Natural bug repellent is important for any outdoor adventurer, but it’s especially crucial to bring along on backpacking trips in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. Unlike DEET and Picaridin repellents, natural bug repellents won’t harm the environment or leave you feeling sticky and smelling like chemicals, so you can still enjoy long days of hiking without worrying about annoying bugs flying into your face all day long. With a few simple ingredients from your kitchen, you can make your own natural bug repellent that will last all day long – read on how to do it yourself!
What are natural bug repellents?
Citronella, or a similarly scented lemongrass essential oil, for example, has been shown to repel insects just as effectively as DEET. To use citronella, simply rub some on your skin or dab a little behind your ears and on your neck. You can also make it part of an insect-repelling balm that’s easy to carry and apply while you’re hiking—just mix a few drops with coconut oil. If you want something a bit more potent, try adding some rosemary essential oil to your bug spray; studies have found that rosemary is effective at repelling ticks.
Lavender essential oil
Lavender is another good choice for bug repellent, as it has a strong fragrance that can mask or distract from other smells. Lavender also works well to soothe insect bites and stings—meaning it doubles as an after-bite remedy! It’s best used diluted (1 drop per 1 tablespoon of base oil) in a formula designed to work with your skin chemistry. For example, you could use lavender essential oil combined with coconut oil or jojoba oil to create a custom DIY bug spray. You could also use lavender essential oil in combination with peppermint essential oils to create a natural mosquito repellent. Just make sure you test any combination on yourself before heading out into nature!
Essential oils for bug repellents
Eucalyptus, clove, citronella, and lemongrass essential oils are used to create natural bug repellents that can be applied to clothing and exposed skin. Some people prefer to create their own homemade mixtures using these natural oils. Others prefer commercially available brands such as DA Aromatherapy's natural bug repellents.
The effectiveness of this combination
If you’re planning a backpacking trip and are worried about getting bit by mosquitoes, bring along essential oils of citronella and lemongrass. The combination is believed to be more effective than DEET at repelling bugs—and smells much better, too. Citronella is available at most natural food stores, while lemongrass can usually be found in Asian markets or online. Simply mix equal parts of each oil with water (about 3 tablespoons per quart) and store it in a spray bottle for easy application. Spray on your exposed skin before venturing out into bug territory (or during if necessary). Be sure to shake well before using; both oils tend to separate from water over time.
Caveats on using essential oils as bug repellents
Essential oils are potent, so it’s important to use them carefully. Be sure to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut before applying them topically; mix 1 drop of essential oil with 3-4 drops of carrier oil. Do not apply undiluted essential oils directly to your skin; they can cause irritation and even chemical burns. Also, be aware that some people may be allergic to certain essential oils; if you have sensitive skin or are unsure about using an essential oil, test a small amount on your inner wrist for 24 hours before going out into mosquito territory. If you notice any irritation during that time period, discontinue use immediately. And finally, be careful when using eucalyptus—it is toxic if ingested! As always, consult your doctor if you have any questions about using essential oils topically.
Other combinations you can use to create your own natural bug repellent
Peppermint oil, lemon balm leaves, lavender flowers, cinnamon sticks, and lemongrass. Read up on natural bug repellents and choose which one(s) you want to use. To boost its effectiveness, mix with a carrier like a witch hazel (or vodka). Before heading out for your trip, apply to exposed skin—don’t worry about staining your clothes!—then pack along a bottle of tea tree oil just in case. The bonus? You’ll smell great, too. There are many different plants that can repel bugs, but be sure to do some research first before deciding what ones work best for you.
DA Aromatherapy Natural Bug Repellent Spray
Hiking tips from DA Aromatherapy: If hiking or camping in an area known as a tick and mosquito habitat (such as woods and tall grass), try to protect yourself, and children in particular, by wearing bright colored, long-sleeved tops and pants, tucking the bottoms of the pant legs into long socks. Apply a generous amount of DA Aromatherapy Collection Natural Insect Repellent Spray, as a deterrent, onto clothing and skin. For best results apply frequently. Inspect the entire body after hiking.