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How to Clean Up a Campsite Properly

Have you ever heard the song that Barney sang? The one that says “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!” so children will pick up after playing and make cleaning up fun instead of a dreaded chore. Sad, but true, cleaning up after us is a necessity, especially when camping. Not doing so can have unpleasant consequences for the next campers and their pets who follow right behind you and want to call that area home for a time. You might want to sing Barney’s song while cleaning or dance your way through the chores, but however you decide to conduct the task, it’s important to do it properly and thoroughly. Here are some tips for cleaning up your site.

campsite fire with chairs in background
Fire at a campsite

Make sure that campfire has been extinguished properly!

This is huge! I mean really huge!!! Failing to fully put out your campfire could potentially burn the entire campground to the ground, especially in the winter months in the south when all the dried leaves are falling to the ground.

Here’s a few tips to make sure your campfire is extinguished:

  • Wet down the coals. Go carefully and slowly and not splatter or create ash-filled clouds of steam.

  • Stir those coals. Make sure everything is completely wet and you do not see any hot coals or embers. If you do, rewet the entire coal bed again.

  • Feel the coals and/or fire pit. Feeling the coals and the pit is the only sure way to guarantee the coals are completely cool with no lingering heat. Don’t rely on sight alone.

Keep repeating these steps until you are absolutely sure everything is completely out. One final tip, DO NOT bury hot coals. They can smolder, spread and is extremely hazardous.

man cleaning up trash from campsite
Clean up all your trash

Clean up and throw away all trash.

Most campgrounds offer some sort of garbage disposal. Whether is regularly placed garbage cans or a dumpster or in primitive camping many adhere to the policy of “Pack it in, pack it out.” Leave-no-trace camping means exactly what it implies. If you brought it, take it when you leave. This doesn’t apply to just food wrappers, cans, plastic, etc. but also newspaper or fire starters, pet waste and any other non-natural materials. All of it must go!

Carefully explore every inch of your campsite, making sure nothing is left behind. Make it look like you were never there.

Don’t forget to clean up after your pet!

That’s right, clean up after your pet. From holes that he/she may have dug in the ground to carting in branches to waste. No one wants to come and potentially turn an ankle in an unnatural hole or step in a smelly pile of doo-doo. Make sure the ground is level, the branches are properly taken care of and dispose of their waste so no one will step in anything smelly.

Not doing so is not only disrespecting anyone coming in after you, but also against most campground rules and you may find that you’re not welcome back the following year.

Check again! Yep, one more looks around!

Just one small oversight can go from a spark to a roaring fire, an invitation to wildlife or a polluted campsite. You’re probably regretting that you have to leave, so this is the perfect opportunity to look around and enjoy for a little while longer as you carefully check out your campsite and its surrounding area. All the resident animals and future campers will thank you for your careful camping.

Do you have any suggestions for keeping your campsite clean? We'd love to hear and share them.


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