How to Keep Mosquitoes Away While Camping

One of the fastest ways for a camping trip to turn into a nightmare is for mosquito bites to make it an itchy misery. No thanks!

Worse, with mosquito borne illnesses such as Zika and West Nile, it is not just a convenience issue. Doing your best to prevent mosquito bites is a safety issue.

How to Keep Mosquitoes Away While Camping

I have put together a list of actions, products and even household items that you can use on your next camping adventure. Start with some simple planning and good packing and you will be able to enjoy the outdoors without being bothered by mosquitoes.

Choose the right campsite

Location. Location. Location. When it comes to avoiding mosquitoes, this is one of the most important factors. Since they breed in stagnant water, you will find mosquitoes at their highest concentrations near streams, ponds, bogs or marshes.

Even if the water is moving, such as a stream or river, small eddies and puddles are likely common on the banks and will be a source of these biting pests. Choose high and dry for the best bug-free spots.

DEET and Permethrin

Bug repellants with the chemicals DEET or Permethrin tend to be very effective at repelling mosquitoes. In areas with high concentrations of mosquitoes, or that are under warnings for Zika or West Nile outbreaks, they are probably your best bet.

However, studies have shown that long term exposure to concentrated amounts of DEET may be harmful to your health. There is no reason to be completely alarmist about this, but it is a concern for some people, especially with infants.

In addition, there are some concerns about these potent pesticides and their effect on fish and other water life. It does not hurt to be a little conservative with the use of these products when you can.

Here are some guidelines for the safe use of products containing DEET or Permethrin:

  • Try to use on clothes, shoes, hats and gear rather than directly on the skin.
  • Do not put a bunch of the repellant on and then jump in the water.
  • Use a product with as low a concentration of the chemical as is effective.

Botanical repellants

In recent years there has been an explosion of insect repellant products that rely on essential oils which are natural and safe. You can buy the essential oils on their own and combine with mineral oil to make your own repellant, or check out some of these premade formulas:

  • Coleman Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus Bug Spray – Completely plant based with a great smell and non-greasy application.
  • OFF! Botanicals Insect Repellent – From a well-known bug repellant company, this formula works with an extracted essential oil found in Eucalyptus.
  • US Organic Insect Repellent – 100% certified organic and plant based. This formula uses a combination of essential oils including citronella, rosemary, peppermint, geranium, lemongrass and lavender.
  • Avon Skin So Soft – Although it was not originally formulated to repel insects, customers soon found out this all-natural formulation was effective. Studies have also proven its effectiveness.
  • Cutter Citronella Bucket Candle – Citronella acts as a natural repellent in this fire-safe bucket candle, a nice safety feature to have in the woods.

Household repellants

There are several insect repellents you can make from common household products that are said to work to help repel biting insects such as mosquitoes. Here is a list of some things to try:

  • Coconut – The scent can be effective to deter insects from biting. You can use it as a soap or use coconut oil rubbed into the skin. Many sunscreens also include this ingredient if you are planning for time in the sun.
  • Garlic – Plan some meals that use fresh cloves of this ingredient. As you sweat some of the enzymes from this bulb work to discourage pests.
  • Sage – If you grow this herb in your garden, you know it is profuse and there is always plenty to spare. Dry some each year and bring it with you to add to the campfire for an efficient repellant for the whole campsite.

Best practices

  • Be aware of lightMosquitoes and other biting insects are attracted to light at night, so be thinking strategically. Luckily, campfire produces smoke which works to help keep mosquito populations down, but flashlights, lanterns and pavilion lights will attract them.
  • Close the door or tent flaps – Keeping cabin doors and tents tightly closed can go a long way to provide bug free zones for sleeping or escaping the pests during peak hours (such as sunset).
  • Avoid scented skin products and perfume – Just like there are scents that repel mosquitoes, there are also scents that attract them. Try to avoid products that might entice the little buggers to make you into a snack.
  • Good timing – Perhaps the most important step you can take to reduce exposure to mosquitoes while camping is to plan your trip to avoid peak mosquito season in the area you are planning to vacation.
  • Keep your campsite tidy – Cleaning up food immediately after a meal and tightly sealing trash can prevent attracting mosquitoes and other pests.

Innovative products

In addition to good planning, best practices and personal repellants, there are a variety of products specifically designed to help make your camping trip mosquito free:

  • Coleman Instant Screenhouse – Fast tear down and assembly makes this an option for folks that like to camp in style. Enjoy the views without the bites. This canopy also provides some shade so it does double duty.
  • Sierra Bug Free Long-Sleeve T-Shirt – New fabrics have built Permethrin into clothing and gear so that it can withstand up to 70 washes and still provide protection from mosquitoes. This long sleeve T-shirt protects against bugs and sun, without adding much weight or heat.
  • Even Naturals Mosquito Head Net – I prefer a head net to a net hat, although both are effective for bug proofing exposed skin around the head and neck. This way you can use your own hat, you know, for style!
  • King Outfitters Hammock Bug Net – I won’t go camping without a hammock and this net works great to turn your lazy nap spot into a bug free zone. Also, be sure to check out my article on How to Set Up a Camping Hammock (link to that article).)

In summary, there are a lot of ways to keep mosquitoes away while camping, especially if you do the right preparation for your trip. If you are planning your trip now, be sure to see my full Camping Gear List (link to this article on the site) for a great checklist!


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