Mattie breaks down what you need in your clean-up kit to quickly clean up after cooking at camp and leave no trace that you (or your food) were ever there.

When you’re packing your bags for a camping trip it sometimes feels like you’re taking everything but the kitchen sink. Well, it turns out that packing a kitchen sink isn’t actually that terrible of an idea. Especially if the kitchen sink is collapsible and comes packed away in a neat and tidy package like the Sea to Summit Clean-Up Kit.

Cleaning your dishes properly after a camp cook up might not be as fun as immediately kicking back by the fireside and spinning a yarn, but done properly, it’ll keep you healthy, keep your gear in order, and help you to leave no trace.


What Is a Clean Up Kit?

Generally speaking your clean-up kit should include something to clean dishes in and something to clean dishes with. Simple right? You can piece together your own cleaning kit, or take the easy road and pick up a ready-made Clean-Up Kit from Sea to Summit.

Here’s what’s in their kit:

Kitchen Sink

The Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink is a 10 litre, collapsible camp sink. It packs away surprisingly small, but opens up to a large size, kept in shape with a stainless steel stiffening ring. Carry handles on the sides make it easy to collect and carry water to (and from) your cleaning area. 

Leave No Trace Tip: Do your washing up at least 60m from waterways, don’t introduce food and detergent into delicate creek ecosystems.

Pot Scrubber & Soap

The integrated design of the Camp Kitchen Pot Scrubber and Soap keeps both items packed away together in a tiny 95g package. The brush on the pot scrubber has nylon bristles, which are safe to use on non-stick surfaces, and there’s a scraper built-in for tougher stains. 

The Wilderness Wash helps get dishes actually clean, is biodegradable, and can be used with salt water, but you still need to take that walk away from the river or ocean to dispose of the dirty water properly. Get this though, it doubles as body wash, shampoo and clothing detergent. You’ll never need another soap again!

Washcloth & Dishtowel

A double-sided washcloth helps you get through all the dishes in one go, providing plenty of scrubbing surface area compared to a lowly sponge.

Bringing a dish towel may seem excessive, but when you’re breaking camp and want to get on with your day, the ability to dry dishes and pack them away instantly is essential. The Sea to Summit Clean-Up Kit features their famous DryLite towel, which is super absorbent and dries quickly too!

How do I use my clean-up kit properly?

Here’s our field guide to using your clean-up kit:

Step 1: Cook Something Amazing

Amazing food when out camping can take on different forms. For some, an amazing meal is two-minute noodles, others like a bit more fresh veg and flavour. Here are some ideas of what you can eat & drink while camping.

Step 2: Enjoy Your Meal, All Of It

And if it’s not the most delicious meal, never mind, food is fuel right? Make sure you don’t leave any – not only will this make cleaning up easier, but it means there’ll be fewer food scraps going into your bin and into your washing up water. 

If there are any scraps you just can’t consume, make sure to scrape them into your bin. Sea to Summit make a Trash Dry Sack to ensure nothing leaks.

Step 3: Pre-Clean Your Plates

This is an essential step towards making your washing up job easier. If you’re not up for licking the plate clean, a piece of bread or wrap is the next best thing to wipe off any sauce,  grease or stray rice.

Step 4: Add Water

Collect water in your kitchen sink – how much water will depend on availability. Make sure you’re not washing up right next to a natural water source (60m away at least).

If possible, add some hot water to your sink to make the cleaning easier and more hygienic (just don’t add boiling water directly, it’s not good for the material and you risk burning yourself). The Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink can cope with water up to 60°C, which is hotter than you’ll need.

Step 5: Soap and Scrub

Add a small amount of biodegradable soap and clean your dishes. Start off with the cleanest items first and work backwards to the dirtiest. If your washcloth is two-sided use the coarse side for cleaning and soft side for wiping. Use the Pot Scrubber for stubborn caked-on food.

Step 6: Dry time

If you get the choice of camp chores, drying the dishes is probably the easiest. Using the DryLite towel dry and pack away your dishes immediately after cleaning. This stops animals sniffing them out and causing a ruckus (or worse, ruining your gear!).

Step 7: Dispose of Your Water

This is an important final step and must be done thoughtfully. If you’ve followed the above steps, there shouldn’t be any food floating around in your water, but if there is, make sure to strain it if disposing in nature. If possible, dispose of your water down a drain. If there’s none available, make sure that you are at least 60m from a water source and pour the water somewhere discreet.

Step 8: Relaxo Time

Pack away the entire Clean-Up Kit into its zippered case, kick your feet up and relax. Or continue on your epic multi-day hike, you know, whatever it is you’re up to in the wild.

Tips for Making Washing Up (Even) Easier

Washing up is never high on anyone’s list of camp activities, but follow these tips, and you’ll have more time for all that fun stuff. Which brings me to the first tip:

Wash Up Immediately!

Yep, that’s right, the tip no one wants to hear. But I’m a Dad and I know things – washing up straight after using your dishes means stains come off quicker and have less time to really make themselves at home.

Only Cook What You’ll Eat

Only cooking what you’ll eat is good advice at all times, but particularly when camping. The benefits of this are many: you’ll carry less food, it’s cheaper, less time preparing and perhaps most importantly, there’s less wastage afterwards. Less waste means less chance of food scraps for wild animals and less stinky scraps hanging out in your car or backpack.

Don’t Burn Dinner

Again, this is great advice for every meal. Keep an eye on your cooking, keep stirring, keep the heat low and do your utmost to avoid burning the dinner. Burnt food creates more waste and is harder to clean up – but it only really happens if you’re distracted!


Leave No Trace

We’ve mentioned a few leave no trace principles throughout this piece, but you know what? It’s pretty darn important – so we’re going to shout about them again. Leave no trace is all about protecting nature and keeping wild places wild for many years to come. So here’s a few of those big ones again just to remind you:

  • Scrape food into a campsite bin or trash pack – no food left behind
  • Dispose of water at least 60m from a water source
  • Use only a small amount of biodegradable soap
  • Do your washing up away from a water source
  • Don’t feed the animals!

Hygiene Benefits

It seems obvious to say this, but cleaning your dishes while you’re camping is a great way to stay healthy and avoid getting sick. If you’ve ever been stuck out bush with a runny tummy, or worse, you know it’s no joke and can actually be quite dangerous. So do yourself a favour and clean up after yourself.

Hot tip: the Wilderness Wash that comes in the Clean-Up Kit can also be used as soap for washing your body. You can use the Kitchen Sink as a makeshift sink and give yourself a birdbath. Just make sure you use fresh water for your dishes and dispose of your washing water in a safe way. It might be tempting to wade into a river and scrub up right there, but please don’t – apart from the environmental impact, the fish really don’t need to see that.