There’s a tricky thing about packing cleaning products for camping: You need the stuff! Like, you still gotta wash a dish even in the great outdoors. But also you need the stuff that doesn’t take up a ton of space and also that won’t completely trash the environment. Fortunately, you have me to think about these things for you and so, here come camping-friendly products that can serve multiple purposes for clean up.
I think we’ve well established that I love-love-love Dr. Bronner’s and if you’re a veteran camper, you probably do too. If you’re new to Dr. B’s (he and I are on a nickname basis, yes) or to camping, let me explain why people are so passionate about it: It has a TON of uses — you can mop your floor with it, use it to brush your teeth and wash your hair, and it’s an excellent dish soap and all-purpose cleaner — and it’s biodegradable, so it’s ideal for camping. For dish-doing, it’s also worth bringing along a plastic zipper sealed bag of baking soda (skip the box, if it gets wet you’re shit out of luck and baking soda), which is excellent for scouring burnt-on food and sticky film off of cookware and utensils, and is also safe for the environment.
Camping isn’t the time to rely on single use and/or disposable products, tempting though it may be to do so. You’ll just create a lot more garbage that you have to lug out of your campgrounds (and I KNOW you’re not even THINKING about littering). But you also don’t want to have to lug a lot of products with you, which is why you should bring a Dobie Pad for all your washing needs — it’s a non-scratch scrub sponge, so it will serve multiple purposes. Microfiber towels, too, can be used in a ton of ways, and can be quickly rinsed, wrung out and hung to dry so you can use them over and over for everything from drying dishes to wiping off a wet tent to rolling soaked clothes up to extrude water and help them dry faster.
It’s likely that your first aid kit will include alcohol wipes, but if it doesn’t it’s well worth packing a bottle of the stuff for use to clean cuts and scrapes, but also because it’s excellent for removing sticky sap from skin and fabric. It can also be used to wipe out and sanitize food service items (just wash them after so you’re not ingesting rubbing alcohol!) Rubbing alcohol is also an excellent stain treatment — it’s not quite as good at removing blood stains as hydrogen peroxide, but it’s close, which is helpful to know when camping since blood stains often happen (blisters, cuts, light woodland murder, you know …)
Buckets are, for many campers, a staple of outdoor living — you use them for toting water, for washing dishes and rinsing out clothes, for use when a drum circle breaks out …. They’re also handy when packing back up, as they can hold wet or muddy clothes that you don’t want to shove back in your pack, or crushed cans to be recycled that you may want to drop off on your way home. Lots of things to do with a bucket! A collapsible bucket, then, is an excellent choice for camping, since it can fold down, accordion-style, when not in use, therefore taking up a lot less room.
Speaking of those cans! If your camping trip itinerary veers more toward the crushing of beers than to the crushing of local hiking trails, a can crusher might be worth bringing along. It’s tricky to find portable (as opposed to wall-mounted) crushers, but this foot-operated Kitchencraft crusher can be used on any hard, flat surface — so: packed dirt, yes; grass, not so much. If you do anticipate creating a lot of recycling on the trail, it’s also a good idea to bring plastic recycling trash bags so you can keep recyclables separate of trash.