• Hilary Bird

5 personal hygiene habits that have changed since living in my van full-time

Today is my one-month anniversary of living in my van full-time! Most mornings, I wake up in a remote forest –which means it's a lot easier to be lax about my personal hygiene. Some of my personal hygiene habits have to change with the weather (ie showering in the cold or heat) or location I'm in (ie going to the bathroom in a city versus the woods). It might sound a little gross, but it feels good to use less water and resources than I ever have in my life on a daily basis. So, here are some changes I've made to my routine.


Showering a lot less

I used to shower about every other day. This month, I took a total of seven showers! Four of them were at friends' places and three of them were outside using my solar shower bag. My original plan was to use a Planet Fitness membership for access to gym showers across the country. But the majority of gym showers are still closed due to COVID-19. So, my two options are friends' places or outdoor showers.


This means I either need to coordinate visiting friends with how stinky I'm getting, or make sure I'm in a place with warm weather for an outdoor shower. It's not ideal and I don't want to feel rude coordinating my visit with an old friend based on how grubby I am–because it means I'm showing up saying, "before we catch up, I need to shower ASAP so I don't offend you with my smell". But I've found that friends are excited and welcoming to my visits and they've been more than accommodating and understanding to my shower needs so far.


My outdoor showers have been very pleasant! I typically use about 2.5 gallons to shower and I find it more than enough for feeling thoroughly cleansed. But once a breeze comes through, it does get chilly fast. Also, I once heated up my water bag TOO much by letting it sit in the hot sun for too long and the water almost burned me! So, keep that in mind if you go the solar shower bag route.


Poopin' in the woods and peein' without toilet paper

Do not underestimate the delight of pooping in the woods. Or peeing, for that matter. I'd choose pooping outside over pooping in a gas station or dirty public bathroom any day.


Make sure you properly poop outside, though–there is a poop etiquette. After finding a private spot, use a shovel (this is the shove I use) to dig a hole. Go to the bathroom in that hole, then cover it up. Well. Or, you can use a portable toilet to do your business. I have this portable toilet but I'm usually too lazy to set it up.

Doing a power pose on my portable toilet

When I'm in the woods, it's way too easy to walk outside, pop a squat and go pee that way. Sometimes, adding toilet paper to the mix just means more overhead. But, that's personal preference.


Brushing my teeth at random times

I used to not think twice about my tooth-brushing schedule–who does? Wake up, get ready for work, eat breakfast, brush teeth. Then come home, eat dinner, brush teeth, go to bed.


Now, I wake up with no one to report to (or see, for that matter) but myself. Sometimes, I go all day without seeing anyone. And sometimes, I work for hours right after waking up. So I find myself brushing my teeth mid-day or at totally random hours because I haven't developed a consistent routine yet.


I also don't use water to rinse my mouth out now, unless I'm brushing with a faucet. It feels wasteful (and honestly, annoying) to grab a water bottle, or pump water with one hand out of my pump sink, to get just enough to rinse out my mouth. I remember learning that it's actually good to let the fluoride in toothpaste stay on your teeth, anyway!


Doing my laundry basically never

In the last month, I've done my laundry twice. I used to do it every Sunday–it was part of my Sunday chores routine. Now, I'm wearing the same clothes at least three days in a row–unless I get them super sweaty or dirty–and I feel fine with that! I think as humans, we tend to over-shower and wash our clothes too much anyway, so returning back to a simpler lifestyle feels great.


Once I did my laundry at a friend's place and once I used a laundromat. There's something inherently creepy and dated-feeling about laundromats, but overall it's a pretty cheap way to get your laundry clean.

Not wearing makeup

Technically this isn't a hygiene habit, but I thought it deserved a mention. Makeup has always been a part of my routine since middle school. But as I got older, I cared less and less and in turn, wore less and less.


By the time I left my corporate job for van life, I was still wearing mascara, some concealer, bronzer, and eyebrow coloring on a daily basis. I bought extra supplies of each before hitting the road to make sure I wasn't in a "pinch" at any point. But that was a waste of money because I wear exactly none of it everyday now.


Don't get me wrong, I'll still put some on for a special occasion and I have nothing against it–it's just another thing to do that no one will be around to appreciate anyway! I've also noticed that my skin has been clearer since not wearing it. I've always had a tough time with my skin, so this is by far the biggest benefit to me.


Tell me in the comments section, how has your hygiene routine changed since starting van life? Or, if you haven't started it yet, what concerns do you have about your personal hygiene once on the road? I want to know!

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