Camp Hygiene




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Site Contents

(Updated version of Campfire Yarn No.18 in Scouting For Boys by Baden-Powell)


Personal Hygiene

Good hygiene is more than just looking neat and clean. Good hygiene practices can reduce the spread of disease. Therefore, they effect your health as well as the people with whom you interact. Healthy Scouting requires freedom to explore, which seldom involves staying clean for long. But this is different than "poor hygiene", which generally means that a person has not washed or bathed, is always messy looking, and has behaviors that will spread diseases. Be it at home, hiking in summer, or camping in the winter you must practice good hygiene practices to preserve good health. Some of those good hygiene practices are:


Regular bathing is important to remove the sweat and grime that naturally build up on a person's body. It will also allow you the opportunity to examine yourself for signs of injury, rash or sores. Use plenty of soap and hot water when you shower or have a bath. The hot water will help ease sore muscles as well.

Hand Washing

Good hand washing, practiced frequently, will reduce illness. Always wash your hands after going to the restroom, after playing outdoors and after handling animals. At camp there should always be hot water available for people to wash their hands. You should always wash your hands before touching food. This is especially important if you are cooking for your whole Patrol, as many diseases can be spread through the preparation and touching of food.

Nose blowing, coughing and sneezing

These are ways germs can be spread. You should always carry a handkerchief so you can blow your nose properly. You should always cover your mouth when you cough. A handkerchief or tissue should be used if you have to sneeze. Never do any of these three things around food.

Sickness is caused by germs and these can be spread in many different ways. The following items are sure ways to stop the spread of germs:

bulletWash cups and utensils used by others before you drink or eat with them.
bulletUse your own towel and washcloth.
bulletStay clear of people who are coughing or sneezing.
bulletKeep flies away from your food and drinks.

Eating Habits

Every camper needs to eat well, and with careful planning you can. This entails eating portions from the four food groups in order to have a balanced diet. These food groups are: Meat & Fish, Fruits & Vegetables, Dairy Products, Bread & Whole Grain Products.

If you eat correctly using portions from all of the food groups, the food you eat should do the following three things:

  1. Build up your body and keep it in good repair.
  2. Give your internal organs the nourishment they need to stay healthy.
  3. Serve as a source of energy.

You should start every day off with a breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day as it is the energy from this meal that gets the body going again after your night's rest.

Recommended daily servings:

bulletMeat or Fish: Two or more servings daily.
bulletBread or Grains: At every meal.
bulletDairy Products: One or more servings daily.
bulletFruits: At least one serving daily.
bulletLeafy Green vegetables: At least one serving daily.
bulletVegetables: Two or more servings daily.

Water Purification

A growing youth needs plenty of fresh, pure water. This water will help you to cool off, digest your food, and maintain your health. Most Doctors recommend you drink six to eight glasses of water each day.

You should never take a chance by drinking water you are not sure is safe. Most wilderness water sources in North America today are not safe. The microbe Giardia ("jar-dee-ah") is found in 90% of these waters. The symptoms of drinking water with this microbe in it can be chronic diarrhea and vomiting. These effects are commonly known as "Beaver Fever." Even water springs may be contaminated.

 In order to drink wilderness water you must be prepared to treat it. There are several ways of treating water found at camp or along the trail. They are:

1) Boiling: Heat kills organisms. Bringing the water to a boil is a great way of killing off the organisms and disinfecting it.

2) Iodine: Iodine tablets are another method of disinfecting water. Usually two or three tablets will do the trick. You just drop them into the water and wait thirty minutes before drinking.

Iodine leaves a chemical taste in the water and you may want to add some drink mix to remedy this. The tablets have a shelf life of about three months, after which they should be replaced.

3) Bleach: Chlorine bleach may be used to purify water. 1 capful per bucket of water left standing overnight. The bucket should have a lid on while left standing.

4) Filters: Most camping stores now sell water purification filters for sale. Carefully follow the instructions that come with each filter.

If you are hiking for the day, the safest thing to do is bring your own water from home. That way you can be sure of its safety.

Water for dishwashing should also be treated the same as for drinking water, otherwise any food placed on the dishes after it has been washed will become contaminated.

You can check with your local health department for the latest information on water safety and water testing in your area.


Plenty of hot water and a good dish soap are what it takes to get dishes clean. The soap will do a great job in ridding the dishes of dirt and left over food, but the bleach in the hot water is what will sterilize them. The hot water should also give them enough heat so that they will dry themselves.

The most sanitary way of washing dishes is the "Three Pot System". This system is used by armies when they are on exercise in the field, and it has been used by Scouts for many years.

The system works this way:

bulletScrape dishes into a waste container.
bulletWash the dishes with hot, soapy (detergent) water by using a scrub pad, or cloth.
bulletRinse the dishes in hot water containing bleach, at a ratio of two teaspoons to every 4.5 L of water.
bulletRinse the dishes again in clean, hot water.
bulletAir-dry the dishes. Do not use a dishtowel.

The best way to use this system is to have the three wash-tubs spaced out on the seat of a picnic table, with sufficient room for people to work at each wash tub. The tabletop should have been wiped off clean to start with, and the cleaned goods laid out on the table to dry. In warm weather, with flies around, they should be covered with a cheese cloth, mosquito netting, etc.


Your body needs exercise to grow and to be healthy. The body also needs sufficient sleep to allow the body to grow well and restore energy. A young person between the ages of 11 and 16 needs about 8 - 9 hours of sleep a night in order for their body to develop properly.

As a Pathfinder you should have a simple exercise routine. Design your own using pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and jogging. There is no need to go overboard doing exercises, but you should do it on a regular basis, perhaps three times a week or more and push yourself to do it regularly.

An outdoor enthusiast should not smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs -- for these things are addictive and can weaken your heart, make you ill and their use can, eventually, even lead to death.

Kybo Procedures

I can hear you asking "what is a KYBO?" Well, it is the name used in Scouting for an outhouse or just a hole in the ground. The word stands for "Keep Your Bowels Open". "Why would I have to learn this?" I guess will be your next question. There are lots of rules about using kybos that you probably have never thought of. Some of these rules are:

bulletAlways keep the door closed. This will keep animals out of the facility.
bulletDo not use the Kybo as a receptacle for garbage, this will only attract animals.
bulletKeep the toilet paper in a waterproof container.
bulletIf there is Lime Powder or ashes provided, sprinkle some in the receptacle after use. This will ensure the waste matter is broken down, and it helps control odors.
bulletAlways, Always, Always, wash your hands after you are finished. If possible, leave a washbowl with water with 2 caps full of bleach in it, plus soap, close by.

When we camp we do not always have a built Kybo to use. Sometimes we have to use a "cat-hole". Cat-holes are small, shallow holes, about six inches deep, which are dug and then covered over after use. Cat-holes should be a minimum of 200 feet (or 70 meters) away from any water source. Your toilet paper will decompose a lot faster if it is wet. Use your water bottle to soak the paper before you bury it.

Remember, the disposal of human waste in the wilderness must be done with good judgment and common sense. Failure to learn the proper procedures will damage the environment. It can also lead to stomach upsets due to improper hygiene. One of the sources of Giardia lamblia in the wilderness is the improper disposal of human waste.

Be a responsible like an outdoors enthusiast should be!

The Traditional Handbook






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.