Using Leaves When Camping in the Best Possible Way

Camping tent in forest surrounded by leaves

Being able to use your surroundings completely is one of the most important survival skills you’ll need when camping. Utilizing everything that Mother Nature has left at your disposal can spell the difference between an interesting trip to the woods and a horror story.

Leaves are one of the most common tools available to you when you’re on a camping trip. You can use them to make materials, reinforce your shelter, and even stop infections! Knowing how and when to utilize the foliage to your advantage will help you overcome some pretty significant challenges you can encounter in the great outdoors.

So, check out our tips for the best ways to use leaves when camping and make sure you are prepared, and well-armed with knowledge, before setting out on your outdoor trip. Remember, preparation and information are your best friends when camping.

Table of Contents

Know Which Leaves to Use and Which to Avoid When Camping

Before you learn how to use leaves when camping, you’ll need to know which leaves will be accessible to you during your trip.

You should know where you are camping, and where you are planning to end your trip. Once you’ve got this information, it’s time to learn about the flora you can find there.

Knowing how to properly utilize foliage is a great skill to have. However, if you’re not in a location that is rich with leaves you need (both fallen and on trees), all your creative solutions will be for naught.

Learn which types of leaves and plants you will encounter on your camping or hiking trip, and then think of ways you can make use of them in a survival situation.

On the other hand, it is equally important to get informed about which plants and leaves you should avoid. Even touching some leaves can cause skin irritation and inhaling the smoke from burning them can seriously damage your lungs and brain.

Poison Ivy is just one example of plants and leaves you should never use when camping. Irritation, itching, and red blots on the skin are symptoms of touching it, while disorientation, dehydration, and unconsciousness are common symptoms of inhaling smoke from it. Even though they sound pretty non-threatening, you need to realize that experiencing them while camping in the wilderness and far away from civilization is the last thing you’d want.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises, remember to get familiar with the terrain and all the plants and animals you can encounter well before you set out on your camping trip.

Using Leaves for Utility Purposes

Once you realize that most of your clothing, blankets, and tools are made of plants, it is easier to put leaves to great use when you’re outdoors. They can help you make up for a lot of things you forgot or lost on your camping trip.

Make Cordage Out of Leaves When Camping

Ropes are one of the most important tools and resources you’ll have when camping. Many survivalists and campers will concur when we say that there just never seems to be enough of it!

Even though cordage is crucial, it can also be heavy – making it very necessary, but still undesirable to lug around in your backpack. Luckily, you can use natural cordage to overcome the lack of the regular one.

One of the ways of using leaves when camping is for making ropes

Press and twist long leaves to make long rolls, then wrap them together with vines to reinforce them. Repeat the process until you have the desired length of rope.

Keep in mind, they’ll never be as strong as retail cordage, so do not use them for climbing or pulling heavy loads.

Dry Leaves = Great Tinder

Did bad conditions on your camping trip force you to expend all the tinder you brought?

Don’t worry, there’s amazing tinder all around you! Leaves are very flammable and, with a little work, they can hold a flame long enough to transfer it to your fire fuel.

  • Get two solid handfuls of leaves from the forest floor, bundle them together until you make a thick nest, and let them have a few sparks from your lighter or firestarter.
  • Let the flames catch and expand before placing the entire “nest” under your stacked fuel for the fire.

If the leaves are wet, you will need to dry them first. Leave them in sunlight, and away from other sources of moisture. You can also keep them between two clothing items and dry them with your body heat. However, this isn’t recommended in extremely cold conditions as it will drain your body heat.

Say Goodbye to Pesky Pests When Camping

Most plants have evolved to attract the insects they need and repel those that harm them. They mostly do this with their leaves.

If you’ve gotten informed before your camping trip, you’ll know which plants and which bugs to expect. Now you just need to learn which insects hate which plants!

Mosquitos are a constant plague on every camper’s good time. Luckily, they hate some really common plants. Put leaves from citronella gold, rosemary, or basil on your clothes and gear and say goodbye to annoying bites.

Eucalyptus leaves are also a universal natural repellant. Admittedly, they are difficult to find in the wild (unless you’re camping in Australia, South Texas, Hawaii, or Florida), but you can always get a couple of leaves before you set out.

Get Drinkable Water From Leaves

One of the most important survival skills is knowing where and how to get water. No matter where you’re camping, if you aren’t hydrating probably, you’re not going to make it far.

And even though the presence of leaves usually means there’s water nearby, this is not always the case. If you’re in a survival situation where water is a problem, you can use leaves to get the hydration you need.

You will need the following:

  • Plastic bag – Top survival and camping experts always recommend having a garbage bag in your camping kit, but any plastic bag will do. Preferably, it should be see-through.
  • Sunlight – It doesn’t have to be particularly hot, just bright.
  • Green leaves – They need to be alive and full of moisture, not dead leaves you can find on the ground.
  • Container for the water – This will not be necessary if your plastic bag can hold the water
  • Hole in the ground (optional) – Deep enough to cover your elbow when you put your hand at the bottom, and just as wide.

Method 1: Place the leaves and the container in the hole and cover it with plastic. Place a small stone on the plastic cover, just above the container. The sun will cause the water in the leaves to evaporate, it will get caught on the plastic cover and slowly drip from it into the container.

Method 2: If you have a plastic bag that you can seal away, just put the leaves inside and leave it in direct sunlight. Take the leaves out and drink from the bag, or pour it into your water container.

Use leaves to get drinkable water

Use Leaves as Wrapping Materials

People have been wrapping things in leaves long before they invented plastic wrap. If you need to protect something from the elements when on a camping trip, use leaves! Before wrapping food in them, though, make sure they are clean of anything that could cause the food to spoil or become inedible.

Leaves can even be used to protect your books when camping. Just find leaves large enough to allow you to wrap your book in them. Remember to dry the leaves first to avoid damaging them with moisture. Just hold the green leaves above the fire for ten seconds and wipe them to remove the collected dew.

Medicinal and Nutritious Uses for Leaves When Camping

Many plants have medicinal properties, and those are usually contained in their leaves. This gives leaves a hundred and one applications in the wilderness medical kit!

You can use them to make bandages when you’re cut, salves for irritations and abrasions, and even poultices for stopping infections.

What you’ll be able to do and which leaves you’ll need to use will depend on the location and the conditions in which you’re camping. Remember to prepare for your camping trip by reading about the useful flora you could come across.

Pine needles or stinging nettles can be used to make a weak with some antibacterial properties. Make sure you burn the nettles a bit, first. You don’t want them stinging your tongue when you’re drinking the tea. Dandelion leaves are edible and can serve as a good base for a wild salad.

Use Leaves When Camping for Shelter Building

DISCLAIMER: Never build anything in the wild unless you have the owner’s or the local authority’s permission. This can have a negative influence on the ecosystem, and it is best to employ the leave-no-trace policy no matter the location you’re camping on.

One of the most interesting aspects of camping is bushcraft. Making shelter and tools just from what you can find can make a person feel accomplished and happy.

Insulate Your Clothes and Shelter

Provided they’re dry, leaves have great insulation abilities. They can keep you toasty warm even if it’s raining outside your forest abode.

Stuff leaves in your sleeping bag or stack bundles of them against the walls inside your shelter to prevent your heat from escaping and the cold from entering.

Additionally, you can use leaves mixed with dirt to stopper any cracks when making a wooden hut. Mix leaves, dirt, moss, and water to make a sort of natural grout. Apply the mix to any holes or cracks in your shelter to prevent the wind from blowing in.

Can Leaves Be a Building Material?

Apart from being good for insulation, you can use leaves when camping to waterproof or reinforce the roof of your shelter.

Leaves can serve as shingles when there’s no moss around. Simply place a few layers of leaves on the roof and the sides of your shelter and you’ll be significantly dryer and warmer inside.

Other Ways to Use Leaves When Camping

There are countless uses for leaves when camping, and we’ve only mentioned the ones we feel are the most important. Here are some more ways you can use leaves when camping, if you have any other creative and useful ideas, please let us know.

  • Insulate your shoes or gloves
  • Reinforce or repair your clothes
  • Use leaves as plates for serving food
  • Get your bearings – Evergreens are more present in higher altitudes and geographical latitudes. The color of the leaves can tell you which way is north.
  • Camouflage – Hide yourself or your shelter with foliage

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