How to Tame Your Hair on River Trips

5 Min. Read

It’s no secret that multi-day rafting trips take you far away from hot water, faucets, and any kind of hair regiment you might rely on daily. But the lack of a proper shower and your full roster of hair products, doesn’t mean you have to completely give up on caring for your locks while you’re on the river. Here are a few tricks and tips to help you tame your mane…

Hair Care Tips for Rafting Trips

How to Care for Your Hair on River Trips

Greasy Hair Fixes

We all have different hair types and have to care for them differently. If your hair is prone to turning into a slick, oily helmet when left unwashed, Dr. Bronner’s will become your new best friend. Dr. Bronner’s is an eco-friendly soap revered and loved by most outdoorsmen and women. It is best to dilute it with water before using it on your hair but you can also put a couple of dabs right on your scalp, wet your hair, and then give your head a good scrub.

Castille soap has a tendency to dry out your skin and hair, which is great if you’re a natural grease ball. Avoid using it on the ends of your hair to prevent dryness and breakage. Additionally, beware of using it too often and stripping your hair of its natural oils. If you don’t have any Dr. Bronner’s, a small amount of dish soap will do the job just as well.

Dry Hair Care

If your hair is the opposite of greasy and soaks up the slightest bit of hydration, the wind and sun are not going to work in your favor. A river-friendly hair care product to keep in your toiletry bag is a small jar of coconut oil. You may feel driven to pack along some leave-in conditioner but the chemicals in hair products are harmful to the plants and wildlife that call the river home.

Rubbing coconut oil on your hair a couple of inches away from your roots down into your ends will keep your hair moisturized throughout your trip. Coconut oil does turn to liquid in the heat, so be sure to put in a container that won’t leak in your dry bag once stowed away. The oil you choose to use doesn’t have to be coconut based although coconut oil is high in vitamin E. Olive, avocado, or argan oil are all great options too. Just don’t let the cook catch you stealing it from the kitchen box.

Best Hair Style for Rafting Trips: The Classic Braid

River Hairstyles

While messy buns are an easy way to keep your hair away from your face while on the river, they may cause you tears when you get back to camp. The wind will cause your hair to get tangled and getting your hair tie out could be met with a lot of curse words and foot-stomping.

A tried and true river hairstyle is the braid and particularly valuable for reducing knots and dreads for curly or kinky-haired rafters. There are so many different kinds of braids that you can try but a simple braid topped with a trucker cap is a solid go-to. A well-done braid(s) will stay in for a couple of days, reducing the need to comb or bother with your hair. You can even braid your hair around the snap band on your hat to be sure not to lose it if the wind picks up.

For some curls, after a dip in the river or a good hair wash, put on a headband or bandana like a crown on top of your wet hair. Pull your hair out and over to tuck it in the top side of the headband. Once you’ve made it all around your head, you will look like a Greek god. You can sport that look until your hair dries, or even sleep in it. Take the headband or bandana out to let your lovely curls flow.

How to Tame Your Hair on Rafting Trips

Hair Care Pro Tips

  • Whether you have long or short hair, a hat, bandana or headband is your secret weapon. Not only will it help manage flyaway hair on windy days, or provide sun protection, but it’s the easiest way to hide from a bad hair day all together.
  • Fresh spring water tributaries will leave your hair cleaner feeling than the river because they usually carry less sediment that can weigh your hair down. If you’re in camp, fill a solar shower with the fresh water, let it heat up and then enjoy a warm rinse and hair scrub at least 200-feet from the water source. Alternatively, wet your hair in the tributary before lathering up and rinsing with a bucket of water away from the spring. Either way, be careful to use only eco-friendly soaps and cleansers to protect this valuable resource for the other wildlife that depend on it for drinking water.
  • Put sunscreen on your hair part, if you have one, and switch up which side you part it on each day. It will balance out the sun exposure and greasiness from the sunscreen.
  • Hair ties. Always bring lots of extra hair ties.

When in doubt, let your hair be free and do its thing. You can always deal with it when you get home.


Whitney Chandler

Whitney Chandler is a freelance writer and marketeer for topics and organizations that share her passion of the outdoors, adrenaline sports and conservation.

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