Some may say that using cloth diapers when out in the wilderness is difficult, but given a bit of forethought and planning, it’s actually quite straightforward. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
What you’ll need:
Your diapers: Decide whether you want to wash diapers in the campsite or if you want to save everything for once you get home. Take along as many diapers as you normally use each day, plus two extra per day. You don’t want to run out! (Children also tend to drink more when they’re outdoors all day.) Organic prefolds are definitely the most space-efficient and easiest to wash, with pockets as a close second.
Wipes: Calculate 1-2 wipes per change, so 2-3 dozen should cover your three day trip.
Suds: If you want to wash in the campsite, also pack some detergent. Rockin Green Laundry Detergent is biodegradable and camp-friendly.
Rope: You’ll need a clothesline! You can include clothespins if you so desire.
Campsite Storage: Bring a wetbag or waterproof pail liner large enough to hold all your dirties. Or if you are car camping (and have space) you can bring a small rubbermaid tote to use as your diaper pail. If you are in bear country make sure you are “bear aware” and either store your dirty diapers in your car or hang them from a bear pole, or something similarly safe. A small wetbag will help you manage your system if you do day hikes or spend time away from your campsite. This will provide you with an easy way to transport the dirties back to camp.
A basket, tote, or backpack: Keeping your clean diapers organized will keep you sane. If you’re car camping, stack them neatly in a basket or laundry tote. If you’re backpacking, group them in large Ziploc bags to keep them dry and pack them in your backpack. (In the backcountry, you have to pack out whatever you pack in anyway, including garbage, so using cloth rather than disposables is actually easier AND lighter. Bonus!)
It’s Change Time!
If there’s poop, deal with it before you put the diaper in the dirties’ bag. In camp, dump it in the outhouse. In the backcountry, bury it as you would your own.
With urine-only diapers, either toss directly in the bag or if it’s going to be several days before a wash, rinse them first. You can do this in any running water that is downstream from other campers (n.b. NOT a lake) – and in the backcountry, if you’ve got time to let them dry, you’ll lighten your load considerably.
How to wash in camp:
Take your diapers to the nearest stream or collect fresh water in a bucket. Sprinkle soap on the diaper and scrub away. (Again, if you’re at a stream, make sure you’re downstream from your water supply and other campers.) Then hang the diapers with any stains facing outward and you’ll have nicely sun-bleached diapers ready for use in a few hours. If you’ve got the luxury of time, hang two diapers together – they’ll dry more slowly but they won’t be so “crunchy” when they’re done.
A wash routine when you return home:
If you bring home several days-worth of diapers to wash, you don’t have to do much differently than your normal routine. Make sure you do a cold rinse cycle at the beginning, and throw in a ¼ cup vinegar in the final rinse cycle – this will both soften your diapers and help to rinse out any detergent. They’ll be as good as new!
There – that’s all there is to it. Now you’ve both “saved” the environment and enjoyed the environment all at the same time.