How to stay Fresh on the Trail: A women's guide to feeling clean outside!

By: Heather Vargas + Save to a List

Now, considering I do love the freedom and liberation of being one with nature, I do like feeling clean and not grimy. Especially when I go to sleep!

Before I became the adventurous outdoorswoman I am now, a common thought I had in my head all the time was, "How am I supposed to clean up? Bathe?"

Looking back now it is kind of funny. I was worried about being able to wash the sweat and dirt off my body so that I would be clean. But, who was I going to be impressing by doing this? No one!

One of the greatest things about being in the outdoors is FREEDOM! You do not have to shave your legs, wash your hair, or even worry about deodorant.

Let's be honest, 90% of the people that you will come across on a trail or while backpacking is probably just as smelly as you are - and that's ok! That's half the fun! Not giving a hoot about nothing and getting into the wilderness for the experience of nature up close and personal.

But I do like feeling clean.

Now, considering I do love the freedom and liberation of being one with nature, I do like feeling clean and not grimy. Especially when I go to sleep!

I have picked up a few hacks and tips that will help any woman feel a little cleaner and not so yucky while hiking or backpacking.

There is absolutely nothing worse than wanting a good nights rest and have the feeling of dirt and grim rubbing on your legs - NO THANK YOU!

Even though I love the outdoors there are some things I'm not willing to part with, one being brushing my teeth!


Tips for keeping your body fresh & clean.


  • Never underestimate the power of baby wipes! I prefer to use the most natural baby wipe available. The wipes will be nice to wipe down your body and help you feel a little fresher! You can also use these on your bits! Nothing worse than feeling yucky down there! Use UNSCENTED!
  • Makeup remover wipes are really great at removing dirt and grime from your face. You could also use the baby wipes just the same. Some ladies feel there's a huge difference. Maybe there is, I don't know.
  • Dry shampoo! Chicks, I know it sucks having gross and greasy hair. I HATE it! One idea that I started implementing was using dry shampoo! Now, technically it's not "shampoo", I use a bit of arrowroot starch that I dump into my hands. I rub my palms together and vigorously rub through the roots of my hair. You can do this several times a day if you wish. It's a great, natural alternative.
  • Wash your hands. Nothing is grosser than preparing food with dirty hands. Or not cleaning your hands after going to the bathroom! I absolutely love Sea to Summit's Pocket Wash line! The handwash is great! There are 50 leaves of washing in these tiny packs! Best part, no leaking of soap, and they are lightweight. Add a little water and wash. They are also biodegradable. You could carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer to use as well. I usually take both, why? Because I like backups!
  • Deodorant. Now, some people say forgo this, others won't live without it. One thing to keep in mind is that your smell good deodorant will attract bugs! Opt for minimal deodorant with something like coconut oil and baking soda. This will help keep wetness down and you not smelling so bad. You will still sweat, but it will be helpful in the smell department. This one is my favorite!
  • Brushing your teeth. Now, some people are totally fine with just packing some floss and rinsing their mouth out. Not me! Take a small amount of toothpaste and a small brush and wash your pearly whites! Fill your mouth with water and literally spit out in a wide area. I would use a more natural toothpaste so that you're not harming the environment with chemicals. :) A good solution could even be a little container mixed with baking soda, coconut oil, and some peppermint essential oil!


A word on washing clothes and bathing.

Washing your clothes and bathing are probably not on every single person's radar, maybe I am a high maintenance backpacker and camper .... I probably am, who am I kidding!

I love that there are solutions to these problems if this is a concern for you! I have found some lightweight ideas that will be able to help you feel a little more human while on the trail. You'll be the cleanest one in the backcountry!

There are two options when it comes to actually bathing. One, you can give yourself a sponge bath and use biodegradable soap. Two, you can purchase a backpacking shower.

How to take a sponge bath in the wild.

  1. Take your largest pot and fill with water from a water source.
  2. Take 200 feet away from said natural water source.
  3. You can heat your water with your stove or leave cold, your choice.
  4. Use a biodegradable soap to wash body with a quick-drying, microfiber cloth.
  5. Rinse body well.
  6. Properly dispose of wastewater. Keep away at least 200 feet from natural water sources. You can dig a hole or disperse by tossing water in a wide area, basically flinging the water to cover a large amount so that the wastewater isn't concentrated in one area.


How to take a shower in the wild.

  1. You can purchase a backpacking type shower that is lightweight and portable. These will usually be hung from a tree. One is self-heating and uses pressure from a foot pump! Only weighs 1 pound! Talk about luxury.
  2. Source water from a natural source and take 200 feet away from water source.
  3. Depending on your backpacking shower you will hang from a tree.
  4. Allow water to wet your body and "turn-off" water.
  5. Lather up with biodegradable soap and shampoo.
  6. "Turn-on" water and rinse, quickly.
  7. Dry off.
  8. If there is any water left over be sure to dispose of properly.

Washing your clothes.

If you are using reasonable theory and are wearing quick-drying, moisture wicking, non-cotton clothing; washing your clothes will be a breeze! The great thing about most outdoors clothing is that it's made to dry fast and be antimicrobial.

One of the coolest things I love about wool is that it drys fast. Another is wearing wool underwear or similar outdoors quick-drying underwear, like EXOfficio; which I absolutely love!!. If you want to wash these you can easily dry them overnight or while stopping for a nap.

There are some pretty amazing tools to wash your clothing. Some gals use their wastewater from their sponge bath to freshen up clothes, which is a great solution to re-use that water.

Others prefer to use a manual "washing machine". The Scrubba Bag is super, super cool! Not only would this be an amazing solution for camping and backpacking, but it would be amazing for boondocking in an RV, van, or simply traveling.

After you wash your clothes empty the soapy water and add fresh water to rinse. Then, all you need to do is just hang them to dry. Easy peasy!

While most people in the wild prefer not to deal with this at all if you're going on a trip that is longer than say 5 days and you don't want to take a lot of clothing; you're going to have to wash up some clothes!

Tips for keeping clothing & bedding clean

  • Have plenty of clean socks and underwear! I like bringing one more extra set than what I'll need. The reason being; if you are wearing moisture-wicking underwear and wool socks these can easily be washed up and left to hang dry overnight! Boom - clean undies!
  • Change your clothes before going to bed. Most people do not like having more clothes than needed, I get it! A lighter pack is much more enjoyable than a heavier one, but even having a light change of clothes for bed will be so nice! There's nothing worse than climbing into a grimy bed full of dirt. I also recommend having sandals or shoes you only wear within your tent, don't bring in dirty shoes. This will also help with unwanted bugs.


Special women tips.

It is inevitable that you will probably be in the outdoors at some point when your period comes creeping up! I know total buzz kill!

There are some tips I'd like to share with you that will help make this situation a little more comfortable and allow you to enjoy the outdoors.

I highly recommend you starting using a Diva Cup or similar product. Do not start deciding to use it on the trail for the first time. Get comfortable with using it at home first! It will be a disaster if you can't work it right or a malfunction happens.

The reason I'm recommending this is because you won't have anywhere to dispose of sanitary pads or tampons in the wild. You will have to pack those out and having to carry your poo paper is bad enough. ( which I recommend getting a large ziplock and putting your trash into )

So, the diva cup will help with this problem, dispose of contents in a cat hole.

Do NOT and I repeat do NOT be without Advil or a pain reliever of your choice! You will be miserable if you are prone to horrible cramping.

Use baby wipes to clean yourself up. You'll feel fresher and better in a shitty situation.

Wearing moisture-wicking, quick-drying underwear will also help with feeling fresh and not harbor unwanted odors. Hey girls, it's real life and I like to keep it real.


Those are my tips and hacks for staying fresh and feeling clean on the trail or while camping and backpacking. I hope you were able to grab some ideas to help you out!

Don't let the idea of not being able to be clean or fresh stop you from getting outdoors! With these ideas, you can totally have an enjoyable experience!


What do you do?

What are some ideas or tips that you have not mentioned here? I'd love to hear your hacks and tips!


Let's connect!

Be sure to contact me with any questions or ideas you have! 

Cheers to Boundless Adventure in the Outdoors -


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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