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How To Keep Your Hair Clean While Dry Camping

Anyone who loves being out in nature likely also loves boondocking. That said, very few people enjoy the dirt and grime that comes with boondocking, and one of the biggest complaints I hear from RVers is that they come out of a boondocking adventure feeling gross.

I totally get this. Boondocking requires conserving water, and I hate not showering as often as I normally would. While body wipes definitely do help, they just aren’t the same as a full-fledged shower. Probably the biggest difference between these wipe-downs and an actual shower is the lack of a good hair washing.

As a person with oily hair, this is a big issue for me. If it’s a big problem for you too, this is the article for you. Here are some of the tips I’ve found to help my hair look decent until we can get to a shower.

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Keep your hair clean even when you don’t have water hookups. Photo by Lee Turner/Flickr

1. Wash less often

Apparently, the average American likely washes their hair too often. Shampoos strip the oils from hair, which then triggers the body to create more oil. This means your scalp is likely making far more oil than it would otherwise, leaving you with greasy hair only 24 hours after washing it.

You can train your body to stop producing so much oil by going longer between washes at home. Once your body has slowed down its oil production, you won’t even feel the need to wash your hair for a couple of days.

2. Wash at the last minute

With your oil production slowed and your average number of washings cut down, you can head into your next boondocking adventure with more confidence in how you will come out looking and feeling.

Still, it’s a good idea to save that last good washing for the very last minute before you hit the road. This means that even if you’re leaving to start your trip in the afternoon, you should sneak in a mid-day shower really fast.

3. Avoid products

After that final wash, avoid putting any products in your hair. Hair products (like hairspray) create a buildup that will stay in your hair until you can wash it again. Additionally, these products tend to grab onto dirt, adding to the layer of grime in your hair.

4. Wear a hat or bandana

I find that wearing a hat or a bandana helps me keep my hair clean by preventing me from touching my head. I have a bad habit of playing with my hair while I’m thinking, and this can really increase the oil in my hair. If I cover my hair, it serves as a reminder to keep my hands off.

5. Use dry shampoo, cornstarch, or baby powder

Dry shampoo is great for soaking up excess oil in your hair and keeping it looking and feeling clean for a few days after you normally would shower.

Dry shampoo can work wonders when you’re camping. Photo by Maria Rantanen/Flickr

Don’t like the smell of dry shampoo, or don’t want to invest in the stuff? Cornstarch and baby powder do the exact same job. Sprinkle it in before you go to bed, massage it into your scalp, and wake up the next day to significantly less oily hair.

Just be aware that because these products are white, they can show up in dark hair. Reduce this problem by using only a small amount of power and massaging it well.

6. Try shampoo caps

There are some awesome rinse-free shampoo caps out there that many boondocking RVers swear by. These are usually used in hospitals for patients who can’t get out of bed to shower, but I can definitely see how these would be handy to have while dry camping.

While I’ve never used one of these myself, I do have plans to. I figure they will buy me a day or two between the dry shampoo session and an actual shower.

7. Shower outside

When you reach the point of needing a shower so bad it’s all you think about, consider breaking out the outdoor shower. Many RVs come equipped with one of these, meaning you can pull water directly from your fresh tank but you won’t be using precious gray tank space.

If you need all the water in your fresh tank or you don’t have a built-in outdoor shower, you might consider investing in something like this. A solar shower can be filled from another water source and used wherever you can hang it. You could also wash your hair using a few large wash basins.

Use your RV’s outdoor shower or even a few large wash basins. Photo by Anne Bennett/Flickr

No matter what kind of outdoor shower you end up using, be sure to use biodegradable soap since it will be draining onto the ground and potentially into streams, lakes, and rivers.

Hopefully, these tips will help make hair care while boondocking a bit more manageable so you can enjoy the great outdoors without thinking about how gross your hair looks and feels. Have a tip you’d like to add? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

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5 thoughts on “How To Keep Your Hair Clean While Dry Camping”

  1. I use a 1 gal jug to wash & rinse my hair. Outside: I just tip my head down & pour the water. To wash & rinse is less than one gal.

  2. I thought about a way to clean up when I go boondocking (I haven’t done this yet) as I feel I need a shower everyday that may change when I actually do it. I figure if I can buy a mason pan put it in the shower to capture the water use it to flush toilet, but use a 2 gallon solar shower to wash my hair and shower, dilute the shampoo and body wash like Carol suggested, I think this may work???? I also have a short haircut so not as difficult to wash hair, I’ll just keep it short. Maybe some day I will be able to test my theory, not allot boondocking on east coast.

  3. There are plastic shower “heads” that will screw onto a 2 liter pop bottle….perfect for shampooing and for rinsing. Simply put the bottle down to scrub. No wasting water. They work well. The ones I’ve seen are orange but there are others out there.

  4. Be patient. By the time you are boondocking in your 60’s, your scalp doesn’t produce much oil and you won’t need to wash your hair nearly as often!

  5. I love the black bag solar showers. I even use mine to provide warm water for dishes and face washing. Just a little hot water in a bucket of cold makes all the difference.

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