Cloth Diapering in the Great Outdoors

Cloth Diapering in the Great Outdoors

Oh... The Great Outdoors!

There are so many wonderful things about camping with your little ones with you; exploring, discovering and playing.  The first time that they catch a fish, see a butterfly or go swimming in a stream are magical moments.  The last thing that I worried about as a parent camping was diapering, let alone washing the diapers.

To be honest, my wife and I have been fair-weather campers (at least until our kids get older), but we still enjoy the Great Outdoors.  Our past year has been mostly in camp grounds with the basics in plumbing and little else.  We knew when we started cloth diapering we didn't want anything to stand in our way, not even the lack of running water to wash.

There are many ways that camping with cloth diapers can be tackled. We hope that you can take a little from what we learned to make your experiences that much better.

Option One: Pack enough diapers to make it through without having to wash.

Pack enough diapers / wipes and wet bag to make it through the trip.  You will need to know how many times you baby goes to bathroom and make sure to pack at least a couple extra diapers per day.

This is great if have enough diapers, or if you are taking an overnight trip.  Chances are, this is not the most practical option.  There are always unforeseen problems and it is always better to go in with a Plan "B".  We have done this before in a hotel in NYC and realized about 3/4 of the way through the weekend that there was no laundry, which is why familiarity with hand washing is important...

Option Two: Hand washing diapers in a toilet, sink or bucket, with access to running water.

You find yourself in a location with current plumbing, but no laundry.  If you are a cloth diapering parent, these are the basics that you should know.  It is always handy to have an idea of what it takes to hand wash your diapers in a sink or toilet if the situation arises.

  • There are a couple things to remember... get the solids off first and you don't have to use as much detergent per diaper.   If you are washing them all in the sink or a bucket together, use about the regular amount of detergent. and be sure to rinse a couple times.  There are some great ways to use a home made camp washer for your diapers, a quick YouTube search of Camp Washers Cloth Diapers will bring up some great tutorials.
  • This is tricky, you will need a place to hang dry the diapers, and be sure to give yourself enough time for them to dry.  This works best if you break your stash in half and know that once  1/2 has been used, it is time to wash and dry.

We have done this as well, even forgotten our stash completely and used kitchen towels found at the closest Mom & Pop Hardware store (1 cover and 10 towels over 3 days).  We did have to clean a couple of diapers every 3-6 hours, but I wasn't going to let the situation ruin my weekend out with the family :-)

Backup Plan: Cleaning diapers with no running water in the great outdoors.

You will need some form of bucket or wet-bag (waterproof), a good eco-friendly (stream and river safe) detergent and some form of water (safe natural or bottled).  There are a ton of steps, but being out in the wild comes some responsibility as well.

  • Dig a hole far from your camp or near a "bathroom" area to scrape the solids off into, this hole will be covered when finished.
  • Place all of the dirty diapers into the bucket or bag and fill with water & soap and agitate thoroughly.  You will want to use the container to rinse the diapers in as well, so make sure that you ration your water accordingly.
  • Make sure to dump all waste water into hole that was previously dug as well.  We do not want to contaminate natural waters with the detergents or human waste.
  • Rinse the diapers with clean water, again agitating.
  • Cover the hole when finished or at the end of each day, depending on how long you are out.
  • To dry the diapers hang on a line or on a nice sturdy tree branch.
  • Just like above, you will want to make sure that there enough diapers to make it through the drying time.  Depending on your total number of diapers, cutting the stash in half has always proven to be the best method.

We have yet to try this method personally, but have talked to families that have.  It is the most labor intensive, but what is easy when camping?

I know that this may seem a little overwhelming, as it seemed to me.  But, being a guy, well the guy that I am, I wasn't going to fail.  We actually used a camp fire to help speed up the drying time, but just be careful not to get the diapers too close. This could end a wonderful trip quickly. :)

If anything, I hope that you take away that cloth diapering isn't just an option while in the comforts of your home. These methods can be used on any get-away, not just camping.

- Josh Fox, Central New York Real Diaper Circle Leader

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