Staying Clean in the Wild
Going camping and cleanliness seems to be almost opposite goals. After all, the very act of camping means going out into nature, living with the animals, subjecting yourself to the elements and cooking, eating and sleeping on the ground. Nonetheless, cleanliness throughout your campout experience is crucial both to the day in, day out life in camp and to your health and mental serenity throughout the time you are “roughing it”.
The actual challenge of camping is finding ways to have a good quality of life without many of he niceties that our modern lifestyle affords us. For the most part, few of us go camping because we have to. We camp for recreation and probably for relatively short periods of time. Nevertheless good hygiene and camp cleanliness is essential for everyone’s well being and to assure that you stay organized and go bed each night knowing you camped well.
As with anything that leads to your success in camping, preparation makes the difference. Part of being prepared for camping and making it possible for you to stay clean over several days in camp comes from knowing what to expect. So check the weather forecast for the area where you will be camping so that if there is rain predicted, you can come prepared to clean up some wet and muddy campers. But even if the forecast is clear and dry, it always pays to be prepared for any sudden change in the weather while camping. So there are some things you should always do for every campout to keep your camp site clean and your campers that way too.
Good camping gear can help you maintain some level of civilized cleanliness during the campout. A well sealed tent can keep water out so even if some dust and dirt gets inside, it won’t turn your tent interior into a mudslide. Also bring plenty of cleaning supplies to ripe down tables, clean up dirty tent floors and to clean up campers as well. Other than that, the best preparation is going to the camp site knowing full well that your camping crew is going to get dirty and being ready to clean them up for meals and bedtime.
During the camp day, your standards of cleanliness can be a bit more relaxed. After all, if the kids come back from the camp playground covered in dust but the next activity is a hike to the lake, just getting them to a basic health level of cleanliness such as clean faces and hands is probably sufficient. You can allow the dirt to become part of their uniforms of a camping family and just relax for a while and let them have fun.
Obviously in the camp site itself, cleanliness means keeping litter and trash picked up and put away in trash sacks. To keep the trash well isolated and secured, tie your trash sack to an elevated object such as a tent upright or a tree limb so everybody can find the current working trash bag and continue to add to it throughout the camping day and evening. But also stage periodic “policing” events to get the litter up from the camp site during the time when everybody is back in base camp. By the time you are ready to bed the crew down, the camp site should be clean and the trash taken away to discourage animals from investigating it in the night.
There is no reason to abandon basic hygiene while camping. Some camp grounds have bathrooms which may even have showers. But even if there are no showers available, each camper can go to the restroom area and take a hand towel, soak it in clean water and give themselves a sponge bath before changing into clean clothes before bed.
Cleaning up in this manner is crucial to the ongoing health and cleanliness of the camping experience. Be sure you pack plenty of clean changes of clothes for each camper. Everybody should sleep after washing off and changing into completely clean clothing. Wearing soiled clothing to bed, even if it is only soiled with sweat and body fluids makes those clothes less able to keep the camper warm in the night, can cause rashes as they sleep and can be a draw for insects or animals who smell those dirty things and know that they can find sleeping humans and where sleeping humans are they can often find food. So make sure everyone changes clothes before bed and that dirty clothes are bagged and stored away from the sleeping campers.
The essentials of changes of clothes and of shoes will make all the difference in maintaining a happy camp site over several days. Campers should know never to bring dirty or wet boots or shoes into their tents. Bring two or more changes of shoes so if they find the shoes they were wearing during the day are unacceptably filthy, they can have fresh shoes for the morning while their old shoes are cleaned and dried.
An ample supply of large trash bags will be your best defense in isolating and securing dirty items to be returned home for cleaning. Each camper should be supplied with a trash bag to dump their dirty clothes into. Then after camp is over, all bags of dirty items can be tied off and taken home to be cleaned properly in the laundry.
These basic cleanliness steps that you can think through before you ever pull out to go camping will make keeping a clean camp site organized and moving forward each day so much easier. It is a strategy that does not try to deny that camping brings people in contact with dirt. But it recognizes that getting dirty is part of the fun of camping and puts routines and resources in place that everyone can return to a base level of cleanliness each day at least sufficient to stay healthy and happy for the next day’s camping fun.