How To Keep Your Hair Clean When Camping (Even If It’s Long)

Dirt, oil and the elements can be especially rough on hair while you’re camping. However, there are still ways to keep any length of hair clean, with or without a shower!

Keeping your hair clean while camping doesn’t have to be a difficult, stressful process. If there are no showers available, you can use tools like dry shampoo or shampoo caps to keep your hair clean. Additionally, prepping your hair effectively and protecting it while you’re in the woods are key to avoiding hair damage.

There’s a whole lot more to know about keeping your hair clean and safe while you’re camping. Read on and you’ll discover what you should bring on the trip with you, how to prep your hair for a camping trip, keep it clean and safe while camping, and how to revive your hair when the trip is over.

By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.


  1. What Hair Supplies Should You Bring On A Camping Trip?
  2. Keeping Your Hair Clean While Camping When You Absolutely Need To Shower
  3. Keeping Your Hair Clean While Camping When You Just Can’t Get A Shower
    1. Try Out A Dry Shampoo
    2. Find The Water
    3. Bring A Tub
    4. Create Your Own Shower (or purchase one)
    5. The Magical Shampoo Cap
  4. How Do I Clean My Hair When I Don’t Have Shampoo?
    1. Baby Powder and Cornstarch
    2. Cleaning With Just Water
  5. How To Prepare Your Hair For A Camping Trip
    1. When To Wash Before A Trip
    2. Watch Your Products
    3. Condition Well And Prosper
  6. What To Do To Protect Your Hair While Camping
    1. Use Style To Your Advantage
    2. Brush It Out Daily
    3. Keep Oil At Bay
    4. Don’t Forget Your Scalp
    5. Be Careful In The Elements
  7. Hairstyles To Use For Keeping Your Hair Safe In The Wilderness
    1. Buns, Braids, and Ponytails
    2. Other Updos And Combination Styles
    3. What If I Have Short Hair?
  8. What Should I Do For My Hair After My Trip?

What Hair Supplies Should You Bring On A Camping Trip?

While you’re prepping for your camping trip, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got everything you need to keep your hair as clean and healthy as possible. Depending on where you’re camping, this might include a number of items.

Here are just a few ideas for useful items that can be worthwhile to bring along on your camping trip:

  • A shampoo or shampoo alternative
  • A conditioner or conditioner alternative (such as a dry conditioner)
  • A wide-tooth comb or gentle brush
  • Scrunchies or hair ties
  • Bobby pins
  • Headbands
  • Bandanas or hats
  • Sunscreen

Keeping Your Hair Clean While Camping When You Absolutely Need To Shower

Having access to a shower can make the process of staying clean while camping much easier. Many campgrounds have showers and bathrooms right on the premises, but some shower facilities may cost money. It’s a good idea to make sure you look into where you’re going to figure out whether you need to stock up on quarters to take with you or not (many shower facilities that require a fee for use are coin-operated, meaning you’ll have to insert quarters into a machine to use the facility).

Even when there isn’t a shower right where you are camping, there are ways that you can get to one. In this article, I’m trying to focus specifically on keeping hair clean rather than the entire body, but you can gain information on showering while camping at another of our articles here!

Keeping Your Hair Clean While Camping When You Just Can’t Get A Shower

Even without a shower, the options to keep your hair decently clean are quite numerous. It’s just a matter of finding the one that works the best for your unique hair. Check out these possibilities for cleaning your hair without a shower.

Try Out A Dry Shampoo

When showers aren’t an option and you don’t want to wash your hair in a lake or bucket, dry shampoo is a fantastic solution. Essentially, this shampoo is one you can use without water. You just rub a small amount of the substance into your hair and you’ll be good to go.

There is a huge variety of dry shampoo options, so those with any hair type or color should be able to find what they need. Whether you have curly hair, fine hair, light or dark locks, there’s something for you out there.

An example of Dry Shampoo from TRESemme – photo from theimpulsivebuy, license

Once you’ve found the ideal dry shampoo, you’ll want to make sure to pay special attention to your scalp, as this is the starting point for oil to begin building up. As long as you can keep that oil at bay, your hair will remain as clean as possible.

Additionally, keep in mind that dry shampoo isn’t typically a great option to use for the long term. When you use dry shampoo, it is only adding products into your hair. Over time, that product will continue to build up and cause skin problems. As a result, you may begin to experience problems with dandruff or even acne in your scalp.

That said, it can be the perfect solution for a few days of camping.

Find The Water

Even if you don’t have a source of hot water, you can still find a place to get clean if you’re camping anywhere near water. Whether it’s a reservoir, lake, river or stream, it can work well enough to get your hair clean.

If you plan on getting clean in a natural water source, make sure that you use a biodegradable soap or shampoo. These avoid problems caused by chemicals in the water. It keeps the wildlife and environment happier, and you’ll feel better knowing that you’re meeting your needs without causing a detriment to the world around you.

One tip to remember when using a biodegradable soap is that it can still have an effect on the environment. There’s no denying that it is a much better option than typical soaps and shampoos, but you’ll still want to try to avoid using it directly in the water source.

Using a bucket or other container to get some water from the source to wash in may require some extra steps, but it can also help to keep that stream, creek or lake from contamination.

Additionally, take a friend along or make sure someone is within hearing distance. Accidents can happen in the water, whether it’s a cramp, slippery rock or log or just a misguided step. Safety is extremely important, especially if you’re out where someone might not otherwise know something went wrong.

Bring A Tub

If you’d rather not go too far from camp, then you can always bring your own water and use a tub for your basic cleaning needs. This can be especially helpful if you’re just looking to get your hair clean. Gather together a tub, some water, a cup to help with rinsing out your locks and a towel. You’ll be good to go.

You may not always have hot water to work with, but if you have a way to boil some water then you can make the process even more pleasant. It may take a little more time, but in some cases, you may just need that warm water to feel like you’ve reached the ideal clean.

Create Your Own Shower (or purchase one)

If you often camp in areas where a shower isn’t available to you, bringing your own can be an absolute lifesaver. To begin with, there are a plethora of different camping showers on the market by companies like RinseKit, Ivation, Nemo and a whole lot more. These showers are already set up and ready to go. All you need to do is add the water.

However, those who want a less expensive option can also choose to put together their own shower. Using a simple household tool like a water jug, deck/garden sprayer (unused) or 5-gallon bucket, you can make a shower that works perfectly well for your needs.

Whether you’re buying or creating, you’ll want to keep in mind the weight of the shower itself while it isn’t in use. Make sure to come up with something that you’ll be able to travel with as much as you need to. Otherwise, it may become more of a hindrance than a help.

The Magical Shampoo Cap

A shampoo cap is another delightful alternative when you don’t have the ability to rinse out your hair after cleaning. They keep everything clean and in one place, making the process much less messy.

You can often get packs of several caps at once, which is great when you’re going to be camping for 5 days or more, or need caps for multiple people.

Shampoo caps are incredibly easy to use. All you need to do is brush out your hair, open up the cap and place it over your hair. Then, massage all of your hair from outside the cap anywhere from a few seconds to a minute, depending on how much hair you have. Many caps will both shampoo and condition in a single go, making it a very quick process!

Once you’ve finished getting all of your hair clean, you can remove the cap and grab a towel to get your hair dry. Just make sure that you gather up your garbage and pack it up into a garbage bag to take home with you, or find a garbage can to leave it in.

How Do I Clean My Hair When I Don’t Have Shampoo?

Whether you don’t have shampoo to take with you, can’t use shampoo or just happened to leave the shampoo behind by accident, there are ways to keep your hair clean. Try out these options to get rid of oil in a pinch.

Baby Powder and Cornstarch

Both baby powder and cornstarch are great options when you’re in a pinch and want something to keep your hair from getting too oily. Oftentimes, things like baby powder are often used in standard shampoo, so you know it’s something you can rely on.

Additionally, these ingredients tend to be unscented and quite gentle. In addition to that, you only need a small amount to complete the task.

When you’re using either of these options, just add a small amount to your hair. You’ll want to make sure that you get it near the roots, where oil tends to begin. Then, brush it through your hair and it will do away with any oiliness in the area.

Regardless of which one you’re using, be careful not to use too much. An excess of either powder can leave you with white powder in your hair that may be difficult to get out. Less is more!

Cleaning With Just Water

In some cases, some water is all you need to ensure that your hair gets clean. That said, it’s not usually something that is going to work perfectly in a pinch.

If you’re anything like me, you can’t imagine not using shampoo and conditioner on a daily basis. The latter can truly be a lifesaver, especially if you have long hair. However, with a little practice, it is possible to keep your hair clean with just water.

What’s worth keeping in mind is this often takes time. Your hair and scalp will likely need to get used to the lack of chemicals adding to the cleaning process. That could mean dealing with greasy or dry hair until you get the process of cleaning with water just right.

If you want to try out this route, there’s no reason not to give it a shot and see how it goes. Those who camp often may find it so much easier to keep their hair looking and feeling nice while camping if all it takes is a bit of water and a good scalp massage.

How To Prepare Your Hair For A Camping Trip

You can’t go wrong with starting early to make sure your hair is in good shape for a camping trip. The healthier it is when you head out into the woods, the less damage it’s likely to take while you’re camping. Make sure to follow these steps to ensure your hair is ready.

When To Wash Before A Trip

It’s a good idea to try to wait as long as possible to wash your hair when you’re preparing for a camping trip. Many of us may be tempted to get up, take a shower, get clean and then finish up all the packing before leaving. However, washing your hair at the last minute can give you a bit more time before your hair is dirty again.

This is an especially useful strategy when you’re not going to be able to shower during your trip. If you’re only going to be camping for 2-3 days, your hair may still be relatively clean until you’re able to shower again.

Watch Your Products

Too many hair products can become a big problem when you’re camping. Without the ability to shower and wash them completely out of your hair, those products can make it harder to keep your hair looking clean. It may end up stiff and difficult to manage. When it comes to camping, it’s best to leave your hair as natural as possible.

Keep in mind that this largely applies to things like added products like mousses, sprays, oils and other additions that might normally be used to keep your hair in place. Moisturizing products and leave-in shampoos or conditioners are perfectly okay.

Condition Well And Prosper

In addition to cleaning your hair well before your trip, it’s a great idea to make sure it gets some extremely good conditioning as well. I mean, really go beyond your regular conditioner for some deep conditioning action. Your hair will thank you, and it will be better protected against the damage it may receive while you’re out in the wilderness.

Whatever nourishment you can give your hair before heading out on your trip, definitely go for it. Camping can be particularly rough on hair, so you can’t go wrong with making sure it’s going into the trip as healthy as possible.

What To Do To Protect Your Hair While Camping

Camping can be more stressful on your hair than you might think. That said, it’s easy to keep your hair protected so that it can remain soft, healthy and happy. Use these tips to protect your hair while you’re in the wilderness.

Use Style To Your Advantage

Keeping your hair in a tighter style can help to keep the elements from affecting it as much. For example, something like a braid or bun can keep most of your hair protected. It also decreases the chances that things like dirt and debris will be able to make its way into your locks.

If you normally keep your hair down, camping can become a great excuse to try out some new styles. When you find the styles you like the best, you’ll be able to trust that you’re looking great even when your hair hasn’t been washed in a few days.

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the style varieties you can use that will ensure even dirty hair looks cute and is well protected against the elements.

Brush It Out Daily

Tangles can be a terrible thing for hair no matter where you are. As someone with long hair, I can tell you that it might be tempting to put off a good brushing until you get back home, but knots can result in damaged and even broken hair. Consequently, it’s a good idea to give it a daily brushing even if you aren’t able to wash it while camping.

Depending on your hair length, you may find that you need to brush it out more than once per day. It really doesn’t hurt to give it a brush in the morning and before you go to bed at night. It really helps to keep your hair healthy, soft and tangle-free.

While you’re camping, it’s never a bad idea to be extra careful with your hair. That means brushing it gently and using a brush or comb with wider gaps if you have one. Any knots you find should be carefully brushed out, with extra patience and love.

Keep Oil At Bay

It’s a good idea to try to clean your hair on the same schedule that you normally would. For some, that might be every day while for others it might be every two or three days. Basically, doing this just helps to keep your hair on a regular schedule for oil removal.

Most of us likely have hair that is used to being cleaned on a daily basis. In those cases, it may only take a day or two of not washing for hair to appear oily. If you don’t usually wash your hair quite that often, then there’s a good chance it may be able to hang in there a bit longer before it gets oily.

Additionally, make sure to keep an eye on your hair. If you notice that it’s getting oily between planned cleanings, it doesn’t hurt to give it a quick wash if you can.

Don’t Forget Your Scalp

While this might be more of a skincare tip than one related to hair, it’s worth knowing that your scalp can be a place for sunburns to occur. If you have hair that is thinner or a part that shows more clearly, it can be a prime place for harmful UV rays.

In addition to caring for your hair, making sure your scalp is clean is also incredibly important. Wear a hat or bandana as often as possible if you’re spending a lot of time in the sun, and try to get into the shade when you can. If you’re not a fan of hats, then it’s a good idea to get some hair-friendly sunscreen that you can use on your scalp.

While you can certainly use regular sunscreen to protect your scalp, it often results in your hair looking greasy or oily. Since the point of this article is to avoid that as much as possible, I want you to know that there are sun-protection options that can keep you protected without added greasiness.

Hair-friendly sunscreen mists like those by Coola can provide you with protection for both hair and scalp, including an SPF of 30. Not only does it strive to protect you from the sun, it also provides moisturization for your hair. It also keeps drying elements like chlorine and saltwater from effecting your hair.

Be Careful In The Elements

Wind, sun, water and even more extreme temperatures can add to the damage your hair receives while you’re camping. As a result, it’s wise to make sure that you find ways to keep your hair guarded against them.

Depending on your situation, that might mean limiting time spent in the sun or wind or water, wearing a bandana or hat, or just keeping your hair bundled up in a tight updo. Ultimately, it’s your choice how much you do to protect your hair, but it’s good to know that the elements can play a role in hair damage.

Hairstyles To Use For Keeping Your Hair Safe In The Wilderness

The style you use can also play a large role in keeping your hair safe. While it might be tempting to keep your hair down and free, a more protective hairstyle avoids debris and damage. Nature is home to dirt, bugs and all manner of other things that can get into your hair. Keeping it up and out of the way keeps those variables from causing too much trouble. On top of that, it limits the amount of hair that gets full exposure to things like sun or wind.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to go with something boring. Consider the following hairstyles when you’re thinking about how to wear your hair while you’re on a camping trip.

Buns, Braids, and Ponytails

Buns, braids and, ponytails are some of the most common ways to get your hair out of the way and keep it safe in nature. While they might initially seem boring, there are a variety of ways you can adapt them to your unique style.

If you like things neat, you can aim for a standard bun or a braided bun. Those who are a bit more casual might prefer a messy bun or even a pair of buns for a futuristic appearance. Additionally, you can aim for a Dutch braid, side braid, boxer braids or a fantastic fishtail. It’s really up to you.

Ponytails are among the easiest options, but they can get bland all on their own. You can opt to adapt it into pigtails, throw in a stylish hair knot or go for a half-up style.

What matters most is finding a way to turn these styles into something that works best for your tastes and hair. Whether you like it simple or unique, a great hairstyle can keep you looking great.

Other Updos And Combination Styles

If you find the previously mentioned hairstyles boring, then don’t worry! There are plenty of other hairstyles you can try out that might shake things up a bit more.

To begin with, you can try combining some of the previous options. For example, creating a braided bun, or combining a braid with a half-down hairstyle rather than using a simple ponytail.

You can also add in some flair, such as a bandana or scarf. These tools can be used to add a pop of color into your hair while providing an alternative for a regular hair tie in some instances.

Hairstyles like the chignon, top knot, French twist, and crown can also add a more unique touch to your hair. Playing with these styles before heading out on your trip can help to make them easier to create when you may not have a comfortable bathroom to work on them in.

It’s always worth exploring to find your favorites so that you can have plenty of cute hairstyles to choose from while camping.

What If I Have Short Hair?

While most might assume that short hair doesn’t need much thought while camping, that isn’t necessarily true. Those with short hair can’t always turn to the obvious hairstyle choices that people with long hair can. To learn more about what to do with short hair while camping, check out our article here!

What Should I Do For My Hair After My Trip?

When it comes to hair care, the work doesn’t end when your trip does. After you’ve returned home, your hair is likely going to need some quality care to help it recover from your time spent in nature.

The good news is, you typically only need your chosen shampoo and some deep conditioner to complete the task. If you haven’t been able to shower while on the trip, it’s likely that you’re looking forward to a chance to get clean. Take your time to get a good scrub and allow your hair to get all the moisture it needs. It’s sure to be back to a normal level of health in no time!


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

Recent Posts