If you talk about Tinder again, we’ll make you drink a beer out of a climbing shoe.
It was early February of 2016, and I was still reeling from a breakup. Hoping to find solace in the open road, I left New York City behind and began traveling through the Great American West. Like any responsible millennial, I immediately took to Tinder.
My first stop was Joshua Tree, and with no service in the park—save for the tops of a select few rock formations—it is not the ideal location for a budding Tinder user. So instead of using Tinder, I simply talked about Tinder. Obviously, my climbing partners had heard enough.
The tides turned in Red Rock. Cell service in the campground became both a blessing and a curse. I no longer annoyed other climbers with my Tinder spray, and instead spent my evenings quietly performing antagonist exercises, in the form of right and left swipes. As the evenings passed by, I soon came to the realization of most Tinder users: I wasn’t looking for dates, I was looking for an ego boost. Obviously, the reasonable reaction would be to stop using Tinder, and instead apply my time to useful endeavors. Thankfully, I’m not a reasonable person; the constant Tindering continued.
Almost two weeks into my stay at Red Rock, and consequently two weeks since my last shower, I matched with an adult dancer who we’ll call Amber. Late in the evening, we struck up a conversation and she told me that she’d never been stargazing, never spent a night in the wilderness, and most surprisingly, never been hiking!
I gladly offered to remedy that situation, but I informed Amber that after weeks of climbing, I would need to shower at her apartment before our date—thus marking the first time I used Tinder for a free shower.
For the record, I was a gentleman on our date, we saw shooting stars, and I only lost her dog in the wilderness for about half an hour …
Long story short: options abound for the dirtbag seeking good hygiene. Tinder is certainly an option, though it is not without objective hazards. Below, you’ll find tricks to stay (relatively) clean on the road.
They are your new best friend. Every day or two, take a baby wipe and hit the crucial bits: armpits, upper back, and genitals. It’s no shower, but wiping down will make you feel a bit fresher and it goes a long way to prevent you from smelling as bad as your climbing shoes. If you’re feeling fancy, step it up a notch with an option like Action Wipes—the all-natural environmentally-friendly shower substitute. They smell pretty good, too.
Change your shirt and underwear (but not your pants)
Changing your shirt and underwear every day—or more realistically every other day—makes almost as much of a difference as using baby wipes. Pair the two together and you’ll be a model of hygiene!
Wash your feet
When it comes to at least feeling clean, give careful consideration to your feet. If they’re filthy, slipping into your sleeping bag might feel downright sinful. Do yourself a favor and give them a generous warm-water splash and wipe down … and avoid mirrors—you’ll at least give yourself the illusion of cleanliness.
I can’t believe I have to say this. Yes, dirtbags should wear deodorant. You may be homeless, but be the best smelling homeless person you can be! Don’t be fooled—your body’s natural pheromones aren’t a helpful qualifier on Tinder.
(And if you’re boycotting deodorant due to a fear of weird chemicals, try something more natural like Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant or Pit Paste; both of which are free of aluminum and scary shit no one can pronounce.)
While this may not work for the desert crags, and it certainly won’t work in the winter, a quick dive into water is all you need to stay clean in the summer for weeks on end. If at all possible, make swimming your daily shower ritual. Find an easily (and legally) accessible pool, lake, stream, etc. … really just about any body of (non-murky, un-foam-filled) water will do the trick. It will keep you consistently clean, even in the notoriously sweaty Northeast summers.
Nothing can substitute for cunning and creativity. Explore more than just traditional showering options. Near Joshua Tree, the Desert Hot Springs Hotel offers a day pass to their pools and showers for $5. Just outside of Bishop, hot springs adorn the landscape. And if you find yourself rained out from the crag (not likely in California), find an appropriate and non-creepy place to lather yourself in nature’s own shower. Ask around; you may be rewarded with brilliant shower beta.
Invest in a (semi) real shower
Yes, the hardcore dirtbags might scoff at the thought of investing in a solar shower, but at less than $30 it can actually save you money over spending five bucks a pop at Coyote Corner.
Make friends with the locals
This is about more than just showers, it’s about becoming a member of the community in which you live, no matter how short your residence may be. Putting down some roots will lead to a richer, more vibrant experience wherever you go. Hell, you might even score yourself a real date, too.
Shower at a truck stop or campground
This should be your last resort. When all else fails, look to truck stops and campgrounds, where you can pay for a short shower. It may not be the ideal situation—especially when you’d prefer to save that cash for post-climbing refreshments—but take solace in the fact that you no longer smell like old cheese. To coat those smells, consider lathering your body with something that’s healthy for you and the environment—like Dr. Bronners, which you can use for anything … yes, absofuckinglutely anything.
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