How to Stay Clean While Camping

how to stay clean while camping
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Camping can be a fun adventure for the whole family. But sometimes, leaving the comforts of modern technology behind can be more challenging than we planned on – especially when it comes to hygiene. Nature is great, but it’s hard to beat a hot shower. Learning how to stay clean while camping is the key to comfort.

Luckily, there are plenty of outdoor innovations designed to make cleanliness in the woods a breeze. 

Looking for just the baseline easy ways to keep clean while camping? 

Interested in some of the fancy, newfangled camping hygiene products. This guide’s got you covered. 

8 Easy Tips to Stay Clean While Camping

We’ve compiled a list of the best tips for how to stay clean while camping, so you can enjoy your next trip without the unwanted BO.

1

Give Your Shoes a Home

Finding a Home for your Shoes and Keeping Clean while Camping
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After a long day hiking (or sleeping in the hammock), it’s easy to want to just kick off your shoes in the corner of your tent before collapsing (gently) on your air mattress. But bringing your shoes inside is probably one of the worst ideas when it comes to camping hygiene. Who knows what those shoes have walked through? To help discourage you (and the kids) from doing this, make a designated area outside your tent for shoes. 

Pro Tip: Tarp Magic

One of the best versions of this we’ve seen? When you pick out a tarp to put down under your tent, get one that’s bigger than your tent floor by a foot or two. Then, make sure that extra slack is at the front of the tent by the door. You can kick off your shoes right before you step over the threshold! Other solutions include bringing along a doormat or dollar-store rug to set either inside or outside the tent.

2

Wash Up Before You Go Inside

Keeping Clean while Camping by Washing up
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The last thing you want when you crawl in bed for the night is to feel the grit of dirt or sand inside your sleeping bag. One of the easiest ways to prevent tracking unwanted debris you’re your sleeping bag is to keep it out of your tent. By washing your hands and feet before you go inside, you can keep dirt, sand, gravel, crumbs, and other microscopic annoyances out. 

Pro Tip: Basin Bonanza

Washing up is easier said than done when it comes to camping with no nearby sink. An easy alternative is to keep a basin of water (or just a few water bottles) and some soap outside your tent. Even a simple rinse-off is better than nothing!

3

Bring Some Biodegradable Soap

Biodegradable Soap and Keeping Clean while Camping
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While we’re on the subject of hand-washing, let’s talk soap. It’s easy to grab the most convenient thing we have in the house before running out the door, like that bar soap that never gets used or the dish soap. But most soaps are bad for the environment. It doesn’t matter so much when it’s swirling down the drain, but if you’re camping without a sink, you’ll most likely end up washing your hands directly over the ground. 

That’s where biodegradable soap comes in. These cleaning liquids are designed to break down naturally. They usually do not contain things like preservatives, foaming agents, and other harmful chemicals. 

Pro Tip: Soap Shares

You can get biodegradable soap in “soap sheets,” which look like a small piece of paper but dissolve in your hand when mixed with water. They take up much less space than a bottle of liquid soap and are super easy to portion out! 

4

Wet Wipes Are Your Friend

Wet Wipes being used while camping
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Wet wipes are super convenient, whether you need to clean off your hands after that bedtime snack, or just want to wipe your face first thing in the morning so you can make your coffee with crust-free eyes. They’re also great for getting stubborn mud off the bottom of your boots, or cleaning burnt marshmallow from skewers. Wet wipes are also our favorite tip for how to stay clean while camping with kids.

Pro Tips: Baby, She’s Biodegradable

  • Baby wipes are a great choice because they’re gentle on the skin and won’t irritate the eyes if you want to wipe your face.
  • Pro tip: You can buy environmentally-friendly, biodegradable wet wipes to help keep trash out of landfills. Or, if you want to avoid single-use products altogether, try damp rags sealed in sandwich baggies!

5

Master the Sponge Bath

Sponge Bath
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Many state parks and campgrounds have a restroom house that usually has a shower stall or two. But not everywhere you end up camping is going to have the luxury of pressurized running water. For short weekend trips, this might not be a big deal. But for anything longer than a day or two, BO becomes a pretty immediate concern. Luckily, it’s not hard to learn how to stay clean while camping with no showers: consider the humble sponge bath. 

While it might seem like something best reserved for your youngest when he’s laid up for a month with a broken leg, the sponge bath is actually a great way for the whole family to get a cursory cleaning. All you need is a sponge (or washcloth, or wet wipes), your favorite (biodegradable) soap, and some water (which you can get from the pump at your campsite or the water bottles you brought from home).

Pro Tips: The Deep Clean

  • For a more thorough sponge bath, bring your swim suit! You can change in the privacy of your tent both before and after your “bath,” and get a lot cleaner when you aren’t worried about keeping your clothes dry. 
  • If you’re serious about getting all the nooks and crannies, string up a few tarps to make a make-shift shower stall. Now clothes aren’t an issue at all!

6

Invest in a Portable Shower

Using a portable shower
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Sponge baths are a great way to get mostly clean and are perfect for three- or four-day excursions. But what about even longer trips? You can only sponge bath so much before the sponge itself gets overwhelmed. 

That’s where those camping innovations we mentioned come in, in the form of the portable shower. A portable shower (also known as a camping shower) is a system that uses gravity, a pump, or electricity to channel water and create a mini-shower. 

The simplest camp shower will be essentially a bag to hold the water, something you can use to hang the bag up high, and a hose that comes down from the bottom of the bag. Gravity will pull water from the bag down through the hose, and you use the spout to wash yourself.  

More complicated camping showers will use foot pumps, batteries, or even solar power to get water moving. 

Pro Tip: Cheap Shower

If you like the idea of a portable shower, but don’t want to spend the cash to get one, you can make your own! All you need is an empty (and cleaned) gallon milk jug. Poke some holes in the cap, hold the whole thing upside-down over your head, and voila! Instant running water! 

7

Don’t Forget the Underwear

Packing smart clothing
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Depending on how intensive your camping trip is, one of the first things hikers like to cut from their pack is extra clothes. Objectively, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to wear the same pants for a few days, right? 

Wrong! Wearing stiff, stinky, grimy clothes is a sure-fire way to make you feel stiff, stinky, and grimy yourself. No amount of sponge baths or trips to the (portable) shower will help if, after you’re all clean, you have to put on dirty clothes. 

At the very least, try to bring clean underwear for every single day of your trip. Socks are important, too – there’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to slide your clean, sleep-warm feet into yesterday’s socks before your morning hike.

Pro Tip: Pack Smart

If you’re a hiker trying to cut ounces from your pack, consider the undershirt method. Bring a thin, lightweight undershirt for every day, so you can have something clean against your skin. You can wear your outer shirts for a day or two (or three, if you’re committed), so you won’t need to bring as many of those.

8

Respect Your Pajamas

Wearing Pajamas while Camping
Image by Vanessa Garcia / Canva Photos

It’s easy to change out of your sweat-soaked hiking clothes and into your comfy PJs once you get back to the campsite for the night – but you must resist! Always get clean before you get into your pajamas. This helps you feel clean when you go to bed, which makes for a more restful night. Whether it’s wet wipes, a sponge bath, a portable shower, or the bathhouse at the campground, wash off the day’s grime before you put on your PJs.

It’s also important to reserve your pajamas for sleeping only. This means don’t put them on until you’re about to get in bed. We’re all guilty of wanting to put on our comfy PJs to lounge around the campfire for an hour or two while we wind down. But this gets your clothes all smokey, and you’d be surprised how quickly that smoke smell goes from a fun reminder that you’re camping to an annoying reminder that you’re camping.

Pro Tip: Robe Time

Pro tip: While you can bring extra pajamas or comfy clothes for lounging around the campsite at the end of the day, you could also try a robe. Wrapped around your body, a robe will protect your pajamas from the smoke of the campfire, and can be worn every night. 

Well, there you have it. With these tips for how to stay clean while camping in your arsenal, outdoor hygiene has never been so simple!


Further Reading

Best Camping Grills
The 7 Best Camping Grills
Winter Camping Tips
10 Winter Camping Tips for a Successful Trip
Best Backpacking Tents Under $100
The 5 Best Backpacking Tents Under $100
How to Make Coffee While Camping
How to Make Coffee While Camping (10 Great Ways)
Best Camping Knife
The 7 Best Camping Knife Picks: Fixed, Folding, and Pocket
Best Camping Pillows in Tent
The 7 Best Camping Pillows