So here you are, readying the family for a camping trip, and you are still undecided: which kind of diapers to pack? Here are the reports of conversations with parents who offered their experience to me when I was researching CAMPING WITH KIDS:
Disposable diapers are less of a hassle, they said. Just toss the big package into the car.
I had to argue with them, and they admitted, it’s true disposables take up lots of space. And how disposable are they? I asked. Leaving them in the trash at a campground is not good camping behavior. Parks these days have limited services; garbage pick-up is sometimes infrequent. It’s not unusual to see stacks of garbage bags outside of overly full garbage containers. And tossing used diapers into the vault of a pit toilet? That’s a real no-no. The diapers won’t biodegrade for years, and meanwhile the pit will fill and will require a replacement in a short time. Same with a chemical porta-potty; diapers in the vault will necessitate more frequent, and costly, emptying. My argument continued: If you’re thinking about burning the diapers in your campfire, think again! Do you really want to release the fumes from a burning diaper into the air of your campsite? What if you plan to cook there? For people who choose to take disposable diapers on a camping trip, the most ecologically sound method of disposal is to pack them up and take them home. Then dispose of them there as you usually do. (And by the way, the same goes for the rest of the garbage.)
Taking them home is what most parents do who take cloth diapers when they camp. A supply for a whole weekend can be crammed into available spaces left between pots and pans, toys, and other camping equipment. A diaper pail with a tight lid, or a double plastic bag with a tight seal, holds the used diapers. (The bag takes up much less space than the pail.) Families that go out for more than a weekend told me that some campgrounds have laundry facilities, or they visit a laundromat in a nearby town when they drive in to replenish groceries. When they unpack at the end of the trip, the used diapers are laundered just as they always are at home.
I was surprised to learn, from a man who told me they always take cloth diapers on camping trips, that they wash diapers in camp! Even camping in our damp Olympic National Park, he said, they washed diapers. They carry only twelve diapers on each trip. They carry a wash basin which they use for bathing the baby, washing dishes, and also washing diapers. They rinse the diapers first, wash them in hot water heated on their propane stove, and then rinse again. Then, this is the neat part, the parents get almost all of the water out of the diaper by standing opposite each other, each holding one end of the diaper, twisting it as tightly as they can. The slightly damp diapers are spread out on shrubs around the campsite or hung up on a clothesline, preferably in sunshine, where they dry very quickly. Even on damp days, my correspondent assured me, the diapers dry under a rain fly.