7 Tips for Cleaning Camping Cookware in the Backcountry

Some people have a hard enough time washing dirty pots and pans at home, let alone out in the backcountry. Cleaning camping cookware while on the trail comes with a number of unique challenges. Here are a few tips to help you keep those pots, pans, and dishes clean while backpacking or camping.

1. Don’t clean dishes directly in water sources

Cleaning your cookware directly in a stream or river may seem convenient, but it contaminates water sources. This can affect the organisms in and around these water sources.

Always wash dishes and camping cookware at least 200 feet away from a water source. It’s tedious to do it right – walking back and forth between water and where you clean your cookware – but it’s the responsible thing to do.

2. Dig a hole

When doing dishes on the trail or in the backcountry you should always dig a hole for the dirty water. These holes, known as catholes or sumps, should be 6 to 8 inches deep.

Burying water in these holes helps break down dirty or soapy water, and is also makes it more difficult for animals to come across.

3. Minimize dirty dishes

Consider cooking and eating in the same pot to reduce the amount of dirty dishes you create.

You can eat some foods, such as instant oatmeal or dehydrated backpacking meals, directly from the packaging, further eliminating clean up.

4. Bring wipes or a scouring pad

Having a wipe, rag, sponge, or scouring pad helps remove stuck on food. You should already have a resealable bag or container for trash, but consider bringing an extra one for your cleaning instruments.

5. Use dirt to clean your cookware

Dirt helps absorb oils and food particles, making cleaning much easier. Make sure that there aren’t any rocks that might scratch your camping cookware, and avoid using dirt on cookware that scratches easily.

Again, dig a hole at least 6 inches deep to bury the used dirt.

6. Bring biodegradable soap

Biodegradable soap is better than using other types of soap, but that doesn’t give you license to dump your suds anywhere you please. There’s no soap out there that’s OK to dump in nature.

Biodegradable camp soap is better, but be sure to pour any dirty or soapy water into a hole.

7. Clean is a relative term in the backcountry

Accepting that your camping cookware is “clean enough” can help immensely. Do your best to clean your dishes and utensils, but know that you can’t always get that deep clean like you can at home.

Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters for camping cookware, backpacking stoves, dehydrated hiking meals, and any other outdoor gear you need before your next outing!

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