RV Boondocking and Long Hair Washing Challenges

As we boondock here in the Anza Borrego desert with our small 35 gallon freshwater tank and some extra jugs of water, washing my long hair seems like such a waste of perfectly good drinking water.

But after four days without shampooing, I couldn’t take the oily, gritty feel of my locks and surrendered to the ‘poo.

Using about a gallon of water to wash and rinse, I couldn’t help but think there has to be a better way to keep my hair clean.

My question to you, long-haired RV boondocking gals, is: when you dry camp, how do you keep your locks looking (and smelling) good?

When I had a cute pixie ‘do like my RVing friend Tracy (in the pic below) washing my hair wasn’t such an ordeal. But now that I’ve reached my goal of big Texas hair, washing hair when boondocking requires serious water usage.

No ‘Poo Alternatives?

Now before you say “What about joining the “no ‘poo’ movement?” I’ll just say it: the thought of not shampooing my hair regularly seriously grosses me out.

I realize that way back, people used to only wash their hair once a year or so, but I’ll bet if you caught a whiff of their mane you’d be hightailing it back to the future for a long hot shower.

While I would never consider ditching my shampoo, I thought I heard something about how dry shampoos work great in-between washings. Thinking that maybe I could use less water this way, I  searched the web for “dry shampoo recipes” and was surprised to see that something as cheap and simple as a dusting of cornstarch is supposed to suck up the grease and make your hair look nice again. Later this week I’ll test this idea.

Have you tried homemade dry shampoo? If so, what did you think?

Boondocking has a few drawbacks like this, but overall it’s our favorite way to camp. We’re loving it here in the Southern California desert as we buckle down on work, listen to the coyotes yip and yowl and soak in the sun. Free RV camping doesn’t get any better than this!


25 thoughts on “RV Boondocking and Long Hair Washing Challenges”

  1. Try making your own shampoo substitute using Borax (all natural) followed by a citric acid rinse. The simple instructions are on my website at http://www.frugal-rv-travel.com/Borax.html

    You still get to “wash” with water but don’t expect real lather. Granted we don’t have long hair but it takes far less water to wash and rinse than shampoo, leaves hair clean, soft and silky, and washing outdoors is environmentally friendly.

    • Marianne, I’m glad you posted, I’ve never seen your blog before. I’ve subscribed, it’s terrific.

      I have to admit though, Boric acid just seems really super scary to use on colored hair. Is your hair au naturel? I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t damage my color.

      • I’m not talking about boric acid. We’re using Borax. My understanding is that boric acid can be made from borax but it needs other chemical ingredients added to it.You also don’t use it full strength out of the box but a diluted solution

        My husband and I have both been using it for many, many years and I do color my hair and it’s no problem.

  2. If you have colored hair you do not want to use the cider vinegar–it may strip the color from you hair. I like to use gold bond ultimate body powder in between shampoos on my hair. It contains rosemary, lavender, and chamomile extract-smells good. I have lighter hair so it does not dull. If you have darker hair there are “tinted” dry shampoos that may work better.

  3. I use baby powder. I use a cushion type brush and sprinkle some on it, then comb it in. It does a geat job of getting rid of the greasiness and smells good too. I find it much easier to go without a daily shampoo now.

  4. I find with my hair cut short I only use about a half gallon to wash my hair. Maybe even less. If you have a large bowl, dip your head to get your hair wet and then use that same water to rinse. I find that washing every 2 – 3 days is sufficient most times (unless it’s really hot). If you’re camped near a stream or a lake, that water will do too. Save the potable water for drinking. Washing my hair makes me feel better than a shower does most times so it’s a necessity for me.

  5. Oooo, you inspired me to try this no-poo thing! I will get what I need to make dry shampoo and try it out. Right now, I only wash my hair once or twice a week to start with. So it won’t be hard for me to convert probably. 😉

  6. Been poo free for over 4 years here – there is nothing gross about it at all. Well, first couple of weeks are kinda oily feeling, but once you get free of the shampoo stripping cycle and your hair adjusts to its natural oils – its awesome.

    My hair is always clean and fresh smelling and feeling. People smell it all the time, and none have high tailed it ‘to the future’. A couple to few times a month I do a baking soda scrub and apple cider rinse. In between, a quick water rinse when needed keeps is clean. I save tons of water, money and my hair has never been healthier.

    I have shoulder length naturally curly hair, and Chris has should length straight silky hair and has bee poo free for a couple years now too.

    And every hair stylist I have gone to can attest – no shampoos does not equal maggots.

    • Hey C, I think you were probably the first person who I heard mention the no-poo thing. I’m such a chicken though. I consider myself open-minded but I just can’t seem to wrap my hair around the idea. I can handle trying out the cornstarch idea though, at least while we’re boondocking.

      My hair stylist niece swears that not shampooing or wearing dreads for that matter (which I’ve always wanted) is just asking for a dermatological nightmare. I have to be honest…what’s scared me away from dreads is I’ve caught a whiff of some on hot days, and they stink. Some don’t, but I know that there’s just as many that do.

      I know that many people swear by no pooing. I guess one just has to try it to see if it works for their physiological makeup.

      • Using cornstarch is also a form of no-poo, by the way 🙂 Not sure why baking soda & vinegar is ‘gross’ but cornstarch isn’t? Both serve the same purpose of cleansing the hair, and leave hair much cleaner & healthier than shampoo.

        But honestly, switching between shampoo and a no-poo regiment (baking soda/avc or cornstarch) will probably just leave you feeling icky on your no-poo boondocking days. What makes no-poo work is that your hair really does find its own balance – and it does take a couple week transition for your natural oils to get there. Our hair so over produces oils because most shampoos simply strip them out.

        And doing no-poo is not anything close to the same thing as doing dreads. Comparing them is really quite unfair. That’s like saying all RVers are homeless hobos who don’t ever bath.

        That cute little pixie in your pic can attest to the cleanliness of my hair, as she’s helped me color it before 🙂

        • Oh no, no prob with baking soda and vinegar; it’s just the concept of not shampooing that grosses me out. And I’m only saying this as it relates to my own hair, nobody elses, I hope I didn’t offend you or anyone who practices no-poo.

          When I try the cornstarch, I’m only going to give it a go so I can go longer inbetween washings when I’m boondocking, but I can’t ever see myself replacing shampoo with it.

          As for dreads and no-poo….well, both concepts involve not washing hair, so how are they different?

          • No-poo does NOT equal not washing your hair.

            Just means not using shampoo.

            I am no-poo AND I regularly wash my hair (with baking soda/acv). And most no-poo folks I know wash their hair with some alternative to commercial shampoos.

            And that’s my point. You seem to be confusing the no-poo movement with not cleansing or washing one’s hair at all (ie. and yes, for a lot of folks in many climates that can be ‘gross’ and having ‘smelly manes’).

            As I said before, I think you’ll find switching back and forth between shampoo and no-poo to be rather gross feeling – the first 2-3 weeks of no-poo are the worst as you transition. That is how I started myself – intending to go back to shampoo after taking a few weeks break. But after a month, I feel in love with my hair for the first time in decades… and never went back.

          • Ok, NOW I get it, thanks! You’re right, that is a big difference.

            By the way I tried the cornstarch today and it made my hair look awful. Totally dulled out my brand new color and also won’t come out of my roots. Definitely not something I’ll try again but I may try talc.

            One last question: when you color your hair, the baking soda and vinegar really removes all of the goop?

  7. Okay, I don’t know anything, and as YOU know I’m not on the road, but how about this?

    Instead of dipping into the precious water tank how about a little planning ahead (next time!) and picking up a couple of gallon jugs of distilled water somewhere for the express purpose of treating that mangy mane of yours? Keep them stashed somewhere out of the way and allot them solely for hair-washing? I’d think that a wash and rinse would use maybe a half-gallon. If you pick-up two gallons and do this every three days, you’d have enough for almost two weeks.

    Again, forgive me if it’s an uneducated and thus laughable decision because I’m not out there, haha!

    • Well, we do carry extra jugs of water with us, so we’ve got that covered. What I need to do though, is measure out exactly how much I use when I do a wash, then I might feel better about how much I use on my mangy mane.

      • Okay, so the next time you have water a-plenty, you’re going to fill a gallon jug and try to be really conservative as you do a wash, and figure out then how much you use. Then plan accordingly next time you’re headed to the desert. Right?


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