10 Helpful Tips on How to Stay Clean While Camping

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Don’t want to stink and wondering how to stay clean while camping? Let me guess, you love getting into the woods and seeing the animals, but you don’t want to smell like one. Good because in this article we’ll look at 10 helpful tips for staying clean while camping.

How to stay clean while camping pinterest pin
How to stay clean while camping or RV’ing

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I have an RV…why should I care about how to get clean while camping?

When I was researching for this post I asked a family member with an RV: “Do you have to worry about getting clean while RV’ing if you have a shower in your RV?”

I figured that if people have a shower or tub right in their RV then they probably won’t care about this article.

BUT…her answer surprised me and made a lot of sense.

She said, “People don’t want to have to dump part way through their camping trip because they used too much water.”

She went on to say that her campsite doesn’t have a sewer hookup so they’ll have to find a sani-dump to dump the grey water and black water tanks.

They would either have to:

A) pack up their campsite, attach the trailer to the truck then drive to the nearest sani-dump. Only to have to try and reverse the trailer back into the campsite (and the issues that can come along with that!).


B) they could get a portable waste tank like the Camco Rhino. These are called by several names including Tote Tanks and RV Portable Waste Tanks.

The one pictured below is available on Amazon. Click here to see more details.

So even if you have an RV I think you’ll find some of these “get clean while camping” tips really handy.

Plus, you can purchase RV outdoor showers to install on your RV. Here is a link to an Amazon page that displays various outdoor shower kits.

If you do purchase an outdoor shower I suggest you get a mat to put on the ground to avoid muddy feet. (I have displayed such a mat further below.)

1) Solar hot water shower bags

There’s nothing like a warm shower after a few days of camping and exploring.

But with a solar shower bag you don’t have to wait until you get home to get nice and clean.

With a solar water bag like the one shown above you simply fill it with water and then set it out in the sunlight to warm up. You can get clean while camping!

The bags are generally black or dark colors to absorb the sun’s rays.

They can get hot surprisingly fast.

In fact, before you use it to shower be careful to test it to make sure it’s not too hot.

Some bags including this one come with a temperature gauge right on the bag, but you should still test it on a small area of your body before dousing yourself.

(Obviously the water temperature will depend on how warm the day is, and how long it’s exposed to the sun.)

If you have an RV you can suspend the bag from your RV. If you have a ladder on the back of your RV you could hang a water bag from one of the rungs.

Keep in mind that water is heavy.

1 gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds.

CLICK here to see more details on this solar shower bag on Amazon.

2) Elevated Shower Mat – Avoid muddy feet while showering outdoors

If you buy a solar shower, or if you have an outdoor shower on your RV then your cleansing water can quickly cause a muddy mess at your feet.

To avoid standing in this muddy slurry you can use an elevated shower mat like the one shown above.

CLICK here to see more details of this bamboo shower mat on Amazon

If you’re handy you could easily build your own shower mat out of some nice cedar or stained wood to prevent rot. After you were done showering pick it up and lean it against the side of your RV or a tree to dry.

3) Use a shampoo bar to wash hair while camping

For shampooing your hair you don’t need to pack around big bottles of shampoo.

Of course, you could pour your liquid shampoo into smaller travel size containers but another option, and one that won’t break or spill or make a mess in your bag, is a shampoo bar.

This “no-plastic” alternative can easily fit into a backpack or suitcase.

People with longer hair might find it a little difficult to work up a lather.

Check out more details of the BOSSMAN bar on Amazon.

4) Rinseless Shampoo option to clean hair

There are rinse-less shampoos like the one shown above. It is often marketed toward the healthcare industry to help those that are bed-bound, but it can work for camping too.

The manufacturer claims that if you have short hair it will dry in 10 minutes.

BUT, they say if you have long hair you should blow dry it. This isn’t an option though for most campers.

Click here if you want more details about Rinseless shampoo on Amazon.

5) Set up Camping Hand Washing Station

Another great tip that I saw somebody use (I believe it was on Pinterest where I saw it) was they put a bar of soap into a woman’s stocking, like pantyhose, and then tied this to the spout of an external water source.

Some campsites have the external water taps that you can access.

And instead of having to let the soap touch the ground and get filthy you put it in the pantyhose and hang it from the spigot. And then just wet the soap and lather it up right inside the pantyhouse. No need to remove it and risk dropping the soap!

6) Tips on Freshwater Bathing

The National Park Service (NPS) in the USA has an article about hygiene while camping.

How to stay clean while camping - tips on freshwater bathing

They suggest that you can rinse your body in freshwater and this will help to remove the dirt and some of the oils from your stinky, camp body.

Note about how to responsibly use soap while camping

But they suggest that if you use a soap you should carry some water at least 200 feet from your campsite and 200 feet from the body of water, and then use the soap. Concentrate on washing your armpits and groin. Use the water you’ve packed to rinse off. This way the soap residue filters down through the earth and doesn’t enter the body of water.

I honestly thought that soaps like the ones below could be used in lakes or streams, but I’ll follow the National Park Service’s advice next time I’m camping. 

And the Leave No Trace organization echoes the NSP when it comes to soaps and lotions.

Below is a direct quote from Leave No Trace’s principle of disposing of waste. 

“Soap, even when it’s biodegradable, can affect the water quality of lakes and streams, so minimize its use. Always wash yourself well away from shorelines (200 feet), and rinse with water carried in a pot or jug.”

The Leave No Trace organization also recommends that if there isn’t much freshwater in an area you should avoid going into the water if you have insect repellent, sunscreen, or lotions on because these could contaminate the water.

Avoid stagnant water

An interesting survivalist tip I read on the Primal Survivor website is to avoid stagnant water. This still water can be a breeding ground for bacteria and protozoa. So perhaps a gently flowing stream would be a better choice.

7) Wilderness Wash

What is cool about the soap shown above is that it is multi-purpose: you can use it on your body, dishes or clothes.  This Wilderness Wash makes a nice compact addition to your camping gear.

8) Washing your Clothes while camping

Camping can be an amazing experience and you’ll get memories that last a lifetime. Unfortunately, it seems the campfire smell lasts almost as long.

The article from the American National Park Service suggests that you should wash your undergarments and socks daily.

If you’re RV’ing that isn’t a big deal because you can just change into a new pair of underwear, bra and socks daily. But if you’re short of space, or are camping without an RV, this isn’t feasible.

A) Washing Clothes by Hand

You can wet your clothes in a stream or lake, and then use a camping soap (like the Wilderness Wash shown above) to help get out the dirt and grease from your clothes. Then rinse them at least 200 feet away from the body of water.

Hang to dry.

B) Non-electric Portable Laundry Washer

Most people wouldn’t want a device like this, or think they need one…

But…if you’re an RV boon-docker, living off-grid, or living the van life then you may be interested in something like this.

It is a hand-cranked portable washing machine. (Pretty cool looking)

Will this work for you? Click here to see more information on Amazon.

C) Sunlight to Clean Clothes

If you’re short on water a very clever way to clean clothes is using sunlight.  I learned this from a survival guide. They said the UV light from the sun will kill the bacteria that are responsible for the stink in clothes.

The clothes have to fully dry though. If you’re in a humid area, and your clothes don’t dry, then the bacteria won’t be killed off.  I referenced this tidbit in an article on the Outside magazine website.

Below is a popular portable travel clothes line.

Will you want to add this to your camping gear? (Click here to see more details on Amazon.)

9) Tip to help prevent stinky armpits

Did you know that sweat has almost no smell. It is bacteria on the surface of our skin and armpit hairs that create the smell.

Here is a quote from WebMD:

“While sweat itself is virtually odorless, bacteria use it as a breeding ground and multiply rapidly. What you smell is the products related to bacteria breakdown of keratin protein on the surface of your skin.”

To help eliminate armpit stench you can try shaving your armpits.

“How will that help?”, you ask. Well the armpit hairs provide extra surface area for the bacteria: so more of a ‘breeding ground.’

Shave your armpit hairs (or trim them short if you’re a guy who doesn’t want to shave them.

And throughout the day give your pits a wipe. And let them dry

Camping with someone who has bad B.O. can be unpleasant to say the least. Hopefully these tips can help tame that dragon.

10) Tip on how to get sand off your feet (Hint: snow brush)

Are you lucky enough to be camped near a sandy beach? (If so, that’s awesome!)

But tracking that sand into your RV or tent can be a real pain.

One tip that I’ve discovered to help get sand off your body is to use a car snow brush.

My kids and I try to get to the beach as much as we can in the summer. After years of  little feet tracking sand into my car I discovered this beach hack.

Use the bristles of the snow brush to brush the sand off your feet.  It kinda tickles…but it does the trick. (Below is a picture of what I mean by a snow brush…in case you’re from a snow-less area.)

I hope this list of ways to stay clean while camping will help improve your camping experience. I know some of them are pretty quirky, but taken together they should help you look and smell cleaner while camping.

Up Next:

9 Fun Outdoor Camping Games for Families

9 Fun Outdoor camping games for families

9 Camping Shower Ideas and Accessories (more on how to get clean while camping)

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