Sign up ×
Travel Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for road warriors and seasoned travelers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Let's say you're backpacking and you're staying at a super-cheap hostel. Either because you have a lot planned for the day or you're catching long distance bus / train, you've to get up really early in the morning. The showers either don't have hot water or it doesn't work. It's cold and you really don't want to stand under a stream of freezing cold water.

Not really a hypothetical scenario because I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt. So what's your travel tip for when you're travelling and find no place to shower?

share|improve this question
This happened to me on Ometepe in Nicaragua. Every place I stayed over a period of some days in sweaty tropical heat had ran out of water, had a broken shower, or some similar issue. My solution was to let the skank build up until I got back to the mainland and then have the world's longest shower. – hippietrail Jan 26 '12 at 9:29
Hey, and where is "OK we're all adults here" :) – VMAtm Jan 26 '12 at 9:48
I'm pretty sure you start to stink. – mindcorrosive Mar 16 '12 at 8:36
Shower in a can? (aka spray on deodorant) Personally I just shower in cold water. I find if you lather up with soap first then just dive under for a rinse off you can do your body (minus hair (I don't have much of that)) in about 1 min of exposure to cold water. – Stuart Mar 19 '12 at 16:33

7 Answers 7

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Well I can be evil and if people complain, I call them insensitive because I (genuinely) have no sense of smell ;)

However, logically you do have a few options:

  • hand-wash - a wash-cloth and some soap goes a long way, and for some reason even though the water is cold, it's never as bad as stepping under a cold shower.
  • deodorant, lots of it.
  • make sure you have clean (or your closest-to-clean) clothes on, minimising the risk of odour, and still helping you to feel fresh.
  • wet-wipes / baby wipes. It's slow, but hey, if it works...
  • do what our salt-flats tour group did in Uyuni - made a group pact to not shower, so that nobody had to deal with the ice-cold water(!)
share|improve this answer
"You can evil"? Did you just verb "evil"? d-; – hippietrail Jan 26 '12 at 9:30
My dad is also anosmic. Never met another person with the condition but Dr Karl says it's common in surfers. – hippietrail Jan 26 '12 at 9:31
can be evil. Sigh. Too many late nights aurora hunting. Just got back from three hours driving. It's pouring with rain and is 1am. And I have work in the am. – Mark Mayo Jan 26 '12 at 12:01

The obvious thing to do would be to just wash yourself with 2 hands or a sponge and soap/shower gel; or am I missing something here?

share|improve this answer
Washing yourself with hands is f...f...f...freezing! – Ankur Banerjee Jan 25 '12 at 23:30
indeed. Can get quite clean without a tub or shower, as anyone who's traveled in dry climates where water's best not wasted can attest to. – jwenting Jan 26 '12 at 7:15
If the water is freezing then you use the plug, let some cold water in and add some hot water from the kettle until the temperature is ok. Did you never go camping? – iHaveacomputer Jan 26 '12 at 22:30

In the shower, you stay aside and let some water in your open palms. Then sprinkle water over your body. Add more water gradually to let your body adapt. I think it's perilous to suddenly step into cold water.
You can do something similar over the sink.
I had to wash with cold water every day in the army and sometimes in student dormitories. I never liked it though others had no problem.

share|improve this answer
Right. I wouldn't necessarily say perilous, if you're thinking of hypothermia risk, but it's definitely not fun for most people. – imagineerThis Jul 22 '13 at 0:06

My solution is typically to use anti-bacterial handwash, the kind that dries up on its own and doesn't need any water at all. When the water supply is cold it's excellent to easily be able to wash up your face and and the bits of your body where you sweat the most.

share|improve this answer
Pro-tip if you are a man and therefore don't carry anti-bacterial handwash around: Vodka has pretty much the same effect :) – iHaveacomputer Jan 26 '12 at 22:32
Vodka. That's what I use to wash my insides. – imagineerThis Jul 22 '13 at 0:07

If you really can't handle the cold shower, why not just heat some water in a pot or kettle? Then mix it the with freezing water (if needed) and sponge-bath like the others suggest. I did this a couple of times when the hot water-supply was off.

Easy if you carry a portable heating-element.

If you have a thermos flask (admittedly unlikely) you could even heat the water before you go to to bed the previous night, so no time wasted in the morning. Works when the electricity or water supplies are unreliable, or there's a morning rush in the kitchen/bathroom.

share|improve this answer

Generally I'd go for the cold water - a cold shower is a great way to get a bit of a buzz.

If that doesn't appeal, the essential in your pack is wet wipes. With these you can at least sort out the places you most want to feel hygienic, helping to prevent body odour and irritation.

share|improve this answer

Baby wipes. They don't call them "portable showers" for nothing.

Or go for a swim, either in a swimming pool or sea/lake/river.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.