Bathing in the Backwoods

Bathing in the Backwoods

Longer camping trips offer a mental cleansing where you can explore, disconnect, and enjoy nature. Unfortunately, mental cleansing isn’t the only type you need on such trips.

At some point, you would just like to take a bath. Your options depend in part upon your access to water.

When you set up camp away from water, you can still clean up but you need to improvise a little. For starters, dry shampoos can absorb oils from your hair and provide a feeling of clean. You can find a number of products available on the market, but the National Park Service recommends unscented varieties as they will be less likely to attract animals.

The sound of multiple splashes was quickly followed by multiple screams

Likewise, for a quick “spit bath” you can bring baby wipes to clean yourself with this method. These are especially handy when camping with youngsters. Hand sanitizers are also helpful for cleaning up before cooking or eating.

If camping near water, you have more options. Although wading into a lake with biodegradable soap sounds like a good idea, not even biodegradable soaps are good for release directly into water sources. Again, the National Park Service recommends carrying water at least two hundred feet away from the lake and using the soap there.

Photo by Ignat Kushanrev on Unsplash

For a warm shower, you might want to try a camp shower bag. These are bladders that heat when hung in sunshine. Often, they are large enough for multiple showers.

In a pinch, just jumping into a stream or lake can be a refreshing way to clean even without soap. You might want to test the water first though, especially in higher elevations.

On one summer backpacking trip years ago, four of us were hiking up to a mountain lake for a weekend. The afternoon sun continued to warm us as we climbed. About two miles from the lake, my companions began talking about dropping their packs and running to jump in the lake as soon as we arrived.

I was the only one who had been to this lake before and kept to myself the fact that even though it was late June, the ice had just melted. So instead, I offered to set up camp while they took a quick swim.

As the packs and clothes came off, I settled in expectantly and wasn’t disappointed. The sound of multiple splashes was quickly followed by multiple screams. The water was about forty degrees and their dips in the lake lasted as long as you might expect. They did admit afterwards, however, that they felt quite refreshed.

Jim Mize
Award-winning writer


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