For me, packing for a weekend in the woods is almost as fun as the actual trip. But after I’ve filled my third duffle bag with cans of bug spray, jugs of lighter fluid, and lanterns that will sit in my closet the rest of the year, I begin to feel a little depressed. It seems that in order to properly enjoy nature, I need to buy hundreds of dollars worth of products—many of which can prove harmful to the environment.
But no more! This season, I decided to research some natural and DIY alternatives to keep my camping trip green and budget-friendly. Many of the items below can even be made with products you already have around the house (assuming you’re like me and can’t help but stock up on essential oils).
Essential-Oil Bug Spray
Although there are lots of DIY bug sprays out there, I decided to try out this essential-oil spray from the blog Tasty Yummies
because it follows a basic formula that can be customized according to what you have in-house.
Start with 2 ounces of distilled water
, mixed with 1 ounce of either witch hazel
(a good facial astringent) or cheap vodka
. From there, add 50–75 drops of any bug-repelling essential oil
(follow the link above for a full list). I chose to forgo citronella in favor of a more aromatic mix of peppermint, lavender, and grapefruit.
This spray works well for light camping and kept my normally bump-ridden legs bite-free for two days.
You can customize the bug spray above with oils that repel ticks, but it tends to end up less skin- and nose-friendly. For better results, try mixing one part tea-tree oil
with two parts water
, and spritz the solution only on areas where ticks make contact, such as socks, shoes, and pant cuffs.
When it’s already 60 degrees first thing in the morning, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour getting a fire going (especially before there is even a chance of coffee or breakfast). These fire-starters from Lifehacker
cut that time down by staying lit for about five minutes, turning even the feeblest of attempts at kindling into the beginnings of a fire.
To make them, start with about 20 circular cotton pads
like the type used for taking off makeup. Then, melt some candle wax
in either a pan or a double boiler until you have a molten pool about a quarter-inch thick. Set a single layer of cotton pads in the wax, and flip them after the first side is saturated.
Let the pads cool on some wax paper, then stash them in a nonflammable bag. When it’s time to use one, simply tear it to expose some of the underlying cotton and then light it up. Voilà: fire.
While flashlights are great for jaunts in the woods, they don’t provide much light when you’re stationary. But instead of buying lanterns or restricting yourself to sitting around the fire, you can make a temporary lamp using a water jug
and your regular flashlight
. When the flashlight is placed directly against the jug, it creates a clear, emanating glow that you can talk over and even read by. Bonus packing points if you freeze the jug first and use it as an ice pack for your cooler.
If you’re hanging out in one area for a period of time, you can double your bug-bite prevention by creating a bug catcher out of an old 2-liter bottle
Cut the top off the bottle, and turn it upside down to create a funnel into the bottom of the jug. Secure the funnel in place with glue, tape, or staples
, and then pour half a cup of sugar
and 1 teaspoon of baking yeast
down the funnel. Then fill the bottle with water
up to the bottom of the funnel.
The mixture of sugar and yeast creates carbon dioxide, which is what attracts bugs to both humans and fruits and vegetables. The bugs will try to find the source at the bottom of the bottle, and very few can find their way back through the funnel to pester nearby campers.
Looking to enjoy the outdoors this summer? Check Goods for more camping gear.
Photos by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon