DIY AND HOW TO'S

Backpacking Shower: Personal Hygiene Tips

Henry Silva
Written by Henry Silva

Backpacking becomes enjoyable until your companions remind you how stinky you are, and also tell you how intolerable it is to further hang up with you due to unbearable odors apparently from your armpits, feet and groin.

Those body areas can really emit funky smell that you may struggle to withstand after a few days of not bathing. Imagine if intolerable to you, how will it be for others to tolerate? To prevent that, we need to take note of personal hygiene tips. Among other methods, our focus is on the most user-friendly and quick backpacking shower method.

picture of a solar-camp-shower-28-ivation-5-gallon-outdoor-portable-shower-630

Many people have their theories and guidelines on how to refresh your smell in the wilderness, some of which are not as user-friendly as using the backpacking pocket shower. For example, some may even suggest carrying your deodorants to kill the smell, but we do argue with that and say that deodorants must be left behind. Of all other bathing methods in the wilderness, showering with the portable pocket showers has proved to be the most lightweight and user-friendly method. What is this shower?

What is a backpacker’s shower?

To a newbie this might sound like a foreign language because backpacking or hiking entails trekking far away from villages. One might be asking that how possible that is for one to shower in the wilderness. Well, technology allows us to model almost everything. Even our household showers can be simulated by modern technologies of pocket showers that can unbelievably fit in our pockets.

picture of a solar-camp-shower-57-ivation-5-threaded-cap-630

The Backpacker’s shower is basically a portable shower designed for hikers and backpackers to have a quick shower for hygienic purposes. It usually comes as a round bag, from different companies with varying designs and colors. The most common color is black because of its ability to absorb heat and warm the water without the need to have the stove or campfire. Other showers come with their custom colors. But the shower-head is provided to resemble showering at home.

The common size of such bags is 10 liters. Users get to choose if they need cold or warm shower. Unfortunately, a hot shower may seem impossible because their bags are sensitive to very hot water. You are prohibited to even pour boiling water in the water. That’s understandable when considering the fabric design of a polyurethane-coated nylon material used in these showers because hot water can be damaging to the fabric.

picture of a solar-camp-shower-3-advanced-elements-2-gallon-630

The alternative to warm water is to put in cold water and leave the shower bag suspended on a tree for the whole day in direct sunlight, while you’re busy backpacking or hiking. A black color will be effective in absorbing too much heat and then subsequently heating the water for you to shower later on. That is actually cost-saving because no need to bring along the camping stove or create campfire. However, such tools may be needed in the absence of the sun, and either way will also be needed when you want to cook.

How to fill the backpacker’s shower?

To fill these backpacker’s showers, there is a top filling to pour water at. The instructions are given as to how to operate the shower and how much water should you pour. The shower head is underneath the bag and it can be adjusted to control the water pressure the way you need.

Keep in mind that, ideally, the 10 liters can last for about 7 minutes of showering at a standard pressure. So, if you increase the pressure, more water will be used, and less time spent. But it’s all about the functionality not the minutes taken per se.

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There’s a fill line inside the bag that indicates the capacity to avoid over-filling it. And it is not mandatory that you should empty all the water for a single shower. So you can spend several showers using the same bag. That way you will be saving the water if it is limited where you are camping. If there’s a water stream in your vicinity then you can empty the pocket shower after every bath.

How to shower using the backpacker’s shower?

After filling your shower with the necessary water, it’s time that you start to shower. But, firstly, keep in mind that the normal soaps should not be used, especially when you’re in close proximity to the lakes or rivers where your companions might possibly fetch water to drink or go fishing at.

picture of a man in a solar camp shower

The rain can erode the soil on which you have disposed of that soap water to the nearby water streams. And it could endanger the fish in those water streams. We advise you to stick with the biodegradable soap which can convert into natural ingredients after being disposed of. See our article on the choices of biodegradable soap that’s gentle on the environment.

Before showering, get your toiletry bag ready. In a basic toiletry bag, you should typically have the following essentials:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Alcohol based sanitizer
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Dental floss
  • Wash cloth or cotton bandanna
  • Toilet paper
  • Baby wipes

Ladies can even have more essentials in that bag. But we reiterate that the deodorant shouldn’t be in your toiletry bag. The deodorant is perhaps good at home only not in the wilderness because that deodorant scent can attract some wildlife to your disliking. And when showering, please pick the spot located at least 200 feet from any water streams or, even better, from your camp. This will help in disposing of your dirty water to prevent contaminating any water stream nearby. It would be a good idea to put it close to where the “bathroom” is. See our piece on how to set up the camping bathroom that’s an amazing innovation.

picture of a woman using Pocket Shower by Sea to Summit

To start showering, hang the shower on a tall tree to resemble your household shower with the showerhead within reach so that you can adjust it to let water out. Let that place be secure and clear of any possible obstructions from animals or other intruders. For women, be advised to have a hooting device so that you can alert your camping companions if you suspect that there could be possible threats or privacy invasion next to your showering space.

After showering, you can leave that bag if it still has some water or refill it if you are still going to need another shower later on. If not, then fold and pack it back into its portable case. The interesting thing is that it can be suspended onto any tree, so it makes it easy to travel with it or to change your shower spots.

solar-camp-showers on the ground

Where should you buy the backpacker’s shower?

There are numerous manufacturers of these outdoor essentials such as the Coleman and the Sea to Summit. You can find such products at major online retailers such as the Amazon. Among others on Amazon, we have picked several products that include the G2PLAY camp shower as an ideal product for you. It is made of the environmentally friendly PVC and can hold up to 5 gallons of water for repeated showers. As indicated in its name, it is easily heated by the solar.

So there’s no need to heat water using the stove unless camping in winter where a direct sunlight is so scarce. To hang it, the hanging bar and the rope system are provided. All the features of a backpacker shower are provided.

Preparing for Hard Times with Solar Hot Water Showers

The other recommended pocket shower is the Coleman sun shower. It also has some competitive features and can hold up to 4 gallons of water for numerous showers. It also uses direct sunlight to heat the water. All that you need to do is to hang it in the sun for several hours before taking the shower. The integrated thermometer helps you see the temperature of the water before turning it on. In this way you will know if the water is warm enough or not.

Our last recommendation goes to the Texsport solar shower as one of the best showers for hikers and backpackers. Its black polyethylene attracts enough sunlight to heat the water. It also has some mesh pockets where you can store your valuables such as the biodegradable soap or toothbrush. All other features are included. You can make your pick among these three top-selling products.

picture of a man testing the solar-camp-shower-27-ivation-5-water-flow-630

Watch this video about Sea to Summit backpacker’s shower to get a glimpse of how it works:

Almost any pocket shower works like that. They are lightweight outdoor accessories that every backpacker or every hiker should and are furthermore inexpensive. For example, our recommended products above are all less than $40 on Amazon. So there should be no excuse to be clean in the wilderness.

When should you take a shower?

Most people need a shower after a long day of backpacking or hiking to clean their sweats. Chances are, you already smell unpleasantly after a long day of hiking in hot temperatures. So, you must take that needed shower before you go to sleep, failing which can subject your sleeping bag to dirt and funky smell as well. You will then need to wash the sleeping to avoid further smell.

Early in the morning is also the right time to take the shower. But then during that time you will have to warm water and pour into the shower bag because there will be no sun as yet to heat your water. Cold water can also be refreshing in favorable weather conditions in summer or spring. Winter showers with cold water can subject you to hypothermia so beware of that.

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Midday showers can also be helpful, especially when you climb mountains because you might perspire a lot. The portable and pocket shower can help you during that time. So it’s advisable to also go with it in case you come across water along the way because holding 5 gallons of water can be unbearably heavy. Targeted body areas such as the groin, feet and the armpits may be washed regularly. But using the alcohol-based solution with the cottons can be helpful to target such areas.

Other hygiene tips in the wilderness

Other than taking the backpacker’s shower, provided you are alone in the hot days and you do not endanger other people’s health by contaminating water streams, you can take a quick bath next to the lakes. If there are backpacking or hiking companions, make sure you take it far from their water source. We still reiterate that use only the biodegradable soap instead of the normal soap used in the household.

But, in our views, the backpacker’s shower comes second to none in the convenience of bathing in the wilderness. The shower can reach the spots that can be challenging with a basic bath tub. You will feel so refreshing after taking the shower. The s can be done in the morning before heading to your hiking journey, and the shower taken later in the evening before taking a nap.

picture of an adult taking a quick bath in the lake

It is also equally important that we pay attention on our hands as well. We may naturally go to bathroom many times a day. So, it is advised that we get our hands sanitized as well to prevent exposing our health to bacteria and viruses from hands to mouth. The guidelines below can be helpful in improving personal hygiene:

  • Have a small hand sanitizer with you everywhere you go. You don’t know when you might need it. Before handling any food or after your bathroom break, use the alcohol-based sanitizer to clean your hands.
  • Have the cotton balls with you to squeeze the isopropyl alcohol on them to rub your armpits, groin and feet. Those areas are susceptible to an unpleasant smell due to sweating. It’s inescapable to have that sweat because that’s your body’s reaction to a hot day of hiking. It could smell worse to your companions. So, rather than taking frequent showers, use the isopropyl alcohol solution on targeted areas.
  • If you come across some lakes or rivers, stop for a few minutes to rinse your feet in the water to reduce the accumulation of dirt and smell. That way you will be saving your socks. During that moment, you can change your socks and put on new ones. Meanwhile, you can hang the changed socks on your bag for the air to dry them. You can even wash them.
  • Brushing your teeth is also helpful to maintain your dental hygiene. We advise you to always carry the pocket size toothpaste and toothbrush. After every meal along your hike, brush your teeth.

These steps help you reduce much of the showering work later when you arrive at your camp. As a result, your shower will just be a quick thing. It is also important to exchange the clothes, but strategically because having a heavy gear full of clothes is just impractical. Don’t forget to read our article on the finest backpacking towel that’s suitable for the wilds.

Try to rotate your clothes by hanging some in the air to dry for the next day. If you’re in favorable weather conditions, you can wash your light clothes and let them dry in the night. Also pay attention on your underwear. Have extra ones for in case because the groin can be smelly.

The Freemans hang their clothes to dry on Snipe Lake after a rainy week in June

Additional Advice and Recommendations

There are some alternatives to the sold backpacker’s shower. One can consider the homemade ones by procuring the 10 or 5 liter bottles with a showerhead as well. Hanging such bottles onto the tree with the adjustable showerhead to control the water pressure can resemble the household showers, too. That way you will have saved the cost.

However, take into account the inconvenience of those bottles when you have to back them. They will not be as foldable or as portable as the pocket shower. Moreover, they may not be as heat conductive as the bag. And when pouring hot water, they may shrink. Nonetheless, the bottles are still good alternatives in case you didn’t have enough cost to purchase the pocket shower of your desire.

The-Simple-Portable-Camping-Shower-converts-a-1-liter-water-bottles-into-a-portable-shower.-Its-also-compatible-with-Platypus-reservoirs

With regard to the pocket shower; before filling it, you have to observe it to see if there are no leaks. It could be devastating to leave your shower in direct sunlight thinking that the water will be warm later on when you come back, but then find out that it has been squeezed out through the leaks. These bags can be susceptible to scratches of thorns in the wilderness. You have to pay attention to the type of the tree on which you hang the bag.

When pouring water into the backpacker’s shower, make sure that there is not dirt because it can clog the pores of the showerhead. If there’s any other method such as the coffee filter, please use it to filter the water before pouring it. There could be leaks, if the showerhead is being clogged. And after every bath, rinse the shower head to remove any possible particles that could clog it the next time you pour water.

Final Thoughts

With the provision of the backpacker’s shower, gone should be the days when campers, hikers and backpackers spend many days without bathing. You don’t have to subject yourself to huge criticism from your outdoor companions simply because you found it inconvenient to take a bath since you’re accustomed to household showers.

The pocket showers can resemble that with ease for the time being in the wilderness. The only challenge can be the provision of hot water because the bag relies heavily on the solar power to heat the water. Otherwise, you will have to warm water using the camp stove or the campfire.

picture of two solar camping showers

With the information we’ve given you above, we are quite sure that your backpacking hygiene will be on par from now on. We have probably introduced a new product you’ve never heard of before, and have stated the importance of it and how it works. Moreover, the recommended products to narrow down your search have been provided as well. There could be numerous products to choose from. Even further, we have given you general hygiene tips on how to stay clean at the times. For some personal tips on hygiene when backpacking, check out the link to our article.

Have you used any of the backpacker’s showers before? If yes, please share with us their names and how inconvenient they are. Our readers would appreciate your experiences.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Henry Silva

Henry Silva

Henry was hiking since he was 4. He was lucky enough to be born in Boulder, Colorado and enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park hikes growing up. His favourite is Longs Peak, which rises to 14,259 feet (4,346 m) above sea level. It is the highest point of the park. Henry likes to explore new hikes and spend his spare time in the wilderness.