Camping is all about roughing it, and I couldn’t care less how my hair looks. Vanity isn’t usually my concern.
Even then, I usually make a point of protecting and washing my hair when camping because if I don’t, it turns into a smelly and disgusting ball of grease.
Plus, washing my greasy hair is a nice way to maintain physical hygiene.
But I’m usually afraid of losing the bottom a few inches to damage and dryness.
Fortunately, there’re loads of ways to clean your hair in the wilderness.
Generally, it would be easiest if you don’t wash your hair while camping. But if your head doesn’t agree with this, carry a dry camping shampoo.
But the shampoo method isn’t the only way to go when camping.
In this guide, I’ll share the methods I use to wash my hair when camping.
Hair Supplies to Bring when Camping
Here’s a list of the items you might need to bring in your next camping trip.
Of course, you don’t have to bring every supply; it’ll ultimately depend on your hair washing method.
- Shampoo alternative
- Wide toothed comb
- Bobby pins
- Bandana, cap
Camping showers are one of my favorite ways for keeping clean.
And the good thing is most campgrounds have hygiene facilities, so it’s easy to rely on them for washing your hair.
However, it’s still a good idea to research online the available amenities of a particular campground before heading out.
The other thing to keep in mind is some showers are coin-operated, so plan and bring a roll of quarters.
Plus, most camping showers are usually a trail of showers with long lines after 7 pmso you are better off making one yourself. The best time to shower is at 3 am or past 11 pm. Don’t try to shower between 10 pm and 1 am because that’s when everyone heads to the bathroom.
When heading to the camp showers, don’t forget your towel, toiletries bag, and sandals, just like in the gym.
Keeping Hair Clean When you Don’t Need to Shower
Now, assuming you don’t want to take a full body shower but want to wash hair, you’ll be glad to know there are several other methods.
I’m a big fan of dry shampoo because it keeps your looking fresh and is convenient to use.
The powdery-textured shampoo saves your time by soaking up the excess oils. It’s simply a spray-and-go.
The correct way to use shampoo is to spray it on your roots while holding the bottle away from your noggin.
But the trick is spraying on the roots, not at the ends.
Next, allow the shampoos to sit for a while, and use a dry towel to rub gently until it settles in. If the color persists, keep rubbing gently until it fades away.
There’re different shampoo brands, but the one I always make sure to tag along with is Batiste.
Batiste dry shampoo does an incredible job of absorbing the oil and making my hair look fuller. It doesn’t make my hair messy or tangly.
Plus, it’s not scented. This is key because I love backpacking in heavy wildlife areas, and the heavy scent can attract bears and bugs.
If dry shampoo isn’t an option, find a natural water source.
Fortunately, there’re a couple of options in the wild, starting from rivers, lakes, creeks, dams, reservoirs, and streams.
Your camping location is likely to determine what water source to go with.
Whichever the case, it’s important that you don’t pollute the water.
If possible, ensure that you don’t wash your hair directly in the river. Instead, carry the water, and do your cleaning far away from the source.
It’s also important that you use biodegradable soap.
Remember, the cold water used to wash your hair will seep into the ground at the end of the day. You don’t want to disrupt the existing ecosystem with your harmful wastewater.
I usually use Dr. Bronner’s biodegradable soap to wash hair. My hair likes it, but the best part is that it’s biodegradable, so I don’t have to worry about tampering with nature.
Even better, one of their little bottles usually goes a long way, typically a month, so no worry about running out on my cleaner when camping. It’s also nifty and saves on my backpack space.
Bring a Tub
You could always bring a bathtub if you’re not camping far away from your home or have a big RV.
The portable bathtubs are great, especially if you only want to clean your hair.
Camping portable tubs are ultra-light and convenient to manage.
Of course, don’t expect the camp tub to offer similar luxuries to that one at home. But the good thing is if you’ve time to boil water, you might feel like you’ve reached an ideal clean.
Portable Shower Solution
Carrying a tub, especially for long distances, may not, in my opinion, be the smartest idea.
Backpackers and weight-weenies need something ultra-light.
Enter portable camping showers.
They’re an awesome shower solution, especially when you need something light and packable.
I usually bring one as a backup everywhere I camp. While onsite camp showers are mostly fine, they sometimes have issues and force you to walk long and wait in huge lines.
I’ve a solar camp shower, which I usually fill up every morning and leave on the hood of my car. And by the time I’m returning after a long sunny day, I’ve my shower available.
My solar shower was also handy in my previous Bonnaroo and Firefly festivals.
What I like most with portable showers is that they are frugal at water consumption, which can be a lifesaver when dry camping.
Magical Shampoo Cap
If you can’t rinse your hair after cleaning, a shampoo camp is a delightful alternative.
I learned about the shampoo caps when my dad was admitted to the hospital. He was immobile, and the doctor referred us to use caps to keep his hair and head clean.
The caps resemble your shower cap but contain a special agent (shampoo) that cleanses your hair.
A great draw with the shampoo caps is it lets you use the shampoo without needing water.
They’re also incredibly easy to use. Simply brush out your hair and wear the cap.
You’ll also need to massage the cap for a while. It lets the shampoo inside work your way inside the hair roots.
The cap may get your head a little wet depending on the brand. However, most will only get your hair damp, which you can dry using a dry towel.
The other thing to understand is while a shampoo cap negates the need for visiting the bathroom or using water, it doesn’t clean as thoroughly as the traditional shampoo.
It’s not a fair comparison for the shampoo cap as it doesn’t promise beauty. But it promises clean.
I’d suggest you pick the shampoo cap formulated with a conditioner. It provides a two-in-one cleaning.
Overall, the shampoo caps are awesome, and I usually keep them at home for use when I’m running late.
Assuming you’re on budget and don’t have the money to spend on commercial cleansers, you could choose to DIY your shampoo.
I’ll share some of my favorite shampoo alternatives in the section below.
Dry Shampoo Alternatives
I’ve jet black hair and usually need dry shampoo when heading late for work. I’ve tried some high-end, generic shampoos, and the problem is they leave a weird sticky residue.
But once I switched to corn starch, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Today, I don’t have issues with white patches.
It has been my go-to, cheap alternative sub for dry shampoo when I’m camping.
Using it is quite easy, and I’ll apply it to my roots and let it sit for a bit. Next, I ruffle my hair to distribute.
Even then, you mustn’t scrub it on your scalp too much. Remember, cornstarch is ultra-fine and will easily make its way through the open pore/follicles, which could result in excessive drying, pimples, and itchiness.
Cornstarch is a wash method, so try spacing your washes more, and don’t use it often. Or even too soon after your last wash.
The other important thing is if you’re camping, you must put the hair portion in a separate jar from your cooking stock and label it.
The irony regarding dandruff is that most hair cleaners will dry the scalp, resulting in dandruff. We’re then advised to use the special dandruff cream to get rid of dandruff.
I had a dandruff problem for years, but once I stopped using products and did nothing, dandruff went away after a couple of weeks.
That’s the power of water.
It comes in handy, especially when camping.
If your head doesn’t agree with using the camping cleaners, try water, and you might get stunned at how it works for your hair.
And this comes from someone who had been using hair cleaners for a while.
But there’s a right way to do it, from my experience.
Comb your hair dry before getting in a shower. Dip your hair again in the water, and let it dry again.
I prefer the finely toothed combs for general cleaning. Alternatively, you could work your fingers through and massage your scalp.
It’s not complicated and far from impossible, but you’ll need to figure out whether it works for you.
Plenty of factors go into your hair behavior. For example, subtle things that you may not even think about, such as general climatic conditions of your area, amount of physical work, diet, and minerals in your water, may affect how you respond to water use.
A quick fix for greasy or dry hair is baby powder. It performs similarly to dry shampoo but is cheaper, and most people have it lying around.
Lather some baby powder on your hands and gently rub it into your scalp. Next, tip your head over and rub it on the scalp.
It will absorb the excess oil, just like shampoo, and you’ll naturally become less greasy.
A draw with baby powder is that it doesn’t discolor your hair and is absorbed almost immediately.
A bit of coconut oil is a perfect skin conditioner. The residual amount, however, may double as a great hair care product.
Run the oil through your hair.
A little bit of the oil will go a long way, and it’s particularly handy if you’ve baby-fine hair. It protects my hair and keeps it less fuzzy.
I like to mix coconut oil with coarsely ground raw sugar. It makes a great scrub ad helps with better exfoliation.
It’s not coarse either, so there is no need to worry about it scraping my skin.
The final DIY that I love to use is steeping one tea bag into two cups of freshly boiled water.
Let the mixture steep for 30 minutes, and don’t allow the steamy oil to evaporate. Cover with a metallic lid.
Then add three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and let it cool.
Put the mixture in a spray bottle for use.
It works wonders, and you’ll love how it leaves your hair clean, soft and conditioned.
However, this method may require some tweaking, depending on the scalp and hair type.
As with all the other DIY methods, it may or not work for you. But there’s one method that will work for you.
Washing Hair Tips when Camping
Here’re a few handy tips t help you manage your hair on your next camping trip;
Wash Just Before a Trip
When planning for a trip, it’s good to wait for a bit longer and wash your hair just when you’re about to leave.
It may seem like an innocuous habit, but it’ll go a long way to fresher your long hair.
Don’t make the mistake of showering even before packing or washing hair ahead of time.
Instead, delay the wash, and you might even get surprised that you won’t need to wash again, especially if you’re camping for 2- 3 days.
Consider the Ingredients
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your cleaning products before leaving camp.
The issue is that there’s usually a limited ability to shower when camping, and some hair cleansers can make your hair look messy and challenging to manage.
You might also find that you’re allergic to certain ingredients listed in the product.
So, it would be best to familiarize yourself with the product and, if possible, make a test run before using it.
Keep your Hair Braided
This is a tip I learned when I was at scouts.
Braiding my hair when dry and loosening it up when wet helps with hair management.
When I go out for a swim, the loose hair dries quickly under the slightest sunny breeze and won’t tangle when it gets dry.
The braids are also an awesome hairstyle because they keep the damage at bay.
Condition your Hair
Managing your hair while camping shouldn’t be different from your home cleansing routine.
So, consider some conditioning to keep your hair healthy in addition to a wash.
Remember, camping can be rough and damaging, so conditioning is key.
Washing Less Often
Form a habit o training your hair to go longer before washes.
It’s ironic, but “you only need to clean it as often as you clean it.”
The problem with washing your hair daily is that it eliminates the hair oil, and the body overcompensates with more oil production.
So, if you regularly wash your hair, it will get more often because that’s what it’s used to.
Instead, try to go out a few days before you wash your hair, and your body will respond by limiting the amount of oil it produces
A hat or bandana should be your friend during the training period.
If you’ve dandruff, washing your head less frequently can help with easier management.
The other tip I employ is gently stimulating my scalp with a wide tooth comb and using a dandruff shampoo when I wash my dry hair.
Stimulating the scalp is key as it pulls a lot of dander. Scrapping with a comb is sufficient.
From there, you can use a brush to get the dander off.
Protecting your Hair While Camping
Camping stresses your hair more than you think.
But it’s easy to make it remain soft, healthy, and happy.
Use Hairstyle to your Advantage
A couple of hairstyles usually minimize damage to your hair while camping.
For example, hairstyles with a tighter weave keep the elements at bay.
I’m a big fan of braids and buns as they keep your hair out of the way.
They’re also necessary for an area with lots of ticks and bugs to prevent them from getting inside.
Make Brushing a Habit
Knots are terrible for hair as they usually lead to hair breakage and damage. Regular brushing, however, helps to manage the tangles.
You might need to brush your hair a couple of times a day, depending on the size of your hair.
Take Care of your Scalp
Taking care of your scalp isn’t a hair care routine, but it’s related to your hair. It makes sense to protect it against sunburn.
Consider bringing a hat or bandana to shield it against the scorching sun, especially if you’ll spend most of your time outdoors.
I wouldn’t advise bringing sunscreen because it only makes your hair oily and greasy.
What to Do for My Hair After the Camping Trip
Hair care doesn’t end when your camping trip does.
Instead, you’ll need to do some quality hair care once you’re at home to ensure it recovers from the roughing of the rough and muddy areas.
Some quality shampoo and conditioning will do the trick. A good scalp massage is also necessary.
Q: Should I wash my hair before camping?
A: Yes, you can wash your hair before camping, but you should hold it until the last minute. Delaying the wash will earn you more time in the wild before needing to wash your hair again.
It’s helpful, especially when going out for 2-3 camping days.
Q: Is dry shampoo good for camping?
A: Yes, dry shampoo is good for camping. It helps to add texture and volume to your hair. However, apply to the roots for maximum efficacy.
Now that’s everything you need to know about how to wash your hair while camping.
The different methods will cater to different campers and in different situations. You can never miss finding the right method for you.
Now, regardless of your chosen method, be sure to use a biodegradable soap so you don’t harm the environment.