Photo: Toby Butterfield

Van Life: 13 Tips for Staying Fresh on the Road

Last week I had lunch with one of my city-dwelling gal pals, and we were talking about some of my recent outdoor adventures. This was her response:

“Wow. That sounds like so much fun…but I don’t think I could do it. Being all dusty and dirty and not having a shower….how do you handle it?”

Our conversation made me realize that for many women this is a HUGE barrier that prevents them from getting outside. Now I don’t mind a little grit and I’m certainly no beauty queen, but I also don’t want to feel like a hot sweaty mess.

So I thought I would share some of my favorite outdoor beauty tips, tricks, and products that help me stay fresh whether I’m on the road, car camping, or at a music festival.

*** Tinted Sunscreen ***

If you want to avoid cancer, not to mention wrinkles and early aging, wearing sunscreen in the outdoors in critical. To simplify your beauty routine, skip the foundation and wear tinted sunscreen. This lightly tinted SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen by MDSolarSciences will blur pores and imperfections and leave your skin feeling smooth and moisturized. The active ingredients – zinc oxide and titanium oxide – are also considered safe by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that studies the cancer risk of different types of sunscreens. The bottle is 1.7 ounces and takes up hardly any room in your bag.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 3.08.02 PM

*** Face Wipes ***

I absolutely love Neutrogena’s Calming Cleansing Towelettes. These gentle pre-moistened cloths remove any makeup you might be wearing, including eye makeup, and leave your face feeling cool and refreshed. I like to use one of these at night to clean up and also first thing in the morning to wake up before I emerge from my sleeping bag. To save on room, just put the number that you need for your trip in a small ziploc freezer bag.

Neutrogena's cleansing towelettes are great for wiping away the grime and freshening up after a day of adventuring

*** Eyeliner ***

I am a big fan of ditching the makeup while I’m on the road…all you really need out there is a smile. But…if  if I had to choose only one cosmetic product to bring with me on a trip, it would be stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner. It goes on flawlessly, makes your eyes pop, and never smears even when you are sweating.

If I had to choose one cosmetic product to take with me on the road, it would be Stila's waterproof liquid eyeliner

*** Lips ***

The mountains can suck the moisture right out of those beautiful lips leaving them cracked and dry. My go-to lip balm is Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm with SPF 25 in the natural mint flavor. It goes on clear, lasts for hours, and provides added protection against the sun, keeping your smile camera ready.

Jack Black is my favorite lip balm for preventing dry and cracked lips during those mountain adventures.

*** Hair ***

Keeping your hair from becoming a dreaded mess after days of no shower can be a challenge. Here’s a few tips for how I deal with my mop.

My first piece of advice is to avoid messy buns, which can leave your hair in a giant knot. Instead, go for a low braid that will keep your hair contained while being less prone to tangles.

Second, whenever I travel, I bring my Mason Pearson Pocket Hair Brush. When I first saw the price of these hair brushes, I gasped…as I’m sure you will. But after 2 years with mine, I’m a total convert. The pocket size is perfect for traveling, but more important, I’m able to effortlessly comb through my hair from top to bottom in a single stroke.

The Mason Pearson Pocket Hair Brush is incredible at getting out tangles when you've been without a shower. Click the link for more of my favorite beauty tips, tricks & products to help you stay fresh and clean when you are on the road.

Third, I recently discovered these individual coconut oil packets by Carrington Farms. When my hair gets really dry and needs a little shine, I dabble a little of this coconut oil on my fingers and rub it into the ends of my hair. Whatever is left in the packet, I then use to moisturize my hands and face.

Carrington Farms Coconut Oil prevents hair from drying out during your outdoor adventures. Click the link for more of my favorite beauty tips, tricks & products to help you stay fresh and clean when you are on the road.

Alternatively, if I’m in a humid environment and my hair is greasy, I’ll apply a small amount of Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo to soak up the grease and give my locks a little oomph. This stuff has a nice scent and is best applied using your fingers rather than straight from the bottle. It’s not cheap, but the 1-oz bottle should last you quite a long time.

Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo - Top beauty tips, tricks & products to help you stay fresh and clean on your outdoor adventures

Finally, when all else fails, wear a hat. At the moment, I’m really digging the Windsong Trucker Hat by Outdoor Research. Prana also has a bunch of cute trucker hats in bright, fun colors.

Looking down into Big Cottonwood Canyon from Lake Blanche, Utah

*** Natural Deoderant ***

I stopped using antiperspirant years ago when rumors started coming out about its connection with breast cancer. I feel my body has adjusted, and I swear I don’t smell 🙂 …But every now and then, I want some sort of additional protection – whether I’m off to a fancy dinner, a sweaty concert, or a challenging hike with friends. In those cases, I use the Crystal Body Deodorant Stick. This naturally occurring salt-based stick kills the bacteria that make you stink without all of the nasty stuff that is found in chemical based deodorants. To apply it, you just run a bit of water over the end of the stick and then rub it on your armpits. It goes on clear, leaves no residue, and has no scent. I tested this in the muggy Belize jungle and found it to work much better than other natural deodorants I have tried. It’s also very compact making it convenient for traveling or on the trail.

Crystal Deodorant Stick: Top beauty tips & products to help you stay fresh and clean while traveling on outdoor adventures.

*** Down there ***

No blushing here. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your lady parts to stay so fresh and so clean.

If going to the bathroom in the woods scares you, you aren’t alone. With enough practice, squatting does get easier…but if you just can’t seem to get it down, you might consider a Go Girl. This is basically a funnel you can use to direct your pee to help reduce that awful splattering that is oh so common. The Go Girl also allows you to pee standing up or to even go in a bottle if it’s freezing outside and you don’t want to leave your tent.


I used these Swipes Lovin’ Wipes during my week at Burning Man, both in lieu of TP and to clean up at the end of the day. They definitely did the trick. I prefer the unscented version, but they also come in a cucumber scent. You can also use them to wipe off the dust and grime from your legs, hands, or other parts of your body. Just remember that Leave No Trace principles require that you pack out any trash, including these. For more info on feminine hygiene, stay tuned for a future post. 

Swipes Lovin' Wipes: Top beauty tips & products to help you stay fresh and clean while traveling on outdoor adventures.

Hopefully this gives you some new beauty ideas for your next outdoor adventure. That said, the most important thing to remember is that when you are out there doing what you love, you are going to be glowing no matter what.


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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase, I receive a tiny bit of compensation at no added cost to you. I only recommend products that I have tried out and truly love, and any purchases you make help keep this blog going. Thanks for all of your support, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured on my site, please email me. Thanks! Kristen
There are 9 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.


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  1. I love this blog! You should never avoid adventuring just cause you don’t wanna get dirty, so these tips are fab 🙂 The great outdoors is too awesome to miss out on!

    I tried a crystal deodorant that was a total bust. This is my go-to Oyin Handmade Funk Butter. I do Ashtanga Yoga, and it can beat the funk like nothing else! You MUST try it. It’s a paste you apply with your fingertips, so it is perfect for outdoor adventures, because you can put it into the tiniest container. https://www.oyinhandmade.com/body/funk-butter-natural-deodorant.html

      Hey Jen – That’s a bummer that the crystal stuff didn’t work for you, but good that you found something that does. I’ll definitely check out that stuff you suggested…Thanks for chiming in! Kristen

    Amazing! I have all the products that was listed here. I really like the Mason Pearson Pocket Hair Brush. It’s always in my bag either outdoor or indoor activities.

      Yea that brush is amazing. Who would’ve thunk?

    Wow! there is so much to read through here. I like it quite much. Thanks for sharing an informative post though. I just want to give a thumbs up to your great work!

    Dry shampoo is an absolute lifesaver! And I love the old ‘when all else fails, wear a hat’ trick. I never go camping without a hat of some kind.

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