Camping Hygiene: How to Bathe when Camping.

Outdoor camping is a great way to unplug from the daily grind and unwind in tranquility. It also presents opportunities to enjoy picturesque scenery alone or with dear ones.

In fact, few recreation activities match up to the fun and adventure of sitting amid lively buddies around a campfire.

However, we all get dirty when camping. Sweat, mud, soot, debris, and other forms of dirt accumulate on our bodies and clothing.

While a little dirt is part of the joy of outdoor camping, going multiple days without showering is daunting and unhealthy. Moreover, body odors are strong magnets for dangerous wild animals such as bears, mountain lions, and rodents.

Thus, it’s crucial to take a shower when camping to stay hygienic and comfortable. 

Bathing keeps bugs at bay and prevents bacterial infections and weird rashes among other ailments. Nevertheless, showering is a major challenge in most outdoor tent camping trips.

Over the years, campers have come up with numerous creative ways to clean off on camping adventures. A cold dip bath in a river or swimming hole on a hot day is fun and effective.

Nevertheless, you’ll want to explore other practical options for showering in chilly weather and on long camping trips.  Let’s explore the best ways to freshen up on a camping vacation:

1 ).Using portable camping showers

Portable camp showers are miniature versions of ordinary showers.

They’re designed for easy portability and storage to help you enjoy contemporary showering services even in the wild.

With new models pooping up daily, you’ll find virtually limitless options of portable camp showers.

There are 7 distinct types of portable camp showers befitting different camping trips, budgets, storage spaces, and personal preferences.

a) Simple Gravity portable camp showers

This is the most basic and simplistic category of portable camping showers. They consist of a water bag or bottle and a showerhead.

The shower assembly works by hanging overhead and letting free gravity flow deliver the water downward.

Gravity camping showers are generally compact and affordable. However, they’re sometimes cumbersome to use since they rely chiefly on gravity to deliver the water.

There are numerous makes of gravity portable camp showers.

For instance, the Simple Shower easily screws onto most plastic bottles to form a compact, lightweight, multipurpose, and easy-to-use gravity shower.

It’s ideal for use on backpacking trips and campgrounds with water scarcity.

Alternatively, you can opt for a gravity camping shower bag such as the Sea-to-Summit Pocket Shower.

Camping shower bags consist of small backpacks containing a water reservoir, water hose, twist valve, and shower head.

Additionally, some are made of black PVC to naturally heat water in the sun and offer hot showers later on.

b)Pressurized portable camp showers

Unlike their gravity counterparts, pressurized portable camping showers discharge water from a pressurized tank.

Thus, you need not suspend them overhead to enjoy a shower. Further, they can double as water storage tanks for campers.

Pressurized campinh showers

Most pressurized camping showers are made of durable and lightweight aluminum or plastic.

To use the appliances, you first have to fill them with water, pressurize the tank, and then use a pressure-release valve to let out the water spray.

Depending on the specific model, you can use a standard bicycle pump, 12-volt air compressor, or inbuilt hand pump to pressurize the water tank.

Another notable perk of most pressurized camp showers is that they can be stored on a car camper’s roof rack to save interior storage space.

Some popular models of pressurized portable camp showers include the aluminum-built Roadshower 4, the plastic WaterPORT Day Tank, hand-pumped Reliance Flow Pro Portable Shower and the hand-pumped RinseKit Pressurized Portable Shower.

c)Electric portable camp showers

Electric camping showers utilize an electric-powered appliance to pump water from a storage vessel to a showerhead through a hose.

Unlike the simple gravity and pressurized alternatives, electric portable camping showers don’t contain a means to regulate the water flow.

Thus, they’re only suitable for use if your camping area has plenty of water.

You can either opt for a rechargeable option such as the JAYETEC USB Rechargeable Portable Outdoor Shower Set or a battery-powered alternative like the Ivation Battery Powered Portable Outdoor Shower Set with a compact rechargeable shower head. 

The ZODI battery-powered camp shower is another great option, especially if you are on a budget. 

d)Solar portable camp showers

Solar camping showers employ solar technology to heat up water and present campers with warm showers.

Like their gravity counterparts, you must suspend solar camp showers overhead so that gravity can push the water from the container through the showerhead.

Furthermore, some solar-powered camp shower models are equipped with temperature gauges.

This way, you can tell the exact water temperature before running your shower.

Similar to simple gravity camp showers, moist solar showers have limited water capacity. Therefore, you should conserve you water by showering in 3 simple steps:

  • Start by moistening your body
  • Turn off the shower
  • Spread lather over your body using a biodegradable soap
  • Re-open the water and rinse off the soap
  • Wipe down your body with a microfiber towel.

The DOTSOG Portable camping solar  shower bag  and the VIGLT Portable Shower Bag for Camping are among the most affordable solar portable camp showers.

Both of them can hold 5 gallons or 20 liters of water.

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e. Propane portable camp showers

These camp showers employ a propane-fueled appliance to heat up and pump water for campers to enjoy hot showers.

An example is the Hike Crew Propane portable shower & water heater pump.

It is a multi-purpose device whose water you can also utilize in washing the dishes and other tasks.

f.) Portable camping shower tents

A portable camping shower tent features a combination of portable camping shower and privacy shelter changing room.

It’s ideal for showering in public or crowded campsites without showers or changing rooms.

Portable camping shower tent

Apart from using these shower tents for bathing, you can also use them for privacy when dressing in camping grounds.

I have used my Gigatent pop up pod both as a privacy showering area and as a pop up toilet tent where I can place my Camco portable camping toilet.

A 2 room shower tent can also be used for changing babies or your children whenever you bring them along camping.

If you would want to use the shower tent for such tasks, get a bigger one like the Kingcamp which is double-roomed and can be used for changing, showering, hanging clothes, and even for privacy when using the toilet.

We have used our own Kingcamp for more than 3 years with no problem whatsoever. It comes in handy for family camping, especially when we are bringing out our two sons.

g)DIY portable camping shower ideas.

You can also get creative and improvise your own portable camp showers when camping outdoors.

  • For instance, you can pierce a few perforations on the lid of a water gallon. 
  • Then, fill up the gallon with water and suspend it overhead with the perforated lid facing downward.
  • The perforations serve as a showerhead and the setup is not only simplistic but also cheap to acquire and prepare.

2. Using built-in camping rig showers

If you’re adventuring in a camping rig such as an RV, camping trailer, or motor home with built-in showers, you’re set to enjoy convenient showers.

As long as you replenish the built-in showers’ water reservoir, you can shower anywhere, anytime.

Besides the unrivaled convenience, built-in camping showers in camping rigs have the added advantage of collecting waste water in dedicated tanks. 

Thus, you’re better set to leave minimal trace even when camping in the backcountry.

3.Using public shower facilities

Most developed campgrounds are equipped with public washrooms where you can take a shower.

You’ll find established campsites at KOA campgrounds, state parks, city parks, and the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds. 

However, these facilities may be available at a fee while the sanitation of others could be wanting. Still, public showers are by far the easiest way to clean off on a camping trip.

Besides developed campgrounds, you can find public shower facilities at:

  • Public beaches
  • Truck stops
  • Public swimming pools
  • Gyms

Note, shower facilities situated at the above premises may be available freely to the public or could be restricted to registered members only.

You may also be required to pay a small fee to use the facilities.

4.  Take a bath in nature

Bathing or swimming in a natural water body such as a lake, river, or stream is one of the simplest ways to clean off when camping outdoors.

It’s an effective and exciting way to maintain personal hygiene when camping in sunny and hot camping areas. What’s more, you don’t require any specialized equipment.

Nevertheless, you must first ascertain that it’s permitted to clean off in the water before taking a dip.

Moreover, you’re better off bathing in a flowing water body to reduce your chances of contracting water-borne infections.

A plain river bath is often sufficient to wipe off all sweat and dirt that you’ve accumulated through the day’s camping activities.

However, if you must use soap, ensure you go for environmental-friendly biodegradable brands such as Dr Bronners or Campsuds.

Non-biodegradable soap and shampoo pose a health and life threat to fish and other nearby wildlife.

Further, ensure you wash off far from domestic water collection points to avoid contaminating the water.  

Additionally, taking your natural bath at least 200 feet away from water bodies allows the biodegradable soap enough time to break down in the soil before flowing into the water.

5.)Take a sponge bath

Sometimes, it gets too cold when camping outdoors or you may set up camp far from a water body.

If your water reserves are really stretched, a sponge bath will keep you fresh till your next shower.

How to take a sponge bath?

  • Warm a pot of water over your camp stove
  • Wet a wash cloth or sponge then apply a little soap
  • Wash a section of your body, preferably starting with your head, using the sponge
  • Rinse off the washed section
  • Repeat steps (iii) and (iv) above until you’ve washed the entire body
  •  Dry off your body using a microfiber towel
  • Pour off any leftover soap water far away from water bodies to prevent water pollution.
  • Using hot water for sponge bathing instead of cold water is advisable.

    • The heat kills off microbes and other water pollutants, thereby keeping you safe.
    • Nevertheless, if you must use cold water from streams, rivers, or lakes, purify it first or filter off crumbs. 

    A cotton shirt can effectively filter out most visible impurities from the water

    Alternatively, you can use unscented baby wipes or biodegradable wet wipes for sponge bathing.

    However, unlike when using a wash cloth or sponge, you don’t need any water.

    In addition to sponge baths, wipes come in handy when nature calls. This is the best way to take a sponge bath using baby or biodegradable wet wipes:

  • Strip down the camp clothes you’ve worn throughout the day
  • Use one side of the wipes to wipe down your face and neck
  • Flip over the wipe then wipe down your armpits and groin area
  • Dispose the biodegradable wet wipes properly
  • Stash the used baby wipes into a zip-lock bag or sealable plastic bag for proper disposal later. This is because baby wipes are non-biodegradable.
  • Extra tips to stay clean and healthy on a camping trip

    Along with the above camping shower ideas, here are a few pro tips to keep you clean and fresh when camping:

    • Keep a dedicated pair of clean camp sleeping clothes and only wear them when slumbering
    • Wash your hands regularly while camping, especially after a washroom visit and before attending to kitchen matters. This keeps dirt and pollutants off your tent, thereby keeping you safe from dirt-related sicknesses
    • Practice hygienic waste disposal and bathroom habits to keep off infections
    • If you’re a lady, manage your period in a clean and hygienic manner. You can either use a Diva Cup, tampons, pads, or period-proof underwear. Thereafter, secure the used products in a sealable plastic bag then put it in a party bag to keep odors enclosed until you can dispose the products properly
    • Keep your camping dishes and other cookery clean to prevent bacterial growth and food contamination
    • Keep your camping clothes clean and dry
    • Maintain long hair clean and back-secured or use a headband or buff to keep it clean and untangled.

    Final Words

    While camping adventures are fun, keeping personal hygiene when camping outdoors is crucial to your safety and comfort.

    That’s why you should shower regularly when camping, whether in developed campgrounds or in the backcountry. Thankfully, there are many ways to clean off sweat and grime from your body when camping.

    If you’re camping on a developed campground, you can use the public showers therein or portable camp shower tents.

    On the other hand, you may have to resort to portable camping showers, bathing in natural water bodies, or a sponge bath when camping in the wild.

    Whatever method you choose, ensure you dry off and slip into clean and dry camp sleeping clothes after showering.