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How to Clean and Maintain Your Camping Kitchen

Cleanliness in the camp kitchen is paramount to enjoying a successful camping trip and staying healthy, which is why Tod Schimelpfenig of NOLS Wilderness Medicine shares some expert tips and techniques for safe backcountry cooking.

Cleaning dishes in the wild requires careful planning and practice, yet there are plenty of strategies for keeping campsite cookware clean and in working condition.


Dishes might not be your favorite part of camping, but they’re essential in maintaining an hygienic campsite environment. Not only can this help prevent pests from coming to feed off of your food sources but it will also ensure that next meal you prepare is free from germs or bacteria that might otherwise lurk undetected in its ingredients.

Dishwashing at car camping campgrounds can be straightforward with the proper tools and know-how.

Begin with a collapsible camp sink set that includes one container for washing, another for rinsing and one for draining. Bring along biodegradable soap (we suggest Dr. Bronner’s magic soap) as well as bleach or sanitizer to use during the final step – especially if water availability is limited! To make the most out of camping while washing dishes while away from home, plan ahead by packing strategies to do just that.

Before beginning actual dishwashing, ensure that any leftover food has been scraped into your trash to reduce the amount of dirty washwater you must dispose of. Next, fill bucket #1 with cold water as your pre-rinse bucket; bucket 2 with hot, soapy water is your wash bucket; while bucket 3 contains clean rinse water which serves as your final rinsing bucket – being sure not to accidentally pollute bodies of water during this process! Ensure you use them far enough from any bodies of water to minimize accidental pollution before pouring your dirty washwater across a larger area before depositing it at its designated dump location as directed by the campground you stay.


Camp stoves are essential pieces of camping gear, yet one of the hardest pieces to keep clean in the wild. An unappetising cooking surface may lead to serious health risks or water-borne infection – understanding how to clean your camping stove can help you prevent this and ensure a functional piece of gear for all of your outdoor adventures.

At the core of cleaning your stovetop lies making sure your fuel source has been turned off and any gas or propane has been completely drained off. Once this is accomplished, disassembling your stove is key to eliminating grease and food build-up before submerging in hot water with dishwashing liquid for further soak time before drying and reassembling afterwards.

Car campers enjoy the luxury of washing their camping utensils in a sink; backpackers may not always have access to this convenience when away from civilization. Therefore, it’s crucial for backpackers to take extra precaution in caring for their camp cookware before and after each meal and before storing it away for future adventures.

With some extra effort and help from this excellent guide on camping kitchens, keeping things tidy is easier than ever! So if you’re ready to bring your favourite meals outside and start camping out, invest in quality supplies and follow these simple steps for optimal condition. Don’t forget our team of backpacking and car camping experts are on hand with all of their knowledge if you need any additional advice or tips when cooking up a storm in the backcountry – plus don’t forget our wide selection of camping supplies that is sure to meet all of your outdoor cooking needs on any outdoor adventure.


Sinks in camping kitchens are great tools for efficiently cleaning dishes and other kitchenware, but if your campground doesn’t provide them or hasn’t had them cleaned for some time, simple gear will still get them clean and safe.

The easiest and most straightforward method for this task is a three bucket system – one for wash, rinse and sterilize. Simply fill up one with hot water, add biodegradable dishwashing soap and begin washing your dishes one at a time in it before dumping each one in its respective bucket; when each is complete you may pour its contents into another one of them or use a strainer to collect food waste so they are as clean as possible for next mealtime.

Another alternative is purchasing a camp table with built-in sink. Although more costly than its regular counterpart, this model comes equipped with everything needed for dish and food prep chores – folding flat for storage purposes with its own faucet that connects directly to pumpable water sources as well as its own drain pipe for convenient drainage.

If your campsite doesn’t provide a dedicated place for grey water disposal, then it is recommended that you distribute it at least 200 feet from any bodies of water in order to avoid polluting the local environment with germs, soap, or chemicals. It is also a good idea to bring along a large bucket or bin to help store all of your sink water so as to not overwhelm any one area; alternatively you could tip a toilet paper roll over a bush or tree in order to disperse it more evenly.

Stove Burners

Stoves are essential elements of any camping kitchen, but they can be one of the dirtiest and hardest-to-keep clean. After every use, wipe down each burner to remove grease or food residue and use a sponge or scouring pad soaked in warm water and dish soap for easier cleanup.

If you are using a propane camp stove, it is recommended that after each trip you drain the tank to prevent moisture from gathering inside and leading to corrosion and other issues in the future. Doing this also ensures your camp stove will be ready for its next adventure without worrying about gunked up holes and gunky burners.

While cleaning your stove, it is wise to inspect its propane gas connector and replace any hard or cracked o-rings immediately. An improper o-ring seal could result in fuel leakage; thus addressing this issue quickly is crucial for safety reasons.

Before storing, it is also a wise practice to thoroughly wipe down both the legs and exterior surface of your camp stove, in order to ensure it dries completely. Furthermore, any mealtime boil overs should be immediately addressed in order to prevent excess broth or soup from collecting in its burner holes, leading to corrosion of your stove and diminishing its longevity.

Cast Iron

Cast iron pans can transform camping cuisine from boring burgers into gourmet cuisine, but proper care must be taken to clean and store your camp kitchen to avoid bear attractions due to any grease residue left behind.

If possible, it is ideal to wash camp cookware in a sink with hot, running water if available at your campsite. Otherwise, an alternative method would be using a bucket and hose to collect washing water from nearby streams and rivers using this environmentally-friendly approach. Just be sure that enough water has been collected in order to meet all of your cleaning requirements without polluting local wildlife or harming its ecosystem.

Avoid soap when cleaning cast iron as this will dissolve its protective seasoned layer and expose bare metal to corrosion. Instead, rinse it in hot water and scrub with chainmail scrubber or stiff-bristled brush until clean; or rub salt or other abrasives on it to loosen stubborn food particles from it’s surface. Once completely dry it can then be reseasoned using oil.

After every use, use a dry cloth to wipe down all your camping gear including tents and sleeping bags with. This will keep your camp odor-free while protecting against mold and mildew growth which is a serious health concern for backcountry hikers. Also remember only cook what you intend on eating so there won’t be leftovers left behind that might attract bears or other wildlife to your camp kitchen.

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