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Cleaning cookware away from a water source?
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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Cleaning cookware away from a water source? on 03/08/2012 03:44:12 MST Print View

Any tips on cleaning your cookware when camping away from a water source without wasting a gallon of water?
During a trip a little while back I made some messy mac and cheese and just decided to wait until we hit a water source to wash it. I guess I could wipe it down with a rag and wash out the rag later.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Cleaning cookware away from a water source? on 03/08/2012 04:36:50 MST Print View

Hi Justin,

FWIW I've heard of some hikers using sand to scour their cookware. ;-?

The theory is that the next time they cook the actual heat of cooking or boiling water will sterilize the pot.

A couple of years ago I saw one hiker actually let another hiker's dog lick his cookpot "clean". I guess he was operating on a similar theory. ;-)

I've been using MH dehydrated meals. I usually part them out into single serving 1 quart ZipLoc freezer storage bags. I rehydrate in the Ziploc freezer storage bags. This could be an answer for your situation. If you were to do the same you would have multiple left over "empty" MH heavy duty plastic/foil bags. If opened carefully they will retain their own ability to be re-sealed and reused.

My routine is boil water, add the water to rehydrate, pick up & store my stove and fuel while the boiling hot water fully rehydrates the meal. If you are starting out with a "boxed" Mac and Cheese product you may have to experiment with rehydration times for the hard noodles.

As far as the spoon goes, I just lick it clean and store it away in a bandanna for the next meal. At night everything gets hung in the bear bag and all my used bags get packed out.

This leaves me with essentially no dishes to wash.

Party On,


j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Cleaning cookware away from a water source? on 03/08/2012 06:25:09 MST Print View

Long grass works really really well. This is my standard scouring procedure when I have a fire going to burn the grass. I don't know what I would do with the grass otherwise. Cathole it? Seems like a bad idea.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Let your fingers do the walking... on 03/08/2012 06:31:33 MST Print View

1) Finish food. Use your utensil to get as much of the extra food bits out as possible.

2) Pour an ounce or so of water into the pot.

3) Swirl this water around with your finger to remove residual food/sauce from the pot.

4) Drink the water--leave no trace means not dumping food out on the ground. (This is where some might balk, but it's basically just like getting one last mouthful of your meal)

5) Repeat #3 and #4 one more time with even less water to get the final traces of food out.

I've used this method over thousands of miles of hiking and have never found a meal that you can't clean up with just your finger. I'm pretty serious about the LNT thing, so I don't want to have to dump any soapy or dirty water on the ground.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
sump on 03/08/2012 09:07:53 MST Print View

It's very uncool to put foodstuffs and/or soap into water sources, so it gets down to either a dry wash or "sumping". The "human sump" method described above has you clean with (hot) water and then drink down the dregs. This gets a little more challenging if you're using a larger pot to clean, for example, the pot, plate/cup and utensils from others.

Another method is to dig a cathole for a kitchen sump and treat it like you would a manure hole: bury it. When using that method, I dig deep and add a layer of soil every time I drain cleaning water (no soap) into it. Rock on top when done.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Cleaning cookware away from a water source? on 03/08/2012 09:23:01 MST Print View

Keeping food and soap out of water sources and out of the mouths of animals is exactly why I went to freezer bag cooking. No dishes besides licking off my spoon.

Besides the LNT aspects of doing dishes, I HATED dealing with it!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Cleaning cookware away from a water source? on 03/08/2012 10:53:24 MST Print View

Two things to help make cleaning quicker and easier:

1. Keep cleaning in mind when planning meals. If you must cook "messy" food like mac and cheese, maybe use a piece of foil as liner (they weigh nothing) -- and toss into campfire (or pack out) when finished.

2. Always clean immediately after eating. Whatever the food, cleaning always gets harder when leftovers solidify... Oftentimes, just adding water, swish, and drink -- then wipe with a dry towel is all that's needed.

Will Webster
Foil on 03/08/2012 11:13:54 MST Print View

"... use a piece of foil as liner (they weigh nothing) -- and toss into campfire (or pack out) when finished"

As an AT Maintainer, I hate picking scraps of foil out of some clown's fire ring. A camp fire does not burn aluminum foil, but it makes it brittle so there's a lot of little, sooty pieces someone has to carry out.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
TP on 03/08/2012 11:22:45 MST Print View

When making pancakes, I use a few sheets of tp to wipe the oil up, then burn if I have a fire or pack out. I'll have to refine my LNT practices as I tend to dump cleaning water the appropriate distance away from water, down a critter hole or by a rock. As a skinny kid, I cleaned my plate pretty good, so not much gets dumped. I'm out west, so not many people to be impacted by. Also, if having a dry camp, it would be wise to plan your meal accordingly. Hmmm?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Foil on 03/08/2012 11:27:27 MST Print View

@ Will - I think people need to make sure that whatever trash they burn, they burn it away completely! Kind of like burying TP -- don't do it so half-heartedly that they get exposed by wind and such.

Will Webster
Re: Re: Foil on 03/08/2012 11:50:11 MST Print View

Fair enough, Ben - maybe a better way to put it would be "toss it in the campfire and then pack out what's left"?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Foil on 03/08/2012 12:03:21 MST Print View

Agree! Don't leave any "burned" trash that isn't pure ash. Amazing how some people leave "burned" packaging and stuff where you can still tell the brand name!! Very inconsiderate.

Edited by ben2world on 03/08/2012 12:07:43 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Cleaning cookware away from a water source? on 03/08/2012 12:08:25 MST Print View

All my cook pot is used for is water boiling, and the water is mixed with food in my bowl. So, the only thing to be cleaned up is the bowl. I eat my main course first, followed by the soup which tends to clean out whatever was left of the main course. Then I follow that with hot tea which tends to clean out whatever was left of the soup. Then, just a half-splash of water, and the whole thing is done. No real pot washing or dish washing.


Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Cooking Pasta on 03/08/2012 12:37:03 MST Print View

My girls like Mac & Cheese while backpacking but I don't like the mess. I boil about 24 ounces of water and add it to the pasta in a 1-quart freezer ziploc. I seal it and put it in a coozie for about 15 minutes. I've found that you have to add a little "cooking" time to the pasta if it's not on a continuous heat source, but it works (especially for kids). You can then carefully drain the water from the bag, add your cheese (it will still be hot), mix, and serve.

I too am a big fan of meals that only require boiling water. We're usually cooking two-person meals (from Packit Gourmet) and we usually carry bowls of some sort along with spoons. We clean them with spash of water right after we eat and then wipe with a bandana.

I've been surprised by how hot food stays when it's in a simple reflectix coozie - one of the members recently did a study of the effectiveness of using a coozie and it showed that my experiences are backed up by his results.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Re: Cleaning cookware away from a water source? on 03/08/2012 15:41:03 MST Print View

Just put a little water, or the last bit of your hot beverage, into your pot and use your utensil and/or fingers to resuspend any bits/film from the bottom and sides of the pot into the water. Then drink it down. Repeat as needed. I've heard this called "human sumping" and its a very effective LNT method. This also wastes no water, since any water you use contributes to your own good hydration and is not wasted. I can usually get my pot very clean with a half-cup or so of water. At the next meal you will boil water in the pot anyway so it will be sterilized. Soap is never needed. I've done this for many years and have lived to tell the tale.