View Full Version : Backpacking Hair

April 27th, 2014, 03:58 PM
Hello LHC
So in September I am gong to be leaving chilly, wet west coast Canada and will be backpacking South East Asia until early December.
I am wondering how to deal with my fine, curly hair while I am away. Obviously space is limited so I am debating what to do!
Should I switch to baking soda to cleanse (its pretty harsh)? Shampoo bar (when I used to use them I got tons of buildup so i don't know)? Just bring normal shampoo/conditioner?
I know my hair needs tons of moisture to survive so I am not sure haha and I will for sure be bringing Coconut oil for face stuff and the occasional hair mask but it makes my hair limp/stringy so I cant apply it all the time, especially when showers will be few and far between.

Thanks for your help!

Rosa Harris
April 28th, 2014, 02:42 AM
personally I would just coconut oil and bun between washes and leave it at that. you know, who's gonna be looking anyway?

April 28th, 2014, 03:50 AM
In my experience shampoo bars can be a bit trickier to rinse out than plain ol' shampoo, so I'd probably just try to make room for a bottle in my backpack. Oiling sounds like a good idea, too.

You might also need to lower your hair standards a bit for the duration of the trip. Travelling can be a little rough no matter where you are, and I would imagine the climate in South East Asia won't make you feel any more glamorous while lugging your backpack around. But who cares when there's so much more to look at than your reflection in the mirror? Wash your hair when you can, and for the rest of the time just put it up whatever way feels comfortable and enjoy what is sure to be an amazing trip. :)

April 28th, 2014, 05:05 AM
Unfortunately, I don't have experience with curly hair but I've always travelled with "normal" shampoo & conditioner. Preferably products with UV protection and lots of slip (usually coney conditioner) to prevent tangles. South East Asia is mostly quite traveller-friendly place (even off the beaten track) so if you forget to bring something, you can pretty much always buy it over there. Or make friends and borrow their stuff! :D And yeah, everyone looks a bit rugged while backpacking so I wouldn't worry about too much if hair looks greasy etc. Have a great trip! :blossom:

April 28th, 2014, 05:18 AM
You could also try routines like CO, WO and NW/SO. Maybe one of those could work for you? They might leave your hair more greasy in the beginning, but almost definitely well moistured. Washing out salt water or chlorine would be a little bit more tricky. If your planning to wear your hair loose in the beginning of these routines, they might not be a option, but if you´re planning on wearing it up all the time and forget about it during your trip, it might be worth giving them a try:) Have a great trip!

April 28th, 2014, 05:29 AM
When I went backpacking (only for 3 weeks though) I used a Lush soapbar (they contain SLS but no worries about build-up or any of that soap bar stuff) and used a leave-in (R&B from Lush as well haha, you only need a tiny amount) instead of a regular conditioner. My hair isn't superlong though, about APL at that time. But that worked for me and it hardly took up any space! Maybe you can try one of their soap bars? They even have a solid conditioner, but not sure if that works...

April 28th, 2014, 09:08 AM
The water there vs the water back home might affect how successful things are, but I'd suggest you do some serious testing on any routine changes NOW, before you find yourself in a foreign country without familiar brands, with hair that's being really weird and unmanageable. (Learned this one the hard way as a teenager, after thinking I was going to wash with Dr. Bronner's on a camping trip and found myself unable to detangle my hair for about 4 days, until someone came to the rescue with a bottle of conditioner.) For example, most people find they can't keep baking soda washing up long-term because their ends dry out or their scalp rebels. Shampoo bars sometimes don't rinse out very well. And so on.

One thing I found that I would bring backpacking is some of the conditioner bars I've come across on Etsy. Look into them -- some are coney, some aren't, most have protein but not all. They'd pack a lot easier than bottles. However, the advice to test drive any routine change for a few weeks stands.

ETA: It's worth mentioning that all of Lush's solid conditioners have SLS, which I think doesn't belong in a conditioner. YMMV.

April 28th, 2014, 09:17 AM
I spend a lot of time in rather rough conditions (sometimes w/o water) and backpacking. BS can be really harsh and shampoo bars can vary depending on water quality and don't do well in hard water. I think regular shampoo and condish and coconut oil are simplest -- you can also replace these easily while you are away. Just bun up and you'll be fine. Enjoy your trip!!

April 28th, 2014, 09:18 AM
If I were you I would plan on doing CO with whatever cheap conditioner I could find at little grocery stores along the way. Oktobergoud mentioned Lush r&b - and I would definitely recommend that! It comes in a teeny pot and you need almost nothing. I've had mine so long that it has technically expired but I've used not even half of it. It detangles my hair no matter what condition it's in, so it could really come in handy.

Experiment this summer with some casual ways to tie up your hair so you don't have to think about in the fall - simple braid, buns, etc.

April 28th, 2014, 09:26 AM
When we have done extended backpacking trips I have always just used liquid castile soap very sparingly (1x/wk) and french braided every day. Yes it gets gunky but when you get back to civilization you can clarify and deep treat! I figure it can't be all that bad because my Grandfather said that when he was a kid that they only had bar soap to wash their hair with and it was fine. I guess you could always just try WO also, maybe even transition before the trip since you have some time.

April 28th, 2014, 02:15 PM
Consider whether whatever you chose is biodegradable. If you are going to be off the beaten track, your waste water is not going to be processed in the same way as it is at home.

April 28th, 2014, 02:38 PM
Maybe I'm missing something but why take coconut oil from West Coast Canada to South East Asia? I always use travel to Asia as an opportunity to buy oils locally. Coconut oil is very cheap and abundant there.

I recommend bringing S&D scissors, dry shampoo, and maybe any holy grail products that you may not find locally.

April 28th, 2014, 03:33 PM
When I did a backpacking trip in Europe I just bought cheap shampoo and conditioner locally. I had little toiletry bottles so if I didn't have room to pack the whole bottle I just decanted a bit into the little bottles and tossed the rest. Not the most efficient, but it meant I wasn't losing lots of space to full bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I didn't bring my normal leave-ins and things, and just kept my hair braided/bunned most of the time. It was nice to just not worry about it at all for a few months.

Beatnik Guy
April 28th, 2014, 04:47 PM
Hello LHC
So in September I am gong to be leaving chilly, wet west coast Canada and will be backpacking South East Asia until early December.

Where in South East Asia are you planning to go? :D
It's really an awesome part of the world.