Thursday, June 16, 2011

Camping with Cloth Diapers

Yes, it is possible, and it's even easy! Easier than disposables by far; the last time we took our daughter camping she was still in disposables and it was a messy, smelly business, and I was constantly worried I hadn't brought enough diapers. Not so with cloth.

We went to Earl Rowe Provincial Park just outside of Alliston, Ontario.

We've been there a few times; we like it because it's close (about an hour from Mississauga, which is important when you're bringing a toddler) and the sites are really nice.

I decided to use flat diapers on the trip because they'd be easiest to clean if the need arose. The park has a small laundromat and so I brought a little jar of Laundry Tarts detergent, and I could even wash them by hand if I absolutely had to. Plus, they dry so fast that I could hang them up on my campsite.

It was also nice to know I had the detergent in case I needed to handwash some clothes; my daughter likes to get dirty when she's outside and if I have it with me I don't need to bring as many clothes for her.

Laundry Tarts is an all-natural laundry detergent so it's safe to dump in the bush when you're done washing and you won't be killing any of the greenery.

Now I have to point out that prior to this, I didn't like flats. I always wanted to like flats because they're so versatile and cost effective (even more so than prefolds) but I could never get them to work for me. First of all, one flat was never absorbent enough. No matter how I folded it I could never get enough layers to hold back my daughters torrents. But if one wasn't enough, two was too much. Layering two flats together always put way too much fabric between my daughter's chubby thighs, to the point were she couldn't even close her knees. The absorbency issue was (almost) solved by using a doubler, but on top of that, I couldn't get the flat to sit right. Regardless of the fold it would slide down her bum and leave giant gaps at her legs so the pee would just run down her leg. This was mostly due to my poor pinning abilities, but I couldn't get a Snappi to work either (it would always come undone).

Another reason I've always wanted to like flats was that they would be so easy to clean. I have a crappy front loader that never uses enough water to wash diapers. I get around this by using soapnuts and a flat/fitted combo at night (I tried prefolds overnight but the washer never washed them properly so I was boiling them once a week), but flats would make it so easy! After a few attempts I just gave up and went back to my tried-and-true bummis prefolds and Mother-ease fitteds. But when we planned to go camping I thought I'd give it another go. I did a test run a day or two before our trip and was pleasantly surprised.

This time I used PUL covers (Thirsties Duo wraps) instead of the wool. This way I knew that if she flooded the 'wetzone,' the cover would keep everything in and allow the rest of the diaper to absorb the moisture. I also forgot about the pins completely and was determined to make a Snappi work. I had a couple of new ones, and it seemed that the teeth were a bit sharper so I was able to get it to stay fastened. The PUL cover also helped to keep it in place. I didn't bother with the doublers because I wanted to see how absorbent the diaper itself was - and it was pretty darn absorbent. Sure, it was soaked through a few times but it didn't leak.

I also had a new fold at my disposal - the Diaper Bag fold. It's fantastic - not only does it allow you to use flats that you thought were too small, it also puts a lot of layers just where you need it; you can change both the width and the length of the diaper without sacrificing layers. If I'd known about this fold before, I might not have given up.

Diaper Bag Fold, from dirtydiaperlaundry.com

My flats are actually old cotton flannel baby blankets, of which I had 9. I also have two terry flats (made from hooded baby towels), but those 11 wouldn't be enough for the trip and since I didn't want to bring any prefolds or fitteds I decided to buy a 6-pack of Kushies flannel flat diapers.
baby blankets

Kushies, blankets, terry flat and more Kushies


The Kushies diapers are kind of small (the standard 27" square; most of my baby blankets are quite a bit larger) but they're very thick and fluffy and ended up being the most absorbent of all the flats apart from the terry ones.

I am happy to report that the flats were a success. I ended up using 10 or 11 of them (not counting the overnight diapers) and so I didn't have to do any laundry at all. The Thirsties wraps worked well, too; there was only one leak, but that was because I accidentally left a bit of a diaper sticking out from the cover and it wicked onto my daughter's pants. A couple of her diapers were completely saturated but there were no 'flood leaks,' as it were. The overnight diapers were the same ones we use at home -the main diaper is a terry flat and the two doublers are both pieces of flat diapers folded up, and that's all held in by a Mother-ease one-size fitted and then a wool soaker on top. I air dried both the PUL covers and the wool soaker (though I forgot to take a picture of the soaker on the line).

air drying a Thirsties wrap

I was finally able to try out my Weehuggers laundry bag - basically a big zippered wetbag with a shoulder strap - and it worked nicely. I kept it in the trailer with us and it didn't smell at all (okay, if you put your nose right up to it you could smell pee, but that's it). Even when the trailer was hot during the day you couldn't tell there were wet/dirty diapers in there.

All in all it was such a success that I'm considering using the flats in my regular rotation of cloth diapers. I'm still trying to find a way to use only flats at night - as it is my daughter's overnight diaper is made up mostly of flats, but it would be nice to cut out the fitted diaper completely so my machine only has one layer of all-night-pee-soaked cloth to clean.

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