Poison Ivy: know it, spot it, avoid it!

Poison Ivy: know it, spot it, avoid it!

It’s that time of year again, time to prepare for the vine of doom (or… just itchiness).


Don’t let poison ivy wreck a hike, camping trip, or just a casual day outdoors! In this blog post, we'll share a few practical strategies, personal anecdotes, and tips to conquer poison ivy and enjoy the great outdoors without any irritating itches. Prevent and treat poison ivy itch during your thrilling outdoor escapades Explore effective strategies to minimize the impact of this notorious plant on your hunting, fishing, camping, and bushcraft trips. With a little extra knowledge and prep you can regain control and conquer poison ivy; goodbye discomfort, rash, and itch, hello adventure!

 field of poison ivy on my normal hiking trail

I’ve Hated Poison Ivy for a Long Time

I grew up extremely sensitive to Poison Ivy. I’m not sure if “allergic” is the right word, but I definitely was strongly reactive to it. Every summer I’d go down into the woods behind the house with friends… and every summer I’d explode with rash at least one. The summer after 3rd grade I technically blind for a few weeks my face swelled up so bad. I had it from head to toe; that was easily my worst case of it. It wasn’t until my late teens I realized what I wasn’t even identifying the correct plant!

Don’t forget your tools! My most recent battle with poison ivy (though I’m much less sensitive to it now as an adult) was from my very own parang! I come home from a trip, immediately showered and washed all of my clothes, and thought nothing more about it. The next day I was in the garage cleaning and got distracted sharpening my machete before putting it away. It never once occurred to me to wipe it down first before handling it, and within 24 hours I had that familiar itch and splotchy red rashes on my arms. And my ear and face (apparently I wiped my brow while out there). And my neck… It sucked.

Other than when my mind blanks, I’ve grown decent at avoiding poison ivy for the most part. Developing resilience against poison ivy is a pretty simple mix of practical techniques and preventive measures. The number tip I can give is just to buckle down and get used to being hot & sweaty. Proper clothing choices, AKA long sleeves and pants, minimize skin contact at will resolve most of the problem outright. This is simple precaution can significantly reduce the chances of encountering poison ivy and experiencing uncomfortable itchiness. Pro-tip: I went and found baggy linen pants (actually like 3 or 4 sizes too large that I then took in around the waste) that I blouse around my boots. This both prevents Ivy and Ticks from getting to my legs. After that, an old white dress shirt works wonders. I know they say cotton kills… but that’s the winter. That evaporative cooling feels great in the heat, and you’re getting triple value: No poison ivy, No bugs, No sunburn.


Knowledge is Power

Equip yourself with the knowledge to identify poison ivy, its habitats, and peak seasons. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a plant commonly found in North America and is notorious for causing skin irritation and allergic reactions. It typically grows as a vine or shrub (down here it’s mostly a spindly shrub-type growth) and has three leaflets. The saying, "Leaves of three, let it be" is solid advice and can’t steer you wrong.

Learn about identifying poison ivy here, these resrouces have some great images and examples:

  • The FDA has a video about ID'ing various poison ivy/sumac/oak here
  • the Cleveland Clinic has a pretty comprehensive article detailing poison ivy here
  • The American Academy of Dermatology has a collection of articles about it here

By familiarizing yourself with poison ivy's appearance and growth patterns, you'll be better equipped to avoid accidental contact during your outdoor adventures. It's not just about avoiding poison ivy; it's also important to learn how to differentiate it from similar-looking plants, such as Virginia creeper or boxelder. Though personally, I avoid patches of Virginia Creeper as well since I’ve found they grow kind of hand in hand; it’s not uncommon at all to see them right next to each other.

poison plants 1 pager


Educating yourself on these distinctions adds an extra layer of protection against unwelcome encounters. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate outdoor environments, knowing how to identify and steer clear of poison ivy's itchy consequences.

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