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I spent my childhood hiking, backpacking, and camping with my Dad, all over the West coast. I was the daughter that adored the outdoors and couldn't get enough, no matter how dirty or banged up, that I got. The addiction was solidified when we first started hiking through Yosemite National Park. With every trip we took, I soaked in the redwoods and sequoias, the glacier cut boulders and the majestic waterfalls that seem to only exist in Yosemite and my dreams. These trips made me realize that I was born to enjoy the outdoors and that my future was somehow going to be connected to my passion for this amazing place. Fast forward 20 years and now I am planning how I can instill the same great love of the outdoors, in my own son.
A first for my family, and I am so excited!
Since Syfy could walk, I have been taking him out on the trails here close to home, to explore and enjoy nature. Our favorite playground includes a creek, some amazingly flat skipping stones, and a tree-shaded beach for me to relax on while he's splashing about. Now that I am finally able to carry a backpack on the trail, I am beyond excited to take Syfy out on their very first backpacking trip! At the end of May, we are going to Devil's Den (AR) and hiking the Butterfield Loop Trail!
Always be Prepared for Adventure
Whenever I go out on the trails seeking that which can only be found in nature, I always like to be prepared and pack accordingly. One of the most important items in my backpack is my On-the-Go Herbal Outdoors Kit. I have used my kit for a variety of purposes, including everything from cleaning a kid’s boo-boo at the park, to rid my campsite of bugs, to soothing bug bites and rashes. With the right ingredients, an herbal outdoors kit can help you take care of almost any situation that arises!
How to Stock your Herbal Outdoors Kit
When shopping for everything that you need for all the great outdoor fun to be had during the spring and summer months, it can be difficult to discern what to DIY and what to buy. Many of the homemade items that I already make, are actually better options to take outdoors with you when camping, hiking, or even going on picnics! As a worrier of the ingredients in everything that I put on my skin, the greatest part about making your own kit is that you can tailor it to fit your family’s needs while knowing that the ingredients in it won’t harm you or the environment. Here’s how I stock my own herbal outdoors kit:
- Herbal Infused Antiseptic Owie Salve – This is my go-to salve to keep on hand for all purposes. I’ve used this salve for cuts, scrapes, rashes, burns, dry lips, eczema, and more. I always keep a tin of this salve in my purse and always include it in my herbal first aid kit!
- Sun Stick – Whether it’s homemade or store-bought, sun protection is essential for everyone. I like to make my own sun sticks to keep in my kit. Twist-up lip balm containers are a good choice for making these sticks—particularly since they’re compact and won’t take up much room in your kit.
- Sore Muscle Salve –A good muscle salve can ease those aches and pains from a hard day on the trail. If you omit the cayenne and double the arnica in this recipe, it doubles as a great bruise salve as well. If you opt to keep the cayenne in the recipe, this salve can double as a heat-giving salve on your fingers and toes, when you might need to heat cold extremities in a flash.
- Bugs-B-Gone Spray – Let’s face it, bugs can be such pests, and it can be hard to remember that they have a purpose here on Earth, other than to bother us. Many bug sprays contain all sorts of toxic ingredients, including DEET. Because DEET is toxic to us and the environment, I prefer to avoid it and choose instead to make my own bug spray. Many essential oils have insect- repelling properties and make fantastic ingredients in homemade bug sprays.
- Calamine Anti-Itch Lotion – Keep this lotion on hand in a little jar to counter the itch from bug bites, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and more.
- After Sun Spray – Sunburns are sometimes part of the journey, but they don’t have to be a pain. I like to get a keep a small bottle of this spray on hand for all my burn needs. It turns out that this spray doubles as a wound-cleansing spray if needed, and can even help to cool you down when misted onto the back of your neck.
- Bee/Wasp Sting Roll-on – Stings are just a natural hazard of being outside, and you never know when you might have a run-in with a wasp or bee. That’s why I like to keep my bee and wasp sting roll-ons in my kit. Always ready to soothe the sting.
- Good Night Sleep Tight Roll-on - Sometimes, no matter how hard of a day you hiked, biked, or kayaked, your mind still just won't shut down when you're back at camp. It's totally understandable when you're having so much fun! I like to use aromatherapy to help me calm my mind, and drift off to my dreamland under the stars!
- Herbal Tooth Powder - If you are out camping or backpacking, soap is nature's kryptonite. It's fortunate for me, I already love to brush my teeth with dirt! Not only is this better for the planet, but is also much lighter in your pack!
- A Multi-tool –Though not a herb, a multi-use tool, such as my favorite Leatherman multi-tool, is good to have on hand. I use mine to help me wildcraft herbs along the way!
- Biodegradable Bandaids - What is an outdoors kit without band-aids? I love these eco-friendly ones! Not only are they latex-free but they are also biodegradable!
- Duct Tape - This stuff is the ultimate backpacker's tool! It's great in a pinch when blisters are hurting, you can use it to rig all sorts of emergency tools, and you can unwrap just a little bit of it and rewrap it around a lighter for small, lightweight carrying! Plus the lighter is handy to have in a pinch too!
Herbs to Keep in Your Kit
Depending on where you’ll be using your kit (i.e. camping, backpacking, or on trips around town), you may want to keep a few herbs in it for any tea/poultice type needs you might have. When I’m out on the trail, a good cup of the right herbal tea can really make the difference in how I feel.
- Calendula flowers – This be-all, do-all herb, is so handy that I don’t even like to leave my house without it, especially when I am on the trail. When used as a tea, calendula can help boost your immune system, soothe a sore throat, ease seasonal allergies, and soothe sore muscles. Externally, calendula can cleanse your eyes, soothe burns (including sunburns), and heal wounds (when applied as a poultice). You can even keep your eyes peeled for calendula when out on the trail, as it is pretty prevalent across North America!
- Lavender buds – Just smelling lavender gives me good feelings inside. It’s so soothing and beautiful smelling, but it’s also an all-around healing herb to keep on hand. You can drink the tea to help relieve headaches, soothe a sore throat, calm your nerves, boost your immune system, treat a cough, or even help soothe sore muscles! Externally, lavender can help cleanse wounds and can be used to clean your face, body, and hands. It can also soothe and heal wounds and ease muscle pains. Lavender can even help repel mosquitoes.
- Valerian root – If sleep escapes you, you have a chesty cough, you’re anxious or stressed, or in pain from an injury, valerian root tea can help to calm your nerves, get you that sleep you desire, soothe your cough, and dull the pain. Though it smells a tad like stinky feet, you can even use valerian in a poultice to help soothe bumps, bruises, and swollen muscles and joints.
- Peppermint leaf – This herb is such a fantastic herb to carry with you on the trail. The tea is healing to your digestive system and will help to combat diarrhea, gas, nausea, and bloating. It can also help a hungry hiker to get over those hunger pains with its rejuvenating flavor. Externally, peppermint is fantastic for muscle pains, bug bites, burns, reducing body temperature, and more.
- Yarrow – Known as nature’s Band-Aid, yarrow is always great to keep on hand because it can easily stop bleeding in a fresh wound. After cleaning the wound, apply a poultice or powdered yarrow. Before any big camping or backpacking trip, I like to grind and mix together 1 part yarrow, 1 part lavender, 1 part comfrey, 1 part echinacea, and 1 part bentonite clay. I keep the powdered mixture in my pack for any of my healing poultice needs!
- Soapnuts - One of my favorite herbs, soapnuts are a fantastic alternative to soap on the trail! Eco-friendly and completely biodegradable, you can use (and reuse) them to wash your dishes, clean your face/body/hair, wash your clothes, and more! I like to fill a cotton muslin bag with them and tie it shut. Soak the bag for a few minutes, in warm water before using soapnuts liquid! Squeeze out the bag and hang it on your pack to dry in between uses!
"Hey Boo-Boo, let's go get us a picnic basket!"
It is important to note that anything good smelling, including items with essential oils and herbs, infused into them, can be considered an attractant to bears (or other tricky food thieves). You should hang these items with all your other delicious smelling/tasting food and drinks! If you are going into bear country, I try to avoid scenting things that don't need essential oils to work (like the sun stick), and using only essential oils/smells that fit into the landscape (such as cedarwood, fir needle, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, geranium, etc.).