Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  Keeping Clean in the Backcountry
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Staying Healthy in the Backcountry

Keeping clean in the backcountry

Campgrounds and recreational areas often provide washing and bathroom facilities. If there are no facilities, then follow this information on what to do in the backcountry.

Bathing, washing clothes, and washing dishes


For bathing, washing clothes, or washing dishes, collect a pot of water from a lake or stream. Move 60 m (200 ft.) away from the water's edge and wash yourself, your clothes, or your dishes with biodegradable soap.

When you’re done, spread the water on the ground, spraying it far away from campsites and water sources. Staying far from the water's edge lets the soap break down and filter through the soil before it reaches the lake or stream.

If you’re washing dishes, strain the water first, before you spread it, to catch all of the food scraps. Food scraps should be packed and carried out of the backcountry. Learn more about dealing with garbage in the backcountry.

If you don’t have biodegradable soap, you can use no-rinse bath and shampoo products or wet wipes (which must be packed and carried out).


Wash your hands in a tub of water away from all water sources. If the water hasn’t been boiled, then use hand sanitizer after washing your hands.

If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has more than 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer does not work if your hands are greasy or dirty, so clean them first if you need to.

After going to the bathroom and handling any toilet paper, wash your hands.

Brushing your teeth

Brush your teeth with clean water that you’ve already treated. Never put untreated water in your mouth or on your toothbrush. Learn how to filter, boil, and treat your water. Brush your teeth at least 60 m (200 ft.) away from all water sources.

Current as of: January 12, 2022

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services