How to use cloth nappies while camping.

☀️ Ah summer holidays for some of us rhymes with camping holidays ⛺️

So if you have a baby in nappies, what's the go in that situation? Can it be done? How hard is it? Should you bother? Are probably some of the questions circling your mind.

Well, I have done a fair bit of family camping over the years and can share some insights depending on various situations 😎


Camping while using cloth nappies, a canvas tent, camping table


Are you the only one motivated to use cloth nappies, will your partner/family help? Or maybe you don't find it a chore and that doesn't even bother you.

It is true that on holidays, simple things like doing the laundry or dishes are not as much a bother as at home somehow 🤔

Of course, the point of a holiday is to relax and enjoy some family time and bringing your cloth nappies might seem like the opposite of that.

So you really have to decide for yourself, discuss it with your partner and do some thinking of how it would work.

But let's remember that even if you decide to do cloth while camping, you can always take a pack of disposables as back up if you change your mind!


Tents set up at a campground

What you need to know for considering cloth nappies while camping


1. Plan ahead 📖

How long are you camping?

If it's a short excursion for a few days, it's definitely do-able and won't require much washing.

I've gone camping for 3 nights and still brought my Real Nappies, no issues. Just prewashing the night nappies and the most soiled by hand and leaving them until I got home for example. Or you can cloth part time and bring disposable for night time, it is really up to you!

If you are camping for longer than a few days, there will be some laundering required.


How many nappies will you need?

This will depend on how old baby is. Are you going somewhere where there is a drier, or dry weather or will it be hot and humid so nappies may take a while to line dry? Work out your current usage per day and get enough for a rotation based on what you know. If you end up short, you can always buy disposables to get you by! Or if you are going in the middle of nowhere, bring some for peace of mind.


2. Research laundry facilities 🤲🧺💦

Will you have access to laundry facilities?

This could be in the form of an actual washing machine or is it just a sink? Or nothing at all? 

What kind of washing machine do they have. Can you hot wash in it or is it cold only? If cold wash only, you will need to either somehow get hot water into that machine or use bleach in your prewash.

Campsite, coin operated washing machine


Bring your supply of detergent if you need to or buy locally. I find using liquid detergent more forgiving in camping washing machines that have short wash cycles.


Check that you will have somewhere or something to hang your washing on: if you are unsure, it doesn't take much room to bring a length of washing line string and a few pegs. You can always find a couple of tents, cars or trees to tie the string in between for a makeshift washing line.


3. Use terry cloths, flats, preflats or prefolds 💚

They are the most versatile while travelling. These will be much easier to wash and dry compared to thick nappy pad inserts.

They are much more forgiving when a less than ideal wash routine is used temporarily.

And because they unfold, much quicker to dry!

Real Nappies have flat nappies and prefolds to fit the bill.

Our Booster Pads are also good to have for night time or to use along with the flats or prefolds for heavy wetters.

And we have some videos on hand so you can learn a simple pad fold quickly, see our How to...videos.

Boy fold is a very reliable fold for both boys and girls, and side and tummy sleepers.

Infographic on how to fold a prefolds into a pad or boy fold.

4. Pack strategically 🧳

I recommend packing your nappies completely undone, prefolds and covers flat in the bag. They take a lot less volume that way.

You could vacuum pack them for the way there, when the vehicle is usually choker full!


5. Collapsible bucket, string and a few pillowcases 🪣

Bringing a collapsible bucket is a must-have for camping. Use it to store nappies and wash nappies.

Woman carrying a baby and a bucket of cloth nappies for cleaning

Use pillowcases to put dirty nappies in. It is best to hang the pillowcases with a string in a cool and airy place so that there is some air flow through the fabric.

6. Wet bags 🧺💦

Bring wet bags to store your nappies in when you are on the go or if you move around from day to day. You can put the pillowcases directly in the wet bag if moving.

Remove the solid poos as soon as you can or leave them closed up and do it all at the end of the day.

Check out the Real Nappies wet bags HERE


7. Use disposable liners ♻️

They will help by making cleanup easier while not creating more washing. Disposable liners are placed on top of the prefold/insert to catch solid waste, making it easier to dispose of the waste without having to rinse the nappy immediately. They can also be used on top of a pocket nappy.

They will make washing easier, especially if the wash routine is a bit shaky compared to your normal.

The Real Nappies biodegradable liners are perfect for this.


8. Stay Positive and Flexible 👪

Camping with reusable nappies may require some additional effort but remember the environmental and financial benefits they still bring. Stay positive, be flexible, and embrace the opportunity to continue using cloth nappies even when you're away from home. It's amazing how even a mundane task like doing the washing is not as bad when you are on holiday!


My little cloth bottom in her red snug wrap, she was sucking her toes all the time at that stage! 


Camping in a campground with laundry facilities

When you need to wash your night nappy: simply wash in the bucket with detergent, rinse and wring or squeeze the water out as much as possible.


When you need to wash your night nappy or do a prewash, use your foldable bucket. You could use an on-site sink but because you need to leave your nappies to soak for a bit, it may be preferable to not obstruct the facilities for others.

  • use hot water, it should be almost too hot to put your hands in the water. If it's too hot to put your hands in, it's likely too hot for the nappies as our skin temperature varies between 33.5 and 36.9 °C.
  • add your detergent, about half of the recommended amount for a standard load of washing on the packaging. This is a higher amount compared to doing a prewash in a washing machine so that the nappies get a good strip.
  • place nappies in the bucket and agitate by hand.
  • leave to soak for about 20-30 minutes, it is beneficial to agitate or scrub the inserts or nappy covers at least once during that time.
  • rinse the nappies
  • wring or squeeze the water out as much as possible.


 Foldable bucket with dirty nappies soaking in it.



If hot water is not available on tap, you may need to heat some up.

Or diluted bleach can be used to help clean the nappies while washing with cold water. Use 2 caps full for 10L of cold water. Then wash as above.


The Real Nappies Snug Wraps have no absorbency and therefore usually only need one wash. If you have given them a good scrub, they should be good to dry and reuse without going through a main wash.


Main Wash 

Using the campground machines, they will likely be top loaders:

  1. check what size machine they are to determine how much detergent will be needed.
  2. It is likely that they will not be connected to hot water. If they are, fantastic! Wash as usual on the longest cycle possible on a hot water setting.

Refer to the Real Nappies Care Instructions to see what a normal main wash, amount of detergent and what correct machine loading should look like.

If they are front loaders, they usually heat their own water so choose a cycle suitable for cloth nappies. You could check that the machines haven't been tripped to only use cold water with the campground reception to be sure.


If the top loaders are not connected to hot water:

  • load the machine with nappies, clothing and detergent. 
  • start the wash cycle.
  • bucket in hot water from a nearby tap or prepared boiled water that will dilute with the cold water of the machine.



Camping in a campground with NO laundry facilities

Follow the instructions as above for the night nappy and prewash.

For the main wash, you will need some elbow-grease! I think you know what I mean 😜





Top Tip: Even if the wash routine is less than ideal compared to your usual, but temporary and as long as you follow the general principles of a good wash routine, you will not harm your baby and your nappies will survive:


  • Use hot water whenever possible, if hot water is not available use bleach diluted in your wash.
  • Use a good quality detergent, add a booster in your prewash to help.
  • Bring a piece of stain remover like Sard soap to help get rid of pesky stains.
  • Bulk your main wash as best you can to get good agitation/friction during the wash in a machine. Have good friction by hand when a machine is not available.



Once you are home, give your nappies two long 60°C washes to give them a good scrub and assess from there.

Camping in the wilderness


Now go on and enjoy that holiday that I am sure you deserve!

All will be well.




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