Outdoor shower by Kelly Flournoy.
For most, getting filthy while camping is a welcomed experience. When else in life can you sweat all day, eat a meager but delicious meal, and crash under the stars smelling like a campfire? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone spending your precious outdoor hours searching for a shower. But for people like me, whose life is one long camping trip, or even those on an extended camping excursion, self-maintenance is good for the soul (and the smell!).
During the summer months, bathing was never an issue I had to consider. Why pay for a shower when you can rinse off in a picturesque mountain stream? But as the colder weather rolled in and the rivers turned to ice, I quickly realized hot showers were a necessity that was increasingly hard to come by. After experiencing some of the dirtiest, shortest, and priciest showers, I bring you a comprehensive list of the 5 best places to shower for cheap while camping.
1) Solar showers
Solar shower in Monument Valley by Kelly Flournoy.
A little investment can go a long way, and purchasing one of these babies can be an easy and portable way to get clean. You can pick one up at your local outdoors shop or Amazon for about $30. Either fill it up at home before hitting the road, or find a water fill-up station nearby (campgrounds, national park visitors centers, etc.). Then just set it outside on a nice sunny day and you’ll have a luxurious hot shower waiting for you when you get back to camp. The only downsides are a possible lack of privacy (I suggest a bathing suit) or a lack of sun, in which case you’re screwed. Watch out though, these things can get HOT!
2) Gyms/Recreation Centers
Photo via Business Insider.
It may take some leg-work to find the best gym or rec center in the area you’re camping, but a few phone calls should do the trick. If you’re on an extended road trip, like me, it’s a great idea to invest in a membership at a popular gym such as Planet Fitness. For only about $20/month you can get access to showers in most towns, and you can even squeeze in a little exercise time if you didn’t get a good hike in that day. If you’re just on a quick camping trip and don’t want to spend the dough on a membership, most gyms or rec centers will give you a day pass typically ranging from $3-7 per person. They aren’t perfect- many stalls are cramped and without curtains, but they usually give you all the time you could want, so steam it up!
3) Gear Shops
This one was a little surprising to me too. Several popular camping destinations such as Joshua Tree and Zion National Park have local gear shops that offer inexpensive, timed showers! It’s a little disconcerting to walk in outfitted in your Crocs, shower bag slung across your shoulder, and patiently wait in line behind other shoppers to purchase your shower, but it’ll wash the dirt from under your fingernails. Showers at these locations aren’t for the glamper though- they are typically timed, and range from $4-7 dollars for 5-8 minutes. So if you don’t want to be caught with conditioner still in your hair, steer clear. Fun fact, this did actually happen to me….I quietly tiptoed out of the shower stall wrapped in a towel and rinsed it out in the sink. Don’t tell anyone!
Gear shop outside Zion National Park that offers $5 showers. Photo courtesy of Emily White.
4) State or National Park Campgrounds
Campgrounds can be hit or miss, but it never hurts to try. If you’re exploring a national or state park but don’t want to pay the hefty prices to camp in park campgrounds, you can always check to see if they offer showers for purchase. Larger national parks such as Yosemite and The Grand Canyon offer timed showers at some of their campgrounds for around $5 per person and typically utilize a token system. Not all smaller state parks have showers available, and those that do often restrict usage to registered campers only, but a simple phone call will give you the scoop. State parks such as Smith Rock State Park in Oregon offer timed showers that can be purchased at the campground fee area. The notion of showering in a truck stop sounds just wrong, I get it. But there’s a reason I call these The Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous showers. Truck stop showers are my least favorite camping shower option solely because of their steep cost: typically around $15 per person. Yikes! But I must give them the benefit of the doubt- they are usually well maintained, you’re provided soap and a towel, you get your own private room, and they are pretty easy to find in any well-populated town. So if you want a more luxurious experience and are willing to spend the extra cash, truck stops may be just the thing for you!
5) Hipcamps with Showers
Photo courtesy of Ezekiel Gonzalez.
You can search Hipcamps amenities by those with showers. A favorite? This truly epic outdoor cleansing experience at Sky Camp outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Book it through the Camps Featured in this Post section below.
Also, don’t forget the essentials! When venturing to an unknown shower far from home, be sure to bring your trusty shower bag packed full of everything you need to get you clean. Travel-sized shampoo and conditioner is a must, as well as soap holders, all of which can be found for very cheap at Walmart. I always bring my razor to tone down the werewolf in me, but that may not be a necessity for everyone. One thing that is definitely necessary- shower shoes. I chose a cheap pair of knock-off Crocs. No one likes foot fungus! For the long-haired ladies or fancy dudes, a portable blow dryer may also be a welcome companion, the chilly winter air is cold on a wet head. This concludes the well-seasoned advice I have on showering while camping, now go get clean!
Emily White is a writer, climber, hiker, and all-around adventurer living life out of a camper wherever the road may take her. Follow her journey on Instagram @emilyelizwhite.