Washing Dishes in the Backcountry

washThere are some realities that one has to face when making an excursion to the backcountry. One of the most obvious realities being, you have no electricity. It’s surprising to me how many newcomers fail to plan for this, or allow it to ruin their entire trip. Just because you’re without a refrigerator, oven, or microwave, it doesn’t mean you can’t cook food. That being said, just because you don’t have a sink or dishwasher, it doesn’t mean you can’t wash your pots, pans, and other dishes once you’re finished eating. Today, we’ll take a look at how to wash and scrub your dishes in the backcountry.

You’ll want to keep a washrag and soap handy just for cleaning dishes. Biodegradable soap is best here, given its ease on the environment. Sea To Summit’s Wilderness Wash soaps are a great, versatile option.

To get started, fill your largest camping pot with water (snow in winter.) Then, heat the pot over your camping stove until it boils. If you’re melting snow, be sure to add a little water from your water bottle to the bottom of the pot to keep the pan from scorching. This will actually help it melt faster, as well.

Once the large pot is full of boiling water, you’ll then need to split the water between two pots, much like washing dishes in two sides of a kitchen sink at home. Next, add a small amount of soap to one of the pans and allow the water to cool down a little so that you won't burn your hands. Once you’ve got your two pots set up, you can wash each dish in the soapy water and then dip it in the second pan to rinse, using the rag to scrub.

Be sure to collect food particles in a separate spot and carry them out in your trash bag. Also, remember to scatter the used water far enough away from streams or other water sources, at least 200 feet. If you have the time, you can dry your clean dishes in the sun.

It’s important to clean your dishes, and clean them properly, when you’re camping. Food residue left on dishes can cause food poisoning when you eat from the dish again. Furthermore, the scent of dirty dishes covered in food particles will attract animals, some of whom may not be so friendly when they head towards your campsite to investigate the aroma. Though, let’s face it, what would your mother say if she saw dirty dishes at your campsite?