How to Keep Yourself Clean while Camping without Hurting the Environment

Keeping up that city-bound beauty routine? Well, turns out you can do that in the woods, too. Responsibly.

By: Jacalyn Beales

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If you grew up spending your summers at sleep-away camp "up north" or camping in the middle of nowhere with the family, then you know exactly what it's like to give up your bathing rights for a week or more in favour of embracing nature. But you were a kid back then; dirt under your nails and month-long greasy hair were no skin off your back, nor was smelling like a day-old sandwich. 

As we grow up, however, the story changes. Keeping clean is not as simple as jumping in a lake and drying our hair in the setting rays of summer sun. We get fancy day jobs and leave the no-wash routine in the past, feeling awkward about letting our hair and pits go unwashed for even a couple of days, resorting to dry shampoo and spray-on deodorant to do the trick. As adults, we begin to realize how increasingly more difficult it becomes to liberate ourselves from a self-care routine that gets us by during busy work weeks, or vacations which don't require tents and hiking packs. 

Unfortunately, most of us assume we cannot keep up these routines whilst camping or participating in an adventure or trip which involves copious amounts of time being outdoors. And who can blame us? Schlepping bags of personal products, skincare and Sephora makeup counters through the woods is unrealistic - but here's the catch: it's also terrible for the environment. 

It's no secret that the production and use of cosmetics, skincare and other personal products (like those pesky pads us women have to wear, which are glorified diapers, by the way) does harm to the planet - mostly due to the chemicals, ingredients and waste which result from such use. From microbeads in our facial scrubs to harsh chemicals in our body soaps, if it's been mass produced, chances are it can negatively impact our planet. Thus, we leave our dopp kits at home and choose to go wash-free during long outdoors trips. Luckily, there are ways to avoid stinkin' up the tent with your week-old body odour. And it all starts with being aware of ingredients. 

The first thing you should know about is your soap. 

Straight up my fellow outdoors people, there is no safe soap to use when swimming or bathing in a lake. The closest thing to the typical bar or bottle of soap you should use when washing up in the outdoors is castile soap, for the simple reason that pure castile soap is free from all of the harsh garbage that causes the general soap to lather, bubble, etc. Because so many people are choosing to utilize green, eco-friendly beauty stuffs, finding a castile soap that you like and which works for you is incredibly easy. You can source castile soap for facial, body and hair wash

The second thing to be aware of is your conditioner. 

Those store-bought, chemical-laden hair conditioners that can even sometimes be used as body soaps (why, I have no clue) are brimming with really weird, downright freaky ingredients which are not biodegradable and certainly not safe for bathing with in lakes or facilities which use filtered lake water. Instead of using a generic conditioner, try rinsing your hair with brewed tea or conditioning your hair with coconut oil prior to your trip to ensure your hair stays conditioned between longer bouts of no-conditioning. 

When reaching for deodorant, step away from the 24/7 antiperspirant. 

You can easily ditch the Secret deo that somehow smells like a sparkly pear for a natural alternative, like a coconut oil or beeswax-base deodorant. Typically, natural deos will not keep you from sweating but will rather help to mask the odour in a way that doesn't harm your body or the environment. My favourite is Fat and the Moon's Sensitive Pit Cream. Try choosing a natural deo free of palm oil, chemicals, sulfates and other additives which help preserve the product but not our natural surroundings. 

And, lastly, keep your skin clean without gross cleansers. 

I recommend trying cleansing grains, which are typically made with plants and other botanicals (like florals) which have been crushed down into a powder and are safe to use if washing up in a lake. Forego the foamy, soapy stuff for cleansing grains to keep your skin clean without dropping chemicals into your favourite bodies of water. I recommend the Coconut Beach Face Scrub by CAMP Skincare, but it's quite easy to find a cleansing grain that works for you which can keep your skin cleansed on the go. 

By bathing responsibly during outdoor adventures, you're not so much compromising your routine as you are tweaking it to ensure both you and the environment can remain as clean as possible when you're exploring. You could also just revel in those good ol' dog days by not bathing at all - but something tells me your camping companions (yes, even you're dog) will be happier if you do keep clean. 

Cover photo: John Entwhistle

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.