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How to Stay Clean Outdoors and at Festivals

how to stay clean outdoors festivals

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If you’re like me and aren’t that into camping, one of the biggest reasons why might be the inability to stay clean. Let’s be honest: going for days without showering doesn’t suit everyone.

But there are some trips, like my road trip to the American national parks, that require communing with the great outdoors. Many campsites don’t have bathhouse facilities or you have to drive to another site to use them, while music festivals charge $10 or more for a shower.

So how do you keep feeling clean while camping and at outdoor music festivals? I have a few tips and products to help the next time you’re roughing it.

Ideas for a Quick Refresh

Wipes

Carrying some form of wipes is the easiest way to feel refreshed, whether it’s during a long camping trip or even after a long flight. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it will definitely help you feel better.

Face wipes can take off those layers of grime, but baby wipes or wet wipes can also work. Just make sure your chosen brand is soft on your skin, will not cause breakouts, and can be used on your lady bits if needed.

how to stay clean outdoors
Epic Wipes are made with essential oils

I’ve tested out Epic Wipes, which makes towel-sized biodegradable wet wipes that come in a small packet. They use essential oils and are perfect for a shower alternative in a pinch. I’ve used mine after a workout when I didn’t have time to shower before my next appointment.

If you prefer something reusable, Wysi Wipes expand to the size of a washcloth with water and can be used as such. They’re technically made as single use moist towelettes, but are tougher than standard wipes.

Washcloth

I always travel with my Lunatec washcloth, which dries quickly and folds up small. It stays odor-free and exfoliates your skin.

The Matador NanoDry Trek Travel Towel in small
The Matador NanoDry Trek Travel Towel, small

If you are looking for something absorbent but still compact and lightweight, this Matador towel is a great option. It is also available as a full-sized bath towel. Each version is quick-drying, absorbs more than twice its weight in water, and comes in a silicone case.

Of course, a regular washcloth from home will also do the trick. At the end of a long day, heating some water and wiping down can work wonders! 

  • Find out how to choose the right towel for your trip here.

Dry Shampoo

dry shampoo for travel
Dry shampoo for travel.

Dry shampoo or even baby powder can be used to soak up the oils in your hair between showers, leaving it with a fresh scent. It’s available in spray and powder versions and in various sizes, so you can find one that works for your hair and your trip.

No Rinse Shampoo

Another great option for outdoor adventures is No Rinse Shampoo. It is a concentrated shampoo that’s easy to use—no water necessary! Simply massage it into your scalp, then towel dry and style as desired.

No rinse foam shampoos are also worth considering. While they don’t clean as well as traditional shampoos, they may work better for curly or thick hair than dry shampoo.

how to stay clean outdoors
You may have to get creative to shower while camping

Camping Shower Systems

If your travels require something closer to a shower, come prepared with a plan for keeping clean. You can buy a number of products at outdoor stores for showering.

Some camp shower options that are very packable.
Some camp shower options that are very packable.

Water Bottle Based Options

  • Aquabot is a water bottle that has a spray function, so you can use it for multiple purposes. It doesn’t act as a full shower, but spritzes you with clean water.
  • Simple Shower is an attachment you can add onto any one to two liter bottle for the same effect.

Full Shower Options

  • Sea to Summit makes a fold-up water bladder with a fixture at the end to serve as a shower. Simply hang it up and turn the nozzle on. When empty, it can also be used as a dry sack.
  • Advanced Elements Summer Showers are available in multiple sizes depending on your needs. Add water through the extra large filling valve, leave in the sun, then hang to enjoy a warm shower. 
  • Ivation Portable Shower is a battery-powered, rechargeable shower option for camping. Rather than relying on gravity, it pumps water from a bucket or other water source to create a steady shower stream. 
  • Reliance Products Flow Pro is a pressurized shower system. It is hand-pump operated, so it requires no batteries. It holds up to 2 gallons of water, comes with a 6-foot hose, and has a carrying strap for easy transport. 

Keep in mind that some of these products need to be hung. You may also need a privacy curtain or pop-up shelter for the full experience.

Otherwise, simply wear your bathing suit while showering!

DIY Options

But if you don’t mind some DIY action, make your own water bottle for showers or a bucket shower. The best DIY instructions we’ve found so far are on eHow for how to make a tarp and PVC partition and this one for a shower made from a weed sprayer.

how to stay clean outdoors
It might be worth paying for a shower after a few days at a music festival

Extra Tips

1. Change Clothes.

I’ve found that putting on clean or different clothes can make you feel cleaner, even if you aren’t. Change outfits while you wash the dirty ones using Dr. Bronner’s or travel laundry detergent.

If you’re unable to wash, hanging clothes in the fresh air or in the sun for the day can do wonders. Keeping your dirty clothes in their own packing cube or bag may also help you feel cleaner. 

2. Use additional products to feel fresh.

Try using fabric refresher or Reviver wipes to make your clothes smell better. Douse yourself in solid perfume and essential oils to keep the stench at bay. Just remember, if you’re camping in bear country, always store toiletries and other scented items with your food (away from your tent) using the method required for the local area.  

3. Swim in a lake

While camping, jumping in a lake or river is refreshing, fun, and can make you feel cleaner. However, you should never use soap—even if it’s biodegradable—in a natural water source. Make sure you are at least 200 feet away from any water if you plan to lather up.

4. If all else fails, splurge.

On a two-week trip out west, I had to pay for showers twice. Once was at Yellowstone when our campsite didn’t have any and later when we were staying at a state park for a friend’s wedding. We ended up finding a hotel that offered showers to campers.

They shouldn’t cost much, less than $8, and sometimes even include toiletries. 

Recreation centers and community pools are other good places to look for showers. They may offer day passes, so you can take advantage of the other amenities as well. If it makes you feel better, it’s worth it!

Do you have any other tips for staying fresh on the road and in the woods? Share them below!

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Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Emily says

    My favorite is swimming in lakes and rivers while backpacking – sometimes it’s freezing, but it’s always refreshing! (although I don’t do this if I have insect repellent on, since it can kill important organisms, and I definitely do not use soap in streams, rivers, or lakes.)

  2. Clariza says

    Some places like Yosemite also will not let you use soap, even if you bring your own shower set up. Baby wipes and several changes of clothes are my usual camping “shower” plan. Also, those Olay facial cleansing clothes are great for a quick face wash or even a shower (using several). They weigh nothing and are easy to tuck into a baggie to keep handy in case you find yourself with access to a sink or shower. They are great for travel in general.

  3. Terry says

    Find a hot shower at the community swimming pool. Baby wipes. Or just a cup of hot water over the campfire and a washcloth.

  4. Taralyn says

    I bought an inexpensive solar shower for camping music festivals and it has been so useful. I don’t need a full shower generally but it does wonders to wash off the dirt and sweat and feel refreshed for the next day. Not only can showers be expensive but long lineups can mean missing out on a show or experience.

  5. Melissa says

    Old fashioned rubbing alcohol. A little on a wet wash cloth kills bacteria that causes body odor.

  6. Sheila says

    Two variations/suggestions;

    If privacy is an issue, shower with your bathing suit on, soap and water will still get to all your bits, just might need a little extra soap, water and time

    If you have access to a bathroom with a shower stall but don’t want to pay for the shower, use the hat water from the sink tap and stand in the shower stall to use your water bottle shower or water bladder/bag.

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