Nature is wonderful. It is beautiful, relaxing and energising. One downside is all the insects, especially if you are allergic or the ones that can actually be dangerous to all of us. One way to keep mosquitos and other insects away is by using a repellent. Now, you might have tried out repellents you bought at the pharmacy or in some other store before and had varying success with them. We are here to tell you that there actually are quite a few natural repellents that you can use and that work very well!
For mosquitos there are different smells that you can use to repel them. If you are sitting around a campfire, you can add some sage or coffee grounds to the fire and the smell of the sage or coffee in the smoke will help keep mosquitoes away. Are you not sitting by the fire, or do you just want double repellent then you can apply some peppermint, tea tree or lavender oil on your skin and even your clothes to help keep the mosquitos at a distance.
Another insect that nature has “blessed” us with is the tick, a very small and sneaky one, which can be quite dangerous in the worst case scenario. So when you are in nature, especially forests or other areas with high grass or just dense plant life, it’s alway good to cover up your skin to avoid the ticks getting on your skin and bite into it. At the end of a day in nature it is always important to check yourself for ticks - or get someone else to check you, as you want to remove them as quickly as possible. If you find that you or someone else has a tick on you then we have the perfect trick to remove it. Just soak a cotton ball with liquid soap and place it on the tick for about 20 seconds. This should stop the tick from biting on to you and it will just slide off with the cotton ball. If you suspect the tick has been there for a long time then it might be an idea to keep it in a container to check it for Lyme disease - just to be safe.
If you are having issues with ants in or around your tent, by the fire or some other place in your camp, then there are also a few natural tricks to keep them at bay. Peppermint oil or mint leaves or plants is not only good for mosquitos but also for ants and other insects. You just leave some leaves or drip some droplets of oil around. However, this might not be so easy if it’s on the ground. So another option is to make a spray of either half vinegar and half water or one part lemon juice and three parts water. Ants are not attracted to the smell of vinegar or lemon juice. A last option can be to spread some powder of sorts on the ground or the area where you want to be free of ants. This can either be cinnamon, cayenne or black pepper or even grits which is essentially cornmeal.
Another thing that can be quite effective as a repellent, as well as disinfectant of wounds is strong booze like vodka, gin or the likes of that. It can even help relieve that pain from things like ivy poison and jellyfish stings. You deo stick can actually also help combat the itching caused by insect bites or other things.
It’s always important to have a first aid kit with you when you are in nature or far from professional help. A first aid kit can take up a lot of space in a backpack, but you can easily make your own in a small container. Add some band aid, gauze, medical tape, disinfectant, a pair of tweezers, a swiss knife, maybe a needle, medicines, or other things you will need if you get injured. You can just take a bit of everything instead of adding in the whole packet of band aids, gauze or tape, this way you can make it smaller and handier for you to bring along.
If you don’t have a stove and you haven’t got time to get a whole fire going there are ways of making an alternative stove with just very few tools. If you know you will need this on the go, you can make it at home. One way of doing this is by using an empty food can, could be from a can of beans or any other canned food - preferably one that isn’t too small. Make one line of holes around the bottom of the can for air - make the holes about the size of your nail and make sure you leave some room in between them so the stove doesn’t collapse. You can also make some holes at the top either in the same manner, or even thin rectangular ones to make it into a burner. When you want to use it just fill it with tinder, then add some twigs on top, light it and viola you have got yourself a stove. Before you light it, just make sure you place it on an inflammable surface so you won’t set fire to the place.
Another way to make your own stove from home is using a flat can (e.g. a tuna can), some cardboard and candle wax. You first cut the cardboard as wide as the can is tall, then roll it up into a loop and place the cardboard loop in the metal can. Then melt some candle wax in another container and pour it over the cardboard, or light a candle and hold it sideways until the wax drips onto the cardboard until it is covered. And then you have your stove!
Do you want some ideas about what you can cook on your homemade burner? Check out our food hacks for new travellers.
If you don’t have lighter fluid or any fire starter that you would normally use, then there are other ways to get your fire going. First you of course need to have prepared a safe spot for the fire and layed out some wood to keep the fire going after you have started it. There are then different things you can use to start your fire. If you have a bag of fried chips or corn chips you can use a handful of these to ignite the fire or even a pack of dry noodles. If you don’t have either of these but just popped a bottle of wine open, then use the cork!
There are other things that can help you get your fire started but that need a little preparation from home. You can make homemade fire starters with cotton pads and candle wax. Just drip the candle wax on top of the cotton pad until one side is covered, let the wax dry and you’ve got your own fire starter that you can easily bring with you. Another way of making your own fire starters is by taking an empty egg tray, add in some shredded paper in the holes and pour some lighter fluid on there. You can then cut it up into pieces with two or four “eggs” in one starter, so a large egg tray makes between three and six starters.
If you don’t have any of this nearby you can either use some tinder, cut some shaving of a piece of wood, or even cut some slivers into the wood without cutting them off. Then light the shavings and watch your fire get going. If you are having issues lighting the fire because it is too windy and your matches keep blowing out or maybe the striker is looking a bit tired and making it difficult for you to light your matches. We’ve got tricks that will help you either way. To make sure you can always light your matches no matter how tired the striker is looking, keep some sandpaper in your car, van, or backpack at all times to be sure you can always light your matches. If it is windy and the matches keep blowing out you can either wrap some insulating tape right under the head of the match to make it more wind resistant. If you don’t have insulating tape you can make some small cuts into the stick and these will also make it more wind resistant.
You can become a master of making campfires by using our guide on how to light a campfire.
Light is always a good thing to have, especially when you are in the great outdoors and it actually gets dark after the sun has set.
Luckily there are a few easy ways that you can make your own lantern. You might have heard, seen or even tried to make a milk jug lantern before. But really this can be done with any mat jug, glass or bottle you have. Just fill it with water and strap a headlamp around it (light facing inward) and you will have a nice source for light. We always prefer the sustainable option so we have developed a soft spot for solar powered lanterns. You can buy these many places today, but they usually come on a stick which isn’t always handy, but you can easily turn these into jar lanterns. All you need is a mason jar (or something similar), and the solar disk. By putting the solar disk through the ring of the lid and you will have yourself a sustainable solar jar lantern.
When you are spending time in the great outdoors there are just some hygiene routines that become a bit more difficult or some products that take up much more room than necessary in your backpack. But we have some great outdoor life hacks that can come in handy here.
If you don’t have access to a nice warm shower, or a shower at all for that matter. But if you have access to water (of any kind) you can still make yourself a DIY shower! There are quite a few ways to make an alternative shower outdoors. The most obvious is maybe to take a watering can or a hose and have someone hold it up for you. But if you are by yourself or don’t have anyone to hold the shower up for you then there are still other ways you can enjoy a nice shower. By filling a plastic bag and hanging it on a branch or something else you can turn it into a shower by poking some holes in the bottom of the bag. As this is not the most sustainable DIY shower we prefer the reusable version made from a water canister wrapped in strong tape like duct or gorilla tape to make it stronger and the head from a garden watering can. You will either need some rope to make it hangable or a surface to put it high enough for you to shower. This is a very lightweight shower that can be used anywhere as long as you have access to some water.
When having a DIY shower it’s always great to have a microfiber towel to dry yourself up with as these are very lightweight, don’t take up a lot of space, and dry much quicker than a normal towel so you don’t have to walk around with a wet towel in your backpack all day.
There are many fun and useful outdoor life hacks to be found, the ones we have gathered here are just our favourite ones. There are a few other good tips for outdoor people. Did you for instance know that you can make your own DIY toothpaste “tablets” from home by letting some dots of toothpaste dry out for three days, tossing them in a bit of baking soda and bringing them along in a small container or zip-lock bag.
If you want to keep your feet dry it is also handy to know that rubbing beeswax on your shoes will make them waterproof. A last fun fact that can be useful is travelling with kids is that an unused crayon can burn for 30 minutes, so if you need a light and all you can find is some crayons then you can still make yourself a little burner.
Do you want some more outdoor life hacks? Check out these camping tips and tricks
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