower high enough to step underneath effortlessly.
  • Remember to use biodegradable soap only.
  • Heat water using the sun for a warm shower, or consider a battery-powered model for a hot shower.
  • Plan water usage to ensure you have enough for rinsing.

Public Showers

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Public showers are probably the best option for camping at a campsite or roving in your RV. Shared shower facilities are often at campgrounds, RV parks, and truck stops. 

Pros

  • Accessibility: Many campgrounds and parks offer shower facilities, so it’s not hard to come by with a bit of research.
  • No Setup Required: These are ready to use, unlike a pop-up shower tent or a privacy tent with a shower curtain.
  • Overall Cost: They’re either inexpensive with coins or tokens or free.
  • Privacy: You can enjoy a shower in relative privacy.
  • Sanitation: More often than not, they are cleaned and maintained regularly.

Cons

  • Availability: During peak seasons, they might have long lines, and some might require you to bring coins or tokens.
  • Time Limits: Some places impose shower time restrictions to manage usage.
  • Quality: This can vary from place to place, although most shower options are adequate. 
  • Shared Space: Your setup is more private.

Tips & Advice

  • Bring the Essentials: Pack your towel, soap, and shampoo, and remember to wear shower shoes or flip-flops to protect your feet.
  • Check First: Before you step in, test the water temperature and pressure.
  • Security: Always lock the door and keep your essentials within arm’s reach.
  • Efficiency: Keep it brief to be considerate to fellow campers waiting in line.
  • Cleanliness: Dispose of any personal trash.

Natural Bath in River or Lake

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Taking a dip in a natural water source might make your camping trip memorable, but bathing in a natural body of water requires respect for the environment.

Tips

  • Avoid areas of a lake or river with a lot of boat traffic or where others get their drinking water.
  • Cold water can be refreshing but risky, causing a shock to the system, so ease in slowly.
  • Biodegradable soap should be your go-to if you need to soap up; regular soaps and shampoos can cause contamination, causing algae blooms that harm wildlife.
  • Check with local regulations, as some areas have strict rules against bathing in natural water sources.

Cons

  • Even in summer, natural water sources can be unexpectedly cold.
  • Bathing can stir up sediments,  potentially covering you in silt instead of cleaning you off.

Wet Wipes

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Sometimes, you can’t shower when camping, and grabbing a pack of body wipes and including them in your hiking essentials might be your most straightforward solution.

Body wipes are designed to clean off the day’s collection of dirt, sweat, and body odor for the body, face, hands, and feet. 

How to Use Wet Wipes

  1. Start with cleaner body parts and work towards dirtier areas. 
  2. Use wet wipes mindfully, as they aren’t always eco-friendly. 
  3. Dispose of used wipes responsibly in a trash bag—not in the wilderness.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros: Wet wipes are inexpensive, portable, and do not require water. They’re typically gentle and can temporarily replace a shower on your outdoor adventures.
  • Cons: They can be wasteful and are generally less thorough than a traditional wash-up. There’s also a chance of skin irritation, and they may leave behind a residual stickiness.

Tips

  • Opt for unscented, hypoallergenic, and alcohol-free options to reduce skin irritation.
  • Consider eco-friendly biodegradable wipes or even reusable cloth wipes to minimize environmental impact.
  • Pairing baby wipes with hand sanitizer or water can offer a smoother, more hygienic result.

Sponge Bath

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A sponge bath can be a good alternative to a traditional shower, lake, or stream.

How to do a sponge bath

  1. Set Up Your Supplies: Equip yourself with a basin or bucket, ideally filled with warm water from your campfire or stove. 
  2. Add Soap: A dash of biodegradable soap will do wonders for your hygiene without harming the environment.
  3. Go Step-by-Step: Tackle one body part at a time to stay organized, and rinse with a clean sponge or cloth.

Pros of a Sponge Bath

  • You can maintain a high level of cleanliness.
  • Gives you a reason to pause and relax for a bit.
  • You’re using resources sparingly, which is essential in the wild.

Cons to Consider

  • There are more quick ways to get clean; you must pace yourself.
  • Planning is required, and water sourcing needs consideration.
  • Privacy can be a concern if you’re in a busy camp area.

Tips and Advice

  • Begin with the face and move towards the feet, avoiding any cross-contamination.
  • If camping near the sea, remember that a sponge bath requires fresh water, never saltwater, to avoid skin irritation.

FAQs

What are some tips to stay clean while camping?

Some tips to keep clean while camping include packing essential hygiene products, choosing campsites with shower facilities, utilizing portable shower systems, and practicing regular personal hygiene habits to stay clean and refreshed during your camping trip.

How can I maintain personal hygiene while dispersed, wild camping?

You can maintain personal hygiene while camping by investing in a portable shower or utilizing alternative methods such as wet wipes, dry shampoo, and cleaning with a towel and soap.

What are the best ways to keep clean on an extended camping trip?

You can stay fresh for multiple days without a shower while camping by using body wipes and dry shampoo, changing clothes regularly, and practicing good personal hygiene habits such as brushing your teeth and washing your hands.

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AUTHOR
Daniel Borkert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Outdoor Footprints, a website that tells you everything you need to know about camping and hiking. He is an avid outdoorsman with almost four decades of experience in hiking, camping, caving, and fishing. Daniel loves to involve his wife and kids in his outdoor pursuits and inspire other families to do the same. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his family and an energetic Boston Terrier named Zion.

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