Essential Oils on the Trail…For the Love of the Knees

Hiker hobble is a thing, y’all.

At the end of an eight-day section hike in the White Mountains last summer, my knees quit bending.

If I had to kneel down, say, to get in the tent or to filter water, I had to have an exit strategy.  Because bending was no longer part of their repertoire.

After just a few days, or just one day, on the trail, everyone starts walking around like they’re 80 years old.

That’s just one thing that can/will happen on a long hike.

Long hiking is rough on your body.

Setting yourself up for a successful thru-hike means anticipating some of the unfortunate events that could happen and preparing yourself accordingly.

Things like

  • GI distress.
  • Muscle and joint soreness.
  • Bug bites.
  • Blisters.
  • Infected blisters.
  • Cuts & scrapes.
  • Knees that quit doing what knees are made to do…bend.

Minimalist First Aid

Having at least a rudimentary first aid kit in your pack is a good idea.  Bandaids, moleskin, duct tape for blisters.  Clean gauze and duct tape, in case there’s blood.  Vitamin I, aka Advil, for everything else.

Some people carry Imodium for digestive issues and Neosporin for scrapes.  Some even get a prescription for antibiotics in case of Lyme disease or carry Benadryl in case of snake bite (do your research…I have no idea if this works.)

Pharmaceuticals have their place on the trail and I’ll definitely take a hit of Advil when my knees freak out.

But, I like to support my health naturally, too.

So, alongside my blister care kit, I plan to carry essential oils, which support physical, emotional and spiritual wellness.  I’m pretty sure I’ll need all the support I can get out there, so…

Yes, Please!

Lavender…the Swiss army knife of essential oils!

Supporting Physical AND Mental Wellness

It’s nice to carry things that do double duty and one thing I love about heavenly-scented essential oils is that they not only support physical well-being, they also support mental well-being.  So while you’re soothing your grumpy knees, you’ll also be lifting your spirits.

Obviously, packing essential oils is a no-brainer for me.  (Because I’m a crystal swinging, tree hugging weirdo from Asheville, y’all.)

The hard part is choosing which oils to carry and there’s no right answer when it comes to choosing.


Will definitely need some Valor somewhere between Georgia and Maine.

We carry our fears.

Trail wisdom says that we carry our fears.

If you’re afraid of being cold, you’ll carry too many clothes.  (And a puffy hood that has lost its coat.)

If you’re afraid of being hungry, you’ll carry too much food.  (And slink off into the woods with your gallon bag of powdered milk and your fold-up trowel on day three and return empty-handed with a spring in your step.)

If you’re afraid of being lonely, you’ll carry an iPad and, if we’re lucky, fire starter bricks for those community campfires you plan to build.

My essential oils provide great support for all kinds of potentially fear-provoking things on the trail.

My Wish List, Part 1

When I first considered which oils would be best for my journey, this was my wish list…

(Full disclosure, I’m pimping one brand of essential oils, Young Living, because I adore them for their masterful blends and overall quality.  YL is a direct sales company, not available at your local natural food market.  To find out more and to get your own supply of trail oils, click here.  Or just connect with me here and we’ll chat.  Now…moving on to the essential essential oil list.)

  1. Panaway:  If I’m afraid of knee-jarring exercise, this blend, applied to back, neck, knees, will provide a soothing and stimulating aromatic experience at the end of a long day of hiking.*
  2. Lavender:  Lavender addresses so many fears.  I carry it if I’m afraid my armpits, or whatever, are too stinky!   Also, it has a calming and soothing fragrance, like a lullaby in a bottle.*
  3. Peppermint:  If I’m afraid of gastrointestinal discomfort, (and who isn’t out there?), Peppermint oil promotes healthy GI function.  YAY!   Plus, Peppermint Vitality makes a delightful tea at the end of the day and adds pizazz to a cup of cocoa.*
  4. Di-Gize:  This one is like Peppermint on steroids.  Don’t leave home without it when you’re traveling to and eating in exotic locations.  Yes, any long trail is exotic.  Add a drop of Di-Gize and a drop of Peppermint to your Nalgene for a delightful trail beverage.
  5. En-R-Gee: The name says it all.  I carry this if I’m afraid I won’t make it through the roller coaster in Virginia.*
  6. Thieves:  If I’m afraid my respiratory system will need extra support in crowded shelters or hostels.  Or, if I’m afraid my immune system will be taxed on a long hike.  Or if I’m afraid something will need cleaning, I carry Thieves.*
  7. Valor:  If I’m afraid I won’t make it through another day of PUDs, through the hardest mile, through 70 mph winds on top of Mt. Guyot. Valor is a pep talk in a bottle.*
  8. Believe:  If I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to climb the equivalent of 30 Mount Everests over 6 months.*
  9. Purification:  If I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand the smell of myself, my pack, my boots, my friends after weeks in the woods.*
  10. Melrose:  If I’m afraid my skin won’t handle the stress, Melrose blend has powerful cleansing properties.*
  11. Citronella, Cedar, Lemongrass, Rosemary and/or Eucalyptus:  If I’m afraid of being annoyed by bugs.*
  12. Deep Relief:  If I’m afraid I’ll need something cooling, refreshing and energizing on a hot summer day.*

Yeah, I know.

Twelve is a lot of fear.

The bottles are small, but each one weighs one ounce.  It adds up, and one thing I know I’m afraid of is carrying too much weight.

So, it’s time to glean.


The antidote to smelly Hiker Trash.

Alongside my Bandaids and Vitamin I, my finalists are:

For my Food Bag:

  • Di-Gize.  I’ll put a drop on my tongue after dinner each night.
  • Thieves hand sanitizer. (Maybe.  If I find I’m not using it, I’ll send it home.)

For my Hip Belt:

  • Valor or Believe or Joy.  (I’ll switch these out from my bounce box, depending on what kind of mental boost I’m needing in any given section.)

For the Bounce Box:

  • Purification spray (to spritz in my shoes, on my pack, in my sleeping bag every time I go into town.)
  • An assortment of other blends I love, just for fun, like Inner Child, Grow, Hope, Fun.

And, of course, I’ll have a container of my essential-oil infused foot balm to slather on my aching feet at the end of every day.  It’s full of anti-inflammatory goodness and you can get the recipe here.

What’s your poison?

I’m curious, will you be hiking with essential oils?  If so, what’s your poison?

Leave a comment below and let us know what you use to heal your body or lift your spirits on a long hike.

Other than bourbon.  We know you’re supporting your health with bourbon!


*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.  These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments 28

  • yaakob : Feb 2nd


    As long as your asking Ill prefer the Lavender . I use it for prevention of bugs stings.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge .

    Yaakob , Flip Flop MAY 6 , HF NoBo

    • Deane Giordano : Feb 2nd

      Yes, Lavender…the go-to oil for so many things! Thanks for reading, Yaakob. Hope to see you out there this year! Deane, aka Ruby Throat

  • smokestack : Feb 2nd

    Sounds like a bunch of odors which will attract bears and other creatures.

    • Deane Giordano : Feb 2nd

      I know, right, Smokestack? I figure that’s what bear bags are for. Thanks for reading and commenting! Deane, aka Ruby Throat.

      • Brian : Feb 7th

        Are you going to put yourself in a bear bag? Assuming you slather these on when you get to camp, bears will be quite interested in you and anything you have touched, even if you can’t smell the oils any more…

  • Vince Piquet : Feb 2nd

    You might also consider Palo Santo, (Bursary graveolens), for tick removal. My friend Phoebe introduced it to me. Re-starting a SOBO in Maine in early June. Good luck in your journey. Fair winds and following seas.

    • Becca : Feb 2nd

      My mom just introduced me to Palo Santo for joint health and I’m hooked! I didn’t know it was also helpful with tick issues. It just might find its way into my Thru hike 🙂

      • Deane Giordano : Feb 2nd

        Okay, what can I get rid of so I can carry more oils? Pillow? Toothbrush? Underwear? There must be something! xo

    • Deane Giordano : Feb 2nd

      Ooooooohohoooo…Good one, Vince! I’ll look into Palo Santo. I also wrote down in my notes that ticks don’t particularly care for lavender, but I don’t have any direct experience with that so I left that out. Thanks for the recommendation and thanks for reading. Hoping to cross paths with you out on the trail! Deane, aka Ruby Throat.

  • Chili : Feb 2nd

    All those scents are totally going to ruin your hiker funk! People will think you’re a dayhiker! They’ll be very disappointed when you don’t have any food to spare.

    • Deane Giordano : Feb 2nd

      Too funny, Chili…but good point. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m I dayhiker with food to spare. I’ll be sure to keep my fingernails dirty, my hair unwashed and my food bag buried deep in my pack for safekeeping. Thanks for reading!!! xo, Deane, aka Ruby Throat

  • Becca : Feb 2nd

    Love this post!! I’m a fellow YLEO devotee and will also be armed with oily goodness on the trail!! Thanks for spreading the love & knowledge!

    • Deane Giordano : Feb 2nd

      I will be looking for you out there, Becca! (And following your posts). Or should I say I’ll be smelling for you? Can’t wait to see what’s in your Thru-Hiker Survival Kit. xoxoxo Deane, aka Ruby Throat

  • Lisa : Feb 3rd

    I hope you are planning to order those itty bitty bottles. You can bounce the full size to refil, or just befriend other young consultants along the way.

    I love essential oils too, the peppermint in your water sounds like a great idea.

    • Ruby Throat : Feb 5th

      Yes, definitely the tiny bottles. And not too many to save weight. Choosing is killing me, though! So hard to choose.

      Thanks for reading! Hike on, Lisa.

  • Melinda : Feb 3rd

    Thanks for this great post!
    Most believe that EO’s are strictly for scents and they are grossly misinformed. Although I carry some Advil, my first aid is armed with EO’s!

    • Ruby Throat : Feb 5th

      Thanks for reading, Melinda. Yes…so many ways to enjoy EOs, all with the added bonus that they do, in fact, smell luscious. Thanks for reading, and hike happy!

  • Emily : Feb 4th

    Yess! Love this post. Currently trying to decide which oils out of my big list I’m going to take with me as well… It’s down to peppermint, di-gize/digestzen, and eucalyptus probably, maybe some onguard (or) thieves, possibly frankincense. Such a hard decision!

    • Ruby Throat : Feb 5th

      Excruciating decision! Thieves! That’s probably a great choice, too. Thank goodness for bounce boxes and resupply. And thank goodness that there’s really no wrong choice where EOs are concerned. Thanks for reading, Emily. Hope to see you out there (and see what your final decision is)! Hike happy! Ruby Throat

  • Dennis Criddle : Feb 5th

    Ruby Troat, I am glad to see another member of our shortened class will be starting their thru hike this year. I found your blog this morning and enjoyed reading them, you have presented a very good argument for a flip-flop hike, I will have to give it some serious thought.
    I had my knee replaced in November and the Dr. And everybody I talked to that had the surgery said it takes about a year for a full recovery I have decided to do my thru hike in 2018.
    I am looking forward to reading about your hike this year. I hope you have a safe and enjoyable trip.

    • Ruby Throat : Feb 5th

      Dennis!!!!! I’m so glad you found me. I’ve been meaning to touch base with our fellow defectors to say hi, so you’ve inspired me to make that happen. I’ve been in touch with Mary, but I’ll probably never see her on the trail. She most likely will stay far ahead of me. I’m slow!

      By now you’re probably so happy with your new knee. I can’t wait to see where it takes you in 2018! And who knows…maybe a flip-flop will be right for you, too.

      Thanks for reading! Stay in touch and come out and hike if you’re anywhere near the trail this summer.

      Big hug! Ruby Throat

  • Kayla (Gutz) : Feb 5th

    In my attempt I only carried Theives but I wasn’t a full convert then. I would so many others now. I drank Theives daily because I was really sick when I started.

    • Deane Giordano : Feb 7th

      You guys are talking me in to Thieves, now! I forget about drinking it and that would be delicious and a good health boost at the end of the day. Thanks for reading, Kayla! What else would you carry?

  • Jeff : Feb 7th

    So glad I found you! Also a YL user and planning AT NOBO a year from now. Subscribed so I can learn what is working for you. Tell me about starting on the new moon…. And I’m also trying to figure out if I can manage to eat Paleo on the trail. Those pasta and rice sides don’t sit well with me. Though I’d still probably carry my Digize….

    • Deane Giordano : Feb 7th

      Ergh…Paleo! I try so hard IRL to avoid the grains and stick with Primal or, at the least, Bulletproof food choices. I’m experimenting with quinoa (not technically a grain, so more primal than rice and pasta) and powdered sweet potato for my carbs. And chocolate. Because I don’t think carbs are evil on the trail when you’re on the move all day and burning them up like pine cones in a campfire. But I’m not a purist or an expert. Just trying to make good choices and avoid pop-tarts. Good luck, Jeff! Let me know if you find any resources on paleo/primal hikers. xo

  • Bonnie : Feb 5th

    I’ll be hiking, not sure when but my plan is to take cedar oil and tea trea oil. The tea tree for cuts and the cedar to help keep bugs away. And maybe eucalyptus oil.


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