The Ultimate Guide to Camping Hygiene and Sanitation

Last Updated on July 21, 2023 by Dean Anderson

Thirteen million. That’s the number of families who have said that they would like to camp more in 2017 than they did in 2016. And more than 1 million new households have started camping each year since 2014.

The appeal of the great outdoors, the opportunity to disconnect from the grid, the peace, and serenity that you find in the woods. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are. Camping’s popularity is undeniable, and it is growing each year.

Camper brushing her teeth

However, for the uninitiated, preparing for your first camping trip can be very stressful. One of the most significant concerns that newbies have is the question of camping hygiene and sanitation. Let’s explore a few ways you can quell these concerns and make the most of your camping experience.

The Importance of Camping Hygiene

Sure, a few days in the woods sounds like fun, but who wants to feel and smell like a cave dweller by the third day?

And then there’s the question of where to go when nature calls. Can you just “go,” anywhere you like? No, not exactly.

And as fun as camping can be, there’s always the risk of falling sick because of infections and poor hygiene.

Inexperienced campers often worry about all these things, and rightly so. It’s best to be well-prepared, well-equipped, and well-informed before you set your foot out the door.

And that’s why we’ve created this guide to help you prepare for your trip, so you enjoy camping without stressing out about hygiene and sanitation.

Essential Items


When you’re camping, try to carry as much fresh water with you as you physically can. Water can be used for cooking, rinsing, cleaning, and bathing.

If you’re camping in the cold, a hot water face wash can feel like a luxury in the morning. Hot water removes sunscreen, dirt, sweat, and grime better than anything else, and is one of the best ways to maintain camping hygiene.

If you can, heat up some water, soak a clean towel in it, and then use it to wipe down every night.


When camping, your feet are going to spend most of the day covered, damp, and possibly sweaty. They’re a perfect candidate for an infection, in addition to smelling funky.

Carry multiple pairs of socks so you can cycle through them, making sure to wash your used pairs and dry them while you wear the other pair.


Always carry biodegradable soap when camping. Skip the fancy soaps you typically use, because the chances are that they contain harmful chemicals that could pollute your campsite or water source.

The best choice for soap would be something liquid, concentrated, organic, and all-purpose. Liquid soap allows you to pack light, and still maintain a high level of camping hygiene.

If you can’t find liquid soap, paper soap is your next best option.

Hand Sanitizer

When you’re camping, expect your hands to get grubby very quickly. If it’s not practical to use soap, hand sanitizer works well in a pinch.

Use a hand sanitizer before you cook or eat anything. The alcohol will kill most germs and help you avoid unnecessary infections, which are especially troublesome when outdoors.


When all else fails, a packet of wipes covers your basic camping hygiene needs. Try to carry unscented, biodegradable wipes wherever possible.

Ziploc Bags

Camping is a fun pastime, and it’s important to keep it enjoyable for everyone. The Leave No Trace program advocates responsible camping, and one of their tenets is cleaning up after yourself.

You should always carry Ziploc bags to dispose of sanitary products that are non-biodegradable, including feminine hygiene products.

Dental Kit

A toothbrush, biodegradable toothpaste, and dental floss will go a long way in keeping your spirits up and your overall camping hygiene passable.

Optional Items

Now that we’ve got the essential items out of the way, here are a few optional things for you to consider.

Dry Shampoo

Camp in the great outdoors and your hair is bound to get dirty and greasy. It’s just the way it is.

However, if greasy hair gets you upset, you could carry dry shampoo. Dry shampoo absorbs the oil and grease in your hair, giving it a fresher, cleaner appearance.


Perfumed materials and aerosol cans are a strict no-no in the great outdoors because they attract bugs and animals. However, go a few days without a shower, and you’ll start to smell like an animal yourself.

Carry a small stick of deodorant or antiperspirant so you can stay fresh while roughing it out in the woods.

Garbage Bags

Keeping with the responsible camping theme, it’s always a good idea to carry a couple of garbage bags with you so you can collect your campsite waste and dispose of them responsibly.

A clean campsite goes a long way in promoting camping hygiene and sanitation.

Bonus tip. Carry a pop-up laundry basket and line it with the garbage bag to make a lightweight trash can!


A small camping trowel can help when you have to dig a hole in the ground to answer nature’s call. It is especially in cold weather when the ground is hard and tough to dig.


If you’ve carried multiple sets of clothes and socks and can wash them after use, a clothesline will help them dry much faster. You can set it up at your campsite when you’re stationary. Clean, dry clothing keeps you warm and also avoids potential infections.

Additional Pro Tips

Now that you have everything you need for your camping trip, here are some additional tips to maximize your camping hygiene.

Keep Your Feet Clean

Wash your feet as often as you can, and keep them dry. Campers usually are at risk of developing athletes foot and painful blisters, so it’s essential to protect your feet.

Answer Nature’s Call Responsibly

If you have to pee, make sure you go in a place that is at least 100 feet away from your campsite and any water source.

And when it’s time for the big job, make sure you dig a cat-hole. A cathole should be about six inches deep, and at least 200 feet away from your campsite and any water source.

Once you’ve completed your business, be sure to fill the hole. If your toilet paper isn’t biodegradable, you should pack it up and pack it out.

Appropriate disposal of human waste is one of the most important aspects of camping hygiene and sanitation.

For detailed instructions on how to handle human waste, you can refer to this resource.

Carry Two Outfits

While carrying an additional outfit will add to the overall weight of your package, having two sets of clothes that you can swap and use alternately can go a long way in staying clean and hygienic.

Ideally, you should pack clothes that are light and moisture resistant. These materials are easy to clean, and they dry fast too.

Store Wet Items in Vented Bags

Wet things, especially toothbrushes, towels and the like, will dry faster and stay cleaner if you let them air dry. Also, keep your wet items separated if possible.

Wash Your Hands as Often as You Can

Hand sanitizer can kill most germs, but if you can, wash your hands as often as possible. There is no better substitute for keeping your hands free of germs and infections.

Clean Your Nails

You’re going to wind up with a lot of dirt under your nails when you’re outdoors. Make sure you keep your nails clean so you can avoid infections and food contamination.

Bathe Responsibly

If you choose to bathe, do it responsibly. If you’re camped near a large water source like a major river, it’s probably OK to bathe in the river with soap. If you’re near a smaller water body, then carry some water in a bucket and bathe away from the water, preferably at a distance of over 200 feet.

Be A Happy Camper!

In addition to camping hygiene and sanitation supplies, you’ll need to make sure you have your other camping equipment organized and ready to go. Check out these gear reviews for our recommendations.

If you’re new to camping and want to learn as much as you can, we’ve got you covered. We’ve created over a dozen articles, with reviews, location ideas, and tips. You can find them here.

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