Camping with Cloth Diapers

Family Camping

If you are going camping with your baby, you may be wondering about the logistics of diapering. Yes, you can use cloth diapers while camping! Many parents are willing to share their experience to help you succeed.

Steps to your cloth diaper camping success include WHAT to take, HOW to wash, and what to do if you run out of diapers.


WHAT Diapers to Take Camping

When I wrote about camping with cloth diapers last year, I was more open to prefolds. I suggested prefolds or flats will work. The more I read about camping success with flat cloth diapers, I am shifting to all-out flat diaper advocacy.

Take flat cloth diapers camping!

These are the easiest diapers to get clean because they are just one big layer of absorbent cotton. Flat diapers are cotton gauze or birdseye squares from 27″x27″ to 36″x36″ with a flat, finished edge—a lot like a large, absorbent dish towel. Or give the Hemp/Cotton flat cloth diapers at bynature.ca a try – a wonderful alternative to traditional flats that are only 2-layers left open at one end for easy washing and drying.

  • 30-40 flat diapers. If you are ambitious about washing every day, make it 20. If you have an older child who doesn’t need frequent changes, you can take fewer diapers. You can double the diapers for nighttime.
  • 4-6 covers.
  • 30-40 cloth wipes.
  • A spray bottle for water to wet the wipes and the baby’s bottom
  • 3 wet bags. 1 bag for clean diapers (can be used to hold dirties in an emergency), 1 bag for wet-only diapers, and 1 bag for soiled diapers.

Yes, other types of diapers than flats will work. If you are only camping for a weekend and don’t plan to wash diapers while camping, use your regular cloth diapers. Just keep in mind that the longer diapers sit without washing, the harder it will be to get them clean when you get home. You may need hotter water, more rinsing, or an extra wash.


HOW to Wash Cloth Diapers While Camping

If you are only camping for a weekend, you may not need or want to wash diapers while you are away. If you are camping for a week, though, you would defeat the purpose of reusability if you had to buy 75 diapers just to cover a week (barely). Wash! It’s not difficult.

If you will be washing diapers while camping, add to your packing list:

  • Travel-sized biodegradable laundry detergent. Be sure it is phosphate free.
  • If you are traveling by car, bring a bucket. I have found that a 5-gallon bucket is perfect for dirty diapers. You can use it as both diaper pail and wash basin. If you aren’t traveling by car, you will still need to have some way to hold water to wash the diapers.
  • Rope for clothesline
  • Clothes pins

If you aren’t washing diapers while out, make sure you have a large, laundry-sized wet bag.

First of all, dump the poop. Whatever facilities you use for yourself, dump the baby’s poop there. That’s a lot better plan than keeping a wet bag full of poop hanging in your tent. This way, you get rid of a lot of the waste before it smashes and soaks into the diapers.

The next choice, how to clean. You can just swish the diapers in bucket of warm, soapy water, but you probably won’t get the diapers reliably clean that way. To kill any micro-creatures that are trying to live in the diapers, you can boil them—just like my grandmother did. You can see a great photo and a description of boiling diapers while camping in EnviroJon’s post linked below.

If boiling isn’t an option, flat diapers become even more important because you can clean them so much more easily than diapers with multiple layers. Swish them, agitate them, beat them, and knead them like bread. Do whatever you have to do to get the diapers clean.

Don’t use too much soap, since it will be more difficult to rinse when camping.

You may have to rinse a couple of times until the water is clear.

Finally, hang to dry. You can drape flat diapers over rocks or in trees, or you can pin them to a clothesline. A breeze will soften the diapers a bit, but you can take care of that softening by hand by rolling the diapers around a bit to help the cotton fibers flex post-wash.


Bother! I Ran out of Cloth Diapers While Camping

Diapers do a simple job: they soak up pee and hold in poop. Anything absorbent will do this job. If you run out of cloth diapers while camping, you have a choice: wash the diapers or borrow other absorbent items from around camp.

If you start borrowing and you have quite a young (small) baby, your husband’s socks (or your socks, for diapering dads) might do the job if the are cotton or mostly cotton. You wouldn’t want to use your own, so just tell him his were bigger so you had to. A big cotton tube sock can be folded over to make a narrow but quite absorbent diaper.

For a bigger baby, you need to make a wider poop catcher. You may need to resort to T-shirts. I have tried this. It’s such a simple diapering solution! Lay the shirt out with the neck at the top. If the shirt is wide (anything but a small women’s shirt), you may need to fold the shirt over then back open again leaving a wide strip down the middle with triple shirt layers (6 layers of fabric). This is a bit like a prefold. If the shirt is long, fold down the hem toward the neck. Fold in the sides much the way you would when folding a prefold. Put the baby on the new diaper, and tuck or tie the sleeves at the waist. If you use a small T-shirt, the diaper will be snug without a cover. If you have pre-folded the shirt, you will need a cover to keep it from unfolding and falling off.

For a bonus, put the back of the T-shirt toward the baby’s bottom and any logo from the chest of the T-shirt will be on the baby’s bottom.

There are also the options of moss and cattail fluff. Native peoples of North America used whatever absorbent material was a hand for the simple job of catching baby waste. In my area, that means cattail fluff. It’s sticky. I could work for you if you have a layer next to baby’s skin, but it would be a big mess to scrap poopy fluff off your baby’s bottom. It’s not a great option, but it’s an option. If you are adventurous enough to camp for weeks with a baby, maybe you want to try it. If you are going to try it, consider a silk liner next to the skin.


Who Has Camped with Cloth Diapers?

Check out EnviroJon’s great photos of boiling cloth diapers in a stock pot on a camp stove and drying diapers on a line outside the tent.

AutumnB’s video talks you through a diaper change in her pop-up camper. She was only gone for a few days, so she put the dirty diapers in a wet bag to wash when she arrived home. She uses a nice-looking, snug wool cover, so YES! you can use wool while camping.

Jessica of VeryBaby took cloth diapers camping with no wash facilities. She has a lot of tips and advice to make it work.

Image © Paulburns | Dreamstime.com

4 thoughts on “Camping with Cloth Diapers

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