If you have long hair, knowing how to get your hair dry while camping is a big deal. If you have spent time researching the question, you will have come across lots of suggestions about not washing your hair, or to use dry shampoos.
That is all good information but pretty much misses the point. Drying your hair is not just about keeping it clean. When you are camping you are likely to take part in many activities that can end up with your hair wet. Here are just a few:
- Scuba diving
- White water rafting
- Paddle boarding
- Visiting a waterfall
I could add a hundred activities to this list. What is more, there are lots of things you are going to do that are going to leave you hot and sweaty:
Again, there are hundreds of brilliant outdoor activities that we could add to this list. Not forgetting the good, old fashioned rain storm.
What is clear, getting your hair dry while camping cannot be reduced to simply not getting it wet in the first place.
Getting Your Hair Dry at a National Park Campground
Shower Blocks with Hairdryers Provided
Many NPS Campgrounds provide a good standard of restrooms and shower blocks. If you decide to go to a KOA site, you might even find there are hairdryers provided in the shower block. It is a good idea to give the campground a call to ask about hair drying before you book.
Shower Blocks With Power Outlets
Something else to check on with the Campground, are there power outlets available where you could connect your own hair dryer. If so, getting your hair dry becomes a matter of simply remembering to take your own hair dryer with you.
Shower Blocks with Hot Air Hand Dryers
Another option that I have seen at a few campgrounds over the years, is to use the provided hot air hand dryers. It works best with hand dryers where you can adjust the nozzle to dry your face too. It makes it easier to brush out your hair in the flow of air from the dryer if it is directed upwards.
For hand dryers with fixed nozzles, drying your hair becomes more of a challenge. It has been funny to see the positions my wife has managed to adopt to use one of these hand dryers on her hair.
Campgrounds With Electrical HookUp
When we first started family camping we only ever went to established campgrounds. Pretty much all of them provide electric hookups. For the most part, the hookup is only available to RVs.
A few, enlightened, campgrounds make hookups available to tent campers too. All you need is a special adapter cable that you can buy for a few bucks, and you can add power to your tent. As we are all for camping in comfort we found this to be brilliant. Hair drying is easy – all you need is a hairdryer.
The big advantage is that you can dry your hair in the comfort of your own tent, and without the pressure of someone else standing waiting to use the dryer.
The real challenge of drying your hair while camping comes when you move on from the well established, heavily featured campgrounds, and more on to test yourself with a little more dispersed or wild camping.
Drying Hair When Wild Camping
Just in case you are new to the term, ‘Wild Camping’, it is primarily camping away from an established campground. Wild camping may be called many different names:
- Dispersed camping
- Dry camping
- Pirate camping
All of these pretty much mean the same thing – camping away from established campgrounds, with few, if any, provided facilities (no restrooms, no drinking water, and definitely no electricity).
Effectively drying your hair in this scenario needs more ingenuity. Getting your hair dry quickly and comfortably will need a full, portable camping power setup. When you are first getting started, you may well not have all the gear you need to be able to simply use your normal hair dryer. That’s where the ingenuity comes in – how do you dry your hair without power at all
Drying Your Hair With a Full Tent Camping Power Set-up
There are many ways you can still get hold of electricity to power your hair dryer while you are camping off-grid. You can make use of your car battery – more on that in a moment. A better option is to have a full tent camping power system.
A simple tent power system is just to use a relatively inexpensive camping inverter generator.
Generators such as the Westinghouse above have a number of advantages as a source of power:
- Small – 19.8″ L x 11.4” W x 17.9″ H
- Lightweight – 46 Lbs
- Quiet – 52dB or less (take a look at this comparison table to give you some idea of what dB (Decibels) mean)
- Efficient – can run for 12hours or more on 1.2 gallons of gas at 25% loading
- AC and DC power outputs.
The Westinghouse has 2 120V, 20A outputs which, with a good power strip and extension, can be used to power multiple appliances.
Most hair dryers consume around 1500-1800W while running. At 120V that is around 15A current. If you are using a hair dryer, you should be sure it is the only appliance drawing power from an outlet at the time.
You can buy inverter generators that provide much more power. We have found the sweet spot in terms of cost, size, weight and power output to be around 1800-2200W. As soon as you start to go outside of this range, the cost, size and weight increase rapidly.
For example, the WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator can provide up to 3400W continuous power output (enough to run 2 hair dryers at the same time) but it weighs an enormous 110lbs
More on Tent Camping Power Set-Up
In an upcoming post we are going to look in detail at Tent Camping Power Set-Ups. It is too complicated to fully address in an article on drying your hair while camping.
While we love our camping generator, it is not without its problems. As quiet and efficient as it is, there are times when we would rather not be burning gas to generate electricity. For these times we use a deep cycle leisure battery which is charged whenever the generator is running.
As we discuss in our article on powering your camping fridge, Deep Cycle batteries are great ways of storing electricity. You can get Lithium Ion batteries but, despite the weight, we find the capacity and quick charging of lead acid batteries still make them the best choice.
You can buy 12V hair dryers but, in our experience, they are a waste of time. To be able to power your hairdryer from the deep cycle battery you are going to need an inverter. The job of an inverter is to take the 12V DC output of the battery and to convert it to 120V AC output that you can use to power your domestic appliances.
Inverters are generally around 85% efficient in transforming from DC to AC. For a 1500W hair dryer this means that you could be drawing as much as 150A from the battery. This is a lot of current. It means that you would use all of the available charge in the battery in as little as 30minutes usage of the hair dryer.
Wherever possible, you should try to use your hair dryer while the generator is running.
Using Solar Panels in Your Camping Set Up
We have started to look at solar panels to replace our generator. When we first looked, the panels available didn’t supply enough power and were too heavy and fragile to pack with our camping gear. Now, there are ultra thin solar panels that are tough, lightweight and are able to generate 100W of power.
If you want to take the eco-friendly, solar power route make sure your battery is fully charged first. That 1500W hairdryer running for just 10 minutes is going to use 250Wh of power. That is going to take your 100W solar panels at least 2.5 hours to replenish.
4 Ways You can Dry Your Hair in the Car While Camping
If you are car camping (rather than backpacking or walk up camping), you are going to be tempted to try to dry your hair in your car.
Here’s 4 ways that you can try to dry your hair using your car and/or its battery:
Buy and Use a 12V hair dryer
There are many 12V hair dryers that you can buy. These are designed to plug into your car’s auxiliary power outlet (cigarette lighter point).
Seem like a good idea? Not really. These 12V hair dryers only produce about 200-300W of power. That’s hardly enough to ruffle my hair and I have been bald for 20years.
Get an Inverter and Use a Normal Hairdryer
Given what we have said about using an inverter with a deep cycle battery, this might seem like a good idea. It’s not.
Remember the DC current required to power a 1500W hairdryer? It could be as high as 150A. That’s far more than you can get from your auxiliary power outlet.
It is possible that you could use an inverter like the Bestek we mentioned earlier.
You would need to attach it directly to your car battery terminals so you would be drying your hair outside of the car. What’s worse, given the power demands of your hair dryer, and the way in which car batteries are designed, you would get about 5minutes drying time before your risk discharging your battery to a point where you can no longer start your car.
Of course, you can run your car engine to extend this time slightly. Whether that is sensible is a subject for a whole different article
Use your car heater and blower vents to dry your hair
Crazy as it sounds, this is one of the best ways of using your car to dry your hair. My wife used to do a lot of scuba diving. After a long dive this was a sure fire way of both drying her hair and to get a bit of warmth back inot the body.
Your heaters and fans create a lot of heat and move large quantities of air.
Run your engine and close all but one vent. You can get a strong flow of warm air which, with a bit of physical flexibility on your part, you can use to dry your hair.
The downside is that you are running your car engine.
- Inverter and normal hair dryer
- Use your car heater and blowers
- Use a 12V hair dryer
- Drive around for 15 Mins with your head out of the window (I am not kidding. I have seen it done)
None electricity based methods of drying your hair
If you have decided to go wild camping to get back to nature, you might not feel that taking lots of gear with your to generate electricity is a good idea. We have lots of sympathy for this stance but, when we have to make the choice, we are all about camping as comfortable as possible.
That means we use electricity.
There are other ways to dry your hair.
Micro Fiber Turbans, Towel and Brushes
Blow drying may not be good for your hair at the best of times. I guess it is the norm because it is relatively quick and easy.
If you have a little more time to devote to drying your hair you can do a great job using a micro fiber towel to remove excess moisture. Use a squeezing, blotting technique instead of vigorous rubbing. Once you have got the majority of the water out, wrap your head in a micro fiber turbine.
While a micro fiber turbine is not exactly stylish, it allows you to get on with other things while the wicking effect of the towel material continues to dry your hair.
After about 20 minutes, you can remove the towel and brush out your hair as normal.
Let your hair dry naturally
One of the things about camping is that you don’t have to be concerned with your appearance. You are likely to be more concerned with getting out the tangles and knots than with created a great hairstyle.
Consider letting your hair dry naturally. You can blot out the majority of the moisture using a micro fiber towel as mentioned earlier. Gently brush out your hair and then leave it to dry naturally.
This may not be perfect if you have hair that will frizz in an instant. You just might like to wet your hair again and then add conditioner (no shampoo). It will make your hair much easier to control and reduce the frizzing. Try to brush your hair will wet (brushing in the conditioner).
Gently brush your hair from time to time as you let it dry.
Dry Over Night
Remove as much moisture as possible. Tightly braid. Sleep on it. I’ve even seen a suggestion that Satin pillowcases will help your hair dry as you sleep. I’m bald. What do I know.
Summary, So How Do You Dry Your Hair While Camping?
As you have seen, there are many options for drying your hair while camping. It’s not about washing your hair either – your hair will survive a 5-10 day camping trip without being washed.
The thing is, it seems that so many of the things we go camping to do end up with us having wet hair.
In well established and well equipped campgrounds, you are probably going to have hairdryers available in the shower blocks. At the least, you are likely to have a power outlet that you can use with your own hairdryer.
The real issue is when you get to the more exciting camping venues – well away from civilization and any local amenities. This is when you need to get a bit more creative.
If all else fails, my favorite is using your car heating vents.
My enormous thanks to my wife and son for their first hand experiences in drying long hair when we’ve been camping. If you have looked at my photograph you can see I am almost completely bald. For me, a quick rub with a towel and i am good to go.
Jo and James have provided me with lots of entertainment over the years as they have grappled with the challenges of getting their hair dry.
Thanks to Jo for her comments on overall hair care. I haven’t included them all in this article due to a lack of space.