How to shower while camping: Everything you need to know

Have you ever wondered how to shower while camping? Growing up, I did very little camping as I wasn’t convinced the no-shower thing was for me. However, as an adult, I’ve been much more adventurous. After losing my job, I decided to start camping more regularly since it is a very inexpensive way to travel. I started car camping and tent camping consistently and picked up many helpful tips on how to stay fresh while camping along the way.

Little can compete with a hot, clean shower after a long day of hiking and exploring nature. While camp showers might not be the most luxurious kind of showers, there are many ways to take a shower and stay fresh while camping, even when water is scarce.

In this post, I’m sharing everything you need to know to answer the question “How to shower while camping.” I’ve included tips for saving water, what soap to use, types of shower systems, and much more to help even the most skeptical campers start camping and stay camping longer.

Why showering while camping is important

You might not need to shower every day, especially if you are not sweating or doing physical activity, but daily showers are generally seen as a healthy habit.

Daily showers are not typical while camping, but showering enough to remove excess dirt and oils is ideal. Showers remove unhealthy bacteria from the skin, prevent acne, and eliminates odors, all while helping you feel fresh and get a better night’s sleep.

At the minimum, you should rinse off in freshwater every few days to maintain proper hygiene. If freshwater is not available, you’ll need to use an alternate method (more on these methods later in this post) to shower and make your camping experience that much more enjoyable.

Best places to shower while camping

If you are not camping in an RV with a built-in shower, you may want to choose a campground with shower facilities. Of course, it will cost you more, but the convenience is probably worth it if you have the budget.

Many developed campgrounds and National Parks will include showers with campsite reservations, while others offer public showers for additional fees. Some campgrounds will allow you to pay for a shower even if you are not camping with them. Some campgrounds even have community pools which is another excellent way to rinse off and refresh after a long day.

Many gyms, YMCA’s, truck stops, and travel centers offer public Showers when on the road. Most YMCAs charge $3-$8 for a shower. Flying J travel centers charge a bit more ($12-$15) but offer fresh towels and amenities. However, these locations are usually along highly trafficked interstates or residential communities and are not convenient to most campgrounds.

If your campsite does not offer shower facilities, you will have to look for potable water spigots to fill jugs and bags for DIY showers or bring extra water with you. More on different kinds of DIY showers later in this post.

Finally, freshwater sources like lakes and rivers are ideal places for rinsing off. When bathing in natural water sources, don’t use any soap (even biodegradable soap). If you must use soap, fill a jug with the water and shower at least 200 feet away from the natural water source using your favorite environmentally safe soap.

Some of my favorite natural soap brands are:

  • Ethique– Known for solid bars to eliminate plastic waste
  • Sea to Summit– Their wilderness wash is gental on skin but powerful enough for fabrics and dishes
  • Dr. Bronners Pure-Castile Liquid Soap– Make the popular, 18 in 1 was that comes in pepermint scent (my favorite)
  • Camp Suds– Concentrated soap that works on anything washable

Best ways to find showers while camping

When booking a campsite online, most websites will offer a search filter, making it easy to know if your preferred campground has shower facilities either on-site or nearby. There are many other camping websites and apps that can help find campsites with showers as well.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Freecampsites.net-free camping areas only
  • Hipcamp.com (app)- many paid and free camp site options posted by hosts
  • iOverlander (app)- geared toward boondocking, car and RV travel
  • PublicShower.directory– great for shower options across the US, organized by city and state.

Warmshowers.com and Couchsurfing.com are two other community/hospitality sites created to help host travelers but can be used to find free showers. They both cost a fee to use, but if you are camping for long periods, it may be worth the cost to sleep and shower for free while meeting new friends along the way.

How to responsibly shower while camping

Many of us are used to running water until it warms up and slathering on fragrant soap and shampoo when taking a daily shower. However, it is important to be environmentally conscious when taking a shower in nature, so toxic chemicals and dirty runoff do not pollute nature and water sources any more than they already have.

Proper guidelines for camping showers include washing with biodegradable soap at least 200 feet away from a campsite and natural water sources.

Some of my favorite natural soap brands are:

  • Ethique– Known for solid bars to eliminate plastic waste
  • Sea to Summit– Their wilderness wash is gental on skin but powerful enough for fabrics and dishes
  • Dr. Bronners Pure-Castile Liquid Soap– Make the popular, 18 in 1 was that comes in pepermint scent (my favorite)
  • Camp Suds– Concentrated soap that works on anything washable

If using a single-use body wipe or washcloth that is not biodegradable, make sure to store and trash it properly. Following the Leave No Trace Principles is essential to protecting nature and providing a healthy camping environment for all to enjoy.

How to conserve water while showering

It is always a great idea to use as little water as possible when showering, but it’s not a choice if you are showering while camping. You will want to conserve as much freshwater as possible, and you can do that in a few ways.

Take a sponge Bath

Sponge baths are popular while camping because they use the least amount of water. Wet a sponge or washcloth with water and a touch of biodegradable soap and use that to “wipe” off dirty skin. Then, rinse the cloth or sponge and repeat wiping and rinsing a few times over until you feel clean.

Avoid washing hair

Washing hair always uses a lot of water, so it’s best to avoid it if you can. However, if washing hair is a must, focus on washing the scalp first and let the biodegradable soapy water run down your body for “double duty.” If you can’t give up the conditioner, try using a leave-in conditioner to eliminate the need for a second rinse.

Rinse off method

The rinse-off method is excellent for campsites with water spigots as it uses the most water, and you may need to refill your shower device frequently. The idea of this method is to spray your body with water, turn the water off, soap up then rinse.

Types of camp shower systems

Your camping style will decide what shower system best suits you. All designs are portable, but some systems provide more luxury with heated water in full privacy tents, while others are more simple with a portable tank and hose.

Bag Showers

Most of these can be heated via sun and are usually, as the term describes, a bag filled with water. Solar heated showers use a material that absorbs the sun’s heat and usually includes a hose and nozzle for water flow. You will need to hang a bag shower from a tree or hook high enough to let gravity force the water through the showerhead. These showers may hold up to 5 gallons of water and are easily packable after use.

Tent Showers

These systems are more luxurious but are also the bulkiest and tedious to set up. Tent ShowersTank Showers

Most tank showers are portable, come with hoses or pumps, can be heated with batteries, and require very little to no setup. They require more storage room when not in use but are so easy to use and come in handy for many camping needs.

I prefer tank showers because of their convenience and ability to transform into more than just a shower. Whether I car camp or tent camp, I always bring a Rinse Kit. It makes life outside so much easier.

Rinse Kits are perfect not only for showers but for washing hands, rinsing pets, cleaning gear, and doing dishes. I use their 2-gallon option that, when used sparingly, can last weeks for one person. It comes with a built-in hose and multi-spray nozzle. I use the mist mode to conserve water. Rinse Kits make staying fresh while camping a breeze!

Newer models come with a detachable water heater or a built-in battery-operated heater, and the updated design makes it impossible for water leakage when sitting upright. It is really easy to use and refill and can now be refilled with some indoor faucets.

There are a few things that make showering even easier.

  • Floor matt or tub– great when using bag showers so you don’t create a mud pit under you with water run off
  • Privacy Tent- when campsites are too close together. Can be used for changing or as a bathroom with a porta potty or “Go Anywhere Toliet Kits.”
  • Shower Caddy– store all you tolitries in one place
  • Shower Shoes– such as flip flops to help protect against germs and keep your feel clean when entering and exiting the shower area
  • Microfiber Towels-They are not the most cozy and absorbent towels but when camping, their fast dry time is very convienent

Ways to stay fresh without a shower while camping

There are few options for staying clean and fresh even if water is not available.

Wet Wipes

The most common method is using a disposable body wipe. Many body wipes come in different sizes, thicknesses, and with varying levels of moisture. Some brands are all-natural, while others use alcohol and harsher ingredients to clean your skin.

It is essential to do your research and choose a wipe that is best suited for you. For example, if you are using a wipe to clean your entire body, I would make sure it is big enough and thick enough. I’ve been using the ShowerPill extra thick body wipes and love them. They are thick, have the perfect level of moist and come individually wrapped, eliminating dried-out wipes.

Although I love the ShowerPill wipes I’ll be switching to biodegradable wipes soon. I’ve heard good things about Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes and Combat Wipes.

Focused Washing

The easiest way to feel refreshed without using a lot of water is to focus on cleaning whatever area makes your feel refreshed the most. For me, it is brushing my teeth and washing my face. When I am car camping for months, I always brush my teeth and wash my face twice a day. I feel instantly refreshed even if a full-on shower is not available for days at a time.

Camp in cooler weather

Camping in cool weather is a great way to avoid sweating, thus avoiding the icky dirty feeling. However, if it is hot and humid outside little can compensate for the sweaty, grimy feeling you get from just walking around. Even a shower can’t compete with hot weather; although immediately refreshed, that clean feeling won’t last for long in sweltering hot temperatures.

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Whether it is a rinse kit, a body wipe, or a full-on luxury camp shower, I hope you will get out in nature knowing there are easy ways to take a shower while camping. It may take some getting used to, but the rewards of disconnecting and getting away from it all are well worth a few days of lite showering!

Hi, I'm Sam

After a lay off from the corporate world I decided to SEE the world. Sharing all my bucket list experiences to help spark your wanderlust and inspire your next adventure!

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