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camping with a new tattoo

If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, you’re probably going to have tons of questions about what you can and can’t do after your appointment. Well, when it comes to camping and hiking, I can help you out!

You can go camping or hiking after getting a new tattoo, but you’ll want to wait a couple of weeks before doing anything too strenuous. Excess sweat can lead to infection in your tattoo site, and if your tattoo is on your shoulders, your backpack could rub it painfully. 

When I got my first tattoo, I was back on the trails within a couple of days. I didn’t have any adverse effects, but I’d advise you to get your tattoo at a time when you don’t have any outdoor adventures lined up, if possible. 

If, like me, you just can’t bear to wait before exploring nature again, this article will give you some tips for looking after your ink in the great outdoors.

Camping and Hiking With a New Tattoo 

In an ideal world, you’d give your tattoo a month to heal before doing any strenuous exercise. But, realistically, I know you aren’t going to give up a whole month of summer camping adventures just because of your ink, especially if your tattoo is tiny. 

Ink Disruption 

The good news is that camping and hiking aren’t as strenuous as working out at the gym, so there is a bit more wiggle room. 

But if your scabs get pulled off while you’re hiking, some of the ink is probably going to get messed up.

That’s why you need to be especially careful if your backpack will be rubbing against your tattoo. 

I wouldn’t worry about hiking if my tattoo was on my calf but I would think carefully if it was on my back or hips. 


You need to stay out of lakes and rivers for a good two weeks after getting your tattoo. So, no wild swimming on your next camping trip!

It’s normal for natural bodies of water to have bacteria, and that’s usually fine. But if bacteria gets in your tattoo, it could get infected. 

An infected tattoo will get swollen and raised. It’ll be pink and sore, and pus might come out of it. If this happens, you’ll need medical advice


It’s also important to keep tattoos out of direct sunlight. You can’t put sunblock on them until they are fully healed. 

If you don’t protect your tattoos from the sun, they will fade quickly. Of course, you can get them touched up, but save yourself the money and hassle by preventing them from fading in the first place. 

Taking Care of Your Tattoo While Camping and Hiking

Once you’ve let your tattoo heal properly, there’s no reason why you can’t go camping and hiking. (And if you absolutely can’t wait for it to heal, there are still some things you can do to prevent infection.)

Here are some things you can do to take care of your tattoo when you’re in the great outdoors:

Keep It Clean

If your tattoo is still healing, you need to make sure that dirt or pollen doesn’t get in it. I would advise that you cover it with clean, dry gauze and medical tape.

You’ll need to take this off to clean and moisturize your tattoo according to the artist’s instructions, so be sure to set aside plenty of clean dressings. 

Wear Loose Clothing 

You don’t want to wear tight clothing after getting a tattoo. (Of course, you can eventually, just not for the first three weeks!) I’d recommend a baggy T-shirt and loose jogging bottoms for a hiking trip after getting a tattoo. Yoga pants would be too tight. 

Keep It Covered 

Wear clothing that covers your tattoo, even if the weather is hot. For example, my husband has tattoos all over his arms, so he wears a thin, long-sleeved shirt when we are hiking. 

Wear Sunscreen

If your tattoo will get exposed to the sun, make sure to wear a strong sunblock over it. Don’t do this until a month has passed, or the sunblock could irritate the tattoo site. 

Final Thoughts 

I wrote this article from my own experience of being a tattooed camper. However, if you have any doubts, you really want to be talking to your tattoo artist. 

They will have far more knowledge and experience than I do, and they’ll be able to clarify any concerns that you might have. 

I hope you found this article helpful, and I wish you a speedy tattoo recovery so that you can get back to doing the things you love!

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Rachel Horne

Rachel is a freelance adventure writer and founder of Highly Sensitive Nomad. When she isn’t writing, she can be found wild camping in the mountains and swimming in the lakes of Europe.

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