One of the most common misconceptions about nomads is that we’re disgusting. We’re filthy dirty, we don’t believe in showers, we stink. I’m here to bash those rumors!
I’ve been on the road for two years, and I have never, EVER, met a stinky nomad. (Hmmm, maybe I’m the stinky nomad?)
So, if we go without showers or running water in our homes on wheels, how DO we stay clean?
Staying Hygienic Is Surprisingly Easy.
First of all, let me assure you, we’re no dummies. For the most part, we’re an educated bunch, aware of the necessity of hygiene, and the importance of preventing the spread of nasty bugs. We don’t live in the dark ages.
Believe me, nomads have this stuff down. We know all the tricks to avoid smelling like Sasquatch, even when we’re out in the wilderness without access to a traditional shower.
Water is water and soap is soap, no matter how you rub it. You just have to make sure to wash — and rinse well — all the places — on a regular basis.
When there’s no pay showers available, or we want to save some $$, Nancy and I improvise with an outdoor shower. There is nothing like your own private outdoor shower — the sweet vulnerability of being exposed to sky and sun, the cooling breeze on your bare skin — I LOVE the feeling of getting clean in the outdoors!
One of our showers was one Nancy made out of PVC pipe and clipped-on tarps, but not only was it was awkward to set up and take down, it was a bitch to store in a tiny van.
My earliest nomadic shower was a fancy battery-operated shower, a collapsible water bucket, and a shower tent bought on Amazon. I thought it’d be closest to a “real” shower, but the shower pump had to be completely submerged in the bucket to work, you had to fiddle with it to keep it completely covered as the water diminished, and you couldn’t pump out that last bit of water. As for the shower tent, it didn’t hold up well and went in the trash the first year out.
Quick Fact: Nomads use about 1% of the water usage of an average home!
The shower pump wasted reserves of precious water, just like a regular shower, and yep, it had a power button to turn it off and on, but you had to mess with it while you were all naked and soapy! There was some assembly required, with several parts to keep track of when not in use. It just didn’t fit my goal of keeping things simple, and I gave it away my first year at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. (You can read about my experience at this huge nomadic gathering in Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age.)
The best DIY shower so far has been the simplest — a rope tied around three trees, clothespins, and tarps. It’s the quickest shower set up we’ve done and it’s a winner! Heat water on the stove, or in a gallon jug in the sun for a few hours, pour it and scrub away. The flow of water is easily controlled by skillful pouring, and we get squeaky clean with about a gallon of water each. And if there are no trees, we just clip tarps to the screen shelter.
Get Clean And Odor Free Without Running Water!
Some of these are easily done in even in small spaces like inside a van:
- Pay for a shower: Truck stops/gyms/aqua-centers/select laundromats
- Public showers: Beaches/community shelters/parks
- Campsites and RV parks offering paid public showers
- Dry shampoo
- Body wash wipes
- Baby wipes
- Outdoor shower
- Solar Shower
- Shower Pump
- Sponge bath/bucket of water
- Witch Hazel
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Jump in a lake, river, pond, creek — just use eco-friendly cleanser
- Cleansing foam — Doesn’t need to be rinsed
- Friend or family’s house shower
- Pump action garden sprayers
- Spray bottles with soap, water, or cleanser of choice
- In a pinch — Paper towels, soap and water
Aren’t Daily Showers Necessary For Hygiene?
According to the science-y people, staying clean and odor free doesn’t require daily showering! Maybe our obsession with a sterile, odorless body isn’t as healthy as we think!
Also, would you also be surprised to learn that there’s a microbe in the soil that affects us like an anti-depressant? Whhaat? Now science has even proven that a little dirt Makes You Happy!