How to Avoid Bringing Toxins Camping


In a previous post I detailed the food we ate on our first camping trip since I fully committed to eating real food. When I decided that was the way I was going to live, I also began cutting other toxins from my daily routine. I changed the soaps and shampoos we use, the detergents and cleaners and even beauty products to non-toxic versions and started making some of them myself. This posed a bit of a problem when packing for camping. What should I use for sunscreen? What about bug spray? What about the plastic water bottles we used to bring? How do I pack my coconut oil and baking soda deodorant that melts at 76 degrees? So many things to think about.

I got creative. Some of my ‘solutions’ worked. Some didn’t. Here’s a rundown of what I did and how it turned out.

1. Bug spray

Commercial insect repellent has so many chemicals in it I am surprised they can fit them all on the label. I’ve been buying natural bug spray for my husband for years but didn’t think much about it for me and the kids. We just used whatever was cheap and worked. In my effort to go non-toxic, this was now a major concern. I looked up recipes and found a couple using essential oils. I was skeptical because the mosquitoes around here are HUGE and persistent and last year they ate me alive even with commercial bug spray on. I looked up the ingredients of a popular essential oil blend for insect repellent a friend had given me a sample of and mixed up my own. It is similar to this one from Thank Your Body. Not all the ingredients were listed, but I smelled vanilla and added it to mine. I tested it out in the back yard and it totally worked. Mosquitoes would dance around and sometimes land but them fly right away. We used this while camping and it worked just as well. It also repelled flies, which were more numerous than mosquitoes.


2. Insect Repellent Lotion Bars

Because the spray worked so well, I decided to make some cute repellent bars that I found at Homemade Mommy’s site for my son so he wouldn’t run from me when I tried to spray him. The bars were SO adorable. I used Lego Mifigure molds and made myself an army. bugarmy

My little guy was thrilled to rub that minifig all over his arms and legs and face. He ran off to play and came back covered in dirt. Normal for him, but now he had streaks everywhere where the dirt stuck to the lotion. Oops. I think we’ll keep these for the backyard or grassy park situations. (Or for ME, if I can sneak them out).


3. Sunscreen

I meant to make these sunscreen bars. I really did. I didn’t order the zinc powder in time, so that was out. I searched the health food store for the best alternative. I knew we’d be high in the mountains which means closer to the sun. The rest of the family likes to hike (I’m not there yet) so I knew they’d need something strong. We brought hats and sunglasses but I knew we’d need more. I got a spray that is spf 50 from Kiss My Face It isn’t the very best option,(for a list of safe and effective sunscreens, click here) but it worked for what I needed. We forgot to put it on the first day, so we were all a bit pink by the end of the day. Sunscreen only works if you apply it! My husband used coconut oil, which usually works great for him while out doing yard work, but it didn’t give him the protection he needed in the mountains in direct sun. He was pretty red most of the trip and opted for shade wherever he could find it so I gave him a job as my cabana boy.

4. Personal care

There were no showers. FIVE days. No shower. Last time I brought baby wipes and wiped down the little guy and myself every evening. I’m not using those any more, so this time I brought a stack of wash cloths. The ‘little guy’ is now almost 7 and is not thrilled with mom washing him down, so I pretty much let him ripen. Clean clothes and underwear every day was good enough. He even protested washing his hands and face. After reading about dirt, I only insisted once or twice a day. You can see how that turned out in the image below. (BTW, that’s not snot under his nose, it’s his scar from his repaired cleft). For myself, I used the wash cloths with warm water from the camp stove and washed them out and hung them to dry. The last day I was itching for a shower, but it wasn’t bad. I had my hair back in a ponytail and wore a hat and it was all good. I decided to forego the makeup and it was LOVELY. I plan on doing more of that.


5. Cleaners and Soaps

Washing all the dishes used in making real food camping meals was a bit of a chore. The cast iron pan my husband brought was ideal because it just needed to be scraped out and rinsed. The other dishes needed a good wash and with no hot water or sink it wasn’t fun. I ended up heating water on the camp stove because the DIY dish soap I brought left streaks of oil in a cold water wash. The foaming soap was great for washing hands, but in weighing how it worked on dishes and the effort involved, I think next time I will give in and pack the Scotch-Brite Soap Pads I brought last time. I wouldn’t use them at home, but this was a short period of time and we only had a few dishes to use. It would have been nice to get them clean in-between.

For cleaning surfaces I brought a spray bottle of natural homemade cleaner. I added a couple of drops of lemon oil to it and it worked very well to clean up after cooking. It was a nice air freshener for inside tents, too.


6. Water Filtration

The water at the campground was said to be clean and safe and if we didn’t have other options, it would have been fine to use. It’s a little cloudy and has a film on top, though so we’ve always brought our own. Last time it was a 5 gallon water cooler bottle with a manual pump. That worked well, but that was before we got our beautiful Berkey. This time, the Berkey had its own seat in the van. It took up a lot of room, but so would two 5 gallon bottles. We set up the Berkey in the outdoor ‘kitchen’ and filled it up. It was convenient for cooking, washing hands and filling up water bottles. Everyone brought a water bottle. The kids had regular Camelbak bottles or stainless steel, I had a Camelbak with a filter and my husband brought a Berkey sports bottle that has a serious filter. He boasted that he could probably drink right out of the lake with it.


7. First Aid and Medical

Luckily we didn’t need much in the way of first aid. We brought an assortment of essential oils just in case. I used peppermint and lavender one morning for a headache(probably from not drinking enough water). My oldest son used the same for congestion due to seasonal allergies but ended up taking a Benadryl one night so he could sleep. We brought clove and frankincense for bug bites (which we didn’t have many of). The bug spray doubled as ‘thieves’ oil when I got sneezed on by a sick kid. The one we used the most, though was coconut oil. The air was dry and so was our skin. After a day in the sun, coconut oil felt great. My little guy’s cheeks were chapped and it worked well on that. It helped with chapped lips, too. The great part was that it was already packed to use for cooking and was readily available. We had a couple of extended family members ask to use some of the oils for various things and we were happy to share.


It might have taken more thought and preparation, but it wasn’t hard to avoid the toxic products we used to use. It was really nice to be out in nature and know that the products we were using were clean and natural, too.


In case you were wondering what I was doing while the family was hiking…I’m the big dot under the red umbrella.


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