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Camping 101: How to Clean-up A Campsite The Right Way

There’s a reason Barney had to invent that annoying, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!” song just to get the kids to pick up their mess, and that’s because cleaning is the pits and everyone hates it. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil, especially when we’re talking campsites, when neglecting to clean up can have quite a few unsavory consequences for the next campers who roll in and the animals who call the area home. Maybe you want to be like Barney and sing while you clean, or perhaps you’d rather dance while you get to work, but however you choose to spice up the campsite clean-up, it’s important that you do it properly. What, exactly, does proper campsite clean-up entail? Funny you should ask!

1. Make sure the campfire is completely extinguished!

This is a big one, folks. Failing to fully extinguish your campsite could potentially turn your beloved campground into a fiery inferno, which would be very bad indeed.

Here’s how to keep that from happening:

  • Douse the coals.  Do this carefully and slowly. Be sure not to splatter or create ash-filled clouds of steam.
  • Stir the coals. Make sure they are thoroughly wet and that no hot coals or embers remain.
  • Feel the coals and/or fire pit. Don’t rely on sight. Feeling them is the only way to make sure there is no lingering heat.

Repeat these steps until the coals are fully soaked and no longer giving off any heat.

DO NOT bury hot coals. This is very hazardous, as they easily can smolder and spread.

2. Dispose of all trash.

Most state park campgrounds offer garbage cans where you can easily dispose of your trash. However, many primitive campgrounds adhere to a policy of “Pack it in, pack it out.” This leave-no-trace camping means that anything you brought in with you must be taken out when you leave. This doesn’t just mean the obvious – food wrappers, plastic bags, cans, etc. – but even newspaper or firestarter material, as well as any other non-natural material. Everything must go!

Scan the area carefully, making sure nothing has been left behind. Remember, the goal is to make it like you were never there.

campsite clean-up 101
Always leave the campground cleaner than you found it

3. Don’t forget about the bathroom!

Yes, we’re referring to nature’s bathroom AKA that hole you dug when you were half asleep and shivering in the night. Hopefully you dug wisely and made sure the hole was at least six to eight inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Unpleasant as this task may be, make sure all potty holes are filled.

After all, you surely wouldn’t want to step in that or stumble upon it, and neither does anyone else. Any toilet paper or hygiene products that may be strewn about need to be removed.

4. Check again! Yes, one more time.

clean campsite

It only takes one small oversight to snowball into a raging fire, a party invitation to bears, or a polluted campsite. You probably don’t want to leave anyway, so this is your perfect chance to linger in nature for a little while longer as you carefully survey your campsite and the surrounding area. The resident animals and future campers at the site will thank you.