17 Tips For Keeping Kids Clean(er) While Camping

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Keeping kids clean while camping…is it even possible?  

Yes, and no.  While you may not have kids looking like they just came out of a nice clean bubble bath, it is possible to maintain a standard of cleanliness while camping with kids.  We’re sharing our absolute BEST tips that we’ve learned from camping with our 5 dirt loving kids over the last 15 years.

how to keep kids clean when camping

How Dirty Will Kids Get While Camping?

If you’re new to camping, you may be asking yourself “how dirty can kids actually get while camping?”  The answer is REALLY DIRTY, and on some level, you’re going to have to be okay with that.  Camping is a time when kids are supposed to explore, discover the natural world, so dirt is going to happen.  I’ve had camping trips where my kids get absolutely COVERED in dirt, and others where they’re still clean enough at the end of the trip that you’d barely know they were camping.

dirty camping kids

What Level Of Kids Camping Cleanliness Do You Need?

If you already know that kids are going to get dirty while camping, you’ll need to establish what level of dirt you’re okay with and where you’ll draw the line.  Talk to your partner about this so that the kids don’t get so dirty that it causes you to be upset or frustrated.  Are you okay with dirty hands and faces?  Do kids need to wash up before bed or meals?  Is it okay if kids get clothes dirty while camping?  Are you okay with letting kids wear clothes more than once, even if they’re a little bit dirty?

dirty baby camping

Best Tips For Keeping Kids Clean While Camping

Use Wet Wipes

Wet wipes save us on EVERY. SINGLE. Camping trip.  We keep a package in the car, one near the food, and another in the tent.  They’re perfect for cleaning up kids when you don’t have lots of time or water, or when you just want to do a quick wipe.  We always make kids wipe their hands with a wet wipe before eating and then use hand sanitizer to kill the germs better. To avoid attracting unwanted animals to camp, always use unscented wet wipes when camping.

Wash Faces, Hands, and Feet Every Night

While washing faces, hands, and feet every night is good hygiene, it’s also a good way to protect your good camping gear and sleeping bags.  If kids are clean when they go camping, your camping gear will get less dirty and last longer.  Feet, hands, and faces are the biggest culprits of dirt and the most likely to rub into their pads, sleeping bags, and pillows, making them gross for the remainder of the trip.  You can set up a washing station for a solid clean (though help them back to the tent if they wash their feet), or just use wet wipes after they put their pajamas on.  

Have Babies and Toddlers Use A Camping High Chair

We started using a portable high chair for camping when our youngest was little and it was an absolute game cahnger. Not only did he eat his meals better, but we could keep him and his food out of the dirt (so nice for that toddler camping phase) and we didn’t have to try and hold him on our lap. THis is the best way to contain the mess, and the keep your baby clean while camping!

baby camping highchair

Put On Clean Socks Before Bed

I know that I just recommended washing feet before bed, but I also recommend having kids sleep with socks on while camping.  Not only does it keep them warmer at night (we use cotton socks for warm nights and merino wool ski socks for colder nights), but wearing clean socks to bed also keeps their sleeping bag cleaner and helps to keep it from smelling like stinky feet.

Contain Small Children When You Can

Babies from 8 months to about age 2 are probably the messiest and hardest to keep clean. They’re often crawling or playing in the dirt and get so messy thoughout the day. Consider getting a baby tent for them to play in during the day. They can still be involved with the rest of the family, but in a more contained and cleaner area!

Set Up A Washing Station

If you’re camping somewhere without access to running water, set up a small washing station.  We often use a gallon milk jug with a few holes poked in the lid so that it showers water out when tipped.  Having a good biodegradable soap pump is a great way to make sure that kids are actually getting clean when they wash up.  

Designtate A “Clean” Play Area for Little Ones

If you’re camping with a baby or toddler, you may want to consider having a designated clean play area, to keep them out of the dirt and mud. This could be something as simple as a picnic blanket for older kids, or for babies and little toddlers, you could bring your kids camping bed outside to let them have a cleaner place to play.

Minimize Sticky Treats

I know that kids love s’mores and marshmallows, but they’re literally THE WORST in terms of stickiness.  If you want to let your kids have a fun camping dessert, think about if you can find a non sticky alternative.  Really want a marshmallow based treat?  Have a clean up plan in place before you get the marshmallows out AND wash kids as soon as they’re done eating them (before they wipe their sticky fingers EVERYWHERE – dried marshmallow goop is really hard to clean up).  My kids love Jiffy Pop cooked over the fire and also are big fans of biscuit dough wrapped on a skewer and dipped in butter and cinnamon sugar.  

dirty kids camping smores

Have Hand Sanitizer Handy

We always have hand sanitizer when we go camping with kids, since it’s the easiest way to kill the germs.  While my kids would like to think that a squirt of hand sanitizer cleans their hands, I remind them that it just kills the germs, so their hands are dirty, but it’s cleaner dirt!   We like to have the pump bottles so that kids can apply a good amount without making as much of a mess.

Pack A Compact Microfiber Towel

We have these microfiber towels and take them on just about every adventure with us.  They pack up super small and dry really quickly.  They are the perfect camping towel and we love them for quick clean ups with kids.  We always bring them along in our day packs when we go out hiking on our camping trip so that if we come to a lake, we can have the kids jump in and swim for a little bit to get cleaner.  

Clean Underwear Daily

I always think that this is a given, but my kids constantly forget to put on clean underwear while we’re camping, so I always remind them.  This is especially important for little kids who may have a harder time wiping themselves while camping.  Always pack an extra pair of underwear, just in case of any accidents or spills.

Save A Set of Clean Clothes For The Last Couple Days Of The Trip

My kids are real experts in the art of getting dirty.   Truthfully, I often look at them an wonder how they got their clothes so incredibly dirty.  To preserve some of my own sanity as a mother, I’ve found it super helpful to set saide some of their clothes for later in the camping trip, so that the kids can at least appear to be a little cleaner.

Use A Plastic Tote Or Bucket For Mini Camping Baths

If you have really little kids or are camping with a baby, they’ll probably get dirtier than older kids, simply because they spend so much time on the ground.  If you feel the need to give your little one a bath, a larg bucket, or a plastic tote works great for this.  We have a plastic tote that we keep all of our camp kitchen gear in, and if we need to bathe kids while camping, we simply remove the contents and use it as a makeshift camping bathtub.  

Choose A Campground With Grass Instead Of Dirt

SOme camping spots are just dirtier than others.  Campgrounds with grass are often the cleanest, so if you have an option, choose a grassy campsite to help kids stay clean. 

Set Out A Camping Doormat

Here where we live in Utah, campgrounds with grass are almost nonexistent, so we do a few other things to help keep kids clean in the tent.  The #1 tip I have is to have a doormat outside of your tent or trailer.  This serves as a good place to take shoes off, but is also perfect for wiping dirty feet.  If you know your kids are getting really dirty, set out some wet wipes next to the doormat and have them wipe their feet before they enter. 

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

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