How to Keep Clean when Camping!


We all know the importance of good hygiene at home or in the workplace, but it’s easy to forget the need to keep clean while camping. Australian campgrounds are renowned for having reasonable amenity blocks, but if you’re camping away from facilities or hiking for days, cleaning can be more difficult. This article will look at some of the specialised equipment that can make cleaning easier, and will also give you some tips on keeping clean, when hiking, in a way that is simple and environmentally friendly!

Showering next to car after swimming in the ocean


There is a range of camp showers available to make cleaning a comfortable experience when you are away from facilities. Some even run on solar power or batteries so you can have a hot shower.You can also use a small tub of water, soap and washcloth.

  • Wash at least 100m from any watercourses (this includes dry creek beds) as soaps and shampoos can be damaging to aquatic wildlife.
  • I also use biodegradable soaps with low sodium and phosphate and avoid soaps and shampoos with fragrances.
  • Chemicals in cleaning products can damage the surrounding bush and scents might attract unwanted insects.
  • While nothing beats a shower after a long day, this isn’t always practical if you’re hiking for a few days and don’t have access to lots of water or have room to carry equipment in your hiking pack. In these instances, one technique to clean yourself is to use moistened cotton balls.
    • Use them on your underarms, groin, face, feet, back of the neck or other areas that might get sweaty.
    • These take up little room in your pack and you may be surprised how much dirt the cotton balls will remove.
    • For additional antibacterial protection, you can dab the cotton balls in alcohol-based hand sanitiser, although be careful as excess use can dry the skin and sting if used on rashes and grazes.


  • If you’re camping for a long time and not near a Laundromat, you can purchase compact portable washing machines that can easily fit in a caravan or back of your car.
  • If you’re hiking and carrying all your gear in a pack, laundry isn’t always practical. In these instances, air-dry your clothes after hiking each day as wet or sweaty clothes stored in your pack can be a source of bacteria.
  • You can also wear clothes that wick away moisture so they don’t get as sweaty and will dry much quicker. A lot of the hiking clothing is designed specifically for this purpose.
  • A travel towel, like the Sea to Summit Drylite Towel, is also a great investment. Regular towels can stay wet for a long time and harbour bacteria, whereas a travel towel will air-dry in no time at all.

Muddy man

Number 1’s and 2’s

Yes, we’re talking about going to the toilet.

There are a number or portable toilets, and even toilet tents, that are available for you to do your business in private. These are very useful if you’re camping out in some of the coastal or desert country of Australia where there aren’t many trees to squat behind.

If you don’t have room to take a portable toilet then here are a few tips to consider when going to the toilet in the bush.

  • Firstly, always relieve yourself away from campsites, walking tracks and any watercourses.
  • The bacteria in human faeces can be harmful to native wildlife, so make sure you dig a deep hole (at least 15-20 cm deep) and tap down soil afterwards with your boot or back of the trowel.
  • Also, make sure you bury both your deposit and the toilet paper but don’t bury anything that might contain chemicals or inorganic materials such as plastic.
  • There is nothing worse than seeing stray toilet paper floating in the bush, not to mention the associated hygiene issues.
  • A lightweight trowel is important to include in your pack to dig holes.
  • Some soil can be quite compacted in Australia, so a trowel with a point is preferable so you can dig deep enough.
  • Take a bottle of hand sanitiser with you when you go to the toilet.
  • Often people will wash their hands back at the campsite. By the time they’ve got back from doing their business, they’ve touched the trowel, door of the tent and cap of the water bottle.

Do number 1's and 2's in the bush

Cooking and Eating

  • Before cooking and eating, clean your hands.
  • When camping, you might be handling soil and animals.
  • Quite often the bacteria you come into contact with when camping is unfamiliar to your body and therefore it’s even more vital to clean your hands before eating than it is at home or work.
  • If you don’t have access to warm running water then hand sanitiser is effective.
  • A tiny bottle of an alcohol-based hand sanitiser will easily last a family a couple weeks.
  • Remember to wash your cutlery and dishes properly rather than just giving them a quick rinse.
  • Ideally, heat up some water after you finish cooking so you can use hot water, and dispose of the used dishwater away from any watercourses.

When camping, cover your food to protect it from insects and bugs


  • If there are no bins, you’ll need to take your waste with you.
  • If you have to carry waste, make sure it is stored away from food and other personal items.
  • Ziplock bags are a great way to keep smells contained and prevent leakage.
  • I often double-bag my rubbish and then store it in an opaque bag so I don’t have to look at it.

What Else?

  • Make sure you apply appropriate first aid to any cuts and grazes.
  • Again, in the great outdoors there are germs your body may not be used to and you don’t want a wound becoming infected. So cover up wounds with a plaster or dressing, regardless of how insignificant it might seem.
  • Oh, one more tip -don’t forget your toothbrush!

Although I find one of the great things about camping is chilling and not caring what I look like, you don’t want to stink out fellow campers and you definitely don’t want to come down with an infection on holidays. So make sure you think about how you’re going to stay clean before you head out on your next camping trip.

Have you got any other advice you’d like to add to this list of camp hygiene tips? If so please share them with us below!

About the writer...

Joined back in July, 2012

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