How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Creative cooking over a stove is one of the joys of outdoor adventure. What to do with the leftovers, food waste and dirty dishes—the gray water—is a different matter. That’s why we’ve put together these tips on how to wash dishes while camping and other ideas for keeping it clean in the backcountry.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

When you’re in a backcountry environment, eating all the food on your plate is one of the most basic steps toward reducing food waste and human impact on the environment. “The key thing to keep in mind is to smartly plan your meals in advance to reduce waste and minimize clean up,” says Ben Lawhon, education director for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The LNT center is the leading organization promoting responsible enjoyment of the outdoors; it provides science-based techniques for minimizing visitor impact on parks and protected areas. “Pre-planning such as cooking with one pot instead of using three pots for meals and preparing the right portion sizes will reduce waste and reduce the amount of dishes that need to be cleaned.”

Dirty dishes are often unavoidable so when it’s time to wash up, Leave No Trace recommends using methods that are appropriate for the environment you’re visiting in order to protect water sources and minimize the chance of providing food rewards to local wildlife that may alter their natural habits.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

3 Tips for washing dishes in the backcountry

You’re in the backcountry. You’ve eaten a meal. There’s a dirty bowl, a dirty spoon, and a dirty pot. Now what do you do?

1. Scrape It and Pack It

Scrape any remaining food from all dishes into the trash that you’ll be packing out. You can almost get a bowl entirely clean with a small spatula, a tool like the MSR Alpine Dish Brush, or a camp towel.

2. Heat It and Strain It

Heat filtered water over a stove. Take the water and dishes at least 200 feet from water sources—approximately 70 adult paces.

With a scrub pad or something similar, use the hot water to clean the dishes. If possible, collect the wash water, also known as gray water, into a single pot.

Strain the gray water into a single pot using mesh, a bandana or a plastic bag with straining holes cut in it to capture food residue. Dump the food residue into the trash that you’re planning to pack out.

Get rid of the gray water by digging a sump hole (6-8-inch-deep hole) and straining the water into the hole (recommended in bear country), or broadcast it around in multiple directions, scattering to ensure the liquid is spread over a wide area.

Location is key. Keep gray water 200’ away from water sources like streams, springs and lakes. Ridgelines and hills are good.

3. Consider ditching the soap

It’s a judgment call but soap may not always be necessary for short, small group outings according to Leave No Trace. When soap is necessary for larger groups or germy partners, choose biodegradable options but consider that even seemingly environmentally friendly soaps take a long time to completely dissipate. Avoid soaps with phosphates, which can be damaging. Most importantly, prevent soap from getting into water sources. The bacteria that break down soap exist primarily in soil, not water. Soap that enters the backcountry’s waterways can remain for years. And if you use soap, use the minimum amount needed to get the job done.

Posted on Last updated: August 16, 2021

Home » Camping Tips » Camping Dish Washing Tips

Worried that hand washing camping dishes is not getting them clean? Below we show you how to set up a proper camping dish washing station.

This post was sponsored content when originally published and has since been updated and moved here to Let’s Camp S’more.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

When we are camping, my husband does all the cooking and cleaning up afterward. I am not sure how it worked out that way, but I enjoy it. I do not want to be critical of how he does the camp dishwashing, but I worry that the dirty dishes are not getting properly cleaned. He also does the laundry with our DIY Washing Machine.

He uses boiling water to make sure it kills any germs, but then he burns his hands. I did some thinking about how we could avoid burned hands and make sure the dishes are clean, and I remembered the old scout way of doing dishes.

Camping Dish Washing The Right Way

The key to clean dishes is to use three three wash basins, biodegradable camping dish soap, and a disinfectant. We have detailed this process at the bottom of the post.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Cleaning Tips

A key in making dishes easier to clean is to scrap them as clean as possible right away. Use a rubber spatula to scrape food from dishes into a garbage container. Since friction is an excellent sanitizer (if not the best — surgeons scrub their hands) use a sponge and/or scrub brush repeatedly, especially on forks, spoons, cups, and glasses.

For greasy pans and dishes wipe out with newspaper and then spray with full-strength vinegar and allowed that to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, scrub and rinse, preferably in warm or hot water. For more cleaning power, use baking soda and vinegar together for an all-natural, inexpensive, and minimal environmental impact!

How to Dispose of Dishwater When Camping

It is important to properly dispose of the dirty water created from doing dishes. Many campgrounds have regulations on how they want you to get rid of this water. If no rules are posted, please check with the ranger or camp host.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Some parks have a utility sink marked for dishwater disposal. Please be mindful that doing dishes at that sink might not be allowed. If pouring the dirty water on the ground is allowed, please make sure it is at least 100 feet from a water source or body of water.

J une turned out to be our big camping month. We planned it that way because the days are cooler and there are fewer bugs than later in the season. This year, the weather was particularly gorgeous, and we happened to luck out on some pretty great sunshine, too.

Now if you’re not into camping, please know that this is probably the last post on the subject for the summer and we’ll soon be moving onto gardening and putting up food. If you are all about the great outdoors, though, then you’ll find this post handy for your next adventure.

We pack all reusable dishes when we go camping. Years ago we were gifted a Coleman Enamelware Dining Kit and it saves us having to buy paper and plastic each summer. I love how durable enamelware is and I’ve been building my collection now that it’s proven to be so useful both at home and away.

Using camping gear year round makes the investment more ‘green’; if you only camp once a year, I believe paper dishes would be a better environmental choice.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean camping dishes the easy way

I happen to like washing camp dishes. Give me a pretty view, dapple sunlight on the table and tune in the happy voices of children playing among the trees, and I am perfectly willing to clean up. Somehow it seems less of a chore then at home.

To pack:

Here’s what I bring for washing up on our campsite.

  • 1 large pot for hauling and boiling water
  • 1 large basin or plastic tub
  • Biodegradable camp soap
  • Sponge with a scratch pad or an old dishrag
  • Collapsable drying rack

Sometimes I’ll pack a dish towel, but I find I don’t use it enough to warrant the space. I like to keep my kitchen equipment pretty tight.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

The method:

  • Scrape. We encourage everyone to finish their meals, but there are always scraps like fish bones to dispose of responsibly. Scrape all excess food into a small garbage, which you should dispose of properly later. You don’t want to attract animals to your camp.
  • Soak. Unless you are cooking in foil, camping food often incurs really messy pots; food burns on the open fire or things bubble over and a good soak is needed. Rather than waste my time scrubbing, I leave the pots behind in a cold water soak while we hit the beach or the trail. When I get back, the food has had a chance to soften and the clean up goes much faster.
  • Hot Water Wash. Boil water in your largest pot and pour it into your wash basin together with plenty of biodegradable soap. Add enough cold water to make it cool enough to stand, then attack your dishes.
  • Drip-Dry. Dishes can air dry in mere minutes out in the breeze, so let them drain on the collapsable drying rack. A large mesh bag also works well (you can hang it from a tree limb) but I happened to have an old wooden rack from Ikea that needed a use.

And it’s as easy as that!

Now, who’s ready to go camping?

Cooking has always been Aimée’s preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars – Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping tripWash, rinse, sanitize.

With the three-step dishwashing system, you can finish camp dishes in no time. That means you’re back to having fun faster.

Here’s how to wash dishes at a campsite, courtesy of the Boy Scout Handbook (page 308).

What you’ll need

  • A dishwashing spot that’s at least 200 feet from any sources of water
  • Hot water (Pro tip: start heating your wash water before you sit down to eat)
  • Three plastic tubs
  • Biodegradable dish soap
  • A dish brush/scrubber or two
  • Hot tongs for dipping plates and spoons into the hot rinse
  • Bleach or sanitizing tablets
  • Ground cloth, towel, mesh bag or lightweight hammock for air-drying

Before you begin

Get your dishes as clean as you can before placing them into the wash pot. That way you won’t overwhelm Pot 1 with food particles.

Note: This may involve scraping and literally licking your plate clean. At Scout camp, this is perfectly acceptable behavior.

Pot 1: Wash pot

Add a few drops of biodegradable soap to hot water. Your instinct will be to use more soap than you actually need, so use sparingly.

Pot 2: Hot-rinse pot

Fill the pot with clear, hot water.

Pot 3: Cold-rinse pot

Place a few drops of bleach or a sanitizing tablet (like Steramine) into cold water.

After you’re done

  1. Hang or place utensils and dishes to dry
  2. Dispose of soapy wash water 200 feet from any water sources. Filter out food particles, and put those in a plastic bag to throw away. Then spread the water over a wide area.

Also worth noting

  • Minimizing dishwashing time starts with menu planning. Meals that use one pot and few food-prep utensils will leave less mess afterward.
  • Scouts should use as few dishes and utensils as possible. One bowl, one mug and one spork will be all you’ll need for most meals.
  • Here’s a look at the Boy Scout Handbook guidance on the subject:

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Now it’s your turn

So that’s how to wash dishes at a campsite. What tips or advice can you offer for campsite dishwashing?

This post was updated in December 2019 to reflect latest guidelines from the Boy Scout Handbook. Thank you to all the commenters for their feedback.

Photo via this site, where you can learn to make a holder for your dish tubs.

Welcome to our “Considerate Camper” series. These are posts with tips and reminders on how to keep our provincial parks clean and healthy. Already know how it’s done? Please share these posts along for less-experienced campers 🙂

When it comes to keeping your campsite neat and tidy, doing your dishes properly is key.

However, many campers struggle with how to effectively wash their dishes.

We get a lot of questions about this topic, so we’ve compiled all the tips and tricks on the best way to clean your dishes while camping.

What to bring

Cleaning up after a delicious camping meal is easy if you have the right equipment.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Here are some items to pack for dish washing:

  • a pot to boil water in
  • camp stove
  • collapsible camp sink or plastic tub/basin
  • biodegradable soap
  • wash cloth
  • scrubbing pad

Where to clean your dishes

Newbie campers sometimes think it’s okay to wash their dishes under water taps or in comfort stations — these are both big no-no’s.

Comfort stations aren’t meant for dish-washing. Water often ends up all over the counter and floors. This is a safety hazard to other campers, as well as a lot of work for park staff to mop up. Dish-washing in comfort stations can also create line-ups and frustrations for visitors who are just trying to use the facilities.

Washing at water taps creates many of the same problems, including line-ups and safety hazards. Your dishwater is also a wildlife attractant. The gunk from your dishes gets splashed on the ground, and can lead to animals — from racoons to bears — sniffing around. Splashes of dishwater can also contaminate the water taps themselves, which your fellow campers are using for drinking water.

How to clean your dishes

Always clean your dishes on your campsite using a basin, and dispose of the water responsibly.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Start by scraping all food residue off your dishes and into your garbage container / bag (don’t forget to dispose of your garbage properly too!).

Boil water, then mix in cold, potable water to create the hottest water you can safely tolerate for dish washing.

Pour the water into a basin or collapsible camp sink, and add your soap.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Biodegradable camping soap is often concentrated so
just a few drops will suffice.

Set cleaned (but soapy) dishes on a clean surface while you wash all of your dirty dishes.

When finished, rinse all of the dishes with clean, cool water, allowing the soapy residue to drip into the camp sink or basin.

What to do with the dirty dishwater?

When finished, it’s time to dispose of your “grey” water or soapy water.

(Remember: this water shouldn’t contain any food residue because you did a great job of scraping your dishes before washing them!)

You can safely dispose of it at the trailer sanitation station or by pouring it down the vault toilets (outhouses).

You’re done — great work!

By washing your dishes in an eco-ethical and responsible way, you are helping protect the parks we all love.

No one wants to eat out of a grubby bowl. But is there a way to keep your dishes clean on the trail?

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Stupid question time: What is the best way to wash camp dishes without hauling extra gear and wasting water? Do you have to boil/filter the water used for cleaning? Are dishes detergents bad for the environment? How do you dispose of dirty dish water? —Aaron, North Berwick, ME

Actually, Aaron, it’s not a stupid question at all. I’ve seen people do atrocious things to wild rivers and lakes—like jump in with a bottle of shampoo. And soap labels are often confusing—does biodegradable mean I can wash my dishes in the river? Here are the highlights of proper dishwashing (Got to Leave No Trace for lots more details.)

All dishwashing (and body washing) should be done 200 feet away from any water source, because we need to keep even biodegradable soap out of rivers, streams, and lakes. (Fish don’t groove on peppermint-scented suds.)

Only use soap if you need to (for really greasy pots or on long trips, when serious grime buildup is inevitable). For the most part, hot water and a scrubby sponge will do the trick. Boiling dishwater before doing dishes would be the safest way to make sure you’re not scrubbing your pots with Giardia. But as for me, 99% of the time, I’m content with just getting it hot enough to cut the grease. Your call.

After scrubbing, strain your dishwater through a fine mesh strainer (or a bandana) and broadcast the wastewater. In other words, fling it far and wide. Then pack out the food remnants in your garbage bag.

Looking for some camping cleaning tips? People go camping mostly to get away and to relax. The thought of spending a bunch of time scrubbing out pots and pans is a reminder that they haven’t gotten away from everything, and it’s a chore that isn’t relaxing. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be quite as much of a task as it would appear to be at first.

How to clean dishes on a camping tripThese are the best tips and tricks to clean while camping both the safest and most environmentally friendly way!

Looking for a fun activity? Check out this camping SVG bundle as a great option!

Camping Cleaning Tips

Here at Ruffles and Rain Boots, we love camping and everything that comes with it – except cleaning. But since we know that it’s part of the gig, we’ve found that having a few easy cleaning tips make it a much less painful process.

So, grab your favorite tent and let’s get started!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

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Running a bit short on time? I totally get that! If you want to come back later and read this, just pin it to your favorite camping or travel board on Pinterest so it’s ready when you are!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Camping Etiquette Cleaning Tips

Cleaning Stuck-On Foods

Part of the problem is that people are often not used to cooking over an open flame, whether that is over a campfire or a camp stove. Foods that are cooked on, stick to the metal of the pots and pans.

Even if the pots and pans are stainless steel, this makes the gunk hard to remove. It does little good in hindsight to realize that the meal should have been cooked a little cooler or stirred a bit more often, once the food is already cooked on.

Note that we aren’t talking about just oily pots and pans. Some water and dish soap can take care of that. The issue is the baked-on gunk.

Between stainless steel and cast iron, stainless is usually easier to clean. Fill the pot or pan with water, and sprinkle the burned-on spots with a liberal amount of salt. Allow it to sit for a half-hour to an hour, heat it up until the water is just hot enough you can get your hands in it, and the baked-on stuff should come off without much difficulty, using a regular scouring pad.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Do not do this with cast iron, though! Salt has a reaction to cast iron and can cause the rapid formation of rust.

With cast iron, fill the pot or pan with water, add a small amount of dish soap, and bring the water to a low boil. Allow the water to continue boiling for about a half-hour, then remove from the heat and let the water cool to the point where you can handle it. Again, the water loosens the baked-on food, making it much easier to scour the pot or pan.

If some of the food particles remain stubborn, you can also use a bit of sand from the shores of a lake, the banks of a stream or river, or from the beach, for extra scouring power. Just remember that sand is abrasive, so go easy.

You want to remove the cooked-on mess, you don’t want to remove a layer of metal in the process. It also isn’t a good idea to use sand on stainless steel or those pans that have non-stick surfaces, as this can cut into the metal or coating.

A final tip is to put water in the pot or pan as soon as it is empty. This helps prevent the food particles from drying even more, and it helps loosen what is already there.

These tips can also be used at home, though they are especially useful in the camp when you are trying to relax. They are far better than spending a good amount of time scrubbing out those pots and pans.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to Clean Plates

Over the years whenever we have gone camping the soap, which I know was packed, was conveniently lost and no one could ever find it during our family camping trips.

I don’t know whether the kids just hid it so they could get out of the dishwasher duties or it just didn’t get packed being conveniently put back into the kitchen sink cupboard. So throughout these years, we had to find an alternative solution to this problem.

The solution came to me by accident and now today I can recommend it to you all.

At washing time all you need to use is either sand or soil instead of soap on the dinner plates and it does work. It’s an amazing process and it gets the plates clean. Leftover salad dressing, tomato sauce, steak oil, all get removed once and for all using this method.

This is how it works: Everyone at the campground finishes their evening meal and then the plates are then collected and taken to the tap.

Once the person on duty to clean arrives at the tap area before the tap is turned on, they reach down and grab a handful of sand or dirt into one of their hands.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

The sand or dirt is then rubbed onto the dirty plates in a clockwise motion around the plate – do not add any water until the plate is full of sand or dirt. Once the plate has been completely covered please rinse this off immediately with tap water using your other clean hand to swirl any excess sand or dirt off the plate.

Since we discovered that using the environment to clean our plates at our camping trips we don’t take soap along with us anymore.

It’s environmentally friendly as the sand or dirt which you use gets washed right off the plates and goes back to where it originally came from and the plates are reused night after night.

I hope you all will try this just once the next time you go camping and it will all go towards helping save our planet even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Even More Camping Ideas

Getting in the camping mode is so much fun so here are some other camping tips and ideas!

  • Grilled Camping Recipes – Don’t miss out on these easy camping rcipes!
  • Backyard Camping Fun – You don’t have to travel far at all to have a camping experience.
  • 12 Camping Games to Play Around the Campfire– Bonding around the campfire is one of my favorite things to do.

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Your food will taste better, and you’ll stay healthier

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

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There are acceptable levels of grime I’m willing to put up with when cooking outdoors. For example, my buddies and I refer to our dishes and utensils as “river clean,” “hut clean,” or “camp clean,” depending on the trip. Basically, we let them remain pretty dirty. But that has also led to me contracting nasty infections like giardia, norovirus, and any number of (admittedly undiagnosed) South American bugs that I was never tested for but had powerful—ahem—gastrointestinal effects.

To glean some pointers on keeping a camp kitchen spick-and-span, I spoke with Marco Johnson, who’s been teaching wilderness skills and first aid as the field staffing director at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, Wyoming, since 1985.

Wash Your Hands

The most important step for staying healthy while cooking outdoors is something you should be using every day: hand soap. “The two best vectors for disease in the backcountry are your left hand and your right hand,” Johnson says. In NOLS courses, instructors issue soap and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer like Purell. They teach students to get in the habit of regularly washing their hands after going to the bathroom and before preparing food. “There has been a lot of talk in the past 30 years about waterborne illnesses,” Johnson says. “Yes, those things exist, but what a lot of people thought were waterborne illnesses were really unrelated issues associated with poor personal hygiene.”

Save the Soap for Your Hands, Not Your Dishes

“We don’t advocate cleaning dishes and utensils with soap,” Johnson says. “If you don’t rinse things well and clean off all the soap, you might end up ingesting it and upsetting your stomach anyway.”

Portion Carefully

As a best practice, cook only what you plan on eating, and finish everything. Leftovers can breed unseen bacteria that can stick around in the bowl or plate you kept them in.

Bring It to a Boil

“Bringing water to a rolling boil kills everything,” Johnson says. Boiling water in a pot will disinfect the pot itself; then, drop the utensils, cups, and other items that made contact with your food or mouth into the boiling water. “Scrubbing a greasy frying pan with warm water and a piece of pine branch you pick up off the ground is actually not a bad way to go before boiling the water” Johnson adds.

Keep Sick People out of the Kitchen

One of the reasons you’re washing dishes in the first place is to avoid sharing illnesses with each other. Keeping people who are coughing on their hands out of the food-prep space helps isolate those bugs. If the person is really excited to cook, be firm: There are plenty of other jobs around camp they can help with that won’t make the whole team sick.

Don’t Share

“We don’t advise sharing things like water bottles, utensils, or bowls,” Johnson says. No matter how thorough you are about cleaning after a meal, sharing your water bottle with a fellow team member is a direct path for bacteria and viruses.

Use Few Dishes

Washing dishes after a meal is a chore. But you’re more likely to clean if there’s a lighter load at the end—and fewer dishes means less weight in your pack. “For a three- or four-person group, we may just bring a four-quart pot and a frying pan, and we learn to be efficient,” Johnson says. He suggests planning meals around minimizing the number of dishes you use—like first making hot drinks or dehydrated meals that require only boiling water, and then simmering beans.

Make Dishwater Soup

Johnson suggests using water to scrub out the pot, and then bring that water to a boil and throw in a soup packet—like one from Knorr. “I am staying hydrated, made my hot water for my soup, and cleaned my pot all at the same time,” Johnson says. Just be sure to transfer the water to a bowl before adding the soup, since you don’t want to dirty the pot all over again.

Don’t Be Lazy

“Don’t get to the end of the meal and say, ‘Ah, this is mostly clean; I’ve scraped most everything out of here,’” Johnson says. While the extra four minutes to clean might seem unbearable at the end of a long day in the backcountry, just think about the alternative. “If you don’t have good hygiene, you’re going to get sick. And getting sick shuts a trip down.”

It’s true, camping does take a lot of planning ahead. However, you can make it easy and simple by bringing only the necessities and planning meals that highlight leftovers, use similar ingredients, and can be made over the fire.

From the ingredients list to what kind of appliances to bring, follow this guide (multiplying as needed for larger groups) and all you need to worry about is not burning your marshmallow while making s’mores.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

What to Pack:

  • Cooler on wheels, we recommend one that is at least 82 qt.
  • Matches and lighter
  • Foil, make sure you have enough to use all weekend
  • Propane gas and stove
  • Two good knives
  • Spatula
  • Silverware for two: spoons, forks, and knives
  • Large and small resealable bags
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning wipes, small dish soap, sponge, dish towels, and dishwashing bucket
  • Ice packs, you will stop multiple times for ice
  • Skillet with lid, saucepan with lid, and pot with lid
  • Plates and small bowls for each camper
  • Cups, mugs, and plastic cups for writing names, for each camper
  • Trash bags
  • Bug spray – here are some natural repellents we recommend.

How to Layer Food in the Cooler:

  • Bottom Level
    • Ice Packs
    • Drinks, water, and milk
    • Butter
    • Chocolate bars for s’mores
  • ​Middle Level
    • Deli meat and lunch supplies
    • Cheese
    • Salsa, pesto, and dips
    • Chicken and salmon
  • Top Level
    • Eggs – only buy in foam containers, cardboard will get soggy in the cooler
    • Any produce items
    • Bread and tortillas
    • Pre-cooked whole-wheat pasta in a zip-top bag with 1 teaspoon of olive oil

What Dry Goods To Pack:

  • Small salt and pepper shakers
  • Whole wheat sandwich bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Cooking spray
  • Marshmallows
  • Plastic bottle of olive oil
  • Basic seasonings
    • Salt and pepper shakers
    • 1 tablespoon of each:
    • Onion powder
    • Garlic powder
    • Cayenne

Make sure to review all the ingredients in the recipes below as well to complete your shopping list!

Day 1 – Buy fresh bags of ice:

Eat a filling breakfast before you leave and make snacks for the car ride beforehand.

  • Honey-Roasted Nuts and Fruit
  • Almond-Date Bars

Lunch Day 1:

Make this chicken salad ahead of time, store in the top of the cooler and assemble sandwiches during your first road trip stop.

  • Herbed Chicken Salad Sandwiches
  • Side Snack: Apples

Dinner Day 1:

You’ve made it to your camping ground! Time to relax and fix a quick dinner with pasta you’ve already prepped at home. Everyone can personalize their own pasta packet and make it themselves.

  • Whole Wheat Pasta Packets with Tomatoes

Stir in any pasta sauce of your choice, salt, pepper, and olive oil with prepared pasta. Place a single serving of pasta in a foil packet with shredded parmesan cheese, basil and diced tomatoes. Heat packets directly over the fire until the pasta is warm and the cheese is melted, approximately 10 minutes.

Dessert Day 1:

  • Grilled fruit kebabs
    • Peaches
    • Pineapple
    • Mango
    • Strawberries

Prepare the fruit before at home and keep them in one container. Cut fruit into 1 to 2 inch cubes or slices to make sure they can stay on the skewer over the grill. Do not cut the strawberries in half, just de-stem them. Let everyone build their own skewer and include marshmallows or cut up pound cake as well for an extra sweet treat. Grill over the campfire, turning every 1 to 2 minutes depending on the strength of the heat.

Breakfast Day 2 – Drain water from the cooler and get new ice:

  • Campfire Eggs

Eggs can be prepared directly over the fire however you like. Whether scrambled or over easy, be sure to use cooking spray or butter to make sure they do not stick.

There are few activities that I enjoy more than cooking in the great outdoors. There’s something about an open flame, a dusty grill grate, and some fresh air that make cooking even more enjoyable for me. But as much as I love taking my culinary skills outside, there are definitely some challenges that cooking while camping poses.

The biggest struggle? Cleaning up, of course. Caring for a cast iron is tricky enough when you have access to a full kitchen and running water, so you can imagine how difficult it is to keep this thing clean once you’re out in the middle of nowhere at a campsite with no amenities. Worry not, there are ways to keep your prized cast iron cookware in good shape. Here’s everything you need to keep in mind before you head out on your next trip.

Bring an Inexpensive Cast Iron

Listen, just because there are ways to care for your cast iron doesn’t mean you should bring the best cast iron skillet that you own. Leave your prized, enameled Staub or Le Creuset items at home and opt for a more budget friendly line like Lodge or Basic Essentials. These skillets are super durable, and more importantly, they’re not terribly pricey. So, if you do scruff ’em up, it’s no big deal.

Related Items

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 10″

Basic Essentials 3-Piece Cast Iron Frying Pan Set

Bring Clean Kitchen Towels and Stainless Steel Scrubbers

There’s no way around the fact that you’re going to get some food stuck on your pan after you’ve been using it for eggs, burgers, tacos, and whatever else you’ve got going over the fire. To help wipe these stubborn bits away, it’s helpful to have some stainless steel scrubbers or a cast iron brush that can loosen stuck-on bits from the pan, as well as some clean kitchen towels to wipe it all away.

Related Items

Scotch-Brite Stainless Steel Scrubbing Pads (3-pk.)

Full Circle Tenacious C Cast Iron Brush

Mainstays 10-Piece Flour Sack Kitchen Towel Set

Make an Abrasive Salt Paste

If you’re still having trouble removing some especially stubborn, stuck-on food particles, sprinkle the pan with salt, then add a few drops of warm water and make a paste. This will act as an abrasive and help you scrub away any lingering food bits. Wipe away any salt after you’re done scrubbing.

Don’t Sweat the Soap

Most people will tell you to keep even a drop of soap miles away from your cast iron cookware. Sure — too much dish soap on your pan is not great for the pores in the cast iron, however a few drops won’t ruin the skillet. If you have warm, soapy water that you’re using to clean your other cookware and utensils, it’s okay to use this water on your cast iron, as well. Resources are limited in the great outdoors so now is not the time to be picky over what your cast iron can and cannot handle. Make sure to dry your pan immediately with a clean towel afterwards.

A Warm Pan Is a Clean Pan

It’s always easier to clean a warm pan with warm water. If you need to heat a little bit of water to pour over your pan for cleaning, then you should definitely do that. While it is generally a great trick to boil water in a dirty pan for a long time to loosen any caked-on bits, this is not ideal for a cast iron skillet because it’s so porous. Instead, you’ll want to pour a little bit of warm water on the dirty pan and gently massage it with a stainless steel scrubber, then dry it immediately afterwards.

Season With Oil

No matter where you’re cooking, one thing that is very much a constant when it comes to cast iron care is this: The best way to keep your skillet shimmery and looking brand new is by wiping the clean, dry skillet with oil and gently warming the pan after it’s been seasoned. This will keep the enamel strong and the exterior looking fresh and smooth. You can use whatever neutral flavored oil or even olive oil if that’s what you brought along to cook with.

Embrace the Imperfection

The beauty of camping is doing your best to deal with the elements. If you’re not able to clean your pan as thoroughly as you might be able to when you’re in the comfort of your home kitchen, that’s okay. Give it your best scrub, maybe a little abrasive salt paste, and a good wipe, and call it a night. There’s no reason to be stressing over the state of your cast iron when you’re out in nature. Make yourself a s’more and keep it moving.

Introduction: Camping Meal Clean-Up

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Cooking meals at a picnic or on a camping trip, I enjoy. Cleaning up afterwards, I don’t enjoy! Here’s an idea, though, that my family uses when traveling to make it easier to get the plates, cups, pots & pans ready for the next meal.

Step 1: Hot Water? No Problem.

Since we cook our meals on a Coleman stove, as soon as one of the burners is available, we heat a pot of water (water just needs to be hot, it doesn’t need to boil) to use for washing the dishes. By the time we’ve finished our meal, the water is hot and ready to use.

Step 2: Clean-Up Assembly Line

Most of the time we have access to water for cleanup, but just to be sure, we always travel with at least 1 gallon of water (reusing a Clorox bottle works great for this!). We have 2 large solid plastic bins that nest together and carry miscellaneous odds and ends until meal time. Then, we convert them into the ‘kitchen sink’ – one for washing and one for rinsing.

After the meal, we start the clean-up assembly line. Add cold water to each basin. Some plastic bins may melt if boiling or very hot water is added first; we’ve never had a problem by adding cold water before the hot water. Next, add hot water to both basins, more hot water in the bin used for washing dishes, plus liquid dish soap and about a teaspoon of Clorox (helps to sanitize dishes) to this bin.

We usually put the two basins on the picnic table bench seat as seen in the photos, but the edge of the table works well, too. Gather everything that needs to be washed, then start washing, rinsing, and placing on the table for drying, washing the ‘cleanest’ of the dirty dishes first and working your way through the stack to be washed. If you think you’ll need more hot water before all the dishes are washed, start heating more water while washing the dishes, and the water will be ready when you need it.

Everyone in the family or group can pitch in to tackle end-of-meal clean-up and then move on to having more outdoor fun.

Unkempt campsites attract pests and bears, so keep it tidy with these tips and tools.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

When it comes to a clean campsite, planning ahead is key. Set a few key rules for your group about clean-up before you arrive. Stock up on cleaning tools, reusable plates and cups, and bear-safe containers before your trip. You’ll keep animals and insects away while you’re enjoying the great outdoors, and your campsite will look just like it did when you arrived.

Clean Your Tent and Backpack Before the Trip

The week before your camping or backpacking trip, thoroughly rid your tent and backpack of any crumbs and stains, so lingering odors won’t attract pests or bears. REI recommends Nikwax Tech Wash, a specially-formulated cleaner for outdoor gear.

Bring Cleaning Tools

Consider bringing along a broom and dustpan, or a Dustbuster, for the inside of the tent and picnic tabletops and surfaces. Bring scouring pads to clean tough pots and pans.

Keep Your Clutter Together

Car camping can mean a lot of odds and ends in tote bags in the trunk. Make Marie Kondo proud by streamlining your camping miscellany so that it all fits in one or two Rubbermaid storage containers. Hauling small items to the campsite, however close, just got easier.

Create a Reusable Camp Kitchen

The less you have to throw out, the less food residue there will be to attract bugs or bears. Remove packaging before you get to camp, or pack it all out with you, and bring reusable kitchen utensils. Also pack reusable containers to wash out after consuming food, empty cardboard six-pack holders to store odds and ends, and collapsible cups. collapsible cups can hold almost six fluid ounces of hot or cold beverages and fold down easily to fit in a small bag or pouch, and Kuju Coffee is perfect for compact camp pour-overs.

Use a Groundcloth or Tarp to Catch Crumbs

Spread a picnic blanket, groundcloth, or fine mesh tarp under your cooking station and eating spots to catch any errant crumbs and prevent the ants from marching in.

Clean up Before Dark

It can be tough to motivate your camping comrades to clean up in the dark, especially after they’ve imbibed a few brews by a cozy campfire. Maybe you didn’t bring lights with you or you want to save energy, so before the sun goes down, crank up the dishwashing music so your camp crew can dig into scrubbing those pots and pans. Pack everything away safely and you’ll be ready to snuggle up into your sleeping bags and tell ghost stories instead of cleaning into the night.

Scrub Your Dishes with Biodegradable Cleansing Agents

Dr. Bronner’s is an easy camp dishwashing option you might already have lying around the house; Campsuds are also multi-purpose, working to clean your body and hands too. If you don’t have any biodegradable suds, skip the Dawn and use wood ashes. Set up your dishwashing station as far from your campsite as possible, and strain the greywater of any food remnants, which you’ll throw into the trash.

How to clean dishes on a camping tripHow to clean dishes on a camping trip

Last weekend we went camping in Macedonia State Park. It was beautiful. Our campsite was nestled along a babbling brook. I had always thought that was just an expression, babbling brook, but I will admit this brook convinced me other wise. It made such a peaceful sound as it moved over the stones. Listening to that sound all night…It was great!

Our campsite was set apart from the others. One of the reasons we picked the site was that it had its own bathroom and access water. Once we arrived I realized that the “bathroom”, and I use the term loosely, was not everything I had hoped for (don’t worry I will spare you the details), but the water access was actually pretty cool. The well water was accessed by using an old fashioned water pump. I had never used one of thee before and doing so made me feel like I had been transported in time. That is actually one of the things I am really starting to like about Connecticut, everywhere I look there is history. Whether it be old houses, stone walls dating back to colonial times, or really cool old water pumps.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Before the trip I sat down and wrote out our menu for the week. I tried to think about food I could easily cook in a skillet or on the grill top I was bringing. I also wanted to make sure the food I brought would not spoil in the coolers. I decided to marinate the cut up pieces of steak for the kabobs and then freeze the meat. This would help keep things cold in the freezer and the meat would continue to marinade as it thawed. I also froze the sausage links for our breakfast on Day 2.

How to clean dishes on a camping tripDay 1

We arrived at the campsite around 2:00 pm. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the camp site had a grill already attached to the fire pit. I had brought my grill top from home, but having the pre-built grill made an excellent base for the one I brought. We were a little hungry when we arrived so instead of cooking, which was impossible since we had not built the fire yet, we had a quick snack of Almond Butter Protein Balls and cut up an apple. I find that preparing a few snacks ahead of time can be a real life saver!

We spent most of the afternoon setting up the campsite and gathering firewood. Once we had gathered enough wood we got the campfire started. We wanted to cook dinner over the embers and not the open fire so we built up the fire and let it burn down. This helped ensure more even heat for cooking our dinner.

Dinner: Since I knew we would likely be busy most of the first day I pre-made some burgers for us to grill up on the campfire. I brought one of the grates from my gas grill at home to cook on. I also cooked some of the squash and zucchini from my garden in a tin foil pouch with a little bit of butter.

Dessert: Roasted Homemade Marshmallows and pieces of dark chocolate. Before the trip I took the time to make some of our clean eating Homemade Marshmallows. While this may seem like a lot of extra work, I wanted to be able to enjoy this traditional camping treat without sacrificing our clean eating menu.

Day 2How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Breakfast: Our breakfast on the first morning was organic sausage and fried eggs with a dash of cayenne pepper. I cooked the sausage in the skillet first. This helped to season the skillet and give our fried eggs a little extra flavor. Yum!

Snack: For a snack we had s couple of Almond Butter Protein Balls that I had pre-made for the trip. I packed them in ice in the cooler and they held up perfectly!

Lunch: Since we had a big breakfast and morning snack, we didn’t really do any cooking for lunch. Instead we had some homemade hummus with veggies sticks, some bananas, and more almond butter protein balls. It was the perfect amount of food without weighing us down.

Dinner: For dinner on the second night we made Steak Kabobs, Sweet potatoes cooked in a pouch with onions, fresh rosemary and butter. I used the pieces of steak that I had marinaded before we left. I found that putting them in the cooler frozen worked out great! They were thawed and well marinaded by the time we were ready to cook them.

Dessert: For dessert we roasted some more Homemade Marshmallows. You can’t have too many marshmallows while camping right?

Day 3

Breakfast: For breakfast on our last day we made scrambled eggs. We also had a couple of pieces of homemade banana bread that I made before the trip.

For me, the prep work I did ahead of time made the biggest difference in the success of my clean eating camping trip. Preparing as much food as possible ahead of time really took some of the pressure off cooking and allowed me to fully enjoy my trip!

Backcountry camping or camping out on a campground for a few days always sounds like a great idea – enjoying nature, disconnecting from the grid, enjoying quality time with loved ones, and sitting around a campfire. But the thought of going multiple days without a shower is daunting. What about your greasy hair? And the general grimy feeling? And won’t everyone stink by day 3?

While some may like to let nature take its course, here are some important tips for maintaining your personal hygiene – for everyone’s sake – while on the trail or campground:

Pack two outfits to alternate days. By having two outfits, you can wash one with extra water (or water from a nearby source) and hang it up to dry at night. Even if you don’t have access to water, you should hang it up to air out through the night.

Bring extra water for undergarment laundering . If you don’t have access to water nearby, bring extra water so that you can, at the very least, wash underwear, socks, and bras daily.

If there is a lake or stream along your trail or near your campsite, take a bath in nature . Just rinsing off in fresh water will remove excess dirt and oils.

If that’s not your thing or there is no water, bring extra water and biodegradable soap in order to bathe yourself. Just strip down at least 200 feet away from your campsite and 200 feet away from any water source that may exist. Then, using the water and soap, bathe away, paying particular attention to the groin, underarms, and face.

If there is no lake or stream, and it’s too cold to take a bath with soap and water, an alternative is to bring baby wipes or biowipes and clean yourself with this method. These are also useful for when nature calls.

In any of the above bathing scenarios, use a microfiber towel for quick drying.

Use hand sanitizer after every bathroom break, as well as before cooking and eating.

If greasy hair bums you out, try an unscented dry shampoo (unscented to avoid those B’s – bears and bugs), or work some baby powder into your roots to cut the grease.

Wear synthetic-material clothing that wicks moisture. Bacteria thrives in moist conditions, so avoid cotton clothes that may soak up the sweat and opt for wicking clothes instead.

Bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss as well as the above materials, but avoid deodorant, perfume, hairspray, shampoo, and any other scented and environmentally-unfriendly materials. Also remember to avoid brushing teeth and bathing within 200 feet of a water source or your campsite. You may be a welcome guest, but it is ultimately nature’s home, and it’d be terribly rude to contaminate it.

Hey guys! Sorry I have been MIA for the last little while – life just got crazy busy all of a sudden and I needed some time to catch up. I’ve also been spending a ton of time working on getting our yard ready for the summer and the weather really hasn’t been helping me out.

Anyways… we just had our Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada so I kind of feel like summer has unofficially started – even though we still have over a month left of school. Camping season is here and, whether or not you actually had off to a campsite or just enjoy a campfire out in your backyard, cooking up some good ol’ camping food is a fun way to celebrate summer. For some reason, everything just tastes better when it is cooked over the fire!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

With a little prep work, you can plan some yummy meals for your next camping trip AND save more time for fun while you are away! Here are some of the best camping recipes and easy prep ideas around…

First off, if you don’t have a pie iron you really need to get one . There are so many fun and delicious recipes that you can whip up with these, I could really devote a whole post to them. I was a little leary of these spaghetti sandwiches at first, but they were SO good. It’s basically just combining your garlic bread with the spaghetti but a lot easier to eat when you’re camping!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Pizza pockets are another favorite of ours for the pie iron and can easily be customized with whatever filling you would like – the ham and pineapple pizza pockets are one of my favs.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

These tacos in a bag are another easy idea and a big hit with the kids. As an added bonus, they also really cut down on the dish washing required!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Campfire potatoes make a great side dish for either dinner or breakfast.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Foil packets are another fun way to eat during camping trips and, with minimal dishes and no grill to clean, you can’t really go wrong! To cut down on prep time, many of the foil pack recipes can always be prepared prior to leaving so you have one less thing to worry about while you are away. Breakfast burritos are always a hit with everyone and can be easily cooked in large batches

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

If you like to make your breakfast fresh, these lumbarjack foil packs are another way to go and just as delicious!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

For the fancy camper, you can even make french toast on the campfire– just add some fresh fruit and syrup.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Cheesy fries are a fun treat to add with sandwiches for lunch. Have a few toppings pre-chopped on hand and everyone can customize their own packets.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

There are tons of foil pack options for dinner too such as this BBQ chicken with potatoes…

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

The aluminum pie trays are another good option if you like to prepare your food ahead of time. You can either make things in the large pie trays or use the smaller ones for individual serving dishes so you don’t have to use plates. You can even enjoy homemade mac and cheese!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Of course, the best part of campfire cooking is the desserts! There are so many yummy treats to pick from – it’s so hard to decide. You can never go wrong with s’mores though and I love mixing up the cookies and chocolate layers .

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

If you are looking to take your s’mores to the next level, try these samoa s’mores. These are definitely on my list for our next camping trip!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

The kids always go crazy with campfire cones and they love picking out what treats to put inside.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

For something a little bit different, try this Chocolate Pie Iron Monkey Bread. It’s the best ooey gooey goodness ever!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

What about you? Any favorite camping recipes I should try?

For more camping ideas, check out these posts…

Published November 17, 2021

Reviewed October 2021

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Camping and hiking can be the perfect escape to enjoy the beauty nature has to offer. But whether you set out for a few hours or a few days, keep important food safety principles in mind when planning meals, snacks and drinks.

1. Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

Bacteria multiply rapidly within the “danger zone,” the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F. Keep foods out of the danger zone by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This means not only cooking and reheating foods to a safe internal temperature, but also properly storing foods that require refrigeration. Perishable foods should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours, or more than one hour if it’s over 90°F outside. Luckily, with a few simple steps, you can keep food safe even without the luxury of a refrigerator or microwave.

Short Hikes: If you are going out for a short hike, bring along nonperishables or chilled foods. To keep cold foods cold, freeze overnight or cover them with frozen gel packs or frozen juice boxes and bottled water. These frozen beverages will thaw during the hike while keeping your food cold.

Overnight Camping: If you are camping overnight, cook foods at the campsite to the proper internal temperature. Pack a food thermometer to ensure foods have reached a safe temperature, because you can’t rely on sight or taste alone to determine doneness.

  • Cook burgers made of raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F.
  • Heat hot dogs and any leftover food to 165°F.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.

Only eat the cold items if they remain at or below 40°F. In most circumstances, eat cold foods on the first day. However, if you are car camping (driving to your site) you will have the luxury of being able to bring a cooler. To keep food coldest – and safest – load food straight from the fridge into your cooler just before you leave the house, rather than packing it in advance. And remember, don’t eat any perishable food that has been out of the cooler for more than two hours, or more than one hour in temperatures above 90°F.

2. Don’t Forget to Wash

Bacteria will spread easily in an unclean environment. Bring soap, water, clean towels and hand sanitizer. Always wash your hands, utensils and all surfaces before and after preparing and eating food.

3. Keep Water Safe for Drinking and Dishes

Don’t drink water directly from a lake or stream no matter how clean it looks or use it to cook food or wash dishes. Some pathogens thrive in remote bodies of water and there is no way to tell what is in the water. Bring a full bottle of purified water and replenish your supply from tested public systems. If that is not possible, purify any water from the wild.

One way to make water safe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to boil it to kill microorganisms. Bring water to a rolling boil and then boil for at least one minute. If water is muddy, allow it to stand for a while until the silt settles to the bottom. Then boil only the clear water off the top. At higher elevations, boil for at least three minutes because the boiling point of water is lower. Allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes, then store in clean, sanitized containers with lids.

If boiling water is not an option, water purification tablets and water filters may be used but their effectiveness in controlling viruses, bacteria and parasites can vary. For safety, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

4. Prevent Cross-contamination

Bacteria from raw meat and poultry can easily spread to other foods from dripping juices, hands or utensils. Avoid cross-contamination by washing your hands before and after handling food and by using different platters and utensils for raw and cooked meats, seafood, eggs and poultry. Double-wrap meat and poultry when transporting in a cooler to prevent raw meat juices from dripping onto other foods.

5. Always Clean Up

Keep food safety tips in mind when washing dishes and cleaning up the campsite. You can buy biodegradable camping soap but use it sparingly and keep it out of fresh bodies of water because it will pollute them. Wash dishes at the campsite, not the water’s edge, and make sure all water is purified. As you get ready to leave the campsite, leftover food should be burned or carried out with you. Bring garbage bags to dispose of any trash.

RV Expeditioners may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. This comes at no additional cost to you, and all the prices and availability are accurate at the time of publishing.

People don’t exactly look forward to doing dishes at home, let alone when camping with an RV and a limited supply of water. Nevertheless, you have to keep your RV tidy and your dishes should be just as clean as they would be at home.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to clean your dishes if you don’t want or can’t depend on the RV sink.

Necessary Items

  • (3) Sinks, buckets, or plastic containers
  • Coarse sponge
  • Biodegradable dish soap
  • Metal strainer
  • Absorbent cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Sanitizer

Step-by-Step Guide

Clean plate club

This step is all about logic. The better you finish your food, the easier it is to clean the dishes. A dog bowl would be very easy to clean, for example.

Prep dishes

Clean the dishes before washing them. This means you have to scrape as much as you can of the leftovers, grease, and sauces. Use paper towels, kitchenware, or bread.

The dish line

The dish line or the three-bucket system requires you to use three separate plastic containers or buckets. Each one has a specific purpose. Arrange them in the following order: wash, rinse, bleach (optional).

Fill each container up to half full with water from a stream. Use the first one to wash the dishes, the second one to rinse them, and the third to sanitize the dishes (required if you’re not using water from the sink).

Towel drying

Use a paper towel or a highly absorbent cloth to quick-dry the dishes. There’s nothing wrong with air-drying, it just takes too long.

Look for all your dishes and kitchen utensils

After you’re done with the last plate or bowl, start looking for other things that need cleaning. Knives, forks, strainers, pots and all. This way you can save time and the limited supply of water available.

Consolidate gray water

Dump all the water from your sanitize and rinse sinks into the wash sink.

Strain food scraps

Use a large strainer to separate leftovers from the water when pouring the water from the wash sink into another sink.

Dispose of gray water

Dispose of the gray water in designated locations. If you’re not near any specially designated facilities with drain water basins, you’ll want to scarcely disperse the water over a large area. Also, make sure you’re at least 200 ft. away from freshwater sources.

Tips and Warnings

  • Consider a vegetarian menu as opposed to always cooking meats. This will minimize grease and leave you with easier to clean dishes.
  • Don’t cook too much food
  • Using a slice of bread to clean a plate of leftovers is always a good idea. It works even better on greasy plates
  • If you’re all about the outdoors then you might want to avoid using disposable plastic tableware to help protect the environment
  • If your RV doesn’t have enough water left to handle washing dishes, consider locating some nearby water sources and wash your dishes outside using the dish line method
  • When you are cooking your camp food, don’t take your eyes off the pot. You know what they say about prevention. Be sure to stir the mixture frequently and to add more water than you think is necessary. There is nothing worse than a burnt pot when you’re camping.
  • Avoid using the bathroom sink to wash dishes


Even though you now know how to clean dishes while camping, without water you can’t do a thorough job. Whenever your RV sink is unavailable, plan ahead and store some water in a free compartment or park your RV near a water source.

If you’re spending time in the great outdoors and happen to be cooking over a wood fire, you can take a page from our ancestors and use wood ashes to clean your pots, pans, and dishes. Mixing wood ashes with fats and oils left in dirty cookware will make a very basic type of soap that works well in the field.

Authority-questioning blog Truth is Treason notes that human beings have used wood ashes as a source of lye to make soap for centuries. Commercial lye is very caustic and, as any viewer of Fight Club will note, causes chemical burns. The small amount of lye you extract from a few cups of wood ashes will not harm you but it can leave your hands dry if you forget to wash them after the dishes are cleaned.

Pick your greasiest pot and add a few cups of wood ash to that pot. Add enough hot water to make a paste; the hot water will create potassium salts from the wood ash that will mix with the fats in the pot to make a rudimentary soap. When the paste is cool to the touch smear it over your dirty cookware and dishes and allow it to dry for several minutes. Finally scrub and rinse your dishes. Make sure you use purified water to clean the dishes; they’ll be touching food again and you don’t want any disease-causing organisms to come into contact.

While there are many types of biodegradable soaps that work well for camping such as Dr. Bronners and Campsuds , it’s worth knowing how to make your own if you forget to pack soap or if you run out. Photo by Rick Bradley .

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

We’ve compiled 60 easy camping food ideas to take away the stress of creating a camping meal plan, all the way from breakfast to dessert.

Yup – 10 easy camping breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 camping dinner ideas with 10 easy side dishes, plus 10 snack ideas and 10 camping dessert options. We’ve got you covered!

And to make our list of easy camping food, the food or dish had to be portable, require little prep or be able to be prepped ahead at home, be simple to cook or reheat using a camping stove or fire, and use minimal dishes while at camp.

And be sure to print our free camping meal plan template along with a printable version of these 60 meal ideas at the bottom of the post!

*(This post contains affiliate links. This means we may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. See our full disclosure.)

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Easy Camping Breakfasts

Banana Bread or Muffins

Your favorite banana bread is something worth making in bulk so you’ve always got some on hand in your freezer. Biting into delicious bread when camping is such a treat! And if you’re camping with a lot of people (especially kids), baking your recipe in a mini muffin pan* cuts out the step of slicing while at camp.

Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits

At home: Wash and chop up several kinds of fruit, and smaller pieces are usually better if intended to go in a parfait. Pineapple, grapes, apples, blueberries, raspberries – just about anything is delicious! If using a fruit that gets brown like apples, dip them in orange juice after chopping and dry on a paper towel (the orange juice will still taste great too). Consider bringing granola or nuts as well.

At camp: Using individually bought yogurt containers will cut down on your cleanup. Simply lay out your tupperware full of fruit and nuts/granola choices and let everyone make their own!

Banana Roll

Spread peanut butter on a tortilla (warmed is even better), peel the banana, and roll it up in the tortilla. You could cut the banana in half lengthwise and use only half of it for little ones, or cut the snack into bite sized pieces after its rolled.

Ziploc Omelets

At home: A day or so before camping, wash, chop, and add any ingredients you’d like in your omelet to a Ziploc bag. The morning you’re leaving, break open a couple eggs into the bag. Press the air out and seal.

At camp: Squeeze the ingredients around in the bag before dropping it in a pot of boiling water. For a couple bag omelets, about 8 or 10 minutes in boiling water should do the trick. Remove a bag with tongs to check its doneness before dumping them all out onto plates.

Deluxe Camping Meal: Add salsa or cilantro, a side of fruit, and a slice of banana bread.

Quick Cook Oats or Overnight Oats and Toast

At home: We like to make our own packets of quick cook oats to limit the amount of added sugar – here’s the recipe I use to make them in bulk every couple of months. And if you don’t even want to heat water in the morning, another option is to make overnight oats – here’s a recipe for that.

At camp: For the quick cook oats, just boil ½ cup of water, stir it into the oats, and let sit for a couple minutes. For overnight oats, they are ready to eat! Making toast in a cast iron skillet with just a little cooking spray is a nice addition!

Aunt Jemima (just add water) Pancake Mix

This specific pancake mix* only requires that you add water to the batter before cooking – so simple. Don’t forget syrup or honey!

Avocado Toast with Hard Boiled Egg

At home: Boil your eggs. Afterwards, mark the shells with a sharpie so you don’t get them mixed up with any raw eggs while at camp.

At camp: Chop up your boiled egg. Either slice or mash up your avocado. If you have a cast iron skillet, heat it up, spray it lightly with cooking oil, and add your bread, turning once brown. Layer the avocado and boiled egg on your toast, add some salt and pepper, and enjoy!

Boiled Egg Sandwiches

At home: Boil your eggs.

At camp: Assemble simple but delicious breakfast sandwiches. Use english muffins and add your favorite cheese, sliced ham or precooked bacon, and the sliced boiled egg.

Deluxe Camping Meal: Taking the extra step of quickly heating all the ingredients in a pan before assembling can make this even tastier. And better yet, you could cook fresh eggs to go in the english muffin if you’ve got the time and energy.

Egg and Potato Scrambler

At home: Wash and chop up any veggies you’ll want in your scrambler. And purchase frozen cubed potatoes or frozen hash browns.

At camp: Start cooking the potatoes as directed on the package, add in your veggies and eggs towards the end of the cooking time and top with shredded cheese.

Deluxe Camping Meal: Toast some bread in a cast iron skillet or serve with banana bread and fruit.

Premade Breakfast Burritos

At home: Follow your favorite breakfast burrito recipe at home by cooking everything that goes in the burrito as directed, wrap them in a tortilla, and then tightly wrap it in foil. If the burritos are made to order, write each person’s name on the foil. These can be made ahead of time and frozen.

At camp: If frozen, these could be thawing in your cooler while you’re at camp. Heat over your stove or fire the morning you want to enjoy this delicious camping breakfast!

Deluxe Camping Breakfast: Add salsa and a side of fruit.

Camping and picnics require planning to keep your food safe.

How to clean dishes on a camping tripFollow these simple steps to improve your camping experience and prevent food contamination on your trip.

Camping and picnics provide unique challenges in keeping your food safe. Keeping foods cold both during travel and camping requires planning.

Michigan State University Extension offers the following food safety tips so that you have a most enjoyable outing with your family and friends.

  1. Eggs, meat, poultry, fish and milk and precooked foods need to be store at temperatures under or close to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Pathogens, which are microorganisms that can make you sick begin to grow quickly in food as it warms up. During extended camp trips, it is especially difficult to keep the food as cold as necessary.
  2. Plan ahead and freeze large containers of ice to help keep your food as cold as possible. Large blocks of ice will take longer to melt than the same amount of ice in smaller containers. It’s easy to make ice by putting water into clean half-gallon milk cartons, plastic buckets that have had food in them, like ice cream buckets or partially filled zip-lock plastic bags. Plastic pop bottles can also be used but only fill them two-third of the way full of water. The extra room in the containers allows for the water to expand as it freezes. Individual servings of juice in cartons can be frozen and used later.
  3. Ice that is loose in the ice chest cools food rapidly, but can easily become contaminated from meat juices or hands reaching into the cooler. Keep ice for drinks in a container that is not in contact with food.
  4. Prepare perishable food at home. This will result in fewer problems with clean up and cross-contamination at the picnic grounds or camping site. Put meat and poultry in an extra plastic bag. For example, hamburger patties can be shaped at home and put in a plastic bag. If they are to be used that day, refrigerate. If they will be used 2-3 days later, freeze and let thaw in the ice chest.
  5. Keep the ice chest as cool as possible. The back seat of a vehicle can be cooler than the trunk of the car during travel. Extra insulation can be added to the ice chest by wrapping it in a beach towel or blanket. Keep the ice chest in the shade at the picnic or campsite.
  6. Always pack a food thermometer to check the temperature of both the cold food, which should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and to check the temperature of your cooked foods. Whole fresh produce such as potatoes, onions, apples and oranges are safe with out cooking (but you still want to wash your produce before using). Canned foods, dried foods, peanut butter and jelly are always safe. Pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and catsup have a high enough acid content that it is not essential they be kept cold throughout the trip. On longer camping trips, plan on using nonperishable food towards the end of the trip just in case your ice is gone.

By following the tips above you will know you have done your best to keep your family and friends safe from a nasty foodborne illness that would surely ruin a fun picnic or camping trip.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Did you find this article useful?

Figuring out your camping packing list can certainly seem daunting. Camping gear lists will vary based on your planned activities, time of year and length of trip. Plus, everyone’s needs are a little different. But a really helpful approach is to break your list down into different areas.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

We’re going to start with must-haves, then move into more specific lists for your needs.

Camping can be so much fun: living in the great outdoors, relaxation, sunshine and going as rustic as you choose. From provincial parks to Crown Land to privately owned campgrounds, there is a campground for everyone. If you are camping for a family vacation, a couple weekend getaway, a guy’s angling adventure or even a girls’ escape to nature, to help you plan your fun we have developed some helpful lists to make the packing task so much easier.

The must-haves for camping trips include:

  • Equipment
  • Cooking gear
  • Personal “stuff”
  • First Aid and general everyday health needs
  • And (of course) clothing

So let’s dive into each!

Ontario safely aligns to COVID-19 public health and safety measures.

Please check directly with the business operator before you travel. Get the most up-to-date information now.

Equipment: Camping Packing List

  • A tent that is big enough to comfortably sleep your group
  • Enough pegs to properly fit your tent and a mallet to secure pegs
  • A ground sheet that should be about 2-3 inches smaller than the outside dimensions of your tent to avoid pooling of water
  • A piece of indoor/outdoor carpet or a mat for outside your tent
  • A tarp, this is so important, as you still have to cook outside in the rain. This tarp is key to keeping dry! Some campers pack a dining tent in addition to their sleeping tent, but a tarp is still required for cooking in the rain
  • Sleeping pad or an air mattress and a sleeping bag. Always ensure your sleeping bag is rated the same as the temperatures you expect during your trip
  • Pillow(s)
  • Extension cords if your campsite has electricity
  • Rope and clothespins
  • Flashlight, battery powered lanterns, extra batteries, candles, matches/lighter
  • Broom, dustpan, axe/hatchet, pocketknife
  • Battery powered radio
  • Watch, alarm clock, solar powered/electric phone charger
  • Backpack
  • Garbage bags, rope, duct tape
  • If you are planning to hike or explore, bring a map and a compass or better still invest in a GPS unit. Always be aware that in many areas, particularly in Northern Ontario, there is no cell service
  • If your campsite does not have picnic tables bring a folding table and chairs
  • Campfire wood, of note you cannot bring campfire wood into Canada from the U.S. You can, however, purchase firewood in Ontario. Provincial Parks in Ontario do not allow collection of firewood in the campgrounds
  • Drinking water, not all parks have access to clean drinking water

Cooking Gear: Camping Packing List

  • Fuel powered stove top with extra fuel
  • Plastic or steel washable plates, bowls, cups
  • Eating and cooking utensils, including a set of sharp knives
  • Pots, frying pan, strainer, mixing bowl(s)
  • Oven mitts, potholder
  • Can opener
  • Cutting board
  • Dish pan, dish soap, dish clothes, t-towels, scrub pad/steel wool
  • Cooler(s)
  • Plastic containers
  • Wipeable tablecloth
  • Paper towels, aluminum foil, plastic wrap
  • Personal water bottles, one for each camper
  • Kettle (electric, if you have electricity available, or a stove top kettle)
  • Corkscrew
  • Coffee pot
  • marshmallow/hotdog skewers

Personal “Stuff”: Camping Packing List

  • Shampoo, soap, hairbrush/comb
  • Towels, bath and hand towels
  • Portable shower or shower bag, if there is no shower access where you are camping
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
  • Mirror
  • Hand sanitizer, wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Feminine products
  • Body lotion, hand lotion, deodorant, lip balm
  • Nail clippers, tweezers
  • Kleenex
  • Prescriptions, enough for the entire trip
  • EpiPen
  • Sunglasses
  • Sewing kit
  • Shower flip flops
  • Camera and extra batteries

First Aid and General Health Needs for All Camping Trips

  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen and sunburn lotion
  • Burn ointment
  • Gas relief medication, antacids, laxative
  • Insect repellent, bug spray
  • Antacids
  • Ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Insect repellent with DEET
  • Thermometer
  • Antihistamine medication

Camping is such a wonderful way to spend your holiday or even just a weekend. Each adventure is full of smiles, laughter and, of course, relaxation. So remember to take your time to pack well, and then your only worry will be trying to pack in all of the great things to do in Ontario.

Festivals are back! But so is the rain and the mud. Here’s how to clean your kit clean so it’s ready for next time.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Festivals are finally back! After many events being cancelled and postponed, glitter-soaked music fans are flocking back to muddy fields in their thousands for the weekend of a lifetime.

Anyone who has been to a festival knows just how messy they can get. Whether it’s hot and dusty or wet and muddy, being exposed to the great outdoors can wreak havoc on our clothes and our equipment. Not to mention the germs living in communal toilets and showers, and after the year we’ve had, we should all know the importance of staying clean and sanitised.

Whether you’re just back from a festival or have been on a family camping trip, your kit needs cleaning, drying and repacking ready for next time. Here’s how to speed through it as efficiently as possible.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

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Mud on your clothes

Mud will often come out of washable fabrics simply by machine-washing it at 40C with a biological detergent. For more stubborn stains, first pre-soak in a branded stain removal product. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and then wash the item as normal on a biological wash.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Muddy tent

It’s best to partially clean it before it comes home with you, but if you haven’t, give it a good clean now and make sure to air and dry it really thoroughly before putting it away. A good cleaner we recommend is Fabsil Tent Care Kit. Also, if it has windows, open these up to encourage venting. Store your tent in a dry place, such as the loft or shed.

Dirty wellies

Decent wellies can cost a fortune and need looking after. After every wear, scrape off any large clumps of mud – if it dries on, it’s often much tougher to get rid of. Then, take some soapy, lukewarm water and a cloth and go over the boots to get rid of all the remaining dirt and mud.

After this, allow the boots to dry completely, away from direct sunlight or artificial sources of heat. If kept near these for too long as they dry, the boots can suffer permanent damage to the rubber. Then use a proprietary boot buff and shine spray to restore them to their glory.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Top festival washing items

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Sleeping bag

You can often machine-wash synthetic sleeping bags but do ensure you follow recommendations on its care label. During washing, ensure all zippers and Velcro tabs are secured. Wash on a gentle cycle (up to 30°C) with a gentle detergent.

For hand-washing, fill your bath with warm water and add a gentle detergent. Place your bag into the tub and gently massage the water into the bag until it is saturated. Leave to soak for 1-4 hours, depending on how dirty it is.

Drain the water and then add fresh water, and massage the water into the bag again. Repeat this process until no suds are visible in the water. Press the water out of the bag and squeeze out as much water as possible. Fold the ends of the semi-dry bag in towards its centre and press firmly until water is expelled.

For drying, you can often tumble-dry your sleeping bag on a low temperature setting. Please note that excess heat can melt the fabric. To air-dry your sleeping bag, lay it out flat on towels over two portable clothes racks. Dry in a shaded area out of direct sunlight, as excessive exposure to UV will degrade the nylon shell fabric. A hot dry windy day provides the perfect conditions for air-drying your sleeping bag outside.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip


Depending on the size of the backpack itself, you can either hand or machine wash it. Always check the care label to ensure you are washing it in a way that won’t damage the bag.

To machine wash, empty the backpack, checking all pockets. Leave pockets unzipped. If there are removable straps you may wish to hand wash these separately. Make sure you backpack will fit in the machine and has enough room to move about.

Put your backpack in a laundry bag, this will stop straps and zips getting caught and damaging the bag or machine. Alternatively, you can use a pillow case or turn the backpack inside out. Use a small amount of gentle detergent (not regular detergent or fabric softener as these can damage the material). Wash on a gentle cycle in cold water. Allow the backpack to dry naturally away from direct heat sources.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

If possible hang the backpack upside down to dry. Do not tumble dry as this can damage the bag. Ensure the bag is 100% dry before storing.

If your pack is too large to fit in the machine, wash it in the bath. Fill a bath with plenty of lukewarm water as hot water can cause colours to bleed. Add a small amount of gentle detergent and, using a soft brush or cloth, scrub the bag, focusing on areas that are particularly dirty.

An old toothbrush is useful for particularly tough stains and getting into difficult to reach areas. Allow the backpack to dry naturally away from direct heat sources. If possible hang the backpack upside down to dry. Do not tumble dry as this can damage the bag. Ensure the bag is 100% dry before storing. If the care label states not to fully submerge the backpack, use a wet cloth with a small amount of cleaner.

How to clean dishes on a camping tripSome 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!

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

The thought of camping in the woods can be daunting — hot showers and bathroom facilities aren’t easy to come by — but the activity needn’t be synonymous with dirtiness. Whether you’re off on a quick weekend getaway to a national park or a week-long backcountry trip, there are ways to practice personal hygiene and stay clean throughout your trip. Even better, reduce your impact on the environment with product suggestions that are biodegradable and eco-friendly.

Clean It All With One Soap

Packing a multi-purpose soap that’s tough enough for dishes and sensitive enough for your skin is a space saver when camping. Crafted with plant oils like nourishing olive, coconut, and palm, Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 pure Castile soap can be used safely to clean almost anything, including dishes, fruits and vegetables, hair, and dirty laundry. A small amount goes a long way, and because it’s a highly concentrated soap, consult their website for proper dilution ratios depending on whether you’re using it as a shaving cream or as a body soap. While phosphates found in regular soaps can promote algae growth in water sources that can be harmful to animal health, Dr. Bronner’s soap is both non-toxic and biodegradable. However, continue to use it at least 200 feet away from your campsite and any stream or lake. Dispose of grey water at your campground’s disposal units instead, or scatter the grey water over a wide area away from the site. Though the soap comes in a variety of scents like peppermint, lavender, and rose, scentless is best while camping to avoid attracting wildlife.

Don’t Skip Out on Brushing Your Teeth

When you’re out in the woods where bathroom facilities are non-existent, brushing your teeth without leaving a trace can be tricky. While some campers choose to swallow their toothpaste, others walk far away from their campsite and adopt the spray method by swishing their mouth with water and spraying the residue over a wide area to minimize any potential environmental impacts. This prevents wildlife from sniffing out the residue and eating it later. You can reduce the impact of your oral hygiene routine out in the woods by choosing an all-natural toothpaste, like one from this Tom’s of Maine line. Passionate about the quality of their products, Tom’s of Maine keeps your mouth feeling fresh with wholesome ingredients derived from vegetable oils, birch trees, and naturally sourced silicas.

Choose from the following to find a site:

Campground Open Dates and Fees are Subject to Change

Campgrounds are seasonally opened and closed. Open dates are approximate. A heavy snow pack may delay the opening date. Early closure may occur in order to protect water systems from freezing and to efficiently schedule work for seasonal shutdown.

Links to easy print documents:

Campgrounds – contains complete campground information

Toll Free 877-444-6777
TDD 877-833-6777
Intl: 518-885-3639
• Group campgrounds can be reserved up to 12 months in advance.
• Standard campsites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance.
• For sites that do not accept reservations, select an empty site and self register when you arrive.

Campground Rules
Specific campground rules are posted at each campground entrance. The maximum stay period allowed varies. Backpacking trailhead camps generally have a one night limit. A maximum stay period of 7-14 days is normal for most campgrounds. Standard sites accommodate up to 6 people per site. Group sites accommodate larger groups.

Occupying Your Campsite:
• Pay your camping fee within 30 minutes of arrival, and before 2:00 p.m. if staying another day.
• All tents and equipment must be located within the designated site. Use designated parking space.
• Carry water to your campsite for all washing. Do not use faucets or restrooms for washing dishes, cleaning fish, or bathing.
• Site cannot be unoccupied for more than 24 hours without permission.

• Remember to check for fire restrictions before your trip.
• Use designated fire ring for all fires.
• Purchase firewood on site. Burn it where you buy it!
• If collecting firewood, do not cut standing or live trees. Collect only dead and down wood.

Food Storage:
Do not leave anything attractive to animals in your car, including: coolers, grocery bags, recycling and trash, canned food, beverages, coffee cups, alcohol, air fresheners, cans or bottles, toiletries, or anything with a scent. Bears are known to break into cars to access all of these items.
• Clean up promptly after meals and secure food.
• Use the bear-resistant lockers to store all food and scented items, including ice chests and coolers.
• Secure trash and recycling in the proper receptacles.

• Leash your pets at all times and clean up after them.
• Keep your pet within your designated campsite.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Published on June 17, 2021

Camping season is here. Is your cooler ready? Call me a romantic, but there’s something about cooking over a fire and eating in the dirt that makes food taste better, even if a troupe of ants are fighting to claim the watermelon. Still, a bit of strategizing is essential for creating a well-fed camping trip. My meal plan always includes a mix of campfire-ready classics and a few make ahead staples (read: cold brew , because I’m not getting up for a sunrise hike without caffeine).

There’s no need to pack a whole kitchens’ worth of tools in the trunk, but you’ll definitely want to bring along a few staples. In addition to plates and utensils, consider bringing along these tools for the below menu: A cast iron to cook directly over the fire, a cooler to keep perishables from going bad, a trusty chef’s knife, a few sturdy mixing bowls, a roll of tin foil to make packets (more on that below), and some containers to hold any leftovers.

Read on, and don’t forget the s’mores supplies.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Photo Credit: REI

1. Foil Packet Shrimp Boil from REI

I know what you’re thinking: shrimp, on a camping trip? But the pleasure of eating Cajun-spiced shrimp around a crackling fire is too good to pass up, and a bit of advance planning makes this the perfect first night dinner. Trust camping authority REI to drop a recipe uses foil packets instead of the classic bubbling pot of water so you’re not draining that water jug on dinner. The foil also helps seal in moisture by creating steam, ensuring everything will cook evenly (as long as the ingredients are roughly the same size). For bonus points, slice the corn, zucchini, and andouille sausage before you go (or appoint a camp-side sous chef).

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Photo Credit: Asha Loupy

2. Asha’s Double Date and Ginger Granola from Diaspora Co.

Granola is a make-ahead camping hero. It’s perfect for breakfast and mid-hike snacks, and can even be scattered atop s’mores for extra crunch. Asha Loupy’s recipe for equitable (and wildly delicious) spice company Diaspora Co features tahini for a dose of nutty richness, date syrup for sweetness, and two kinds of ginger (powdered and crystallized) for major gingerbread vibes. Use whatever nuts and dried fruits your group likes most, and be sure to make a double batch. This is guaranteed to go fast.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Photo Credit: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

3. Everyday Pancakes from The New York Times

Pancakes are the ultimate camping breakfast. Mark Bittman’s recipe is especially suited for outdoor cooking due to its simplicity—the basic batter is just eggs, flour, milk and baking powder. For ultimate ease, combine and pack the flour and baking powder before heading out on your trip, then add the milk and eggs in the morning to make the whole campground jealous.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Photo Credit: J. Kenji López-Alt

4. Skillet Shakshuka from Serious Eats

A bubbling skillet of juicy tomatoes and just-set poached eggs is perfect for any meal of the day, although this North African and Middle Eastern staple is especially popular for breakfast. J Kenji López-Alt’s one-skillet recipe cooks eggs in a tomato-red pepper sauce perfumed with cumin, paprika, and cayenne. A few traits make it especially ideal for camping: it’s easily assembled in a cast-iron skillet, simple to scale up for larger groups, and relies on pantry staples. Pack a few toppings like pre-picked parsley or cilantro, canned artichoke hearts, and hot sauce for extra credit.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Photo Credit: Kyle Johnson

5. Ember-Roasted Corn and Leeks from Bon Appetit

A foolproof side, no de-silking corn husks required. Chris Morocco’s recipe cooks leeks and corn directly on the hot embers leftover from a large campfire, so it can be the last thing you make after cooking those shrimp boil packets above. Once charred, the vegetables are coated with butter and a fiery spice blend: coriander seeds, pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. Mix up the spice blend before you head out and make double to season your morning eggs.

Keep your hands, your cookware, and your environment clean

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With we start camping close to home and summer skiing spots begin to open up, staying on point with washing your hands during the pandemic is super important. Sure, you can continually keep dosing your hands with hand sanitizer when there isn’t soap available, but being able to fully wash your hands has been shown by the CDC to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

We dove into a couple biodegradable soaps that are available in small containers (making them super useful for camping in your truck, van, or in the backcountry), to see how well they work for scrubbing off your plates and your paws. The standard of cleaning was a dirty pan that cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast burritos, as well as how well it lathered and cleaned hands to keep us germ free as we begin to embark into the outdoors.

Alpine Provisions

Fir + Sage Castille Soap 2oz

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

I’ve been using Alpine Provisions Castile Body Wash for over a year now since I live in SLC’s watershed and it’s perhaps the best thing to use for shaving. It’s a concentrated and gentle soap made of organic olive and coconut oils along with sustainably sourced essential oils.

In short, it smells amazing and isn’t full of sketchy detergents. A little bit goes a long way in terms of lathering and it’s great for keeping your hands and face clean at the campsite. However, it didn’t tackle the dirty pan that well, but was substantially less harsh than the other trail soaps. All in all, the two-ounce bottle was the best for having a nice soap to lather and clean hands at the campsite.

Juniper Ridge

Coastal Pine Travel Size

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

The Juniper Ridge Cascade Forest wash has a refreshing citrusy pine scent. The concentrated soap lathered up the dirty pan well for cleaning though it didn’t quite accomplish much, even with heavy scrubbing.

It cut grease better than the Alpine Provisions, so it could do some light duty dishes, but it’s more appropriate for keeping up with good hygiene. Both, the Juniper Ridge and Alpine Provisions are a good option to keep in the truck outside of camping, as we travel to trailheads for biking and running, etc.

Pure Castille Liquid Soap 4oz

Dr. Bronner’s

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Perhaps the best of the bunch given its widespread availability and ability to clean while not being toxic. Dr. Bronner’s is made with organic oils and fair trade ingredients, and has no synthetics or harmful products. They were one of the first to lead in this realm, and their soap worked well for all tasks.

From washing dishes, properly cleaning hands to prevent germ spread, to quickly washing off from a dusty bike ride it handled everything. It also comes in a variety of scents, though I personally like the 18-In-1 Hemp Lavender.


Biodegradable Concentrated Soap

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

The Campsuds annihilated the egg pan with ease. Just a few drops in some water provided quick and easy cleaning of the dish. It lathered up well, and while the other soaps here are concentrated I would say this one is much more potent.

I only had to place a tiny drop on my hands before adding water to properly wash them. What’s also nice is the bottle explains proper discarding of the biodegradable soap, so you don’t harm surrounding vegetation and wildlife.

Sea to Summit

Super Concentrated Wilderness Citronella Wash

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Sea to Summit’s Super Concentrated Wash was another jack-of-all-trades soaps. It made for easy work of the egg pan with a cap full of soap and added water, and then was just as pleasant to properly wash my hands.

It felt less harsh than the Campsuds on my skin, and when compared to washing off some areas of my legs that had scrapes and nicks from trees it didn’t have a burning sensation. The citronella smell was nice, and apparently it can keep bugs away as well.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to wash dishes by hand:

  1. Prep – scrape off food
  2. Fill – get some clean, hot, soapy water
  3. Wash – scrub them, under the water
  4. Rinse – wash off all suds and residue
  5. Dry – air dry or towel dry

There are two common ways to hand wash dishes: by “diluting” dish detergent in a sink or dishpan filled with water, or by squirting detergent directly onto a sponge or the dirty dish (called the “neat” method). Whichever dishwashing method you choose, be sure to follow product directions to determine the right amount of detergent – especially with concentrated varieties, which may require less product than you think. So, read the label!

And remember: some cookware, like baking pans with air cushioned inside, should not be submerged in water. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for advice!

Here are details on each step to make the job as easy as possible:


Scrape dishes to remove leftover food – use a rubber spatula or paper towel. For stuck-on foods, soak dishes/cookware before washing: add detergent or baking soda to the sink/dishpan (or soiled pot) and fill with hot water; soak for 15 to 30 minutes, then drain and proceed with Step 2.

TIP: never pour grease down the drain — it can cause a clog.


Fill sink or dishpan with clean, hot water. Add dish soap to the water (read the label for dosage; some concentrated dish detergents require a smaller amount). Stack a few dishes in the sink at a time – this allows a few minutes of soaking time while you work on washing.

TIP: Throughout the process, drain the water and start over if it becomes greasy, tool cool, or if suds disappear.


Wash “in order,” starting with lightly soiled items. This usually includes glasses, cups, and flatware. Washing these items first followed by plates/bowls and serving dishes. In general, dishes wash easily if you keep them under the water while scrubbing them; as you work, pull each dish out of the water to check for missed spots. End with cookware/pots and pans; if you soaked pans with baked-on foods, washing will be easier. Don’t forget to wash the bottom of the pan.

TIP: Be extra careful when handling kitchen knives! Don’t pile them in the sink; instead, wash them one by one and immediately place them handle-up in the drying rack (or flat to dry).


Rinse suds and residue with clean hot water. Rinse by dipping in a rinsing sink or pan, passing under a stream or spray of hot water; or, by placing them in a drying rack and pouring or spraying water over them. If you have a double sink, use the second sink to rinse off washed dishes.

TIP: Be sure to rinse inside cups, bowls and glassware

5. DRY

Air drying is easier than towel drying. However, wiping with a clean towel is helpful when glassware or flatware is spotted or filmed. Make sure the towel is clean, and change the towel when it becomes damp. Paper towels work well for drying pots and pans, especially if they contain traces of grease.

TIP: Remember to clean up when you’re done. It’ll make tomorrow’s task easier! Rinse and wipe down the sink, dish drainer, and dishpan. Rags, dish cloths, and sponges should be left out to air dry, or laundered in the washing machine. Remember to replace sponges and rags frequently.

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This Camping Mac and Cheese recipe is the easiest and cheesiest make-ahead meal! This recipe is for when you want macaroni and cheese on the go. Get ready for the best camping dinner experience ever.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Camping Mac and Cheese | On the Go!

Camping Mac and Cheese? A Pacific Northwest kind of thing.

Probably more of a Lauren’s Latest thing.

Do you camp? You’re going to want to after one peek at this recipe.

You guys, camping for me isn’t just hot dogs over a fire. My mom taught me from a young age that we can eat just as deliciously on vacation at the beach camping then we do at home. It just means a little cooking in advance! So in honor of me having gone on a camping trip sans husband and providing my fellow campers with oatmeal chocolate chip cookie s’mores, I decided that I should think of more meals that people would probably not want to make or think they couldn’t make whilst camping.

Why macaroni and cheese was the first thing that popped into my head, I’ll never know. But here is the recipe! I do take a few short cuts, but by golly is this stuff amazing!! Try it and see 🙂

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Main Ingredients Needed

Super simple recipe made from super simple ingredients! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Elbow Pasta – this is the pasta of choice when it comes to making mac and cheese. So good!
  • Alfredo Sauce – either use store-bought (I got mine from Trader Joe’s) or make homemade alfredo sauce.
  • Cheddar, Mozzarella + Parmesan Cheese – three types of cheeses for maximum flavor!
  • Half & Half – this helps the alfredo and cheese blend together when heating.
  • Salt + Pepper – season to taste!
  • Anything Else You’d Like to Add – bacon, jalapenos, smoked sausage, bell peppers, etc.!
  • How to clean dishes on a camping trip
  • How to clean dishes on a camping trip

Preparing Camping Mac and Cheese

For all of the nitty gritty details, see the recipe card down below 🙂

Find Aluminium Pie Tins

Since we’re cooking these on the fire/on an outdoor grill, start by finding these mini aluminum pie tins. Just found these at the grocery store! Spray 4 of them with nonstick cooking spray and set them aside.

Cook Pasta + Combine Ingredients

For the actual mac and cheese recipe….it’s not much of a recipe. I like to call it a cheaters mac and cheese because that’s exactly how I feel about it. This recipe is cooked elbow macaroni, store-bought alfredo sauce, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, half & half, salt & pepper. Once the pasta is done cooking, rinse it with cool water and drain well. Then stir in all of these goodies and that’s basically it.

Cool + Add Lots of Cheese

You want to cool down your pasta so the cheese doesn’t melt. The last thing you want is a glob of cheese in the middle of your dish. It would be so hard to divide!

Anyways, divide this cheesy mixture in between your pie tins. Obviously top with more cheese!

  • How to clean dishes on a camping trip
  • How to clean dishes on a camping trip


Now, as for storage: we’re going to cover these with foil because again: foil won’t get completely destroyed in a fire pit. Write out what it is so that in your cooler when you go camping, you’ll know to keep these all together and away from the melty ice water.

Be sure to spray the other side of your foil with more nonstick cooking spray. I hate when all that melty, gooey cheese sticks to the top . The things I think of…

Cover these bad boys up and seal them as best as you can. I like to actually put all 4 of these guys into a large ziploc bag so if they do happen to get submerged into that grody, melty ice water in the cooler, it’s no big deal.

These should last 3-4 days in a cooler, if kept cold enough!

  • How to clean dishes on a camping trip
  • How to clean dishes on a camping trip

How to Cook Camping Mac and Cheese

Prepare Coals

Once you are ready to cook these, get a fire nice and hot and let it burn down to hot coals.

Heat the Mac and Cheese

Place a grill over top and heat up your mac n cheese 8-10 minutes or until hot and cheesy! YUM. Depending on how hot your fire is, this could take no time at all, or could take a little longer. The key is to not set them directly over your heat source. Burnt mac n cheese was never good.

Since everything is more or less cooked, all you have to do is heat it through.

The best part of this recipe is the edges and the tops got a thin layer of crispy cheese that added a whole new level of deliciousness.

I’m kind of in love with crispy cheese.

How to clean dishes on a camping trip

More Macaroni and Cheese Recipes to Try!

  • Smoked Sausage Mac and Cheese
  • Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
  • Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
  • Pimento Mac and Cheese
  • Broccoli Mac and Cheese
  • Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
  • Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Anyways, if any of you are headed out to camp or even if you don’t camp, try this mac n cheese recipe out. It’s so fast, so simple, and awfully delicious!