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How To Do Your Hair While Backpacking


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Peg Ogrady



When you’re backpacking, you don’t often have access to the comforts and conveniences of your everyday life. One aspect that is often overlooked is hair care and styling while on the go. However, just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t look and feel your best!


Keeping your hair well-groomed and styled can greatly enhance your confidence and overall travel experience. Plus, with the right tips and tricks, you can maintain beautiful hair even while on the wildest adventures.


In this article, we will provide you with practical and easy-to-follow tips on how to do your hair while backpacking. Whether you’re trekking through the mountains, exploring bustling cities, or lounging on sandy beaches, you’ll have hair that looks great and stays manageable throughout your journey.


From choosing the right hairstyle to suit your travel activities to dealing with greasy hair and providing the essential hair tools and products to pack, we’ll cover it all. Additionally, we’ll provide specific styling and hair care tips for different hair types, as well as how to protect your hair from environmental factors.


So, whether you have long locks, short hair, curly tresses, or straight strands, get ready to discover the secrets to perfect hair while backpacking. Let’s dive in and learn how to keep your hair looking fabulous no matter where your travel adventures take you!


Choosing the Right Hairstyle

When it comes to choosing the right hairstyle for backpacking, there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost, think about the activities you’ll be participating in during your trip. Will you be hiking, swimming, or engaging in other outdoor adventures? Or will you be exploring cities and attending social events? The type of activities you’ll be doing will determine the most practical and stylish hairstyle for you.


If you’ll be engaging in active pursuits, such as hiking or swimming, it’s best to opt for a hairstyle that is easy to manage and won’t get in your way. For women, a ponytail or a bun is a classic choice that keeps the hair off your face and neck. You can even add a stylish twist to a simple ponytail by braiding a small section of hair and wrapping it around the hair tie for a chic look.


For men with longer hair, consider tying it back into a low ponytail or securing it with a headband. This will keep the hair in place and prevent it from becoming a distraction during your activities.


If you’ll be spending more time in urban areas and want a more polished look, it’s worth considering a hairstyle that is both stylish and low-maintenance. A short haircut like a bob or a pixie cut can offer a trendy and hassle-free option. Men can go for a clean-cut buzz or a stylish fade that requires minimal upkeep.


Remember, the key is to choose a hairstyle that suits your personal style while also being practical for your travel activities. By opting for a hairstyle that is easy to maintain and suits your needs, you’ll save time and effort while still looking great on your backpacking adventure.


Essential Hair Tools and Products to Pack

When packing for your backpacking trip, it’s important to include a few essential hair tools and products to help you maintain your desired hairstyle. While you may not be able to bring your entire vanity with you, here are some must-have items to consider:

  1. Hairbrush or Comb: Pack a compact hairbrush or comb to keep your hair untangled and neat. Look for a brush with flexible bristles that won’t cause breakage or damage to your hair.
  2. Travel-sized Shampoo and Conditioner: Opt for small bottles or travel-sized packets of shampoo and conditioner. These are not only lightweight but also TSA-friendly if you’re flying.
  3. Dry Shampoo: A true lifesaver when you don’t have access to regular showers, dry shampoo helps absorb excess oil and refresh your hair in between washes. Look for travel-sized versions or transfer some into a small spray bottle.
  4. Hair Ties and Clips: Pack a handful of hair ties, bobby pins, and hair clips to style your hair and keep it off your face.
  5. Mini Hair Dryer: If you prefer using a hair dryer, consider investing in a compact, travel-sized version. Look for one that is dual voltage, so you can use it internationally with the right adapter.
  6. Heat Protectant Spray: If you plan on using hot tools like a curling iron or straightener, pack a heat protectant spray to minimize damage and keep your hair looking healthy.
  7. Leave-In Conditioner or Hair Oil: To keep your hair moisturized and nourished, pack a small bottle of leave-in conditioner or hair oil. This will help combat the dryness that can occur during long hikes or exposure to sun and wind.
  8. Hair Accessories: Don’t forget to pack some fun hair accessories like headbands, scarves, or hairpins. These can add flair to your hairstyles and help you change up your look easily.
  9. Travel-sized Hair Styling Products: If you have specific hair styling products you love, consider transferring them into travel-sized containers to save space and adhere to liquid restrictions if necessary.

Remember to pack these items in a waterproof or resealable bag to protect them from spills and leaks. By having these essential hair tools and products with you, you’ll be equipped to maintain your hairstyle and keep your hair looking fabulous throughout your backpacking journey.


Quick and Easy Hairstyles for Backpacking

When you’re on the go, you’ll want hairstyles that are quick, easy, and require minimal effort. Here are a few hairstyles that are perfect for backpacking:

  1. Messy Bun: The messy bun is a classic go-to style that works well for both short and long hair. Simply gather your hair into a high or low ponytail, twist it, and wrap it around the base, securing with bobby pins. Don’t worry about making it perfect; embrace the effortless, tousled look.
  2. Ponytail with a Twist: Add a twist to your regular ponytail by braiding a small section of hair before securing it with a hair tie. This adds a touch of elegance to a simple hairstyle.
  3. Half-Up Half-Down: For a cute and practical hairstyle, take a small section of hair from the front, twist it, and secure it at the back of your head with a clip or bobby pins. Leaving the rest of your hair down gives a relaxed and effortless vibe.
  4. Fishtail or French Braid: Braids are not only stylish but also help keep your hair secure and tangle-free. Practice a simple fishtail or French braid before your trip, and you’ll have a versatile hairstyle that can be worn during any activity.
  5. Top Knot: Perfect for those hot days or when you want your hair completely out of your face, the top knot is achieved by gathering your hair into a high ponytail and twisting it into a bun on top of your head. Use a hair tie or bobby pins to secure it.
  6. Twisted Headband: If you want to add a touch of bohemian style to your look, use a thin headband to create a twisted headband hairstyle. Take a section of hair from one side of your head, twist it, and secure it at the back with bobby pins, hiding the ends under the rest of your hair. Then, add the headband for a chic finishing touch.

Remember to pack extra hair ties, bobby pins, and hair clips to help secure your hairstyles and keep them in place throughout your adventures. With these quick and easy hairstyles, you’ll be able to look put-together in no time, allowing you to fully enjoy your backpacking journey.


Braided Hairstyles for Active Days

When you’re participating in active outdoor activities during your backpacking trip, it’s important to choose hairstyles that will keep your hair secure and out of your face. Braided hairstyles are not only practical but also stylish. Here are a few braided hairstyles to consider for your active days:

  1. Sporty French Braid: The French braid is a classic hairstyle that keeps your hair neat and secure. Start by dividing your hair into three sections at the top of your head. Begin braiding by crossing the side sections over the middle section, adding more sections of hair as you continue down towards the nape of your neck. Secure the braid with a hair tie.
  2. Dutch Braids: Dutch braids are similar to French braids but with the hair strands crossed under each other instead of over. This creates a raised, 3D effect. Dutch braids work well for longer hair and can be done as a single braid or in double Dutch braids along each side of the head.
  3. Fishtail Braid: The fishtail braid is a trendy and intricate-looking hairstyle that is surprisingly easy to achieve. Divide your hair into two sections. Take a small strand of hair from the outer edge of one section and cross it over to the inside of the opposite section. Repeat this process, alternating sides, until you reach the end of your hair. Secure the braid with a hair tie.
  4. French/Dutch Braid Hybrid: This hairstyle combines elements of the French and Dutch braid for a unique look. Start with a French braid at the top of your head, then switch to a Dutch braid once you reach the nape of your neck. This creates a lovely transition from a tight braid to a looser one.
  5. Waterfall Braid: The waterfall braid is a romantic and whimsical hairstyle that gives the illusion of strands of hair cascading down. Start with a small section of hair at the top of one side of your head. Braid it by crossing sections of hair over and dropping the bottom section each time. As you continue, pick up new sections of hair and drop the old ones, creating a waterfall effect. Secure the braid with a hair tie.

These braided hairstyles are not only functional but also versatile. You can wear them during hikes, bike rides, or any other physical activities you may encounter during your backpacking trip. Be sure to practice these braids before your trip to familiarize yourself with the technique and make the styling process easier when you’re on the go.


Low-Maintenance Hairstyles for Long Trips

During long backpacking trips, you’ll want hairstyles that are not only easy to manage but also require minimal styling and maintenance. Here are some low-maintenance hairstyles that are perfect for those extended adventures:

  1. Messy Waves: Embrace your natural texture and opt for loose, effortless waves. Scrunch your hair when it’s damp and let it air dry for a relaxed, beachy look. Alternatively, you can also use a salt spray or texturizing spray to enhance the waves.
  2. Headscarf or Bandana: When you’re short on time or simply want to change up your look, using a headscarf or bandana as a hair accessory can add style and low-maintenance flair. Tie it around your head as a headband or use it to cover your hair entirely for a bohemian-inspired look.
  3. Low Ponytail: The low ponytail is a simple and classic hairstyle that keeps the hair off your face and neck. Opt for a sleek and polished look by using a bit of gel or hairspray to tame any flyaways. Alternatively, go for a relaxed and carefree vibe by intentionally leaving a few strands loose around your face.
  4. Bun or Top Knot: When you want an effortless and chic hairstyle, consider wearing a bun or top knot. Whether you choose a messy bun or a sleek top knot, this style instantly elevates your look while requiring minimal effort.
  5. Braided Crown: This hairstyle is perfect for when you want to keep your hair out of the way while still looking stylish. Separate your hair into two sections and braid each section. Then, wrap one braid around the crown of your head and secure it with bobby pins. Repeat the same step with the other braid, crossing it over the first one.
  6. Hat or Cap: When all else fails or you’re simply not in the mood to style your hair, reach for a hat or cap to instantly elevate your look while keeping your hair hidden and protected from the elements.

These low-maintenance hairstyles allow you to spend more time enjoying your journey and less time fussing over your hair. They are perfect for long trips when you may not have regular access to showers or styling tools. With these simple yet stylish options, you’ll always look put-together while embarking on your backpacking adventure.


Dealing with Greasy Hair on the Go

Greasy hair can be a common issue while backpacking, especially when your regular hair washing routine is disrupted. Here are some tips on how to manage and freshen up greasy hair while on the go:

  1. Dry Shampoo: Dry shampoo is a backpacker’s best friend when it comes to combating greasy hair. It helps absorb excess oil and adds volume to your hair. Pack a travel-sized dry shampoo and apply it to the roots of your hair, then massage it in and brush out any residue.
  2. Cornstarch or Baby Powder: If you don’t have dry shampoo on hand, you can use cornstarch or talcum-free baby powder as an alternative. Sprinkle a small amount onto your roots and distribute it evenly with your fingers or a brush. Be sure to brush out any excess powder to avoid a white cast.
  3. Ponytail or Bun: When greasy hair becomes too difficult to manage, tying your hair back into a ponytail or bun can help disguise the issue. Use a stylish scrunchie or a cute hair accessory to elevate the look.
  4. Hats and Headbands: Another great way to hide greasy hair is by wearing a hat or headband. Not only will these accessories cover up the grease, but they also protect your hair from the sun and keep it away from your face.
  5. Wet Wipes or Face Cleansing Pads: In a pinch, you can use wet wipes or face cleansing pads to gently wipe away excess oil from your scalp. This can help freshen up your hair and provide temporary relief from greasiness.
  6. Braided Hairstyles: Braids can be a lifesaver when dealing with greasy hair. Incorporate braids into your hairstyle to help disguise any oiliness and add a touch of elegance to your look.
  7. Wash Your Hair: If you have access to water and a shampoo, make sure to wash your hair whenever possible. Even a quick rinse can make a significant difference in refreshing your hair and removing excess oil.
  8. Avoid Over-Touching: Constantly touching your hair can transfer oils from your hands to your hair, making it appear greasier. Try to resist the temptation to run your fingers through your hair and avoid excessive brushing, which can stimulate oil production.

Remember that greasy hair is a natural occurrence, especially when traveling. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t achieve perfectly clean hair every day. Embrace the natural oils and use these tips to manage and freshen up your hair while on the go. The most important thing is to enjoy your backpacking adventure with confidence and style!


Styling Tips for Different Hair Types

Each hair type comes with its own unique challenges and styling needs. Here are some tips to help you style and manage your hair while backpacking, based on different hair types:

Straight Hair:

Straight hair tends to get oily quickly, so dry shampoo or powder can be your best friend. Apply it to the roots to absorbs excess oil and add volume. Experiment with different hairstyles like half-up half-down, messy buns, or loose waves for some added texture and volume.

Curly Hair:

Curly hair requires moisture and hydration to prevent frizz and maintain its shape. Pack a leave-in conditioner or hair oil to keep your curls moisturized. Embrace your natural texture and go for hairstyles like braids, buns, or pineapple updos to keep your curls defined and tangle-free.

Wavy Hair:

Wavy hair can benefit from a salt spray or texturizing spray to enhance its natural waves. Scrunch your hair with your hands while it’s damp to encourage and enhance the waviness. Opt for loose braids, beachy waves, or low messy buns to embrace the carefree and effortless vibe of wavy hair.

Thick Hair:

For those with thick hair, it’s important to keep your hair well-moisturized and reduce frizz. Use a detangling spray or leave-in conditioner to manage and soften your hair. Opt for updos like high ponytails, top knots, or braided buns to keep your hair off your neck and shoulders during hot and humid weather.

Thin or Fine Hair:

For those with thin or fine hair, adding volume and texture is key. Use a volumizing spray or mousse at the roots to add lift and create the illusion of thicker hair. Backcombing or teasing the hair at the crown can also help add instant volume. Hairstyles like messy buns, half-up half-down, or sleek low ponytails are perfect for adding the appearance of thickness and fullness.


Remember, these are general tips for different hair types, and your hair may have specific needs. Experiment with different products, styles, and techniques to find what works best for you and your hair while backpacking. Embrace your natural hair type and have fun exploring different hairstyles that suit your unique style and travel adventures!


Protecting Your Hair from Environmental Factors

When backpacking, your hair may be exposed to various environmental factors that can cause damage and dryness. Here are some tips to protect your hair from these elements:

Sun Protection:

The sun’s harmful UV rays can damage your hair and cause it to become dry and brittle. Wear a hat or a scarf to protect your hair and scalp from direct sunlight. Look for hats or scarves with a wide brim to provide maximum coverage. You can also use a hair sunscreen spray or a leave-in conditioner with UV protection to shield your hair from the sun’s damaging effects.

Wind Protection:

Strong winds can tangle and knot your hair, leading to breakage and damage. To protect your hair from the wind, tie it back in a braid, bun, or secure it with a headband or hair clips. Applying a small amount of leave-in conditioner or a lightweight hair oil can also help add a protective barrier and prevent wind-induced frizz.

Water Protection:

Whether you’re swimming in the ocean, a pool, or hiking in rainy weather, water can have adverse effects on your hair. Before getting into the water, wet your hair with clean tap water or apply a leave-in conditioner. This helps reduce the absorption of salty or chlorinated water, which can cause drying and damage. After swimming or getting wet, rinse your hair thoroughly with fresh water to remove any chemical or salt residue.

Heat Protection:

If you’ll be using hot styling tools like curling irons or straighteners, be sure to use a heat protectant spray or serum. Heat protectants create a barrier between your hair and the heat, preventing heat damage and breakage. Apply the protectant to your hair before using any hot tools and always use the lowest heat setting possible.

Moisture Protection:

Environmental factors like dry climates or air-conditioned environments can strip your hair of moisture, leaving it dry and prone to breakage. To combat this, pack a hydrating hair mask or deep conditioner and use it once a week to replenish moisture. Additionally, consider using a leave-in conditioner or hair oil to keep your hair hydrated throughout your backpacking trip.


By taking these protective measures, you can minimize the potential damage to your hair caused by environmental factors. Keep in mind that prevention is key, so be proactive in protecting your hair from the elements to maintain its health and vitality throughout your journey.


Hair Care Tips for Backpackers

While backpacking, it’s important to prioritize hair care to keep your locks healthy and manageable. Here are some essential hair care tips to follow during your backpacking adventure:

Keep Hydrated:

Staying hydrated is not only important for your overall health but also for the health of your hair. Drink plenty of water to keep your scalp and hair follicles hydrated from the inside out. This helps maintain the natural moisture balance of your hair, preventing dryness and brittleness.

Limit Hair Washing:

Due to limited access to showers and the drying effects of some water sources, minimize the frequency of washing your hair. Over-washing can strip your hair of its natural oils, causing dryness and frizz. Aim to wash your hair every few days or as needed, and consider using dry shampoo in between washes to refresh your hair.

Use a Gentle Shampoo:

Choose a gentle and clarifying shampoo that removes build-up without stripping your hair. Look for sulfate-free formulas that are suitable for all hair types. Avoid using hotel or communal hair products, as they may contain harsh ingredients that can further dry out your hair.

Condition and Nourish:

Conditioning is essential to keep your hair moisturized and prevent tangles and breakage. Pack a nourishing conditioner and apply it to the mid-lengths and ends of your hair. Leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Additionally, incorporate a weekly hair mask or deep conditioning treatment to replenish moisture and repair any damage caused by environmental factors.

Comb and Detangle:

Use a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush to gently comb through your hair. Start from the ends and work your way up to avoid unnecessary breakage. This will help remove tangles and ensure even distribution of products throughout your hair.

Protect Your Hair at Night:

Before going to bed, tie your hair back in a loose braid or a satin/silk scarf to prevent friction and tangling while you sleep. This helps maintain your hairstyle and protects your hair from excessive breakage.

Trim Regularly:

Regular trims are essential for maintaining healthy hair, even while backpacking. Trimming your hair every 8-12 weeks helps remove split ends and keeps your hair looking fresh and vibrant.

Stay Mindful of Environmental Factors:

Be aware of the environmental factors that can affect your hair, such as exposure to sun, wind, saltwater, or chlorine. Take precautions to protect your hair from these elements by wearing hats, using UV protection products, and rinsing your hair thoroughly after swimming or exposure to chemicals.


By following these hair care tips, you can keep your hair healthy and manageable throughout your backpacking adventure. Remember, caring for your hair not only enhances its appearance but also contributes to your overall well-being and confidence on your journey.



Having great hair while backpacking is not an impossible task. With the right knowledge and a few handy tips, you can maintain stylish, healthy hair throughout your journey. By choosing the right hairstyle for your activities, packing essential hair tools and products, and following proper hair care and styling techniques, you can look and feel your best while on the go.


Remember to adapt your hair care routine to your specific hair type and the environmental factors you’ll encounter during your travels. Be mindful of protecting your hair from the sun, wind, water, and excessive heat. Pack versatile hairstyles that are quick and easy to achieve, such as messy buns, braids, and low-maintenance updos. And don’t forget the importance of hydration, both for your body and for your hair.


Whether you have straight, curly, wavy, thick, thin, or fine hair, there are styling options and tips to suit your needs. Embrace your natural beauty and work with your hair’s unique qualities to create effortless and stunning looks on your backpacking adventure.


So, get ready to explore the world with fantastic hair! With these travel hair tips in mind, you’ll look and feel confident while embarking on your backpacking journey. Remember, your hair is an expression of yourself, and by taking care of it, you’ll not only enhance your appearance but also boost your overall travel experience.