If you are new to camping, you may be wondering exactly what comforts you will find that would readily be available back home. Most often the first thing people wonder is, how do I relieve myself or how do I take a shower.
So do campgrounds have showers?
Unless you select a rustic campground, most campgrounds will have bathrooms. However, they may resemble a bathroom in the most basic sense of the word. Some only contain a toilet that consists of a plastic seat over a hole in the ground. Others may offer a sink, shower, and toilet.
Nevertheless, campground bathrooms often aren’t the cleanest or most readily available. Therefore, you may want to consider some other options for when you find yourself camping without facilities or with facilities that leave much to be desired.
Campground Bathrooms in General
There are a few different types of campground bathrooms. Generally, they fall into two categories, primitive or standard.
Primitive campground bathrooms have no running water. Therefore, there are no sinks or showers. They do have toilets but they are considered to be an outhouse rather than a traditional bathroom.
Primitive outhouses have a pit toilet, which is a plastic barrel type seat over a hole in the ground. Primitive campsite bathrooms are the most rustic, and if you want to shower or even wash your hands they will require you to bring along your own supplies.
Standard bathrooms are much more common and can be found on most campgrounds. These facilities may also go by the term “comfort stations”. Most include at least a toilet and sink. Larger campgrounds will have showers and possibly even a washer and dryer.
Expansive campgrounds will have a few comfort stations while smaller campgrounds may only have one. Typically, these facilities resemble any other public bathroom, with multiple stalls and sinks in one room. Running water is common, but electricity is not standard. They may use lofted windows for natural light instead of fluorescent bulbs.
More luxurious comfort stations may have private bathroom options, meaning there is only one toilet per room. These private comfort stations may also feature a changing area and possibly even a shower.
However, public style comfort stations can have showers too. Like the numerous bathroom stalls housed under one roof, there will be many shower stalls in the same room.
If you would like to know more about comfort stations, be sure to read this article- What is a comfort station at a campground? ( video and photos )
Regardless of the type of bathroom and its components, there are positives and negatives associated with each kind.
Campground Bathroom Issues
One of the most notable campground bathroom issues is lines. Whether they are for the toilet or the shower, lines can form due to the limited amount of facilities compared to a large number of campers.
Another issue is the cleanliness of the bathroom. Primitive bathrooms and privies are usually dark, a little dingy, and not well kept. Campground comfort stations are usually serviced more frequently and therefore are typically cleaner.
However, if you are staying at the campground during a popular time expect the bathroom to be used frequently by a great many people. Due to this, it may not be the cleanest of places and could have a few clogged toilets or sinks.
Finally, supplies are often hit and miss in comfort stations. You should not expect there to always be toilet paper or paper towel, that goes for soap as well. Primitive bathrooms don’t have running water, therefore there will not be any soap but there might be hand sanitizer if you are lucky.
How To Survive Campground Bathrooms
The first suggestion is to carefully plan your trips to the bathroom. This may not always be possible, but you should try to choose the most opportune times to visit comfort stations. This is especially true when it comes to showering.
Long lines can form of people waiting for the showers at campgrounds, especially because there are no time limits. You would hope that most individuals would use common courtesy and keep their showers short and simple, but this isn’t always the case.
Lines typically form at peak times, or the start and end of each day. If possible, try going early in the morning, during the late morning, or early evening. Hopefully, the comfort station will be less busy and you can still start or end your day feeling fresh and clean!
Next, check out the stall before sitting down or undressing for the shower. Make sure the toilet isn’t clogged, there is toilet paper available, and the shower works. It would be a shame to figure out these things after it is too late!
Another great tip is to always come prepared. Don’t count on the sinks or showers having soap. Additionally, there may be no paper towels or toilet paper. It can be very useful to bring along the essentials when you visit the bathroom. This includes toilet paper, a towel or paper towels, and hand sanitizer.
Of course, comfort stations do not provide toiletries like hotels. You are camping after all. You will want to bring all of your shower items with you. This includes flip flops or shower shoes. Many campers use the showers daily and you don’t want to be standing barefoot on the comfort station floor.
The final tip is to always lock the door. Whether it is a multi-stalled bathroom or a rustic privy be sure to secure the latch behind you. If the lock is missing or broken, get a friend to stand guard.
What If There Are No Bathrooms?
Perhaps you are camping off-grid without access to a bathroom, or maybe it is the rare instance when the facilities at your campground are out of order…there are a few options you try out.
If you are primitive camping and find yourself without a bathroom, you can always use the tried and true method of digging a hole. This is known as digging a cat hole. Find a spot that is away from your campsite and any water source. Sunny areas with loose dirt are best for faster decomposition.
Then dig a hole and do your business. Depending on the area, you may be required to carry out your toilet paper and waste. This is when sealable hygienic bags come in handy. If you do not have to carry out, be sure to use biodegradable and eco-friendly toilet paper.
An alternative to digging a hole is portable toilets. Usually, a portable toilet is simply a container that you can sit on. They can have chemicals inside them to neutralize waste or use baggies. You will need to dispose of any waste inside the toilet after your trip or when it is full.
Some portable toilets feature a pop-up design. These can generally only hold a few liters of waste. They have chemicals to neutralize odors if you plan to regularly empty the toilet, or you can use waste baggies.
Other models incorporate flushing systems and have two different chambers. They usually have a seat and can hold gallons of waste instead of liters. When you pull the lever, the waste flows from the upper chamber to the lower where it is stored until you empty it.
Here is an example of a flushable portable toilet, the Camco Portable Travel Toilet.
Though not glamorous, camping toilets will certainly do in a pinch. You can either use them with a pop-up privacy tent or out of the way behind a tree.
Camp showers are another useful tool when there is no comfort station. A camp shower is a hanging bag or a pumped reservoir that like a toilet can be used with or without a pop-up privacy stall.
Most camp showers can be hung from a tree. They then use gravity to provide you with a weak flow of water for 2-3 minutes. These showers do not have pressure or the capacity to warm the water. Therefore, you may want to let the bag sit out in the sun for a while if you are hoping for a hot shower.
Pricey camp showers may have a pumped reservoir that can be pressurized to provide you with a jet stream of water. In addition, some have the capacity to heat their own water. Still, you only get about three minutes of use out of these showers.
See here for an example of a camp shower, the Risepro portable camping shower.
We have a great article on portable showers here.
If a camp shower is unavailable then here are a few down and dirty tips. They involve using a washcloth or sponge, dry shampoo, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer.
Taking a sponge bath with a bucket of water or even a water bottle will get you clean if you don’t have access to a shower. If water is unavailable you may have to turn to baby wipes. Additionally, there are many “body wipes” now available commercially just for this explicit purpose.
Dry shampoo or shampoo caps can help to take care of your dirty hair situation.
Finally, be sure to always bring hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer can be vital whether you are rustic camping or have access to a comfort station. Therefore, it is a good idea to always have a travel bottle with you.
Where To Go When You Have To Go
Hopefully, your campground will at least have a privy. You can likely get away without showering for a few days if you use the right products. If you know you will be camping off-grid be sure to bring the essentials, like biodegradable toilet paper, and maybe even a camp shower or toilet.
Even if your campground does have a comfort station, be wise about the times you use it and how you use it. Be sure to bring all your necessities with you, check supplies before you sit down or undress, and always lock the door.