Laundry While Hiking

Doing laundry outdoors during a long trip is as important as doping them while at home. It might seem like an impossible task, but it can be easily done with a plastic bag and some bicarbonate. By reading this text, you’ll learn exactly how to clean your clothes while hiking or kayaking so that you can arrive home not smelling like a sweaty camper.

The methods I have in mind are throwing your clothes in the lake and cleaning them that way, or going old-school using some form of nature-friendly detergent (biodegradable). Going old-school can actually be done with a twist which makes it more time efficient for us adventurers. Perfect for larger groups or families.

Biodegradable Detergent For Outdoor Use

But let’s start at step one; detergents.  When choosing a detergent to use outdoors you have to keep in mind that it needs to be biodegradable. This means that normal detergent is out of the question! Instead, you should go for any of the following options:

Yes, that last one does exist! However, it’s not as versatile as the bicarbonate that you can use for your dishes and body as well. It is however more efficient,  especially compared to soap. A biodegradable laundry wash does the job effectively and fast, so perhaps it’s the best solution for you. All of these options have their pros and cons. Choosing will be up to you.

How To Do Laundy Outdoors

This process is fairly simple. We recommend that you bring a spare dry bag. Then put the items you wish to wash inside the bag, add your choice of detergent, and some water, and then mix. The longer the better! A great trick here is to tie it to your backpack and start hiking. By doing so, it’ll mix around thanks to your movement and automatically makes the washing a bit longer and the clothes cleaner.

When the clothes are done washing, it can be a good idea to remove the water and add some new just to get rid of any leftovers from the detergent. But make sure to pour out the used water in a bush instead of any stream. Even though the laundry wash is biodegradable, pouring the leftover in a bush is better so the ground can filter it before it reaches any water you might want to drink later on.

How To Dry Laundry Outdoors

Now when the clothes are clean, you just need to dry them. Most clothes can hang from your backpack and dry, but if you’re in camp or paddling, then a dry line is usually the best option. You can also hang the clothes from the tents guy lines. We recommend either Parachord or the more lightweight option: Dyneema line, which you can find in our shop.

Some other options are letting the clothes dry on a rock during a warm day or even wearing them to let your body heat dry them (unless you’re sweating too much).

Outdoor Gear You Don't Wash

There is some outdoor gear that should not be washed, and some that are too hard to wash outdoors due to filling or required methods. For instance: footwear, sleeping bags, and jackets. Let’s talk about some of them so you get an idea of the problem/challenge.

Washing Footware

Washing your boots is something you usually don’t do. Instead, you just clean them using a brush or some water on a sponge of cloth. But the process isn’t really that simple. We recommend that you read our guide on leather boot care if you have boots made out of leather. But if you use hiking shoes, then you’re in luck!

Hiking shoes have less material and are often thinner than boots (shell boots excluded). This means they can dry faster. But remember to remove the inner sole before washing them too since the inner sole tends to hold a lot of water. We recommend a brush for this to make sure you get rid of all the dust built up in the fabrics.

Cleaning Jacket

Washing your jacket outdoors can be tricky if it is stuffed. You can end up in a wet jacket that takes more than a day to dry, which can be a big problem if you end up needing it. If you still want to wash your jacket, try doing so on the dirtiest spots only, and preferably only the outside. If you have a shell jacket, drying it might not take too long, but we still don’t recommend it.

Washing Sleeping Bag

Keeping a sleeping bag clean is very important since you shouldn’t wash it too often. Plus washing and drying it outdoors is close to impossible. Don’t try washing your sleeping back outdoors! Fortunately, there are two methods that can help you keep it clean:

The first one is the rule to always sleep with some form of clothes that’ll protect the sleeping bag from your body. This can be hard during warmer seasons, but then it’s better if you try sleeping without a sleeping bag. Another solution is to use a liner that can do that work instead of the clothes. This is preferred by some people who don’t like the feel of clothes when they sleep.

When you’re done sleeping, simply hang up the sleeping bag from a branch or similar to let it dry and ventilate before you put it back into its bag. But during rainy days, this isn’t an option. It’s better to just let be lay freely in the tent for a while then.


Washing clothes outdoors can be quite easy if you know what you’re doing. Gear such as a jacket and shoes should be avoided if possible. These are items that are okay to leave dirty for a while.

Our last tip for you is to not wait with washing your clothes too long. While hiking it’s a good rule to always dry something on your backpack. You’ll optimize your wardrobe by doing so and decrease the risk that you’re left with dirty clothes during rainy periods.

Now, make sure you have a biodegradable detergent, an extra drybag, and a line to hang your newly washed clothes from.


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