The Ultimate Guide to Using Cloth Diapers While Camping

By April Duffy •  Updated: 04/03/24 •  11 min read

Traveling or camping with a baby can present a unique set of challenges, especially if you’ve chosen to use cloth diapers. However, with some careful planning, the right supplies, and a little flexibility, it’s entirely possible to manage cloth diapers on the road.

This guide provides detailed advice on how to effectively handle cloth diapers while camping, covering everything from packing essentials and setting up a changing station to dealing with longer trips or a lack of laundry facilities.

Why Choose Cloth Diapers for Your Camping Adventure

Choosing cloth diapers for your camping trip may seem daunting at first, but their environmental advantages make them an excellent choice for conscious campers. Reusable are a sustainable alternative that drastically reduces the amount of waste produced during your outdoor adventures.

This fact aligns well with the ethos of camping in the first place, where preserving the environment you’re enjoying helps you bond with nature.

However, it’s essential to note that cloth diapers can be bulkier than disposables, which might be a concern given the limited storage space when camping. But while cloth diapers do occupy more space, they also eliminate the need to carry a large number of disposable camping diapers, which can also take up a ton of room. With cloth diapers, you only need to carry enough for a few days at a time, even on a long trip, as they can be washed and reused.

The extra bulk of cloth diapers and the need to carry used ones until they can be washed might seem like a challenge at first, but with some creative packing and planning strategies, managing cloth diapers on a camping trip is absolutely feasible (I’ll get into those later).

Therefore, while it might require a slight adjustment to your packing strategy, the environmental benefits and waste reduction make cloth diapers a viable and eco-friendly option for your camping adventures.

Essentials for Diaper Camping: Packing the Right Supplies

When it comes to cloth diapering while camping, having a well-thought-out camping diaper kit is critical. Whether you’re a seasoned cloth diaper user or a new parent venturing into the world of cloth diapers, packing the right supplies will make your camping adventure a lot more manageable and enjoyable.

Firstly, wet bags are a must-have in your camping diaper kit. Wet bags are not only good for carrying dirty diapers, but they also lock in odors, keeping your camping site fresh and clean. You’ll need two large wet bags—one with a zipper and another that can be either zippered or a simple garbage bag. This ensures that you have ample storage for your used diapers and can manage diaper changes efficiently.

A large, wipeable change pad is another crucial component of your kit. A change pad is especially handy when you’re out in the wild, providing a clean and comfortable space for your baby during diaper changes. If your camping site lacks a table, a larger pad can serve to keep your baby clean when doing changes on the ground and also protect your tent if doing changes inside.

Next, you’ll need to pack your cloth diapers and wipes. The number of diapers you should pack depends on the age and toileting habits of your baby. As a rule of thumb, anywhere from 6-12 diapers per day should suffice. Multiply your daily average by the number of days you’ll be away, then add a few extra just in case.

Don’t forget to pack liners or any rash creams you might need. Liners can make poop removal easier (since there are no diaper sprayers in the great outdoors), and rash creams can help prevent diaper rash and keep your baby comfortable during the trip.

Lastly, if you use a wipe solution, it’s a good idea to wet your wipes before heading out and store them in a smaller zippered wet bag or an empty disposable wipe container. This way, you’ll have wet wipes ready for use at all times during your camping trip.

Having these essentials in your camping diaper kit will ensure that you’re well-prepared for any diaper-related situations while enjoying the great outdoors with your little one.

Setting Up Your Diaper Changing Station in the Great Outdoors

When it comes to changing diapers in the great outdoors, practicality and cleanliness are key. Remember, you won’t have all the conveniences of home, so it’s important to plan ahead and think about how you’re going to keep your baby comfortable and clean during diaper changes.

First, consider where you’ll change your baby’s diapers. If you don’t have a table, a large, wipeable changing pad will be essential. This will keep your baby clean when doing changes on the ground and protect your tent if you’re doing changes there. If you’re camping in an RV or trailer, you’ll have more options, but it’s still important to have a clean, flat surface dedicated to diaper changes.

Once you’ve got your clean diapers and changing station set up, it’s time to think about what you’ll do with the dirty diapers. A high-quality wet bag with a good zipper is vital here. This bag will store the dirty diapers and help control the smell. Think about where you can hang this bag so it’s out of the way but still easily accessible when you need it. If you’re lucky, you might have a tree near your camping area that would be perfect for this. Alternatively, you can hang the bag off your vehicle’s side view mirror. The key is to find a place that makes sense for your situation and keeps the dirty diapers separate from your other camping gear.

Remember that you’ll be dealing with both wet and soiled diapers. You might want to bring along cloth diaper liners to help with poop removal, as there won’t be any diaper sprayers in the great outdoors. Depending on the facilities available at your campsite, you can dispose of the poop in an outhouse or other restroom facilities.

By taking the time to set up a dedicated changing station and plan for diaper disposal, you can ensure that changing diapers during your camping trip is as clean and hassle-free as possible​​.

Long-Term Camping with Cloth Diapers

Embracing the thrill of the great outdoors for extended periods can be quite a unique experience. However, it also brings with it its own set of challenges, especially when you’re committed to using cloth diapers for your little one. Here, we explore some strategies to make your long-term camping trip smooth and manageable.

Preparing for Extended Stays

If you’re planning a camping trip that lasts more than a few days, you’ll need to think about how to manage your diaper supply. One option is to pack more diapers, assuming you have the space and the resources to carry them. However, another feasible approach is to wash the diapers during your trip. This method requires a bit more effort but can be quite rewarding, both in terms of space saved and environmental impact.

Choosing the Right Detergent

When washing cloth diapers in the wilderness, it’s essential to choose a detergent that is both effective at cleaning and safe for the environment. Opt for a biodegradable, phosphate-free detergent that won’t harm the local waterways. Many camping stores and outdoor retailers offer a range of eco-friendly cleaning products suitable for this purpose.

Hand Washing and Air Drying

Hand washing your cloth diapers during a camping trip might sound daunting, but with the right approach, it can be a practical solution. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Remove Solids: Start by removing all the solids from the diaper. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you can skip this step as the poop is water-soluble. For other cases, you can use the ‘dunk-and-swoosh’ method or a portable diaper sprayer to get the solids off.
  2. Rinse: Rinse the diapers using a water source, even if it’s a river, lake, or garden hose. Remember to comply with local regulations and practices for water usage and waste disposal.
  3. Wash: Fill up a tub or large bucket with warm water and add a small amount of your chosen detergent. Less than a teaspoon is plenty for a small tub. Immerse the diapers, ensuring not to overcrowd the container, and let them soak for a bit. After soaking, scrub the diapers together to agitate them, promoting friction that helps with cleaning.
  4. Rinse Again: Drain the soapy water and rinse the diapers under fresh water.
  5. Check for Errors: Drain the water and rinse them again under the shower or tub and use your nose! This is important as you can’t always measure things properly when handwashing in small containers, so your nose is a fantastic tool in this process. After rinsing, take a moment to smell the diapers. If they still smell soiled, repeat the washing process. If they smell like detergent, rinse them again. If they smell clean, you’re ready to dry them.
  6. Dry: Finally, hang the diapers out to dry. Choose a safe, clean location where they can get plenty of sunlight and air. Drying times will vary depending on the weather, but cloth diapers typically dry quite quickly in sunny, warm conditions.

Washing Cloth Diapers at a Laundromat or Other Washing Facilities

If your camping adventure extends beyond a few days and you have access to a laundromat or other washing machine, it’s still possible to wash them there even though your routine won’t be as balanced as your Measure Method Wash Routine you’re using at home.

While it’s true, errors in your wash routine can cause detergent buildup or on the other hand leave your diapers unclean, both of which can cause smells and rashes, if approached carefully, the damage can be minimized and corrected when you get back home and can run a few of your regular washes.

Here’s a guide on how to wash your cloth diapers in an unfamiliar machine:

  1. Remove the poop before washing (unless your baby is exclusively breastfed). No surprises there, but it should be said.
  2. Choose the largest load setting if the washer is manual.
  3. Assume that the washer is a small 3-cubic-foot machine and put no more than about 9 lbs of diapers in at a time and no less than about 3 lbs of diapers in.

    Here’s the chart to help you come up with an approximation of how much that is:
ItemWeight (see note below)
T-shirt
o.5 lbs
Jeans1.6 lbs
Large bath (or beach) towel1.6 lbs
All-in-one’s (AIO)0.75 lbs
Prefolds, Flats & Flour Sack Towels (FST)*
*Covers won’t add much weight but it’s factored in as rounding up
0.6 lbs
Fitteds, Hybrid Fitteds & Overnight Fitteds*
*Covers won’t add much weight but it’s factored in as rounding up
1.4 lbs
Pockets & All-in-two’s (AI2)Use insert weights below based on the number of inserts, doublers, etc. you use per diaper and round up for the small weight of the pocket and AI2 covers. 
Inserts, Doublers & Boosters0.37 lbs
  1. Do a rinse/spin cycle (or if the cost is prohibitive at a laundromat, rinse them out ahead of time in whatever water source you have handy).
  2. Run a heavy-duty, hot cycle. Add the amount of detergent recommended for small loads on the back of your detergent bottle. For Tide this is line 1, which is equal to a 1/4 cup, but for other detergents, this may be very different. Bring along your own detergent if you can (mostly to avoid skin reactions to new detergents for your baby) and the scoop or cap to measure it out.
  3. Do another rinse/spin cycle.
  4. Again, use your nose as a fail-safe. If they smell slightly like a barnyard after the final rinse, you may need to run another wash cycle and rinse cycle (and add more detergent next time if you have to use the laundromat again before you go home). If they smell heavily like detergent or ammonia, run another rinse cycle or even better, rinse them out under a sink or tub faucet until they smell clean.
  5. Once they’re smelling clean, dry them in a dryer (medium-heat setting or lower) or hang them to dry.

Conclusion: Cloth Diapering While Camping is Different, but Doable

In conclusion, using cloth diapers while camping it completely possible with the right supplies and preparation.

Essential supplies include large wet bags for storing dirty diapers, a wipeable change pad, and necessary hygiene items such as wipes, liners, and rash creams. The number of diapers required may range from 6-12 per day depending on your baby’s needs, so ensure to pack enough plus a few extras for contingencies. Consider setting up an efficient changing station to simplify diaper changes. With careful planning and organization, you can enjoy your trip without compromising your commitment to cloth diapering.

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.