Surviving in the wild: How to make smoke sticks for a natural way to keep bugs at bay when hiking or camping
Wilderness expert Zach Gault shares a backwoods remedy for bite-free adventuring
When venturing into the wilderness during the spring and summer months — whether it be for hiking, camping, or even a little foraging — being armed with bug repellent is essential. But even if you've stocked up on all the spray the store can offer, learning how to leverage the natural materials you'll find outdoors can give you a real advantage when it comes to combatting some of nature's most persistent insects: mosquitoes and flies. In this survival skills video, expert Zach Gault demonstrates a backwoods method to help deter flying, biting insects in remote Canadian environments. Using smoke from smouldering, natural vegetation that's been foraged from the area, this remedy will add to anyone's bug repellant arsenal and help keep the bites at bay. *Note: this method can be paired with modern bug gear and repellants for maximum alleviation of mosquitoes and flies.
Check out the video below to see how it's done, then scroll down for full instructions.
*Caution and safety should always be taken into account when working with fire, always be aware of the fire source.
Here's what you'll need:
- Knife, or another cutting tool
- 4 live-wood sticks, 6-12" in length
- 4 additional sticks, to act as a spreader/wedge
- Fomes fomentarius — punkwood or tinder fungus (use both for optimal results)
- Matches, or another lighting source
- Rocks (optional)
Here's how to do it:
- Locate and collect all of the materials above.
- Using your cutting tool, safely split the top section of each live-wood stick, stopping just before the halfway point and ensuring the stick doesn't split in half.
- Using the spreader sticks you collected, carefully wedge each one into the split section of a corresponding live-wood stick. This will help open the splits further, creating room for the vegetation you've gathered.
- Process the punkwood into 2-3" pieces, then gently place them in the split of each live-wood stick.
- Process the tinder fungus and add it to the split section of each live-wood stick. More punkwood can be placed on top to provide an ignition source and help keep the fungus lit.
- Utilizing the landscape around you, safely insert each smoke stick you've constructed into the ground or secure them with a base mound of rocks. Placing the smoke sticks in a diamond pattern is recommended to ensure full smoke coverage of the space.
- Using a safe fire source, ignite the end of each smoke stick and quickly them blow out. This will leave you with smouldering embers that will provide ample amounts of smoke, helping to deter surrounding mosquitoes and flies.
Note: Never leave camp with smoke sticks lit and smouldering, as they can be a potential fire hazard and danger. If left unattended, the sticks can catch fire and the punkwood fuel source will burn up at a faster rate.
Zachary Gault, owner and instructor at Primitive Living Wilderness-Skills School, is a nature enthusiast who specializes in the traditional skills of bushcraft, survival and sustainable wilderness-living. For more info, checkout his website, Instagram and YouTube channel.