Camping Cleanup Tips

Last month a reader, Susan, wrote in with a great question:

“So ladies I just came upon your lovely site… I love the gourmet ideas you have… But I HATE the clean up & at the end of the day go for the packaged meals.

Got any ideas for quick and “dirty” clean up???”

We certainly agree. Clean up at home is hard enough, but it’s worse when you’re camping. We’ve been thinking about all our cleanup tips, and here’s what we’ve got.

  • My favorite tip is to make cleanup a group effort. Instead of one person trying to wash, rinse, dry and put dishes away, get a few people together and give each person one of those jobs. It might be hard to convince people to help you, but if you can, it goes so much faster that way.
  • Make sure to bring something to wash in. If you’re car camping, just a bucket or some kind of plastic storage container works. If you need something lightweight for backpacking, you could look into purchasing something like this kitchen sink. Another idea is to just use your biggest pot as your container.
  • If you can spare the fuel, heat up some wash water. I used to never bother with this, but now I do it all the time. It’s no fun to wash dishes in cold water on a cold night.
  • Use a little water to clean up the last bits in the pot, then scatter the water rather than dumping it right by your campsite in one concentrated spot (or pour it over the campfire to help put the fire out). Just be wary of doing this close to camp in bear country. There should be no solid food particles left in the pot.
  • You can use natural things like snow or even leaves/grass to wipe out the last bits in your pots.
  • Pick recipes that you can make on a campfire. A few of our favorite campfire recipes are Soyrizo Stuffed Mushrooms, Roasted Cream Cheese Stuffed Peppers, Campfire Quesadillas, Campfire Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Campfire Flatbread Pizza.
  • Do most of the cooking at home and just reheat the food at camp. Yeah, you still have to do dishes, but it is easier at home and you can then just kick back at camp. Here are a few make ahead recipe ideas- Vegan Sausages, Asian Wraps with Peanut Sauce, Grits Cakes, Eggplant Caponata, and Almond Flax Granola.
  • If all else fails, if it’s a short trip home, you can always pack up your dirty dishes and wash them at home.

Of course, always remember Leave No Trace principles and pack out what you pack in. What are your favorite camping cleanup tips?

7 thoughts on “Camping Cleanup Tips

  1. Like the list. Try taking along a collapsible sieve or strainer to get all of the last bits of food out of your dishwater and pack them out with the rest of your trash. And don’t forget the biodegradable soap. I find that most regular campers don’t fight over dishes and clean-up, rather, it’s the ones who don’t regularly camp that are averse to “chores.” I’ve also found Oscela sponges work well and preserve your non-stick finish without scratching, and features a nylon scrub side for the tough stuff.

  2. remember that if you are cooking in cast iron to always re-oil it after your done, that is if the cast iron is rather old. Its very easy just whenever your done cooking take spray oil spray it around and wipe out excess with a paper towel. Its very helpful at preventing rust, especially if it may be stored in a garage or trailer for a while (even though i tend not to go more that about 3 weekends without camping)

  3. A little liquid soap on the outside of your pots and pans will make the campfire soot clean off super easy, apply with your damp washing sponge.

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