If you ask a seasoned camper or back-to-the-land ancient skills revivalist how to shower while camping, they are likely to snicker and say, “Don’t.”
That is because you can get perfectly clean using the old-fashioned sponge bath method.
Nor will you have to strip to what Mother Nature gave you in the chilly wilds of wherever you are camping. You can sponge-bathe in sections.
How to Take a Hot Shower While Camping
Your best bathing or showering methods will depend on season, availability of water, type of water available, and presence of fuel or power.
Here are some ways to get clean while camping.
Basic Cleanliness with Limited Water
When water is limited and has to be carried some distance you want to make it go as far as you possibly can.
You might need to strain and purify it before using it, even for bathing. Or you might have to melt snow or ice to obtain it.
The season will make a big difference to your approach, but the process is essentially the same:
- Prepare your water. The amount needed will vary with whether you have long hair, and whether you plan to wash it or not.
- Have an all-purpose wide basin at hand as well as a slop pail for wastewater. These can be collapsible containers for ease when backpacking.
- Use your tent or a camp shower tent for privacy if you’re in a campground with limited facilities.
- Refill the basin with clean, warm water. Rinse hair again. Use a cup to pour water over your head, if desired. Repeat once or twice more until your hair will squeak when rubbed between your fingers and you cannot feel any soap residue. Each time, pour the water into the wastewater pail.
- Reserve the final rinse water, adding a little hot water to warm it if necessary.
- Using your last rinse water, moisten a cloth, rub a little soap on it, and use the cloth to wash the rest of you. Begin with your face, ears, and neck, and work your way down. Rewet the cloth and apply more soap as needed, and continue soap, wash, and rinse until you are clean from head to toe.
- Reserve any clean water you do not use for other camp purposes, or for others to use.
- Save soapy water to wash clothes, use as camp safety water, or similar applications.
Note: You shouldn’t need to wash hair every day, even if you have long, light-colored hair. If water is truly limited, it might not be a real option.
You can refresh your scalp by rubbing ¼ DRY, plain oatmeal into your DRY hair, then brushing it out of your hair using a stiff, close bristled, smoothing brush. You could also use a commercially prepared dry shampoo.
Easy DIY Handheld Camping Shower
You’ll need a plastic bottle with a moderately wide screw-on plastic lid for a DIY camping shower. Some juice bottles are perfect.
Rinse the bottle to remove any juice residue. Fill the bottle with warm water and add a drop of all-purpose biodegradable camp soap. Squirt the water where you need it and wipe with a terry face cloth.
You might want a second bottle filled with plain water for rinsing. You can construct a brush screen or use a pop-up shower stall for privacy.
Showering Where Water Supplies Are Not an Issue
This gives you several more options.
Solar Bag Showers
This is an inexpensive shower solution if plenty of water is at hand and the weather is warm. Fill the bag with reasonably clean water, hang it up in a sunny spot, and let the water heat.
Surround the shower with a nifty pop-up portable shower privacy screen and rinse off the lake water or whatever.
You’ll want to get wet, stop the water, lather up, then rinse method of showering because the bags hold a limited amount of water.
Portable Electric Showers
You can purchase a portable showerhead that can be used by dropping the pump end in a pail of water, then using the other end to deliver water to any desired area.
These aren’t only good for camping (they can make the old-fashioned shampoo/bath method a little easier), they can also be used at home for spritzing water into desired areas, such as sprinkling plants, or for spot washing vehicles, or pets.
Powered Water Heater
If you truly love your showers and simply don’t feel clean any other way, or if you’re going through a stretch of roughing it while starting a new job, a portable tankless water heater might be just the ticket.
They range in price from just under $70 to around $250, depending on capacity. Most of them use gas as their fuel, just like a camp stove, but some use batteries.
They can also be used if you are renovating a home, and need a temporary shower set up. You need a standard water source for these.
Many commercial campgrounds and truck stops provide commercial showers. For a fee, you can have a shower stall with a locking door, hot water, and possibly other sanitary facilities in the same cubicle.
Although some of these facilities provide towels, washcloths, and complimentary soap, it’s a good idea to bring your own towels and toiletry articles.
In addition, it’s also wise to wear a cheap pair of plastic flip-flop sandals to avoid picking up an athlete’s foot or similar communicable conditions. (Think gym or locker room showers.)
These are only a few of the many ingenious ways to shower when camping.
Your budget and available water will determine the one that will work best for you.