Nothing compares to being in the backcountry and immersing yourself in nature. However, staying clean and comfortable can be daunting if you’re deep in the woods, bathroom facilities are unavailable, and there’s zero limited access to clean, running water. How can we manage good hygiene?
In this post, I’ll discuss essential camping hygiene practices to stay clean and fresh while being mindful of the environment and animals in the wild. I’ll also share some essential items in my hygiene kit that you might need on your next camping trip.
Table of Contents
Taking a Bath
Not all campsites have showers and water facilities that you can use for bathing or washing, so it helps to plan a system for staying clean and fresh.
I find portable showers handy whenever I want to freshen up and have a quick bath. It can connect to a water source, or a bucket filled with water. It is multipurpose, as I would also use it when washing dishes at camp or watering my plants at home. It comes in many forms and sizes, usually including a hose, spray, and a pack for filling water. Just set up your camping shower at least 200 feet away from the natural body of water.
When you pass by a water source such as a lake or a waterfall, grab the chance to take a bath and remember not to use soap (even if it says biodegradable) directly while bathing on natural bodies of water. If you use soap, collect water, move 200 feet away from the water source, apply soap, then rinse off. Don’t bathe in stagnant water – it is a breeding ground for bacteria that might cause sickness.
What if water is scarce and there are no shower facilities around you? Fortunately, there are hacks you can do if you’re short on water. First, you can always do a sponge bath using only a tiny amount of water. Alternatively, use unscented baby wipes to wipe down surface dirt from the face to your toes. Remember always to pack out used wipes and dispose of them properly.
Bring Water for Washing
You must bring water when your campsite cannot access water facilities. Generally, an adult person will need two gallons of water a day. That would be one gallon for drinking and the other for hygiene. Aside from keeping yourself clean, think about the amount of water for cooking, washing dishes, and doing laundry. Considering all these items, car camping or camping near your vehicle might be your best bet to load everything if your campsite doesn’t have a water supply.
Washing Your Clothes at Camp
You may run out of clean clothing, especially if you pack minimally. If you aren’t on a campsite providing washing facilities, you’re left with no option but to handwash your clothes. You can use a basin or a plastic bag to get this done. Add enough water to soak your clothes, put a small amount of biodegradable detergent, then scrub or knead the clothes with your hands. Rinse the clothes, squeeze the water, and hang them to dry.
If you’re washing clothes close to a natural body of water, remember to throw your grey water at least 200 feet away and scatter it to avoid polluting water resources or the pristine environment you’re camping in.
Using the Toilet When Camping
Choose a campsite with toilets and sufficient water, but this is nearly impossible when camping in a wilderness area. Without a toilet, you can deal with the call of nature by using a traditional method to dispose of your body waste.
Burying your waste in a cathole is one of the best ways to dispose of human waste in nature. This is where a trowel comes in handy. Dig a hole at least 6 to 8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campgrounds. When you’re done, use leaves from fallen trees or a sanitary wipe as a wiping material. Drop the leaves you used into the cathole and cover it well by moving back the soil. If you use sanitary wipes or tissue paper, pack them out by placing them in a zip lock bag, as these materials don’t quickly decompose.
Please wash your hands well with soap and water and sanitize them with hand sanitizer before attending to other things.
Manage Your Trash Properly
Always check your campsite for trash and pack it out. Put waste in a sealed bag and dispose of it in a designated area on the trailhead. Improper waste disposal may contaminate soil and water, harming people and wildlife.
Our goal is to have a clean, safe, and odor-free campsite and leave no trace behind for others to enjoy the same way you did.
Hygiene Kit Essentials
Unless I’m car camping or camping near my car, I pack light and only bring travel-size products that would last for the whole trip. Do away with scented products because they can attract insects or bears to your campsite, and we should avoid this situation as they could turn aggressive and pose harm.
But if you can’t help it, carry only mild-scented, eco-friendly products, and ensure that your soap, shampoo, lotion, and sunscreen have mild scents.
I suggest using multipurpose biodegradable soaps that you can use for your body and washing dishes.
Unscented Baby Wipes
I find baby wipes useful and use them whenever I need to clean my hands or when I want to freshen up in my tent before I sleep. You may also need these after doing your business. Since these are not biodegradable, pack out used wipes in a separate zip lock.
Unscented Hand Sanitizer
Handwashing with soap and water can remove all dirt and germs, which is my preferred method of eliminating dirt. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are must-haves, especially if you’re far from a water source.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Cotton Balls
Hydrogen Peroxide could be one of your first-aid kits to treat cuts and wounds, but didn’t you know it is also helpful to include in your hygiene essentials? Just dab the cotton balls on the hydrogen peroxide and gently apply it on your palms, feet, armpit, and groin for cleaning and preventing bacterial growth.
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Dental Floss
Your oral hygiene is equally important – this routine requires only a tiny amount of water.
Since these towels are highly absorbent, quick-drying, and light, they’re suitable to bring during camping trips.
It would help if you had this when camping in summer to prevent sunburn.
When camping in hot weather or the desert, consider bringing a packable size to prevent chafing and dry skin.
Consider bringing two outfits a day if you need more space and weight. If you’re camping in summer, loose and moisture-wicking fabrics are the way to go to help you feel fresh. Wooded areas in a campsite are home to many insects, and long-sleeved shirts can do the trick to protect your arms against bug bites.
You’ll need this when there’s no toilet around you, and you need to dig a cathole to bury your waste.
As women, we’d like to avoid camping inconveniences by packing enough feminine pads or products to keep ourselves fresh during our period. We keep used feminine products in a separate zip lock bag to avoid foul odor and pack them out when breaking camp.
Everyone gets sweaty and dirty when camping in the backcountry. But practicing good camping hygiene will ensure an enjoyable and comfortable time outdoors. In addition, following basic hygiene rules helps preserve the environment and keep it a safe space for animals and humans.