When out on a multi-day backpacking trip, there are several times when it is necessary to get things clean. These range from cleaning the dishes to cleaning the body by bathing in the backcountry. No matter what the situation, there are ways to clean and maintain sanitary conditions while at the same time being environmentally responsible.

Using Biodegradable Backpacking Soap for Cleaning Pots

Biodegradable soap is one kind of cleanser for backcountry use. Biodegradable soaps are designed to be more gentle on the environment, while at the same time getting the dinner pot clean. Some tips for using biodegradable backpacking soap include:

  • Use in small amounts. These soaps come in concentrated form, so only a little is necessary.
  • Use biodegradable soap away from major water sources, such as streams, creeks, ponds, and lakes. Leave No Trace recommends at least two hundred feet.
  • After using soap, rinse the pot to get rid of any soap residue.
  • When finished cleaning the pot, scatter the water far away from camp or from water sources.

Using Plain Water for Cleaning Pots

Plain water works well for cleaning pots also. Just use a scrubber to scrape off any food particles from the pot. This can be useful when cooking for oneself or on a solo backpacking trip. Boil water in the pot the next time it is used to kill any bacteria that may be on the surface, and to avoid getting sick in the backcountry.

Using Sand or Dirt to Clean Pots

Sand or dirt is another method for cleaning that doesn’t require soap, and can be useful when traveling along beaches or more arid area where water can be scarce. The sand can be used as an abrasive to scrape food from the pot, or to clean spots that have burned. Some dirt helps to absorb wet food in the pot. Burn the sand or dirt in the fire, or scatter it far away from camp, especially in bear country. Again, boil water in the pot the next time it is used to kill any bacteria that may still be on the surface of the pot.

Using Biodegradable Backpacking Soap to Bathe

Biodegradable soap can also be used for bathing in the backcountry. It can double as shampoo as well, which helps to save weight on longer trips. When in bear country, use a biodegradable soap that doesn’t have a strong scent. In addition, make sure to bath away from water sources.

All a hiker needs to clean pots or take a shower in the backcountry is some soap, water, and in some cases, just a handful of sand or dirt.