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How to do Laundry at Camp

Posted by Sharon Harrington on

Though you often venture into the outdoors to escape your busy life in civilization, if you’re out there long enough there will be chores you can’t avoid. Laundry is one of those chores. If you stay at a hostel or campground, your laundry routine might look very similar to your at-home routine, but if you’re sleeping in a tent for more than a few days, you’ll need to follow a whole new set of rules when you do laundry.

Bring the right clothes

A big consideration to backwoods laundry is what you’re washing. Ideally, you’ll never need to wash anything big, like blankets or outer layers. Hopefully, whatever you need to wash will be made of a synthetic, quick-drying material. If you know you’ll want to wash your clothes mid-adventure, pack accordingly. Be sure that anything you’ll want to wash is small enough to fit in whatever you choose as a washbin. Bring an extra set of smaller things, like undergarments, if it can help you avoid the need to wash. Pack clothes to wear at camp so that you have “clean clothes.” The ability to sleep in different clothes than what you’ve worn all day will make a big difference on your desire to do laundry!

Bring the right “gear”

If you decide that doing laundry at camp will be unavoidable make sure you have the right gear. You’ll want a washbin, which can be anything from a large ziplock bag to a collapsible bucket. It will need to hold anything you desire to wash with enough room for water and “swishing.” You’ll also want to pack some earth-friendly, biodegradable soap, though it is better for the environment if you can avoid using soaps. Don’t forget to bring an extra lightweight rope for a makeshift laundry line.

Wash away from water and camp

Once you gather your water in your washbin, move away from water sources and camp before adding your dirty laundry. You’ll need to be at least 200 feet away from both. If you’re using a bag, add your laundry (and soap if needed), close it and shake it vigorously. If you’re using a bucket, use your hands or a couple sticks to mix the laundry in with the clean water.

If you add soap to your wash you’ll want a few cycles of water to be sure all the soap is rinsed out. Anytime you dispose of dirty water, be sure you are at least 200 feet from the water source (to avoid contamination) and camp (especially when using soap, to avoid attracting wildlife).

Allow your laundry to dry

If you’ve done laundry at camp, a laundry line is a great way to help it dry. If you’re building a fire, put the laundry line close (but not too close!). If you did your laundry on a mid-day break, hanging it from your pack is a great way to help it dry. If it’s cold outside, wrap your items around a durable water vessel (like a Nalgene bottle) and fill it with boiling water (be sure your water bottle is rated to handle water this hot!). The heat will help dry your laundry, and also warm it up a bit.

Laundry is a chore that you might be able to avoid while exploring the backwoods, but occasionally it is necessary. Though washing laundry in the outdoors isn’t as easy as it is at home, it doesn’t have to be daunting. Be sure you have the right gear and remember to stay 200 feet from water sources. Following these simple guidelines will make it easy! 

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