No matter if you’re an experienced overlander or simply enjoy spending time outdoors, staying clean while camping is essential for making the most of your time outdoors.

Maintaining hygiene in nature can be challenging, but with some simple practices you can keep your camp as clean as possible. Whether you’re seeking ways to stay healthy while camping or looking for tips for glamping, these best practices will help keep your body, hands and face as fresh as possible.

In a Nutshell: Overlanding Hygiene Best Practices

While some of these best practices might seem fairly obvious, hopefully you won’t feel patronized or offended – we just want to cover all bases and help you figure out some of the nitty-gritties behind overlanding. Who know, one of these basic best practices might just remind you to bring a nail clippers along.

  1. Handwashing: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before handling food, after using the restroom, and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces. If water is limited, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
  2. Personal grooming: Keep your hair, nails, and body clean by bathing regularly, using biodegradable soap, and water. Wet wipes can be a useful alternative for quick clean-ups when water is scarce.
  3. Oral hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day and use dental floss or interdental brushes to maintain good oral health.
  4. Food safety: Store perishable food items in a cooler or refrigerator, cook food thoroughly, and wash your hands before and after handling food. Dispose of food waste properly to avoid attracting wildlife and pests.
  5. Dishwashing: Clean cooking utensils, dishes, and cutlery with biodegradable soap and water, ensuring they are thoroughly rinsed and dried before storage. Avoid washing dishes directly in natural water sources.
  6. Restroom hygiene: Use designated restroom facilities whenever possible. If not available, dig a “cathole” at least 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites for solid human waste. Pack out used toilet paper in a sealed bag.
  7. Menstrual hygiene: Pack appropriate menstrual hygiene products, such as tampons, pads, or menstrual cups, and dispose of them responsibly. Carry sealable bags to pack out used items.
  8. Clothing care: Wear moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing, and change clothes regularly to prevent odor and bacteria buildup. Wash clothes with biodegradable soap and water when necessary, and dry them in the sun.
  9. Foot care: Keep your feet clean and dry by regularly washing them, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and allowing your shoes to air out. This can help prevent blisters, fungal infections, and foot odor.
  10. Insect protection: Use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and use bug nets or screens to prevent insect bites and related illnesses.
  11. Campsite cleanliness: Keep your campsite clean and organized, disposing of trash in designated receptacles or packing it out. Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your environmental impact.
  12. First aid: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit and be prepared to treat minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and insect bites, to prevent infection.
  13. Water purification: Treat water from natural sources by filtering, boiling, or using purification tablets or UV sterilizers to remove pathogens and contaminants.
  14. Avoid sharing personal items: To prevent the spread of germs, avoid sharing personal items like towels, toothbrushes, and eating utensils with others.
  15. Handkerchief or tissue usage: Always use a handkerchief or tissue when sneezing or coughing, and dispose of used tissues properly.
  16. Pet hygiene: If traveling with pets, clean up after them by disposing of their waste responsibly and maintaining their overall cleanliness.

Essential: Clean Water

One of the most essential camping and overlanding hygiene best practices is managing clean water properly. Contaminated water in some parts of the world can be lethal, leading to severe infections, diarrhea and stomach pain for those who already have compromised immune systems. Furthermore, waterborne diseases tend to strike young children more often than older individuals since their immune systems tend to be weaker.

When camping, it’s especially important to be mindful of the quality of water you drink and use for cooking, brushing your teeth, washing hands and making ice. In the US, some campgrounds have designated dishwashing facilities and drain water basins; if not, you’ll need to plan an effective waste disposal solution.

Water filters can also help ensure the safety of your drinking water. These devices filter out contaminants such as sand, dirt and larger particles from the mix, which helps reduce taste and chlorine content.

Another way to guarantee your water is safe for drinking is to boil or add a chemical treatment before use. Boiling or adding a purification tablet is an ideal option if you plan on using the water for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth.

Filtering your water can be as easy as using a camp water filter or even a portable device that will purify it for drinking. Many filter systems come with various attachments so you can customize it according to your requirements.

When traveling long distances or to remote places, it’s wise to bring along a camping water filter as part of your overlanding supplies. Doing so can help avoid an unpleasant surprise should the vehicle’s tanks run dry or you arrive in areas without reliable sources of drinking water.

When selecting a camping water filter, opt for one that can purify the water as needed. Look for one with multiple filtration settings or one with both sediment and carbon filters.

Finally, always carry a bottle of hand sanitizer and use it whenever your hands come into contact with natural water sources. Doing this helps prevent the spread of disease. Furthermore, washing your hands with the sanitizer before and after handling food or other potential contamination sources is recommended.

Useful: Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers are products that use alcohol to kill germs on hands. While they can be useful in certain circumstances, such as when soap and water aren’t available or for cleaning hands after someone has sneezed, coughed or touched their face, they won’t eliminate all germs; in some cases they may cause a rash or dry skin.

To prevent infection, regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially essential after using the bathroom, eating, coughing or sneezing into your hands, as well as touching mouth or nose.

Soap and water are effective at eliminating certain kinds of germs, such as norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Clostridioides difficile1,5,12. They also remove chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals like lead.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can effectively kill many types of bacteria, including those responsible for respiratory diseases. They’re frequently used in places where soap and water aren’t readily available, like hospitals or schools. Not only are these sanitizers an ideal choice for workers in these settings but they’re also very convenient to use.

They can be useful for cleaning hands after handling food or playing sports, but may not be effective against other kinds of germs. For instance, they may not eliminate bacteria that cling to hands or are resistant to alcohol treatment.

It is best to select a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol (also known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol) diluted in water and use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once applied, rub in for even coverage across your hands.

Some sanitizers contain methanol, which is toxic and can be hazardous when absorbed into the body. If you suspect your sanitizer contains methanol, check for contamination and discard it promptly.

(Always) Nice to Have: Baby Wipes

Baby wipes offer a convenient and effortless way to keep your hands and surfaces clean between hand washes. They may also be utilized as an efficient means of eliminating oily residue from fecal matter, wiping away urine, or wiping up small spills on faces, fingers, and bodies.

Disposable baby wipes often come in convenient packs that can be easily packed away into a diaper bag or backpack for camping and overlanding excursions. Many of these wipes are made from biodegradable, sustainable materials like plant-based fibers, making them an environmentally friendly option as well.

Disposable wipes contain water, oils and moisturizers as well as fragrances. These elements work together to make them spongy and absorbent while also keeping them moist and soft to touch.

When selecting baby wipes, there are a range of different brands to choose from. Some contain chemicals and fragrances while others remain unscented.

For instance, Nice ‘N CLEAN(r) wipes are made with plant-based fibers that are biodegradable, helping reduce ocean pollution. Plus, they have some added natural ingredients which deodorize, cleanse and moisturise effectively.

Another essential ingredient in baby wipes is a surfactant, which helps clean skin. According to Valerie Flaherty-Hewitt of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Washington DC, “A good surfactant can remove much of the oily residues from fecal materials which may be very irritating.”

Some baby wipes also use humectants, a type of moisturizer that keeps the wipe from drying out too quickly and adds an additional layer of moisture. Humectants may include propylene glycol or glycerin but some may include oils like olive oil or olus oil as well.

How Do Overlanders Store & Dispose of Trash

How Do Overlanders Store & Dispose of Trash

Proper trash storage and disposal are crucial for overlanders to minimize their impact on the environment and maintain the cleanliness of the areas they visit. Here are some tips on how to store and manage trash while overlanding:

  1. Separate trash and recyclables: Use separate bags or containers for trash and recyclables. This makes it easier to dispose of waste properly when you reach a disposal facility or recycling center.
  2. Heavy-duty trash bags: Use heavy-duty trash bags to contain waste and prevent leaks. Choose bags with drawstrings or other secure closures to minimize odors and keep pests away.
  3. Trasharoo or similar products: A popular option among overlanders is the Trasharoo, a heavy-duty, weather-resistant bag designed to attach to the outside of a spare tire or the rear of a vehicle. This keeps trash separated from living and food storage areas, reducing smells and the risk of attracting pests.
  4. Sealable containers: Use sealable plastic containers or ziplock bags to store waste that may produce strong odors, such as food scraps or used hygiene products. This helps to keep smells contained and discourages pests from being attracted to your trash.
  5. Minimize waste production: To reduce the amount of trash generated, try to minimize packaging and single-use items. Opt for reusable or eco-friendly alternatives, such as reusable water bottles, utensils, and shopping bags.
  6. Regularly dispose of trash: Whenever possible, dispose of your trash in designated waste receptacles or at disposal facilities. This helps to prevent trash from accumulating in your vehicle and reduces the risk of attracting pests.
  7. Secure your trash: When storing trash outside your vehicle or at a campsite, make sure it’s secured to prevent it from being scattered by wind or animals. Hang trash bags from a tree or use a bear-resistant container when camping in areas with wildlife.
  8. Practice Leave No Trace principles: Adhere to Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and waste, leaving the areas you visit clean and undisturbed.

By properly storing and disposing of trash, overlanders can minimize their impact on the environment and maintain the cleanliness and beauty of the areas they explore.

How Do Overlanders Use The Bathroom?

How do overlanders use the bathroom?

Overlanders use various methods to manage their bathroom needs while on the road, depending on their personal preferences, the type of vehicle they have, and the availability of facilities in the areas they are traveling. Here are some common ways overlanders handle bathroom situations:

  1. Public restrooms: When available, overlanders may use restrooms at gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, or other public facilities. This is often the most convenient and comfortable option.
  2. Portable toilets: Some overlanders carry portable toilets, such as chemical toilets or camping toilets, in their vehicles. These toilets consist of a seat, a holding tank for waste, and sometimes a flushing mechanism. After use, the waste can be disposed of at designated dump stations or taken to a proper waste disposal facility.
  3. Bucket-style toilets: A simple and budget-friendly option is a bucket-style toilet, which consists of a 5-gallon bucket fitted with a toilet seat lid. Waste is collected in a plastic bag, which can be sealed and disposed of properly. To reduce odor and make cleanup easier, some overlanders use absorbent materials like kitty litter or sawdust in the bag.
  4. Folding or collapsible toilets: Lightweight and compact, folding or collapsible toilets are designed for easy transport and storage. They typically consist of a foldable frame with a seat and a removable waste bag.
  5. Cathole: In remote areas without facilities, overlanders may need to dig a cathole in the ground to bury their waste. A cathole should be at least 6-8 inches deep and located at least 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and campsites. After use, the hole should be filled in and covered to minimize environmental impact.
  6. Urine bottles: For those who do not want to leave their vehicle during the night or in unfavorable weather, using a wide-mouthed bottle with a tight-sealing lid can be a convenient solution for urination. The bottle should be emptied and cleaned regularly.
  7. Biodegradable bags: In some situations, overlanders may choose to use biodegradable bags designed for human waste disposal. These bags often contain chemicals that break down waste and neutralize odors. Once used, the bags can be buried in a cathole or packed out for proper disposal, depending on local regulations.

Regardless of the method chosen, it’s essential to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, and to adhere to Leave No Trace principles to minimize environmental impact. Proper waste disposal is crucial to protect the environment and maintain the cleanliness of the areas visited during an overlanding trip.

To find out more about overlanding & bathroom options / hygiene, read our in-depth post which covers various types of portable toilets and installable solutions plus various nature-friendly “hacks” to ensure that your bathroom breaks are not a deal breaker for your next adventure.

How Do Overlanders Do Laundry?

How Do Overlanders Do Laundry?

Overlanders have several options for doing laundry while on the road, depending on their location, resources, and preferences. Here are some common methods for managing laundry during an overlanding trip:

  1. Laundromats: When available, laundromats provide a convenient and efficient way to do laundry. Overlanders can often find laundromats in larger towns or cities, near campgrounds, or at some truck stops.
  2. Campground facilities: Some campgrounds and RV parks offer laundry facilities for their guests. These facilities can be coin-operated or require tokens, so it’s a good idea to have some change on hand.
  3. Handwashing: In situations where laundry facilities are not available or not convenient, overlanders can handwash their clothes using a bucket or a sink. A small amount of biodegradable soap and water is used to wash the clothes, which are then rinsed and wrung out before hanging them up to dry.
  4. Portable washing machines: Some overlanders carry portable washing machines, which are compact, lightweight, and manually operated. These devices typically require minimal water and can be an effective way to clean clothes when facilities are not available.
  5. Scrubba Wash Bag: The Scrubba Wash Bag is a popular product among overlanders for its compact size and effectiveness. The bag has an internal washboard-like surface that helps to scrub clothes clean when filled with water and a small amount of soap. After washing, the bag can be rolled up and stored easily.
  6. Washing clothes in natural water sources: Some overlanders may choose to wash their clothes in rivers, lakes, or streams. If using this method, it’s essential to use biodegradable soap and keep a safe distance (at least 200 feet) from the water source to minimize environmental impact.
  7. Planning and packing: Many overlanders plan their clothing choices and packing strategies to minimize the need for laundry. Quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and odor-resistant materials can help extend the time between washes. Packing enough clothing for an extended period can also help reduce the frequency of laundry days.

Regardless of the method chosen, it’s essential for overlanders to practice good hygiene and be mindful of their impact on the environment. Using biodegradable soaps, conserving water, and adhering to Leave No Trace principles can help ensure that overlanders minimize their footprint while staying clean and comfortable on the road.

How Do Overlanders Shower?

How Do Overlanders Shower?

Showering while overlanding can be a bit of a challenge, but there are several options available depending on your preferences, location, and available facilities. Here are some ways to shower when overlanding:

  1. Public facilities: When accessible, overlanders can make use of showers at campgrounds, RV parks, truck stops, or recreational centers. These facilities often provide hot water and a comfortable place to clean up.
  2. Portable camping showers: Many overlanders carry portable camping showers, which consist of a water container, a hose, and a showerhead. These showers can be heated by solar energy or connected to a propane stove or vehicle’s heating system. They can be hung from a tree or mounted on a vehicle, providing a convenient and private shower option.
  3. Solar showers: A solar shower is a bag made of heat-absorbing material that is filled with water and left in the sun to warm up. After a few hours, the water can reach a comfortable temperature for showering. Solar showers typically come with a hose and a nozzle, making them an easy and eco-friendly option.
  4. Battery-powered showers: These portable showers use a small, battery-powered pump to draw water from a container and push it through a showerhead. The water can be heated beforehand or left at ambient temperature, depending on your preference.
  5. DIY vehicle shower systems: Some overlanders create custom shower systems integrated into their vehicles. These can include built-in water tanks, water heaters, and showerheads mounted on the exterior of the vehicle. These setups can provide hot showers and privacy with the use of a shower tent or a privacy screen.
  6. Wet wipes or sponge baths: In situations where shower facilities or water is scarce, overlanders can use wet wipes or a damp cloth for sponge baths to clean themselves. Biodegradable, unscented wet wipes designed for camping are a practical option for a quick and water-efficient cleanup.
  7. Natural water sources: When in remote locations, overlanders may use rivers, lakes, or streams to bathe. It’s essential to use biodegradable soap and keep a safe distance (at least 200 feet) from the water source to minimize the impact on the environment.

Regardless of the shower method chosen, it’s crucial to be mindful of water conservation and the environment. Overlanders should use biodegradable soaps, practice good hygiene, and adhere to Leave No Trace principles to ensure they minimize their impact on the areas they visit.