Hygiene While Camping
Our family's motto is, "You're not having fun until you get dirty." Let me tell you, we take that very serious, but hygiene is of equal importance!
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Our family takes multiple 1-2 week long overlanding trips every year. We don’t have a shower set up on our truck and there aren’t any bathrooms in the areas we travel to. What does hygiene look like then? It’s very simple and compact!
Our comfortable lives with large 5 piece bathrooms make it hard to imagine going anywhere without so much as a toilet. The mountains are calling though, so we have to find the balance! There are many products on the market that will provide some of these creature comforts on your camping adventure. It all comes down to how much space you’re willing to sacrifice and how much money you can justify spending.
Let’s take a deeper look into what our hygiene products and practices look like, as well as explore some of the options available for a variety of camping setups!
There are a variety of ways you can fit in a shower along your camping journey. I would advise you to consider how many showers you’re looking to take and what you’re most concerned about washing. This will help you decide which one of the below options are best for you and your family.
Truck stops, gyms and campgrounds offer a ‘real’ shower for relatively small cost. Plan on researching locations prior to your trip so you know exactly where to stop along the way. I highly recommend you remember to bring some sandals if you choose this shower option. No one wants to bring home a foot fungus.
As a girl with terrible hair genes, I’ve enjoyed this shower option because it meant I got to use a hair dryer. However, I hated how much space my shower bag took up. We were traveling in our converted Ford Transit van at the time, so we had a little more room to spare. Those days are long gone now that we’re crammed in a compact Jeep Gladiator.
Be sure to ask the staff about places to see in the area. You might find a hidden gem!
This is one of my favorite options because it doesn’t require packing additional items. You can use a bucket, bin, pot, water bottle or sink to hold warm water. Use a wash cloth or handkerchief and biodegradable soap to clean yourself off.
REALLY IMPORTANT - Regular soap, which can contain phosphate, surfactants, triclosan and other antibacterial ingredients, can poison the soil and water. Phosphate and surfactants can spike algal growth, harming animals and other plant life. Biodegradable soap breaks down naturally by bacteria, so you will make the smallest impact on the environment!
Here are some soap options we recommend:
Wipe It Up
Baby wipes are one of the greatest inventions! I didn’t learn about then until having kids, but they still play a vital role in our lives. Now there are a variety of wipes on the market that are advertised for camping. Scented, sensitive, individually wrapped, reusable… the options are endless, and it can be a bit overwhelming. My recommendation is to find wipes that are either reusable or biodegradable. Still plan on packing out what you pack in though. A biodegradable wipe will advertise that it will break down in a matter of months, but the goal should always be to leave no trace.
Wipe showers are the most simple, by far. There is no water to heat and less to clean. This is often what we will do to get us by between sponge baths. Dry shampoo is a close friend on these days!
Here are a few wipe options to look in to:
If you want the best of the best, consider adding a hot water heater, freshwater tank and a shower hose to your setup. There are a number of products on the market if you want to add a privacy curtain, as well. Although this option sound luxurious, it will require a lot more water usage, meaning you will need to plan on refilling your water tank along the way. If you want to add a water purification system you will have the ability to fill up from natural water sources, rather than depending on running back to civilization every time the tank hits empty.
Although we don't have this set up currently, we would love to eventually have it. There is a serious monetary investment, so it will have to wait for now!
Here are some great products to check out:
A seemingly simple daily task gets a little more complex when you're in the backcountry.
On The Road
Always take advantage of a bathroom on the road! Gas stations may not be the most glamorous rest room, but it has running water and is connected to septic or public sewer. Plus you'll be able to wash your hands with temperature controlled water (most likely). This option only makes sense if you're traveling, but we have come across people that take a daily drive to town to take care of their business. In addition to gas stations, you can stop at grocery stores, community centers or rest areas.
Something to keep in mind is that some businesses may require you to purchase something to use their facilities. You may also want to keep some toilet paper handy, just in case the staff haven't kept up on restocking the rest rooms.
For many people, there is a perpetual fear of relieving themselves in the outdoors. Let's just take a second to think about the toilets we use daily (and how many other people?) and compare that to nature. It's not really that bad, is it? Plus, if you really want a toilet seat, there are options out there to make your dreams come true!
Want to go all natural? There's a little more to it than just squat-and-go. The cathole method is most commonly used, which involves digging a hole at least 6 inches deep. Why this depth? The organisms that break down your poo are located at least 6 inches down. In addition, no one likes stepping in a pile-o-poo, so be kind and dig down.
However, not all areas are ideal for burying your waste. Deserts lack water, which is needed to break poop down. If you have the ability, pack in some waste disposal bags and pack out your waste.
If you prefer a seat rather than squatting, there are some portable toilets available. This will require more cleaning and you will still have to dig a cathole if you don't plan on packing out the waste.
There's no way of getting around it, going to the bathroom in the outdoors is way more complicated for woman than men. Unlike guys, we don't have the option of just standing by the truck to pee. We have to search desperately for a group of vegetation to tuck behind. Don't get me started on the awkward balancing act of pulling pants up if you're stuck behind a short bush.
The market has a number of products that can make peeing easier, like the female pee device. This is supposed to give women the ability to stand while peeing. I wouldn't recommend attempting a new tool like this at the campsite, but rather try practicing at home in the shower.
If you're on your period, you need to make sure that you pack out all feminine products used on your camping trip. Don't bury these products in a cathole!
If our bodies are getting dirty, what do our clothes look like? Although we rarely take the time to do any kind of laundry along the way these days, there was a time when baby blow outs would make it necessary. Laundromats aren't always an option, so we advise you to do plenty of research ahead of time to ensure there is something available in the area you'll be camping.
Although laundromats seem like the easiest option, it definitely comes at a cost. Literally. Laundromats aren't cheap. Not to mention the time you'll be spending away from the camping fun. If you're willing to tap into your primitive roots, you can wash your clothes right at the campsite!
Place your dirty clothes in a large black plastic trash bag. Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Fill the bag with water with just enough to cover your clothes. Tie the bag and let sit in the sun for a couple hours. After that, shake the bag vigorously. Drain the dirty water from the bag. Fill another large black trash bag with fresh water. Transfer all of the clothes to the second bag. Tie off and let sit for another couple hours. Finally, drain the water and wring out your clothes. Hang on a clothesline, ladder, awning or tree branch.
Bucket & Soap
Fill a bucket with water. Add your clothes and a bunch of soap. Mix it all about and let it sit for a few hours. Fill another bucket with fresh water. Use this bucket to rinse out your clothes, one piece at a time. Wring out clothing and hang up on a clothesline, rooftop tent ladder, awning or tree branch.
If there is a lake or river nearby, you can jump in and shake around. I would recommend doing this earlier in the day so your clothes can dry in the warmth of the sun. Although this method is the simplest, by far, you also need to be mindful of how you will impact your environment. Do your research to make sure you can take a dip in whatever body of water you're nearby.
Leave a comment if you have any questions! Happy camping!