TravelTravel Advice
Q:

How Can I Stay Clean Without Showering?

I’m going backpacking through South America in a few months. I expect to get kind of grubby, and won't have regular access to showers. What’s the best way to stay clean and not stink without taking a bath every couple of days?

(Photo: dbpeterson723/Flickr)
camping hiking showering stay clean baking soda shampoo

Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.

A:

I ran into this problem on a months-long hike on the Appalachian Trail a while back, when I’d sometimes go 10 to 12 days between resupply stops and a shower. I didn’t want to scare anybody off with my stink. A little grubbiness is to be expected if you can’t access running water as much as you’d like, but you don’t want people running from away from like you’re Pepe le Pew. Here are the tricks I use to stay (reasonably) clean.

BRING A WASHCLOTH
I prefer to use a square of synthetic chamois camp towel because it’s lighter and dries more quickly than cotton.

WEAR DEODORANT
You can drastically cut down on stink by taking care of your armpits. Bring a small stick of deodorant of your choice to use wherever you go, and you'll be able to put off showers for a little longer.

USE BAKING SODA AS DRY SHAMPOO
Really. Rub the baking soda thoroughly through your hair, then rinse it with water over the sink. I suggest you keep it in its original packaging, though, because traveling with a baggie full of white powder can raise questions. 

DEODORIZE YOUR SHOES
We're not done with that baking soda yet. Dump a little into your kicks to keep foot odor at bay.

HAND-WASH YOUR CLOTHES
Your clothes are the worst culprits for carrying stink-causing bacteria. Keeping them clean will not only reduce the smell, but make you feel cleaner too. For more detailed instructions, see my recent Adventure Adviser on the topic.  

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Adventure AdviserScienceExplorationCampingClothing and Apparel
Lead Photo: dbpeterson723/Flickr
More Travel