Essential Oils for Backpacking and Camping

Essential Oils I pack for all things adventure

I get it… essential oils have basically turned into a “buzz” word these days. Somebody has always got an oil for that... and the tricky thing? Yeah. There are no clinical trials to back the science behind WHAT oils work for WHAT ailments. PLUS most reputable oil brands (as in oils i’m going to trust to put in and on my body) are multi-level marketing companies. Did I get all the elephants out of the room about essential oils now? HA! Now, hopefully with all that said… you’ll still read on and hear me out about WHY i use oils for backpacking/camping and WHAT oils have become my tried and true travel companions in the outdoors for EIGHT YEARS now.

Backpacking in Eastern OR

Backpacking in Eastern OR

Quick Recap on Essential Oils 101

Before you jump down the post to get to exactly what oils I bring and how I use them, I encourage you to take a quick recap on essential oils 101. If you’re not familiar already.

Here are some key facts:

  • According to the FDA any therapeutic essential oil can actually be 95% anything OTHER than pure essential oil and 5% essential oil. So that bottle of lavendar you bought from whole foods that’s not doing the trick? Might be because legally it’s classified as therapeutic but it’s anything but pure. Don’t take my word for it! Research this topic for yourself so you can find an oil brand you trust! For me, its Young Living because of their Seed to Seal guarantee. Also, this is why we don’t have clinical trials on essential oils and why you really have to do your own research.

  • According to David Steward, PhD, here is how Essential Oils work: “essential oils are composed of tiny molecules, all less than 500 atomic mass units in molecular weight. Essential oils can easily pass through all the tissues of the plant and into their very cells. Passing right through the cell walls. Thus they bring nutrition and information into the cell and carry waste product out. The fact that they are oils enhances this penetrating power enabling them to administer to the plant’s needs from gross circulation to the internal workings of a cell. They regulate plant growth, like hormones, they help in plant metabolism, like enzymes, and they also provide the basis for the plant’s immune system warding off undesirable virus, bacteria, fungi, parasites and insects. The plant’s oils can serve us in the same purposes. They can support and balance our endocrine, circulatory, digestive, nervous and reproductive systems. They can clear our sinuses and lungs to help is breathe better. They can help us metabolize our nutrients, and minerals, and vitamins. They can boost the natural defenses of our immune system so we can fight off disease by our own abilities.”

If you want MORE information on essential oils in and of themselves feel free to check out this information hub on everything essential oils.

Sleeping as snug as a bug in a rug in our favorite place, nature :)

Sleeping as snug as a bug in a rug in our favorite place, nature :)

My essential oils backpacking and camping list

My goal in writing this out for you is twofold!

  1. I genuinely want to help you find some great solutions for adventuring! These are my tried and true go-to oils! Even my husband has been fully converted over the years and even asks me if I got these packed!!

  2. A lot of the bugspray, sunscreen, and toiletries we bring outside is contributing to extra trash (which means either extra weight for packing it out or extra litter if you’re a loser… either way, lose lose), and has a lot of toxic ingredients in the substance that you’re putting on your skin! Hello, did you know your skin is your biggest organ? Alright, separate subject all together. But go research some of the nasty things in some of the popular bug sprays! (6 DEET Dangers + Safer Science-Backed Swaps)

Okay, here’s what I bring EVERY SINGLE TRIP!

  • YL Thieves Essential Oil - this is our first line of defense when it comes to that icky cold feeling. Which, often times when we aren’t getting great sleep, pushing our bodies daily, and not eating fresh fruits and veggies our immune system is not at its best. We make sure to use thieves proactively AND as cold treatment. It’s kind of like the swiss army knife for all things illness.

  • YL Oregano Oil - we bring this oil for two purposes. One as a torturing device for nosy neighbors. Just kidding! But really, this oil is POTENT! We use this as a tick remover. Put one drop of oregano on the embedded tick and it will back its head out. PLEASE do your research and make sure you’re using this oil appropriately on your skin (depending on where your tick is). This is a HOT oil. Oregano oil is also our second line of defense when it comes to kicking a cold on the trail. We take it internally. At home, if i’m sick I blend oregano, basil, rosemary, and thieves.

  • YL Lavender Oil - this is the oil for all things wonderful and healing. We use it in our pits for hygiene, I use it mixed with a little jojoba oil on my face for a quick refresh, and we most certainly keep it with us for sunburn relief!!

  • YL Deep Relief roll on - this oil is my best friend for days I get headaches. Which, I use to get a lot more prior to my stroke (long story). My husband would massage this oil into my temples and it was the only way I could find relief. This is also a GREAT oil for achy back and joints! It’s like icy hot but with benefits that penetrate beyond surface relief! When the headaches or muscle pain is real bad I also have a red knotty body ball i bring and will sleep on it to add pressure to my temples or achy back.

  • Citronella oil or YL bug spray - depending on where i’m going and if it is mosquito season or not, i’ll bring 1 or both of these products. :) Never have I ever brought deet on a camping or backpacking trip! Next time I’m playing the never have i ever game i’m totally using that line.

  • If I’m camping and it's allergy season i’ll add lemon and peppermint to the mix. Or my breathe again roll on which is divine! Sometimes I’ll also bring along my peace and calming oil to help everyone get a better night sleep as well. I mean, when i’m not worried about weight i’ll throw all my favorite oils into my bag. :)

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A few bonus benefits to using essential oils on the trail:

  • Read up on animal safety, but a lot of these oils can double as treatment for your furry pal! We use citronella, oregano, and lavender on Shiloh on the trail. And can I just say that bringing lavender along purely for the purpose of having a pleasant smelling tent ALONE is worth it??? Also, if you’re into research based articles (I mean, who isn’t…!) check out my friends blog who list a WHOLE host of lavender benefits!! https://millerliving.com/lavender-uses-and-benefits/

  • I already mentioned the no-waste/ environmental benefit. Keep those synthetic toxins out of nature and off your body!

  • Longevity of oils - if you clicked on the link to read about the Young Living seed to seal guarantee then you already got the scoop on HOW pure these oils are. Meaning, if you’re on a long backpacking trip, carrying a small bottle of citronella or lavender is going to beat out a large bottle of synthetic crap. They are multi-use long-living little droplets of gold! Well, not quite. Whoever made up the phrase, “a little goes a long way” was actually talking about essential oils.

Additional resources for the researcher

If this is interesting to you but you want to research a little more first (totally understandable), here are a few books and apps to check out!

  • Essential Oil pocket reference - this lists out EVERY oil and all the uses for oils and also a pretty exhaustive list of symptoms and which oils to use for it (bee stings, burns, bugs, rashes, etc.)

  • Think Dirty app - this app allows you to scan some of your popular household and toiletry products and will then give you a download info sheet of how TOXIC your product is. Ehhhhh awesome.

If you have more questions about any of these oils or how to get your hands on some please don’t hesitate to reach out!


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Peace out and may you live oily and prosperous!
— - Leaf