How to Shower While Camping: A Complete (& Ridiculous but True) Guide to Campground Showers

Nothing is quite as adventurous as trying to successfully navigate a shower while camping. Honestly, it should be a competitive sport. Showering at a campground is unpredictable. Sometimes awkward. Occasionally dangerous. And it will leave you both frustrated AND laughing at the absurdity of it all.

And I really hope that you do laugh – even when your freshly socked foot steps in a puddle.

How to Shower While Camping: A Complete (& Ridiculous but True) Guide to Campground Showers

Personally, I’ve had more than my fair share of interesting camping shower experiences over the years. From a State Park who forgot to tell us they turned off the hot water after Labor Day, to another that had no doors, only crystal clear shower curtains (awkward!), showering at a campground is always an adventure. But that’s part of the camping fun, right?

How to Shower While Camping: A Step by Step Guide

For the sake of this post, we’re assuming the campground you are staying in has showers. They may be luxurious. They may be nothing more than a shower head installed on the side of a building outdoors. It doesn’t necessarily matter – but you are likely feeling pretty stoked that any shower at all is available. Because if you are anything like me: camping gets you pretty filthy.

Campground shower stall
A typical shower at Huntington Beach State Park campground.

Step 1: Gather (just some of) your Stuff

Listen closely to this piece of advice: LESS is MORE when it comes to the amount of stuff you tote with you to the campground shower. It’s highly likely that every single available surface in the shower is going to be soaking wet. Beyond the shower itself, this includes the bench in the changing area, and/or the wall behind the hook where you are expected to hang your stuff.

I’m not sure exactly how this happens, but I’m guessing it’s a combination of the humidity of the shower area in general, and the fact that most campground patrons must perform some sort of jazzercise routine in the shower, flinging water around like a lawn sprinkler.

(I’ve also been informed this is definitely an East Coast thing. As a lifelong East Coaster, I know nothing but swampy air. West Coasters: never take your low dew point for granted.)

Point being: the less you bring to the shower, the better.

Pure castile soap - perfect for showering at a campground

A suggested camping shower gear list:

  • Small toiletry containers: you don’t want to be hauling full size bottles around.
    • Pro tip: I prefer an all-in-one environmentally friendly soap, like Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap (or some variant). Again, less is more.
    • Another pro tip: invest in something like the Gravel Explorer Toiletry Bag. This thing is burly and cleans up really easily – a bonus for gross campground shower walls.
  • A towel.
  • the bare minimum amount of clothing you need to:
    • a) not be cited for indecent exposure, and
    • b) stay warm between the shower and returning to your tent or RV. More on this below.
  • Sandals.
  • Quarters -if the shower requires them (some do).
  • Your sense of humor…you’re going to need it.

Step 2: Wear Sandals

I am the antithesis of a germ-a-phobe. Having spent the majority of my life running around the woods, and the last decade quite literally running around the woods as an ultramarathon athlete, I suppose I more self identify as a bit of a dirtbag. That’s not to say my personal hygiene is lacking, but rather, neither peeing in the woods or eating a potato chip that dropped onto the picnic table phase me.

But then there are campground shower floors.

How to Shower While Camping: A Complete (& Ridiculous but True) Guide to Campground Showers
Eww gross, strangers hair in the drain.

I’ve been in campground showers that were meticulously cleaned. And, I’ve been in some that look like the staff assumed the running water from the shower itself would keep the floor clean.

(And also erroneously assumed the water would wash away the rogue cigarette butts someone kindly left on the floor. But I digress.)

Regardless of how well they are kept, there’s something – questionable – about shower floors that complete strangers are also using. Thoughts of athletes foot and that Seinfeld episode where George pees in the gym shower will run through your head. So do yourself a favor, and wear sandals in the shower.

The Main Event: Showering

If I’ve learned one thing about showering at a campground, it’s that the water temperature and pressure are a crap shoot. Your water may be scalding hot. It may be freezing cold. It may be some combination of the two, with little to no middle ground. There may be amazing water pressure – or barely any at all. Likely, you may experience all of this in the course of a five minute shower.

There’s no telling what the flush of a toilet 5 stalls down can do.

Showering in a campground shower

So, get your important “showering” done early. Don’t waste your time standing around enjoying the hot water – because it might not last. Lather, rinse, repeat if necessary, ASAP. As a wise old saying goes “those who procrastinate – end up with conditioner in their hair that they can’t rinse out”. Or something to that effect.

Only after these tasks are done, may you relax. But not for too long, other people are waiting for the showers, you know.

Step 4: The Dressing Ballet

Now comes the most fun part of showering in a campground: getting dressed.

I hope your balance is up to the task.

As previously mentioned, everything in the shower is soaking wet. The walls, the floors, the bench, the shower curtain. And there you are, likely in a three foot by three foot square, trying to simultaneously dry yourself off while keeping your clothes dry and not bumping into the slimey walls and shower curtain.

Pro tip! Use the top of your sandals as an itty, bitty, platform to stand on and avoid the grossness of the floor. This is a life skill everyone should possess.

If you’re lucky, it’s warm enough out that you can take your time and carefully put your clothes on. If you’re a glutton for punishment, like I often am, it’s probably 40 degrees, and the second you step out of the hot shower, you’re already shivering.

Either way, take your time. Rushing will ensure that when you step your leg into your sweatpants, you get your foot caught, lose your balance, and step into a massive puddle, soaking the entire bottom half of your pants. Ask me how I know.

Save any non-immediate clothing needs for the comfort of your campsite. Socks come to mind as a prime example. Drying your feet off and trying to pull a sock on over damp skin while balancing on the other foot is a hilarious feat. (Pun intended)

Step 5: RE-Gather All of Your Stuff

Now, you get to drag all of your dirty clothes, wet toiletries, and soaked towel back to your campsite. Pro-tip: wrap everything in your towel. Deal with it at the campsite.

(But don’t forget to deal with it at the campsite. Damp moldy towels for the next shower are such a buzzkill).

Also: don’t forget to double check the shower itself for any toiletries you might have left behind. It’s always amazing to me how many forgotten loofahs and shampoo bottles I’ve seen in showers.

The aforementioned GRAVEL Explorer toiletry bag. It’s helps prevent leaving behind shower accouterments.

Step 6: Revel in Your Cleanliness

Congratulations, you survived a shower while camping! Walk out of the campground shower and revel in your current clean state. Enjoy the thirty five seconds that you are free from the stench of bug spray or campfire smoke. You earned it!

(A HUGE thanks to my sister in law Jenny for being a willing – and fun – model for this post!)

About Heather

Hi. I'm Heather. Exercise physiologist by day, adventure seeker...also by day, and sometimes night. I like: mountains, running long distances, rabbits, sleeping in tents, poking at campfires with a stick, and Gordon Lightfoot. I dislike: peanut butter, bent tent poles, sitting still for too long, and writing "about me" sections.

1 comment on “How to Shower While Camping: A Complete (& Ridiculous but True) Guide to Campground Showers

  1. I am so glad you guys came to River Island so that I could discover your blog. Love your post!!!! Keep ’em comin 🥰

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