Cleaning your camping dishes for better health

While camping carries a mystique of healthy rigor about it, the very dishes we eat off of while vacationing in the wilderness may be teeming with tiny sick-making bugs. And it’s our own fault.

The food blog Brownie Points pointed me toward the Science News article How to Wash Up in the Wilderness. A microbiologist, Joanna Hargreaves, conducted a study regarding dish-cleaning practices among backpackers and expedition companies and found that their methods were not removing all harmful bacteria. She hazards a guess that individual campers may have even poorer habits than the large expedition providers she followed.

The piece in Science News recalls a related 2004 study that found that 56% of backpackers studied on the Appalachian Trail developed diarrhea, and the risk was much higher among those who did not always treat their water before drinking it. But nearly half of the Appalachian hikers who did consistently treat their drinking water still got diarrhea. “So other hygiene lapses-including inadequate washing of hands, dishes, and eating utensils-are apparently major threats to health in the wilderness,” concludes microbiologist Hargreaves.

I have to admit my own camp dish-washing methods pale in comparison to the three-bowl scientific approach she prescribes. If I recall our last camping trip correctly, we rinsed with boiling water…or swished…or something. Umm, maybe I’ll mend my ways next time we camp thanks to this article.

Author by Larissa Brown