Showering in the woods can be done many ways, but in my experience there are a few things that will make the experience better, both for you and nature.
Keep it simple. Less is better. Here's all you need:
- Redbudsuds shower bar, naturally. It's the one bar to rule them all! Our shower bars shampoo/condition your hair, and clean your body. They'll even clean your clothes too, in a pinch. Unlike other multi-purpose biodegradable camp soaps, Redbudsuds bars are designed for your hair so they won’t leave your hair feeling gross.
- Shoofah. This little mesh bag is the best. It keeps dirt from sticking to the bar. You can wear the strap around your wrist so you never drop the soap. And you can hang it up on a tree branch when you’re not using it. It's made from nonabsorbent material, so it dries super fast. Game changer.
- Something with which to carry water. (Why? See LNT Ethics below.) On backpacking and canoeing trips, I’ve successfully used cookpots, water bottles, a jug, and Camelback/Platypus bladders. Bladders are nice because you can fill them and let them sit in the sun for a few hours to warm the water. As always when camping, creativity is key. Use what you have.
- Towel or t-shirt. Lightweight pack towels are great, but a clean(ish) article of spare clothing works, too.
Follow Leave No Trace ethics. Found a gorgeous waterfall? Awesome. Resist, however, the temptation to bathe in the middle of the stream because if you’re using soap, even biodegradable soap like Redbudsuds, it’s important to keep that pristine water clean. Just like you wouldn’t want to find someone’s macaroni floating around the lake the day after they left camp (ew), no one wants to stumble across (or drink) your leftover bathwater. Fortunately, the solution is simple: carry some of that wonderful mountain water with you a short distance into the woods so that the earth can do the filtering for you. LNT guidelines recommend 200 feet. It sounds like a hike, but but really, it isn’t that bad.
Embrace the cold, it makes you feel warm in the end. It is possible to have a warm shower in the woods (see shower bag below), but you know what? Cold showers leave you feeling absolutely amazing. They also require zero planning ahead and/or energy, which is definitely a perk in my book. Just breathe through it and tell yourself “It’s so good,” and it really is. More on cold showers here.
Pro-Tips & Accessories:
- Find level(ish) ground. Sounds obvious, but I’ve spent too many showers balancing on mountainsides. If the spot is flat, your shower is so much more relaxing. Really.
- Ziplock bag for storage. The best lightweight way to protect the shower bar from other crap in your pack.
- Bandana. Wrapping your shoofah/shower bar in a small bandana can keep things tidy if the bar isn’t totally dry when it’s time to pack up. You can then use the bandana as a washcloth for your next shower and not worry about wasting any suds. Not to mention: one can never have too many bandanas on a camping trip, ever.
- Solar shower bag. Of course, there are tools made especially for showering in the woods. In my opinion, they’re not a necessity but if you’re planning on taking a lot of wilderness showers and have extra room, they’re definitely worth it. Sea to Summit’s Pocket Shower seems to be the best in all the things: lightweight, packable, easily fillable, multifunctional and affordable. I haven’t tried it myself, but if I were to get one, that would be it. You can find reviews of additional shower bags here. I’ve used the Advanced Elements Summer Shower and found it to be clumsy to pack and hard to turn off/on with wet, soapy hands.
I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing like going to be clean to make a day in the woods even more spectacular. The longer your trip, the greater the need for good hygiene to keep everyone happy.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your next wilderness shower.
Feel free to add your comments and suggestions below. Keep it clean!
Wondering what Thoughtfully Clean Field Notes are all about? Read the first post here.
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