How to Shower When Camping: The Concise Guide

Last Updated on 09/06/2023

How to Shower when Camping

How to Shower when Camping?

Camping out in the middle of nowhere is an excellent way to escape the stresses of daily life, but what happens when you need a shower? In this guide, we explain how to shower when camping and alternative methods for staying fresh outdoors.

Hygiene is something that many backcountry campers overlook when enjoying the beauty of nature. With nobody around to judge, it is too easy to go days without bathing or weeks without washing your hair. This is all fine and well if you are on your own or with a buddy, but what about when you are camping with a partner or someone you quite like? Not being able to take a shower is enough to put some folk off camping altogether, so knowing how to rig one up can be a motivating factor when trying to persuade someone to go camping with you.

Taking a hot shower in the great outdoors is one of life’s great pleasures, and it feels like you are experiencing some kind of spa treatment. The reality of hot showers while camping is a little less glamorous but just as invigorating. To start with, you likely have to heat some water using whatever means you have. Then you have to fill your shower vessel with hot water and get it to a comfortable temperature. Once this is all done, you will have around 1 – 10 minutes of running water which may be more of a trickle, but you can’t really complain.

Methods of Showering While Camping

The best way to stay clean and odor-free while camping is to wash regularly and maintain good camping hygiene practices. This might be as basic as a baby wipe shower, where you just wash your face, neck, underarms, and crotch (in that order). Better yet, you might be able to pack a camping shower which solves this issue altogether. The alternative option is using streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, and even the rain to get a quick shower or take a dip.

  • Use baby wipes
  • Take a camping shower
  • Make a camping shower
  • Wash in streams and lakes

How to Avoid Body Odour when Camping?

To stay squeaky clean, you should look for an Eco-friendly soap that will not harm wildlife or pollute the waterways. Soap enables you to remove dirt and grease that builds up when you are camping for a few days in the backcountry. This soap can also be used to wash your clothes which will also help you to feel cleaner and smell better when camping.

You can use a deodorant to keep body odor at bay and mask any funky smells that arise on you or your clothes until you can take a bath or shower. Another trick some campers use is wearing Merino wool which doesn’t hold any odors at all and can be worn for days before it needs to be washed. Check out this hiking underwear and these Merino wool base layer tops for more ideas on this.

What Are the Best Travel Soaps for You and Your Clothes?

The best travel soaps are eco-friendly, so you can wash in rivers and streams, multipurpose for you and your clothes, and concentrated to keep the weight to a minimum. You can buy travel soap as a bar, as a liquid, or as single-use sheets, and they all have their advantages.

Whether you are backpacking across South East Asia or trekking the Himalayas, keeping clean can be a constant challenge if you don’t have access to a shower. Yes, you can wash in streams and waterfalls, but without soap, you never truly feel clean. The same goes for your clothes, they get worn day in and day out without being washed, and it isn’t until you give them a wash that you realize how dirty they were.

Travel soap comes in many variations, and deciding which to choose can be influenced by your needs and requirements. For instance, you can get scented or unscented, bars or liquid, eco-friendly and cruelty-free soap, or you may be allergic to certain ingredients that might mean you can only use a certain type. I personally like the sea to summit soap that is multipurpose and has citronella in it to keep biting insects away.

Different Types of Outdoor Showers

There are different types of outdoor showers or receptacles you can use to wash your hair while camping, just as there are a few different ways you can heat the water in the first place. Some use a pump to create a pressurized container or electric pump, while others use are designed to be hung above head height to utilize gravity. You can even get a solar-powered camping shower that uses the sun’s rays to warm the water before you ‘get in’.

Gravity Fed Camping Showers

Gravity showers for camping are essentially water containers with a tube and nozzle that can be hung up so that you can get a shower wherever you are. They are most often in the form of a thick water bag that has a loop attachment with a small hose that can be opened and closed with a valve at the end. You fill the bag up with warm water and then attach it to a tree branch or something high up and stand underneath to get a wash.

This type of shower is the most portable if you are carrying it in your backpack, as it will compress down when empty and doesn’t take up much space. They also don’t weigh much and can come in way under 500g for people carrying all their gear on their backs. A typical 5-gallon/20-liter gravity shower will provide 8-10 minutes of flowing water which is plenty of time to get showered in nature.

Best Gravity Fed Camping Shower
Best Gravity Fed Camping Shower
The Green Elephant 2-in-1 Portable Shower & Dry Bag is ideal for keeping gear dry as well as enabling you to shower when camping.

Pressurized Camping Showers

A pump-action camp shower is much like your standard weed-spraying device or water pistol in that you pressurize the container so that it sprays out the liquid. Pressurized showers are slightly more robust and are designed to hold and spray hot water instead of cold water or chemicals. You can expect thicker plastic to withstand higher temperatures and a more heavy-duty hose and nozzle to stay durable.

There are a few different options available, from the standard hand pump to newer foot pump versions. Neither requires you to hang the shower above your head and is designed to be used on the ground. You will still benefit from hanging the nozzle above your head, though as this keeps your heads free from applying soap. For this reason, a foot pump is more practical than a hand pump, as you can continuously press your foot down even if you are washing your hair while camping.

Best Pressurized Camping Shower
Best Pressurized Camping Shower
The Nemo Helio Portable Pressure Camp Shower is ideal for pumping hot water over your head and can be totally hands-free.

Solar Camping Shower

Solar camping showers are basically the same as a gravity-fed or hanging camping shower but with the added bonus of heating the water inside. This saves you the task of boiling water on a stove or fire and is a very passive way to take a hot shower while camping. They are often made of dark material that absorbs the sun’s rays and will typically take just 3 hours to heat up. Some solar showers will even have a temperature gauge or thermometer on the outside to show you how warm the water is.

Best Solar Camping Shower
Best Solar Camping Shower
The Ivation Portable Camping Shower is a neat little gadget that uses a rechargeable battery to pump water through the compact hose to a wide shower nozzle.

Electric Camping Shower

Technological innovations have brought about a new type of camping shower that will pump water electrically using a portable battery. These electric camping showers are great for weekend trips but will require recharging after roughly 45-60 minutes of use. You simply place the electronic pump into a large container full of water and then use the nozzle as you would any other shower. The flow rate on these is better than a pump-action or gravity-fed system so it will use water faster but provide a better shower of water.

Best Electric Camping Shower
Best Electric Camping Shower
The Ivation Portable Camping Shower is incredibly lightweight and convenient to use which makes it great for camping adventures.

MakeShift Camping Showers

If you don’t have access to a portable camping shower, then you can still make a camping shower from materials you do have. A large water bottle with small holes in the bottom will give you just enough of a shower to clean yourself. Likewise, a bag with holes in the bottom will work in the same way but may not work with hot water. Hydration reservoirs will work if you take off the mouthpiece valve at the end and have the added benefit of being multipurpose and something you have already packed.

Check out this video on making a shower out of a plastic bottle and a straw.

This guide on how to shower when camping was designed for people looking to stay clean on camping trips; if you found it useful, please share it with someone else who might find it helpful. Thanks.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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