Master the Art of No Showers
Two weeks without a shower is my personal best.
Honestly, I think I could do better. I finally caved at a motel in Albuquerque, New Mexico so my dad would stop judging me.
It was the end of my season with the Southwest Conservation Corps and he'd flown out to help me make the drive back to Georgia.
For the last two and a half months, I’d worked on a trail crew in Colorado. They had their own culture out there. Only the weak took showers and everyone wore dirt on their face like a badge of honor.
Over the years, I've grown to love week-long stints without a shower, seeing how far I can go, or how much time passes until people notice.
I met a raft guide on the Salt River in Arizona once who taught me how to bum around undetected. For someone who slept on a tarp in the wilderness each night after guiding guests through rapids all day, he looked clean and put together.
Turns out, he was about to hit his one month mark—shower-free.
With the secrets he shared and my own experiences in the woods, I've learned how to stretch time between showers without crawling out of my dirty skin.
If you want to hone the art of no showers and see how long it takes until someone throws a bar of soap at you, I got you covered with my five tips below.
Take a "Tent Bath"
I always stop at the store and pick up wet wipes before a trip. After playing in the dirt all day, I go back to camp and use them to take a tent bath.
What the heck is a tent bath, you ask? It's a full-on wet wipe wipedown. No water necessary.
Here's what you do:
Strip off your clothes and get it all. Clean your face. Get under your armpits. Hit those private parts while you're at it. And don't forget in between your toes. Trust me, you got some built-up nastiness hiding in there.
You'll emerge from your tent a new person. And by day seven, you’ll still pass as a fairly civilized human, rather than the caveman you secretly are.
*Remember not to leave any wipes in your tent at night. Stash them in a bear bag and pack them out at the end of your trip. Animals can smell it and may attack your tent.
Trim the Hedges (Carefully)
Dry shaving sounds painful, yes.
But if you take your time, you can avoid those itchy red bumps that come with it. Sometimes they still pop up, but in my opinion, the bumps outweigh hairy pits.
To keep the area from drying out too much and cracking, I put lotion under my arms and slowly shave all the little hairs, almost one by one. This takes away any hesitation to wear a tank top and lift your arms too high when you're just so excited to be out in nature.
If I'm feeling extra about disguising my dirt person within…sometimes I'll even hit the ankles. You know the spot. Those two inches right where your pants slide up a bit above your socks.
Everything else can grow as it pleases.
Keep a Compact Mirror
I had a friend go days with junk in her teeth because she hadn't seen her reflection since she left civilization. Another time, I forgot to put chapstick on after baking in the desert sun for five days. My lips felt a little dry but not bad enough to think much of it.
Once I got home and I finally looked in the mirror, I gasped at the red, blistering crustacean growing all over my mouth. No one tells you these things!
Since then, I always keep a compact mirror in my toiletry bag.
No, I'm not applying lipstick in the woods, but it's nice to catch a glimpse of what you look like day to day. You'd be surprised at what finds its way onto your face, and then lives there for a week.
Brush Your Teeth Without a Sink
Brushing your teeth in the woods is possible. I promise.
Just because you're outside doesn’t mean you should take this out of your morning routine. Especially on a week-long outing, your friends will appreciate not having to endure your prolonged coffee breath every day.
All you need is a water bottle, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Apply the toothpaste and drip some water on top. Brush like normal. Wall-ah.
When its time to spit, I usually stand over a firepit if we have one. Imagine this as your improvised nature-sink. Dump some more water on the brush as needed.
When you're done, rinse by waterfalling into your mouth to avoid getting toothpaste slathered all over the rim of your bottle. Kick some dirt or ashes from the firepit over your spit and that's it. Donezo.
Like magic, people want to talk to you again.
Get Creative with Greasy Hair
The longer I go with greasy hair, the more I daydream about taking a steamy shower with a mountain of suds on top of my head.
Enter dry shampoo.
I use powder to avoid spraying a bunch of chemicals into the air. Brush it through your hair and you're good to go. No one will ever know.
But, sometimes you can only combat the grease for so long. Once dry shampoo no longer does the job, it's time to move on to new tactics.
In the winter, my go-to is a classic beanie, of course. Bring a few to mix it up.
During the summer, the options are endless: scrunchies, hats, elastic headbands, bandanas—all the things.
The Choice is Yours
I'll admit, ignoring ALL these steps (minus brushing your teeth.. please brush your teeth) and letting nature have its way with your hygiene can be super liberating. I think everyone should go out there at least once, roll in the dirt and just be gross for a while.
Let your greasy, tangled, matted hair fly in the wind. Proudly raise those hairy pits to the world. Wear red clay across your forehead like baby Simba until it stains your skin and your sleeping bag.
Some trips, I’m an animal. On others, I will shamelessly embrace “look good, feel good”—even in the great outdoors.
So, shave your ankle hairs or grow them out.
Either way, it's your adventure. And you have options.