Best Biodegradable Shampoo for Camping in 2020

 You know the look. I know the look. Everybody knows the look. It’s a poorly shaven, greasy-haired, dirt-clad guy who neglected his personal hygiene during his camping or hiking trip. You don’t want to be that guy. I certainly don’t want to be that guy.

Most of the time, where there are campers, there are places those campers can go to get clean – a river, a quickly built shower, the list of examples is longer than you might think. When you go camping in 2020, use those places! Don’t overlook the hygiene – you want to smell nature, not yourself.

There are many observations you’ll want to make when you’re out camping. It’s always good not to leave your food out where the animals can get it. It’s always good not to leave your tent open at night. And when it comes to hygiene, it’s always good not to poison the environment when camping! When you get your shampoo (along with any other personal cleaning products), that shampoo should be biodegradable – it should be easily broken down by nature, not contributing to pollution or harming the animals around you.

What to Look for Before You Buy a Biodegradable Shampoo for Camping

Let’s get into some buying points for biodegradable shampoo – you’d think there weren’t many, but I’ve put together a solid list of things you’ll need to think about before you get out on the trail.

  • How good of a job does it do at cleaning you? Before you start to try and make out qualifications for your shampoo, it’s important to realize the main criterion should be, first and foremost, how good the shampoo is. I know it seems like a given, but it’s vital not to overlook this key point. I’ll list some sub-bullets of this topic –
    • Does it double as anything else? Personally, I like to buy shampoos that can be versatile – shampoo-conditioner duos are available and preferred for those who need to condition their hair, but body wash and general soap can also be doubles for biodegradable shampoos. Having a versatile cleaner gives you less to pack and more value for your money.
    • Does it do as good a job as any other shampoo? It’s important not to sacrifice quality for biodegradability.
  • Does it come unscented? When you’re out in nature, this is a non-negotiable must.
  • How environmentally friendly/biodegradable is it? Many shampoos (and cleaning products in general) like to label themselves as environmentally friendly as part of a marketing ploy – make sure you cross-check whether or not your product is environmentally friendly. This goes for all green products, not just shampoos.
  • How much can you get out of each use? Packing extra bottles of shampoo will only be a heavier load on your packing routine. They’ll end up weighing more and taking up more space. You’ll want a shampoo that lathers or spreads easily, so you can get a lot out of it if you pack just a little.
  • How much water does it require? If you’re camping at a site with readily made outdoor showers, this one won’t be such a huge deal. But if you’re going somewhere with scant water sources (those who’ve gone camping in the Grand Canyon know what I’m talking about), you’ll want something that uses minimal to no water.

If you can find a camping shampoo that satisfies all of these criteria, you’ll have one less thing to worry about while you’re packing for your trip. With all these things in mind, let’s get into which shampoos I feel best satisfy these qualifications.

Top 5 Best Biodegradable Shampoos to use when Camping in 2020

 

Best Biodegradable Shampoo for Dry Campsites: CleanLife No Rinse Shampoo

 

Quantity of Shampoo: 8 fluid ounces

Washes per Bottle: 6-10

Doubles as Body Soap: No

There have got to be hundreds of desert camping locations in the United States alone, if not more. So many states (Texas, California, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, to name only a few) have breathtaking national parks in the desert, where the campsites are surrounded the geological formations, unique wildlife, and a clear night sky with billions of bright stars. When you’re camping in these desolate, dry locations, water sources are very few and far between. The rivers and streams that do exist in the desert are delicate and small, so you have to conserve water whenever possible.

With CleanLife’s No Rinse Shampoo, all you have to do is put some on your hair and lather it. You dry it down with a towel, and your hair is clean! No water required, minimal effort used, and less than five dollars spent. This makes it the perfect biodegradable shampoo for anyone looking to camp in the Grand Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, or another one of the many desert camping spots domestically and worldwide.

Pros:

  • Lasts a long time, making this a price performer
  • Easy to use, with straightforward instructions on the bottle
  • Accessible for many different occasions, not just camping – this can be used when visiting the gym and traveling for long periods of time.
  • Can be used on dry hair, so it’s truly 100% water-free.
  • Unscented
  • Long shelf life (3-4 years)

Cons:

  • Difficult to use on thick, curly hair – might require a large dose for certain hair types.

Most Versatile Biodegradable Shampoo: Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

 

Quantity of Shampoo: 32 fluid ounces

Washes per Bottle: 20-35

Doubles as Body Soap: Yes

My fiancée is a big fan of this shampoo. It’s not only a good shampoo to have on camping trips – its simple list of ingredients, easily packed design, and slightly luxurious quality make it a good shampoo to use for your regular indoor showers. In terms of scaling its environmental friendliness, Dr. Bronner’s is USDA Certified, Fair for Life Certified, Non-GMO verified, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, not tested on animals, vegan, kosher, and Certified B Corps. Basically, it’s eco-friendly gold. Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t just double as body soap – the 18-in-1 use policy boasts that this product can also be used for shaving, mouthwash, rinsing food, cleaning dishes, mopping, and doing laundry.

Something to keep in mind – the only thing it doesn’t do is condition your hair. The company does have a conditioning rinse, for any campers out there with particularly difficult hair.

Pros:

  • Extremely environmentally friendly, with well-sourced ingredients.
  • Unscented
  • Lasts for a very long time – the bottle gives a very large quantity, and a little bit of Dr. Bronner’s goes a very long way.
  • A million different uses can be applied to this soap, leaving you much less to pack.

Cons:

  • More on the pricey side
  • Can dry out the skin
  • A bit watery
  • Not tear-free – be careful using it on toddlers.

Best Biodegradable Shampoo-Conditioner Duo: Sea to Summit Trek and Travel Shampoo with Conditioner

 

Quantity of Shampoo: 3 fluid ounces

Washes per Botte: 10-15

Doubles as Body Soap: No

This is my go-to camping shampoo. It’s the lightest one on this list, at only 3 fluid ounces. It doubles as a conditioner, and (because it’s a concentrate) only takes a capful to clean your hair completely. For any readers out there traveling internationally to go on a camping trip, this shampoo is compliant with TSA carry-on luggage regulations. You can take this thing anywhere. It works with all water types, cleans thoroughly, and doesn’t break the bank (in fact, it’s the second cheapest shampoo on this list, after CleanLife’s No Rinse Shampoo). Hands down, this is the best 2-in-1 shampoo with conditioner for camping in 2020.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use, with straightforward instructions on the bottle.
  • Extremely long shelf life. This will last a few years if you’re not a frequent camper.
  • Unscented
  • Leaves hair soft and very clean.
  • You can take this product into airplanes with you, allowing you to prepare for international camping trips well in advance.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t double as body soap
  • May have trouble conditioning thick, curly hair – it will require more to be used while cleaning thick hair, and thus will run out faster.

Most Environmentally Friendly Biodegradable Shampoo: Akamai 3 in 1 Bar

Quantity of Shampoo: 3.5 ounces

Washes per Bar: 15-30

Doubles as Body Soap: Yes

Spending a lot of time in and around nature will give most people a certain zeal to keep it clean. For any campers looking to go the extra mile to make sure that they maximize their environmental awareness before going out in nature (or even while bathing at home), shampoo bars are generally a much greener option.

This shampoo bar triples as a shampoo, shaving bar, and body soap, but can also be used to clean clothing and dishes. It’s built durably and without a plastic container, keeping the waste production to a minimum. It’s totally biodegradable and has only ten ingredients – each of which you can easily pronounce and recognize. It’s 85% organic and contains no harmful chemicals, detergents, or fragrance.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive for a potential of 30 washes.
  • Versatile – you can use this for regular, indoor showers as well as camping.
  • Unscented
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Very eco-friendly

Cons:

  • Difficult to use for those who haven’t had any experience with bar shampoo.
  • Requires a lot of water in order to lather.
  • This bar is best as a shaving bar – hardly anyone has issues with this usage of it, but some people report it being so-so as a body wash and difficult to lather in hair.

Best Biodegradable Shampoo to Take Camping in 2020: Sierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor All Purpose Cleaner

Quantity of Shampoo: 8 fluid ounces

Washes per Bottle: 15-30

Doubles as Body Soap: Yes

This biodegradable shampoo is made specifically for camping. Its ability to cover a huge range of camping cleaning needs makes it unambiguous and versatile. It’s light, inexpensive, and yields far more washes per bottle than any other bottled item on this list. Its product information page cites that Campsuds can clean hands, skin, hair, clothing and dishes, and can work with any type of water encountered while you’re out on the trail. It promotes Leave No Trace ethics and prides itself on its biodegradability.

This shampoo has a really long shelf life, so it can last a long time if used the right way. A few drops from this bottle is all it takes to get a good wash. Instructions for camping use are right on the bottle, making it a super user-friendly shampoo. All around, this shampoo gets you the best value for your money – it’s versatile, catered directly to camping needs, and easy to pack and travel with.

Pros:

  • Easy to use, with straightforward instructions on the bottle
  • Made specifically for camping – this product is well-tailored to your outdoor needs.
  • Easy on the skin, and safe for children.
  • A little goes a very long way
  • This product will last you years with its ultra-long shelf life.

Cons:

  • Difficult to use on thick, curly hair – might require a large dose for certain hair types.
  • Not unscented – has a lemon-lime scent.
  • Can leave hair somewhat dry.

Now that I’ve shared my 5 personal favorites, it’s time for everyone’s favorite: the  FAQ’s!

Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQ’s highlight some of the most common questions I’ve heard while camping or at the campsite in the midwest while I’m out with my fiancee. However, if there are any that I’m missing, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them ASAP.

How do I use shampoo while camping?

Just to get one thing out of the way right up front – many campgrounds will have showers on-site. Obviously, you can just go ahead and use those if you’re trying to get clean. If, however, you’re camping in a remote location without showers, read on.

The answer to this question really depends on the campsite and the type of shampoo you’re using. First, I’ll lay down some ground rules.

Rule #1: Wash yourself 200 feet away from any water source. Don’t let the shampoo get into your water sources or flow down rivers.  Even if the shampoo (or any cleaning product, really) is biodegradable, even if it’s unscented, you’re still putting a foreign substance into a vital source of water used by other people, animals, and nearby plants. You want to minimize the effect that this shampoo has on the environment.

Rule #2: Don’t wash yourself within 200 feet of your campsite. The animals might get curious and come around to wherever you were cleaning yourself. With deer or squirrels, this really isn’t too big of a problem. With racoons and bears, however, you could be attracting some unwanted company.

Before going over the general instructions, I’ll include specific directions I found for the shampoos listed in this article. If you’re looking for instructions on how to use your own biodegradable shampoo not listed in this article, just scroll down to the general guidelines.

Because Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap is used for so many different purposes, there isn’t a guide on their website for how to use it specifically for shampoo. To get an understanding of general shampoo guidelines, scroll down to the general instructions section.

For CleanLife No Rinse Shampoo

Point 1: Shake.

Point 2: Apply directly to hair.

Point 3: Massage until foaming lather covers hair.

Point 4: Towel dry thoroughly.

“Even biodegradable soaps and cleansers shouldn’t be used in a natural water source. To wash yourself, your laundry or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap (a little goes a long way). Then pour wastewater into a cat hole 6 to 8 inches deep.”

For new campers, or those who don’t know: A cat hole refers to a hole dug into the ground for the purpose of disposing of…uh…waste.

For Sierra Dawn Campsuds All Purpose Cleaner

Point 1: All you need is a few drops of Campsuds for effective suds to clean your hair. Works with hot or cold water – saltwater, too!

Point 2: To safely dispose of Campsuds, dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep for soapy wash and rinse water. This allows bacteria in the soil to completely and safely biodegrade Campsuds.

For Sea to Summit Trek and Travel Pocket Shampoo with Conditioner 

Point 1: Concentrated formula only requires a cap full of shampoo for a normal wash.

Point 2: Suitable for both fresh and saltwater.

“Even biodegradable soaps and cleansers shouldn’t be used in a natural water source. To wash yourself, your laundry or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap (a little goes a long way). Then pour wastewater into a cat hole 6 to 8 inches deep.”

For new campers, or those who don’t know: A cat hole refers to a hole dug into the ground for the purpose of disposing of…uh…waste.

For Akamai 3 in 1 Bar 

Point 1: Rub bar across wet hair to create a lather.
Point 2:
Massage your scalp and worth through your hair.

Point 3: Rinse well.

What are General Instructions for Shampooing Your Hair While Camping?

When you’re in need of washing your hair in a shower-less campsite, you’re going to need a bucket, a towel, and your biodegradable shampoo.

Point 1: Get to a water source (a river, a lake, or a waterfall) and fill that bucket up with water.

Point 2: Go 200 feet away from the water source and 200 feet away from your campground.

Point 3: Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep.

Point 4: Use as little water as possible to get your hair wet, and then apply the shampoo.

Point 5: Make sure all rinse and runoff water ends up in the hole. Fill the hole back up as much as possible after you’re done using it.

Point 6: You have now successfully washed your hair!

Washing your hair while camping is really one of those practice-makes-perfect things – the more you do it, the better you get at it. With enough washes, it’ll become second nature.

What is “Leave No Trace?”

In the spirit of the first part of the previous question, it’s worth reiterating that clean camping is extremely important to protecting the ecosystem and keeping nature friendly for plants, animals, and other hikers. Leave No Trace, or LNT, refers to a set of guidelines for making sure you’re practicing clean camping. There are seven principles for LNT. They are:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

Making sure you bathe in an environmentally friendly manner follows rules 1, 3, 6, and 7. Bring the correct shampoo, and screen it carefully before taking it out camping. Don’t bathe within 200 feet of a water source or your campsite (your campsite, as a side note, shouldn’t be within 200 feet of any water source either). Bury your waste and use biodegradable products so as to not disturb nature for wildlife and other campers.

Much of LNT is common sense, but it lays out crucial guidelines that are super important when using your biodegradable shampoo.

If I Have Long Hair, Should I Keep Anything in Mind?

Camping with long hair is one issue I’m glad I’ve never had to face. I’ll let you in on some points I know from my fiancée, who is constantly maintaining her hair when she’s out in nature:

Point 1: Don’t neglect the conditioner. A 2-in-1 shampoo with conditioner is great for anyone with short or easy-to-manage hair. That being said, if you need a conditioner normally, you need it when you go camping.

Point 2: Brush your hair regularly.

Point 3: You will need more shampoo than somebody with short or medium-length hair. Let’s say you get one of the shampoo products listed in this article. In the Washes per Bottle section of each product, take the minimum number of washes and cut it in half. That’s how many washes you’ll get out of each bottle if you have ultra-long or thick hair.

Ultimately, you know your own hair better than anybody. Get whichever shampoo is right for you, and thoroughly vet your cleaning products before taking them out on the trail with you. When you find the right one, I promise it’ll make your life so much easier (and cleaner).

See you at the campsite!