How to Hike with Essential Oils

Lavender, Peppermint, and Melaleuca
Lavender, Peppermint, and Melaleuca

My pack always includes sample sizes of Lavender, Peppermint, and Melaleuca essential oils.

I want to begin this post by saying I am no expert on Essential Oils. Just Google essential oils and thousands of articles giving facts, properties, uses, and cautions are available at your fingertips.

BUT I do want to share the positive impact using just a few basic oils have made on my family. This is especially true on hiking trips.

About a year ago, my daughter introduced me to the benefits of essential oils. Since then I have added Lavender, Peppermint, and Melaleuca oils to my basic hiking first-aid kit replacing:  Sudafed, antibiotic ointment, and reducing the number of Ibuprofen tablets I carry. By using the oils daily on trips, I have less congestion, breathe easier at high altitudes, sleep better, and have fewer headaches. Also, everyday cuts/scrapes/bruises/blisters/muscle & joints throb less and heal faster. On top of all that, I am now getting benefits of using natural remedies and not putting unnecessary chemicals in my body.

Some of you have even emailed me after viewing my BACKPACKING GEAR LIST asking about the oils. This post is long overdue.

One of the first mistakes I made when starting to use essential oils was buying inexpensive, poor quality oils found at drug stores or Whole Foods. I found they do not work as well. If this interests you, I urge you to do your research and buy quality oils. The oil companies I have experience with and have worked well for me are doterra, Young Living, Mountain Herbs, and Spark Naturals.

To get you started, I have a special discount coupon code “ladyonarock” for 10% off any Spark Naturals essential oils order.

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How to Hike with Essential Oils

First and foremost, I wanted the trio to be lightweight and sealed. This took some trial and error. After a few experiments, here is how I carry the oils.

    1. Add each oil to a 5/8 dram bottle designed just for carrying the oils. I tried other options, but oils leaked. I love these and they come in a 5 pack. Tap once on the bottom of the bottle to dispense a half a drop.
    2. Apply round sticky 1/2″ label on the lid, then label with a sharpie. This stays on better than applying the sticker directly on the bottle.
    3. Seal bottles in a small zip lock baggies and add to your first-aid kit. I like snack size bags or smaller.
    4. Entire tiny kit weights less than an ounce and will last a month or more on a long distance trip.

Common Sense Cautions

Essential oils are very strong. One drop is usually plenty. More is not better. Do not get into your eyes by rubbing, applying too close, or dropping directly into the eye. Use caution when using on children by diluting oils with a carrier oil, lotion, or salve.

My Favorite Uses

I created a handy 1/2 sheet chart of my basic uses for backpacking and hiking to add to your first-aid kit.Click on the image or link below to download printable.

Essential Oil Hiking Uses

Extra Tips:
My nightly essential oil routine non-bear areas.
Apply Lavender to any cuts or scrapes and a couple drops to the bottom of my feet to help me sleep restfully. Apply Peppermint to sides of nose and chest to keep sinuses clear in the night. If I have any muscle pains I might add a drop of Peppermint to a bit of salve and apply to a tender area. I always carry a small pot of Fragrance-Free Neutrogena Hand Cream.

Do you use essential oils in the outdoors? Please comment and share what works for you. 

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: None of the health topics presented on Lady on a Rock have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not replace personal judgment nor medical treatment when indicated, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

25 Comments

  1. Hey Rockin, what are your thoughts on a good oil for folks that suffer leg cramps?

  2. Great post! I also like to carry ginger on all of my hikes. It helps with inflammation in the body. Which helps with less injuries. I noticed you said in “non bear areas” Do certain oils attract bears? Are there any that deter them? Can you please give any info you have on this?

  3. Nancy Lubin CA

    I love seeing more people familiar with the therapeutic use of essential oils. As an Aromatherapy professional I would also recommend always diluting these oils with a carrier (aloe gel or a fatty oil -almond is a good one- or fractionated coconut). It will make your EO’s go further and is less risky than using EO’s “neat” on your skin. Even the purest oils should not be used neat if at all possible. You might add a 1 or 2 oz bottle of carrier to your ziplock. I know space and weight are an issue, P E T plastic will be fine for either carrier.

  4. I’d meant to ask you for additional info after our Death Valley trip. I’m so glad I was on your page and saw this link. THANKS! I look forward to adding this to my kit.

  5. Thanks for posting! I bought a Doterra set but still have to Google what to use essential oils… but more importantly… how to use them. This post is perfect. Getting ideas and application examples for hiking is great!

  6. Melaleuca works great for blisters, rashes, and cuts.

  7. Bridget (Nutty Hiker)

    Oddly enough I never thought about taking oils out with me while I hike! Thanks for sharing! Are there any that could be used as a natural insect repellent?

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      I would start with something like Sparks Nature Outdoor Blend that has lemon, eucalyptus, citronella, lemongrass mixed with coconut oil. My experience in the backcountry with flying insects are that they are super bad and biting or mild where pants and a long sleeve shirt does the trick. Gotta say that when they are bad, DEET is the only thing that has worked for me. For mild bugs going natural makes sense.

  8. LPM is a must for my backpacks now, though sometimes I feel the need of clove and cedar for the tired evening after a long journey. And yes, I prefer buying my essential oils from YL only.

  9. I am SO excited! Since I’ve not done a lot of backpacking, and only have just started dabbling in oils, this will be a great starting point for my kit! I have been thinking about how oils might make my first aid kit a lot more compact, and you told me how to make it happen! Thanks!

  10. Oh, and PS: (sorry I forgot this the earlier post): Definitely not in bear country–at least I’d never use it in grizzly bear country like Yellowstone. And, thinking of the Sierras, where the black bears are so bold, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable using it there, either, at night. Their sense of smell is so much stronger than ours, even if we put feet in socks after using oils, the odor would be detectable to them. Hah, I wonder which EO is a good bear repellent…. Who could we get to test that 🙂

    • Ha! I actually did some research on that.

      Although Peppermint does repel ticks, spiders, and ants. That is good.

      What I do in bear country now is just use the oils in the morning and at noon, not in camp at night.

      • Do you think something like cedarwood would be ok for calming at night? Why would a bear be attracted to that?
        I’m planning to hike the AT and want to use oils. A lot of people are scared to use oils in bear country but I feel like there are oils that would be ok. After all, EOs come from plants! And the forest is full of them! 😊 Thanks!

        • Smelling like wood might make the bear think you were a tree and try to “dig” for ants. That’s was a park ranger once said.

        • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

          To be on the safe side, I don’t use essential oils while in my tent. I try to attend to my wounds and ailments well before retiring for the night. My thought is this, if rangers are cautioning against leaving a chapstick (that might have a peppermint scent) in your tent at night for fear of attracting bears, natural strong plant scents might mean food. Better safe than sorry on this one.

  11. If I could only carry 3… That would be tough. But: VALOR (Young Living) and LAVENDER (also YL) for sleep on my feet at night–I have found that these two oils allow me to sleep–amazing. And PANAWAY most likely–I used panaway on a sore shoulder (sore from skiing/training/racing in the Birkie) and it felt better immediately. Then, there is doTerra BREATHE which really helps my lungs, so I guess I’d have to take 4….. so far. I’ve not tried the Mel-A (melaleuca) yet, but it could turn into a replacement for one of these. We all are a bit different, and need to find out what works best for us–guess that is where experimenting comes in. So glad to see this post, Rockin’!!! Hope you are doing well.

    • Ah yes. Everyone is unique. For essential oil users, picking 3 is hard. BUT for hiking, keeping it simple and light is priority. I did a lot of research and testing to find the ones that could heal and disinfect for a broad spectrum of problems. As a bonus, I discovered the oils in the kit also have mental and hygiene properties. How cool is that?

      I love how you are using Breathe (doterra) for your lungs. Peppermint will do essentially the same thing. It really works for high altitudes and I have also used it when biking hard long hills.

      Thank you so much for sharing your successes.

  12. I too have found a great use for oils. Past tense oil blend works great for headaches. Love lavender at night also. Question – would you not use any oils in bear areas, such as the JMT?

    • Stephanie, Hey thank you for reminding me. Readers add to the list. If you have a really nasty headache layer both peppermint and lavender on temples and back of neck.

      Past tense also has beloved frankincense that works wonders on headaches. I try to keep things super light and simple on trail and only carry 3 oils.

      Answer to your question. It is up to you of course. I would just use caution in active bear areas like Rae Lakes, Kearsage Pass, and Mammoth.

  13. I am a believer big time.

  14. I found out essential oils work great on head wounds! 😉 Thanks again Mama Rockin!

    • Ah yes. Head wounds indeed! Thank you for adding this important use to the list. You just never know when a vicious coyote, snake, or just a plain old tree branch will get you. Seriously, I am glad the lavender helped.

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