The first blends I tried smelled delicious... Lavender and vanilla, Lemongrass and peppermint, and Rosemary Cinnamon. Mmmm...yum!
Here's my recipe for these repellents
(adapted from Wellness Mama's recipe)
Essential Oil Bug Spray
Fill a 4 oz. spray bottle half-way with distilled water.
Add 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerine
Add Witch Hazel, leaving about half an inch empty at the top of bottle
Add 30 drops of essential oils (for each scent you use). So if you make lemongrass & peppermint, there will be 60 total drops. The possibility for scents are endless with this. My kids loved experimenting with this. This is a great way to get kids involved and invested in wearing the repellents they have created.
The verdict: These oil based sprays were light and nicely scented. They didn't feel heavy or oppressive at all. It was almost like wearing a really light body spray. However, we were nervous to use the vanilla scented sprays in bear country, so we avoided that scent in Yellowstone. The lemongrass peppermint one worked the best for mosquitoes, and that is the one we consistently went back to. I loved this scent and the way it worked on me. This was the kids' favorite too.
However, at Yellowstone, during prime bug hours, my husband still was bitten when using these sprays. He turned to the heavier-hitting "Four Thieves Concoction" we had made. The kids started jokingly calling it our, "salad dressing" bug spray, but honestly that's what it smells like when you first spray it. The vinegar smell does fade as it dries, but I'm not gonna lie to you, it does smell like strong Italian Vinaigrette when you spray it on yourself. But since this spray was bullet-proof for us, we all thought it was very well-worth it. And I'd much prefer to smell vinegar than those horrible fake-campy scents of the deet sprays. I just can't stand all of that strong fragrance.
Salad Dressing Bug Repellent
adapted from Wellness Mama's recipe
1 (nearly full) 32 oz. bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
3 TBS Rosemary
2 TBS Thyme
2 TBS Peppermint
3 TBS Lavender
Since I always have Apple Cider Vinegar on hand, I thought the easiest way to make this recipe was to add the herbs to the nearly-full jar in my pantry. If you prefer, you could add all ingredients to a mason jar. I've made it this way as well and it worked great too.
Add all herbs to Apple Cider Vinegar, close lid tightly and shake well. Leave concoction on counter where you will remember it, and shake daily for several weeks. My first batch sat (and was shaken) for about a month. For my second batch, I only remembered to make the repellent 2.5 weeks prior to our trip, and it still worked great! Anyway, keep shaking the repellent every day. Then, prior to using, strain the herbs from the liquid and pour liquid back into bottle. Store in fridge for longer shelf life. Ours was fine, and still very potent, in the cabinet for our 4 day camping trip. Pour 3/4 of the solution into a spray bottle, and fill the rest with distilled water. Your "Salad Dressing Bug Spray" is now ready! You will have to apply more frequently than with commercial sprays, but it worked great for us!
The Verdict: This spray was amazing for heavy mosquitoes. We had to re-apply frequently (every few hours) but it was bullet-proof, even in the thick bugs at Yellowstone. We just used it again last weekend on our Clearlake (trust me, this name is a huge misnomer!) trip and it again did not let us down. It does have a very strong vinegar smell, so if that bothers you, you will hate this spray. For the rest of us, the smell is totally worth the protection this offers. My kids (who love eating salads with balsamic vinaigrette on it, even think it smells good! Ha!)