Keeping clean and maintaining hygiene while camping is essential, but it can sometimes prove tricky. When you’re exhausted and freezing cold, washing your clothes or hair can quickly move down the priority list. This list of 7 easy camping hygiene hacks will take some of the hassle out of staying clean, making your trip much more comfortable.
1. Make Natural Hand And Body Soap
This camping hygiene hack only works at certain times of the year, but it’s a good one to remember. It’s especially useful if you find yourself out in the wild with no soap to wash your hands, body or clothes with.
Soapwort is native to Europe and Asia, but it grows wild in most of the world, including the US. It has natural cleansing properties, as the name suggests: “soap” means just that, and “wort” means plant. In fact, in the Medieval period (when it was named), this is exactly how it was used.
It’s rich in saponins, which are a gentle and all-natural cleansing agent. These saponins form an aromatic foamy lather when you mix the plant with water.
Soapwort is easiest to spot in spring, when it flowers. But, if you’re a nature buff, you can recognise it by its leaves well into late summer. It likes to be beside water, so look for it beside streams and lakes.
Use the photo below as a guide when you’re foraging for soapwort. It’s also a good idea to invest in a foraging guide to help you to identify it (and other useful wild plants).
Once you’ve found it, making soap is as simple as mixing the soapwort into boiling water. Saponins are most present in the root of the plant, but the flowers, leaves and stem also contain them. So it’s a good idea to mix the whole plant into the water.
Let the mixture cool down and you’re left with an effective organic soap for your hands, body and even your clothes! (Just remember: it’s not safe for ingestion). You can also dry the plant for use in the winter.
This is the perfect all-natural camping hygiene hack to stay clean in the wild.
2. Use Clothes Made of Quick-Drying Materials
When choosing which clothes to take camping, it’s vital to pay attention to the materials they’re made of. If you store wet clothes in backpacks for long periods of time, they can quickly grow bacteria and become a health hazard.
If your clothes dry quickly, you can pack them away sooner after washing them. This instantly makes washing clothes less inconvenient.
Fabrics made of polyester or wool are great for the wild because they are relatively hydrophobic, which means that they don’t absorb excessive moisture.
Instead, they retain their insulative properties even when wet, meaning that you can stay warm even in a downpour. This quality also means that they dry quicker after being washed.
The best material that you can buy for hiking is quick-drying microfiber. Microfiber consists of incredibly fine polyester—finer than silk! This means that the fabric has a larger surface area and dries faster.
One of our top camping hygiene hacks is buying a towel made of this material. You’ll be able to pack it away much quicker after washing, making your trip more convenient and hygienic. We recommend this Rainleaf microfiber towel, which is perfect for camping and packs away neatly into a backpack.
Just remember: if you’re going camping, never take clothes made of cotton. Cotton loses its insulative properties when wet, meaning that, if you wear it on a rainy day in winter, it’s much easier to get hypothermia. It also takes much longer to dry fully.
3. Make Natural Dish Soap In The Wild
There are lots of ways to make natural soap. However, many of them require more equipment than you’ll be able to take camping with you. This simple camping hygiene hack is easy to use in any campsite and requires no tools.
If you run out of dish soap in the wild, a great idea is to make your own wood-ash dish soap. Wood ash makes a great soap ingredient because it’s a natural alkali and dissolves and removes dirt effectively.
To make wood-ash dish soap, grab a handful of wood ash from your campfire. Oak is best but any will do. Mix this ash with a small amount of cold, clean water until it becomes a paste. Spread the paste over your dishes and leave them to stand for a minute.
Then scrub the paste off with your hands or a sponge (use gloves if possible). Finally, boil some water in your newly clean pans. Pour it over your plates to remove any remnants of the mixture and to disinfect your equipment. Simple!
Our article on camping dishwashing hacks has many more quick and easy tips like this one.
4. Keep Your Sleeping Bag Spotlessly Clean
Sleeping in dirty conditions can lead to health issues like skin conditions. What’s more, it’s just uncomfortable! A great way not only to stay clean but also to feel more relaxed is by strictly making your sleeping area a no-dirt zone.
A great camping hygiene hack to achieve this is investing in a sleeping-bag liner. Even if you’ve washed yourself and your clothes, your sleeping bag can still easily accrue dirt while camping outdoors. You can remove and wash a sleeping-bag liner much more easily than the bag itself (which would take weeks to dry anyway). Using a liner like this will help you keep your sleeping conditions as clean and healthy as possible.
We recommend this well-made fleece liner. Not only will it keep you warm in winter but the padding will also help to give you a comfortable night’s sleep.
Just remember not to sit by the campfire in your sleeping clothes. You’ll pick up dirt without noticing it, and you’ll have to wash your liner much more frequently.
5. Be Smart About Your Washing Equipment
It’s not practical to take all the soaps and sponges that we’re accustomed to using for various purposes at home. When you’re camping, saving space (and weight) in your backpack is essential.
Taking multi-purpose tools and soaps is a great strategic way to save maximum space. One way of doing this is by experimenting with different soaps before your trip. Some household shower gels are also great at washing clothes or your hair, for example.
But the option that we recommend for this camping hygiene hack is buying a specially made all-purpose soap. These are designed for use on clothes, hair, dishes, skin and even some foods.
A top choice is this all-purpose soap made by Lifeventure. You can rest assured that it won’t damage the environment because it’s biodegradable. What’s more, the soap is also pH balanced, so it won’t damage your skin in any way.
For more great hacks to save space on your next camp, check out our informative guide on how to pack minimally.
6. Wash Your Hands Regularly to Avoid Getting Sick
We’re often not aware of just how often we touch our faces. A recent study has shown that the average person touches their face 23 times per hour. In day-to-day city life, with easy access to running water, that’s not a problem. We can wash our hands regularly to stay hygienic.
But in the wild your hands tend to be much less clean, especially if you’re near animals. This means that touching your mouth with your hands while camping is a potential health hazard.
One of the most essential camping hygiene hacks is regularly maintaining hand hygiene. If using soap and water isn’t practical where you are, it’s a really good idea to carry around a small bottle of hand sanitiser.
If haven’t got access to any sanitiser, you can fill up an old water bottle with all-natural soap made from soapwort. You can learn how to make this in camping hygiene hack number 3, above. Wash your hands regularly with this to remove any excess mud. Although hand sanitiser is more effective than soapwort soap, it’s still much better than not washing them at all.
7. Think Strategically About Your Clothes
This camping hygiene hack is one of the simplest to master, but it’s also vital to staying clean. The number of clothes you can take is limited by the size of your backpack. This means that, more often than not, you won’t have enough clean clothes for your whole trip.
Washing clothes isn’t always convenient, so planning out how you’ll pack and wear your clothes is essential. Turning clothes inside out is one way to extend the amount of time that you can wear them.
Take your socks, for example. Wear one pair for a day, then, on the next day, turn them inside out and wear them again. As long as the insides of your boots are clean, this is much more hygienic than wearing them the right way around for multiple days in a row.
Another top tip is keeping your wet and dry clothes separate. First, invest in an airtight camping bag. We recommend this cheap and easy-to-use model from HEETA, which you can pick up on Amazon.
Put your clean dry clothes in the bag, seal it tightly and put it in your backpack. This will prevent your clean clothes getting ruined by your wet, used clothes, which you can now conveniently store in the same backpack.
This simple camping hygiene hack will help to prevent bacteria from quickly making your clothes less clean.
These 7 easy camping hygiene hacks will make your camping experience miles cleaner and more comfortable. For more top tips and simple camping hacks, check out our other articles here. If you’re new to the outdoors, check out this list of 10 simple hiking tips for beginners.