Two bicycle tourist with fully loaded touring bicycles pose at the end of a long journey

How to Stay Clean (without a proper shower) While on Bicycle Tour

At the end of a long day of hard bicycle touring, you ride into a primitive camp gritty and grimy from the day’s ride. The sunscreen you slathered on in the morning and then reapplied has now mixed with sweat and dirt and chain grease to give you a nice film on your skin. If you’re lucky, you have a shower waiting for you in that camp. Sometimes, though, you have to make do with what is available. Here’s a few things I’ve done when I have to improvise.

1. The towel rinse: If there’s water available at your campsite, just not a shower, you can still freshen up. I’ve been known to strip down to my sport’s bra and shorts, or even put on a bathing suit, to stand under a spigot. I also wouldn’t shy away from wetting down my towel really well and giving myself a “sponge bath”. It does the trick of getting the grime off and making you feel better.

2. Baby wipes: I’ve used baby wipes in the past. However, these are made for wiping, um, babies, and aren’t particularly durable. I find I need to use a LOT of them to get the job done. On the other hand, I love having baby wipes on hand to clean my hands after changing a flat tire or putting a chain back on. (Yeah, you could just wipe them on your shorts, but who wants to do that?)

3. Bathing wipes: These things are awesome. They’re thicker than baby wipes, and more durable. They don’t fall apart on the first go. The ones I’ve been using lately come with directions on the proper way to wipe (hint, you clean your face first, not last!). Some varieties are biodegradable, too, which is a plus. Although, that doesn’t mean you can just throw them on the ground. (Pack it in, Pack it out!) I bring along a special ziplock bag just to store them until I can find a trash can.

I tend to really enjoy a nice shower at the end of the day so it’s not my favorite thing to do when I have to skip one, but once in a while there will be no other option. And hey, it’s not going to kill you to go without a shower every once in a while. Trust me!


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Pam Emerson

is an avid bicycle tourist who enjoys sharing her love for bicycling with all she meets.

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