Babies and Backpacking: Diapers

Poop! What are you going to do when your baby poops on the trail? The diaper situation of the trail sounds daunting, and it may bring memories of horrifying blowouts to the forefront of you mind, leaving you exhausted before you even start your packing list. While I won’t over sell you on the glamour of it all, I can definitely say that it shouldn’t deter you from backwoods adventure.

So many choices! There are a bunch of diapers out there, but really it’s divided into two categories: cloth, and disposable. I have heard from two other mountain mamas who chose to use disposable on the trail and had great experiences, but I’m definitely biased towards the cloth option. I’ll give you the run down on both of the primary options, and you can decide for yourself brand/style/etc.

Disposables: The first thing to consider is how many diapers to bring, which is totally subjective. For argument’s sake, I’m going to be using the numbers that would apply to my sixteen-month-old, Abe. He could easily get away with five/24hr period. But since that mischievous “Murphy” is always hanging around, I would make that six/day.

Packing disposables in is easy enough, because they are already ultra light and compacted, but packing them out is where creativity kicks in. Wet diapers can be laid out to dry either on the ground while you’re enjoying your camp spot, or clipped to your pack if you’re on the move.  Dirty diapers are a bit more involved, but still doable. Wipe off as much “yuck” as you can, and then proceed to dry it out the same as before. Obviously there can be a serious bacteria issue, so definitely bring a gallon-size ziplock or similar to store them once they are dry. One of the people I consulted said that she burned diapers, but I’m not sure that is totally kosher for the environment.

You can see the diapers hanging off the back of my pack.

You can see the diapers hanging off the back of my pack.

CLOTH: To be fair, I’m biased towards cloth in daily life, but think that they are ABSOLUTELY the best choice for backpacking. I pack six diapers TOTAL. I personally use inserts, but it doesn’t matter much.  Sure, cloth diapers take up more space, but I just snap a few around an s-beaner  and clip ‘em on my pack. Now, my son needs to be double-stuffed during the day, and at night we triple-stuff him, so we bring a couple of extra inserts to be safe.                                                                                                                                               *I’m going to take this opportunity to talk really quickly about inserts, since this can be where a lot of extra weight gets added. Now, I love my bamboo inserts as much as the next chick, but they are heavy and thick. My crafty mom made me some AWESOME inserts that are super absorbent, light, and thin. It’s safe to say that these will be the only inserts that will be coming on our trips this summer.*

This is a bamboo insert. It's awesome, but not 1.6oz worth of awesome.

This is a bamboo insert. It’s awesome, but not 1.6oz worth of awesome.

This is the insert made by my creative mom.

Um, how are you going to wash those cloth diapers? Well, with my spit, obviously. Just kidding. I use my handy-dandy camp bucket! Don’t have one? Then you’re crazy and should get one ASAP. I promise, camp buckets carry themselves for many reasons that I won’t get into now, but take my word for it.

  • 1st thing, pack yourself some soap. Go to REI and ask them what the least harmful brand is (be aware that you will only need half of a drop per diaper)!
  • 2nd, bring a couple pairs of disposable latex gloves (with their own baggie, because bacteria is gross). The wet diapers are simple enough to clean: just grab a rock, put a couple of drops in you bucket, and start scrubbing! Make a little pile of all of the soapy clean stuff, and then get a fresh bucket of water to rinse. The more sun that the diapers get, the better (thanks, sun bleaching!). If you live in Colorado like me, then your diapers will be dry in no time flat. If you live somewhere other than Colorado, well, too bad for you.
  • 3rd try your best to clean your gloves, let them dry, and then put them back into their baggy for next time. Boil some water, and then do a quick rinse in you camp bucket. It’s not enough to sterilize it, but it will knock out some of the grossness. **Don’t dump your nasty, soapy, diaper water anywhere near a water source**

I know, now you are sitting there thinking “duh, that all make obvious sense.” But need I remind you that you were highly concerned about this subject 700-words ago? I thought so. Good luck on the trails with your babies, guys!

Have something to add? Comment! Have a question? Comment! Have sanctimonious advice? Don’t comment.

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Comments 3

  • Laura : Feb 25th

    I’m so happy to find your blog–I’m hoping to bring my baby girl backpacking this summer when she will be 6 months old. Right now I use disposible diapers but I like the idea of cloth on the trail to limit weight.

    Can you share what brand covers you use? And what type of material did your mom use to make your inserts?

  • mum pampers : Dec 21st

    Thanks to my father who told me regarding this webpage, this
    web site is in fact awesome.

  • Sondra : Aug 28th

    Thank you so much for this information
    What type of cloth diapers do you bring?
    I’m thinking that prefolds and a cover will be the easiest to clean?
    What kind of soap do you bring?
    What kind of camp bucket do you have?
    What material are the light weight doublers?

    I have a 2 kids (2yo and a 10month old) and want to start backpacking with them this fall


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