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How to Stay Clean While Camping (Hygiene Tips)

| Updated Jun 21, 2023

Keep your fellow campers happy by keeping yourself smelling fresh. Here are some tips on how to stay clean while camping.

We’ve all been there. You’ve been hiking for quite a while when something unsavory hits your nostrils. You notice flowers wilting as you walk by. Your friend is keeping their distance. 

So you consider that dreaded question – is that stench me?

Besides worrying about what others may think of you, exercising proper hygiene is actually crucial for staying safe.

Keeping bacteria from building up where it shouldn’t be is key to a comfortable, rewarding hiking experience. 

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How to Stay Clean While Camping

How to Stay Clean While Camping (Hygiene Tips) 1
Stay clean.

Cleaning yourself (especially your dirty feet) and your dirty clothes properly prevents skin issues, such as rashes or chafing.

Good personal hygiene is especially important if you’re spending more than a few days outdoors. So here’s just about everything you need to know about how to stay clean while camping.

1. Your Clothes

Even if you’re camping for only a few days, you still need to pack a minimum of two outfits. Underwear and socks in particular are items that need to be changed every day.

Of course, you only have enough room in your pack, so here’s where the strategy comes in.

To minimize your clothes getting that raw odor, choose hiking clothes and socks with synthetic materials, wool, nylon, or spandex material that wicks moisture. Cotton absorbs sweat and dries slowly in general, even after washing it.

2. Laundry

Speaking of washing clothes, if you’re camping for an extended period of time, you may need to do some laundry. 

Undergarments especially will need this kind of attention. You can get away with turning underwear inside out from time to time but shouldn’t rely on this method.

To wash your clothes while camping, first you’ll need a water source. If you have access to running water like a river (shouldn’t be stagnant or you’ll risk contamination), you can clean them there. Otherwise you’ll need to pack extra water to account for all the cleaning you’ll need to do. 

First, pour a little water into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Then place your clothes and a little biodegradable laundry detergent into the plastic bag. Make sure the detergent is unscented since you don’t want to attract bugs or animals.

Next, seal the bag and shake it all up for a few minutes. Then take it at least 200 feet from water sources and dump out the water from the bag, and replace it with some more clean water. Shake it up again to rinse off the remainder of the detergent.

Lastly, take the clothes out of the bag and dry them overnight.

Of course, it’s understandable you won’t always get a chance to do laundry and won’t always sleep in clean clothes. So I would recommend bringing a sleeping bag liner. This way the place you sleep always stays clean, even if you’re not.

How to Stay Clean While Camping (Hygiene Tips) 3

3. How About Boots?

Walking around in those things all day could have your shoes smelling raw in no time. To combat this, use Arm & Hammer Odor Busterz.

4. Your Body

Hiking to a remote campsite can get you pretty sweaty and dirty. Nothing beats ending a strenuous day than feeling clean.

Bathing yourself using a running fresh water natural source is ideal. But in case you’re not near one, you’ll need to use that extra water you packed, along with biodegradable soap

Similar to laundry, go somewhere 200 feet from any water source to not contaminate. Bathe yourself thoroughly in the armpits, face and where the sun doesn't shine.

Depending on how much (or little) you want to rough it, you can bring along a portable shower. This solar-heated camping shower has great reviews and you can actually enjoy some warm water after a long day. It's the closest thing you'll get to a hot shower when backcountry camping.

If you’re not near a body of water or a portable camp shower seems excessive, you can keep it simple. Unscented baby wipes or wet wipes can work like a sponge bath. Use them to clean all the sweaty areas, including your face and feet.

Unfortunately, since baby wipes aren’t biodegradable, you have to pack the dirty ones and take them with you. Or, you can invest in some quality biodegradable wipes.

5. Your Hair

You can use the biodegradable soap we mentioned above, but maybe you’re camping long enough where you feel the need to wash your hair, but don’t have access to a water supply to soak it.

Unscented dry shampoo works well to clean it and rid your hair of that greasy look.

6. Brushing Your Teeth

Dental hygiene doesn’t have to relax just because you’re in nature. 

Pack an all-natural Unscented toothpaste, and when ready to brush, go 200 feet from a water source as if you’re doing laundry. 

Before spitting, put some more water in your mouth to dilute the toothpaste. Then try to spit a little all around instead of one spot to not disrupt too much of the nature around you.

Dental floss is so light that a lot of people will throw it in their pack. Just be sure to not leave any behind as wildlife can get easily wrapped up in it.

7. How About Going To The Bathroom? 

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If you have an RV with a bathroom, you don't need to worry about this too much. That's one of the reasons why you bought an RV!

But doing your business in the woods can be a bit of a process. You’ll need to pack a trowel and dig a hole to bury your waste.

You can pack toilet paper and either pack it with you or burn it. You can also use leaves to wipe yourself and bury those. Another reason to have a bathroom IN your RV!

Most importantly, when you’re done, use unscented alcohol-based hand sanitizer. After all, you’re going to eat with those hands.

8. Washing Dishes

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If you don't have an RV

Speaking of eating, it’s important to keep your cooking tools clean so as not to attract animals. Especially after making something that smells delicious like this turkey vegetable stew. You also want to keep your campsite as clean as when you found it.

Here you’ll find another use for biodegradable soap and your trowel.

If your travel van or RV doesn't have a kitchen sink and grey water tank – make sure you follow these instructions.

Use a little soap in a pot of water, then use steel wool to clean any remaining food off your dishes or pots or utensils, like these. Leave these items to dry overnight.

But now you have this dirty water with bits of food. To keep the animals and bugs away, you’ll need to take this pot of water 200 feet from your campsite. Then use the trowel to bury it, treating it as if you were going to the bathroom. This is especially important in bear country.

What NOT to Bring

I already mentioned to only bring biodegradable unscented products. But as much as it would be tempting to bring, leave your scented deodorant in the RV or back at home.

The smell attracts bugs and animals, so if you’re going to be “all natural” and not use deodorant while you’re hiking, all the more reason to be vigorous with the baby wipes.

More Tips on How to Stay Clean While Camping

Do you have any advice on how to stay clean while camping? Let us know in the comments!

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How to Stay Clean While Camping (Hygiene Tips) 8

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-07-15

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

3 Responses to “How to Stay Clean While Camping (Hygiene Tips)”

July 18, 2021at5:56 pm, Hubert Hurst said:

Here is a little tip along with your keeping clean ideas. Especially for the ladies, there is a product
“Shampoo Cap” is used mostly for people bedridden. You can shampoo your hair and dry it without using any water you trudged along. It will give you nice clean hair without using water. Look it up at your local Walgreens or on the web.

July 17, 2021at10:37 pm, William Norva said:

Outstanding advice from a wise couple! Thank you, Mike and Jennifer. We hope to see you on the road for worthy pleasantries. God bless you both! With much care, Bill, Nel & Princess…

July 15, 2021at9:27 am, Mary Rivety said:

I have started using this rinse free bath sponges called Scrubzz. You just wet it and rub it to lather it wash with it and use a towel to dry off. Use it in the RV works great don’t have to shower and waste our water.

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