Any savvy individual who knows anything about natural cleaners and home remedies knows what a multi-functional powerhouse baking soda can be. It’ll clean just about everything, it deodorizes, keeps bugs away, unclogs drains, you name it. But did you know it’s a super handy tool in the great outdoors, too? You do now! We recently learned a bit about the usefulness of baking soda in the backcountry, too, and now we’re pretty sure it’s one of those things that we’ll be putting in our packs from now on. Check out this list of 17 ways to use baking soda while backpacking and then get yourself a big ol’ bag or two and fill a few zip-top bags with the stuff. You won’t regret it.
17 Ways to Use Baking Soda while Backpacking
- Brush your teeth with it: I’m gonna be honest with you on this one. It’s not gonna taste all minty fresh and delicious like the toothpaste you’re used to, but you’ll live. It is, however, effective (and lighter). Sprinkle a little baking soda on your damp toothbrush and scrub gently. Gently!
- Use it as a deodorant: Maybe you bring deodorant on the trail with you, maybe you don’t. Either way, baking soda is lighter, doesn’t smell as much, and de-stinkifies just as well. Dust some under your arms to absorb moisture and deodorize at the end of the day.
- Use it to de-stink everything else: Sprinkle some in your smelly boots, in yesterday’s socks, in the part of your bag that contains yesterday’s socks…Anywhere that stinks.
- Stop the itch: Your mom may have utilized this remedy when you were a kid. Surprise! It still works. If you can’t stop scratching bug bites or poison ivy, mix just enough water and baking soda to create a paste, then apply it to the itchy spots. Let it sit for 10 minutes before washing it off. Or leave it on. It’s not gonna hurt you.
- Ease the pain of stings: Make a paste out of baking soda and water and slap it on bee or wasp stings to help ease that throbbing, searing pain so you can stop swearing at the insect that inflicted it. This works for mild burns, too.
- Use it to clean up: Your camp kitchen, that is. Sprinkle baking soda in your damp, dirty dishes and rub it around with your fingers with a splash of water. It’ll loosen whatever gunk is left over from dinner. Then rinse and be on your way. It’s biodegradable and won’t attract wildlife. Yay, Leave No Trace!
- Clean your boots: If there’s all kinds of muck up in the soles and the uppers of your boots, sprinkle them with baking soda and scrub with a wet brush or rag. It’s best to clean them with an appropriate cleaner when you get home, but if you’re on the trail and didn’t bring your suite of Nikwax products, this’ll at least help you get the extra 2 pounds of mud off.
- Make a sports drink: Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt or lite salt (which tastes less…salty…) with 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda, a packet of Kool-Aid or another drink mix, and sweetener in a large Nalgene. Hot water will help it all dissolve better, but a vigorous shake will do, too.
- Deodorize your dog: Is your furry backpacking companion starting to reek worse than you? Sprinkle some baking soda in her coat and brush through so she smells less like wet dog before she climbs into the tent with you. You can also use it to brush her teeth if you’re one of those pet parents.
- Really clean those grimy clothes: If you managed to really soil some clothes out there, including with your excessive perspiration, add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your washer when you get back to help get out the grunge.
- “Wash” your hair: If you’ve been on the trail for more than a few days and you can’t stand the greaseball that is the mop on top of your head, sprinkle some baking soda on your scalp and tousle it through to your roots. It’ll help absorb the oil and funk. Be warned: if you have dark hair, it may leave it with an ashy appearance, but what would you rather have: Noxious hair or slightly lighter locks?
- Deter bears: Baking soda may not deter bears as much as help mask the scents that attract them, but keep some in your bear bag or food locker to help lessen the intoxicating scent of free food.
- Revitalize your Nalgene: If you went and mixed vegan pudding or iced tea cocktails in your water bottle and it’s smelling a little funky, soak a solution of water and baking soda in there overnight and you won’t be sipping and wondering, what IS that smell?
- Fight a grease fire: Put too much oil in your pan and now your tofu is on fire? Throw a handful of baking soda on a small blaze to extinguish it quickly.
- Reduce acid: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in a cup or bottle of water if that ramen you had for dinner prompted some acid reflux or heartburn. Drink up!
- Wash your face (or whatever): mix a little baking soda with water and rub your face (or wherever is gross enough to warrant a full cleaning). Rinse clean and voila! No more greasy face.
- Deodorize your sleeping bag: If you’ve been on the trail for a while and there’s no chance of getting to wash that sucker any time soon, put a 1/4 cup of baking soda in a paper bag and seal it up tight with a rubber band. Toss it in the bottom of your bag to absorb some of the trail funk.
That enough ways to use baking soda while backpacking? Good grief I should hope so. At the very least it should be enough to make you consider stashing a bag of baking soda in your backpack or gearbox. And if you liked these suggestions, check out some of our other camping hacks! Wander on!
*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy 17 boxes of baking soda, we might make enough to buy one.
Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com