Hygiene while camping

Campers need to take particular care with personal hygiene to make sure they stay healthy, avoid attracting wild animals, and reduce impacts on the environment.

You’ll feel best, protect your body, and smell better for campmates if you wash yourself daily. Use water and biodegradable soap to cleanse yourself at least 200 feet away from camp and from water bodies. (Definitely don’t wash off sunscreen in water bodies.) If washing isn’t practical, at minimum use unscented moist wipes to refresh a bit. Pay particular attention to your groin, armpits, and feet.

Other good cleanliness tips are to air out your feet to eliminate moist environments where bacteria thrive, avoid feminine urinary tract infections by wiping front to back, and change into clean clothes at nighttime.

When it comes to brushing your teeth at camp, remember that toothpaste can attract wild animals, who may try to consume the toothpaste you spit out. Consider brushing lightly with baking soda instead of toothpaste, reducing the amount of toothpaste you use, swallowing your toothpaste (only recommended for adults), or moving well away from your tent and spitting out toothpaste such that it disperses as much as possible.

Women who camp while having their period can use a menstrual cup like the Diva Cup to reduce the amount of supplies required. The cup should be emptied in a cathole, per the guidance on our peeing/pooping page for catholes. Used tampons and pads must be kept sealed in a bear-safe location and packed out.

When you’re choosing toiletries to bring camping, remember that scents attract bears and other wildlife, so select fragrance-free options whenever possible.

Here’s a list of toiletry/personal hygiene supplies to consider for your next camping trip, divided into necessary, optional, and leave at home (though your own sense of what fits in what bucket may differ somewhat).

Necessary items

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste/baking soda
  • Toilet supplies, as covered in our peeing/pooping section: biodegradable toilet paper, a trowel, and possibly a wag bag

Optional items

  • Unscented moist wipes
  • Lip balm with sunscreen
  • Biodegradable soap – Dr. Bronner’s does quadruple duty as dish soap, shampoo, and toothpaste (in a pinch)
  • Floss
  • Unscented lotion
  • Unscented dry shampoo or biodegradable shampoo
  • Biodegradable detergent
  • Bucket or plastic bag for washing clothes
  • Hand sanitizer for when it’s inconvenient to wash hands
  • Facial cleansing sheets
  • Hair brush/comb
  • Nail trimmers
  • Solar heated shower bag – see Wirecutter’s reviews
  • Feminine hygiene products and sealable bags (try covering the bag for used products with opaque tape)

Leave at home

  • Hair products like spray and gel
  • Perfume/cologne
  • Shaving supplies
  • Disposable products (you’ll just have to bring them home and throw them away)
  • All but the most minimal makeup (your author confesses to bringing tinted moisturizer and tinted under-eye cream)

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