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There is nothing better than going camping in the summer when the days are long and nights are warm. Especially if your campsite is somewhere near a lake or river. You will spend the day getting that bronze suntan and refreshing yourself with long swims.
A barbecue will round up the perfect day.
Everything is ideal until you hear that bzz bzz sound. Next thing you know, you will start scratching and frenetically running. Mosquitos can ruin the camping. Don’t let that happen. With this guide, we will help you to choose the best mosquito repellent for camping and save your day. So, concentrate.
When do we need the best mosquito repellent for camping?
By the almighty Murphy’s Law, mosquito season is equal to camping season, more or less. When the temperatures reach at least 50F, mosquitos wake up from hibernation. This temperature is also great for hatching mosquito eggs. So, male mosquitos feed with nectar, while female mosquitos go searching for blood.
Mosquitos like our blood, as it’s full of proteins and iron needed for hatching eggs. Usually, mosquitos are more active during the night. They are not good flyers, and the high temperatures can dehydrate them. Thus, mosquitos like warm sunsets and nights, just like every camper ever. (don’t forget the repellent if you are going to be out enjoying nature).
Why do we need mosquito repellent when camping?
Because, my friend, if you don’t protect yourself, mosquitos will bite you. And a mosquito bite is the thing you want to avoid. It’s not just annoying or itchy. Mosquitos carry a whole bunch of potentially deadly diseases such as:
- Zika Virus
- West Nile Virus
- Eastern (and Western) Equine Encephalitis
- Dengue fever
- La Crosse Virus
- and more
All of these diseases are potentially deadly. After all, mosquitos are the deadliest animals on the planet. Every year, more than 750.000 people die from diseases carried by mosquito bites. And that is a problem. Mosquitos can be found everywhere, they are attracted to our scent, and they simply adore drinking our blood. So, we need an effective way to keep mosquitos away from us while camping.
What can we do besides using mosquito repellent when camping?
Before any camping trip, you need to check all your equipment. That includes your kitchen utensils, first aid kit, and the current state of your tent. Look for any holes those pesky bugs can crawl into.
Also, check the safety zippers. When you close the zippers, there should be no holes left. You should also practice quickly getting in and out of the tent. Perhaps it looks funny but will save your nerves and your skin from these professional camping-ruiners.
Camping fire with sage is a great mosquito repellent
To be honest, a usual campfire does a lousy job when it comes to scaring mosquitos. But, if you throw in a bunch of sage leaves, it is a different story now. Sage leaves will repel the mosquitos. Furthermore, the smoke will spread around your campsite, and mosquitos will avoid you as long as the fire burns. Sage leaves also make a great addition to your camping spices, so it’s a win-win situation.
Location, location, location
Mosquitos just adore nesting in the standing waters. Or any water, for that matter. A small river bayou is also a nesting place. So, if you don’t want to spend the evening shouting at mosquitos, find a campsite with a decent distance from ponds, bayous, lakes, or swamps. Possibly a high and dry location, with a breeze that will keep the mosquitos away.
But definitely not the desert!
If you’ve ever been to the Burning Man festival, you know how annoying mosquitoes can be!
Clothes for camping can also be mosquito repellent
Light clothes will protect you from mosquitos better than any repellent. Light-colored clothes are also a must. If you are going into the mosquito zone, wear long pants and long sleeve shirts. For worst-case scenarios (swamps, horror movies), the hats with mosquito nets will protect your face. And forget about sandals or slippers. Go with boots or sneakers, and tuck your pants inside the socks. Yoga pants are also a bad idea, as the mosquitos can bite right through.
You tried everything, and it doesn’t work. The mosquitos are still biting you. Well, there is a solution for that, too. Mosquito tents are lightweight and affordable. Also, they protect you from all sorts of bugs, not just mosquitos. Furthermore, the mosquito tents allow you to enjoy the sunsets, as the tent walls are made from nets, and thus, transparent.
How to choose the best mosquito repellent for camping
Your skin condition
If you have sensitive skin, you can’t use any mosquito repellent with a higher concentration of chemicals. The same goes if you have cuts, bruises, or any other skin damage. Some of the best mosquito repellents for camping will be gentle for your skin, while others simply won’t. Gentle skin is better protected by light clothes.
Where will you camp?
The topic of this guide is mosquito repellents for camping. However, some of these repellents will do wonders for other bugs, too. Heck, a specific repellent listed above will also keep raccoons far from you. So, inform yourself before the trip. Study the annoying bugs of your future campsite and learn what repellent will keep most of them far away from you.
How much time will you spend camping?
Reapplying mosquito repellent is annoying. Especially if your camping trip lasts for few days. Natural repellents last for only a few hours, while DEET and the other chemical-based repellents will provide you with much longer protection. If you are going to camp for a few days, you will need a larger batch of repellent. You will also need a camp kitchen organizer, but that’s the subject of another article.
Who will use it
- Kids younger than two months can forget about mosquito repellents.
- Cats can’t use Permethrin.
- Cats and dogs can’t use 2-Undecanone.
- Some people are allergic to certain chemicals.
- Some are allergic to essential oils, while others can get an allergic reaction from the mosquito bite.
- Others believe DEET will melt their brain.
- It’s much better to explore the issue before camping than to have an allergic reaction in the middle of nowhere.
What is the best mosquito repellent spray for camping?
DEET is a US product. It was developed in 1946 by the US army. Since then, DEET (short for N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the most popular mosquito repellent spray in the States. Approximately 30% of Americans choose DEET as their mosquito repellent. It is fast, reliable, and has been a subject of controversy. And now, here are the most popular myths about DEET:
- DEET kills mosquitos – false. Deet only repels the mosquitos by interacting with their receptors and disorienting them.
- The higher concentration of DEET is better – false. Mosquito sprays can contain anywhere between 5% and 100% of DEET. However, those that have 10% – 30% concentration are the most effective ones.
- DEET will melt your skin and damage your nervous system – again false. DEET has been going on the market for 75 years and is proven to be safe by numerous government agencies.
However, one thing is true. You can’t use DEET on your camping equipment. You should only apply it to your skin.
This DEET alternative was invented in the 1980s. However, not until 2005. did it came to the States. Today, more than 20 different mosquito repellents have Picaridin as the main ingredient. Picaridin has the same efficiency as DEET but better modus operandi. Unlike DEET, Picaridin can be applied to your clothes or your tent.
Picaridin sprays usually have between 7% and 20% of Picaridin. The 7% dosage will provide you with cca 7 hours of protection, while 20% will give you fascinating 12 hours of protection. This repellent is odorless, doesn’t get greasy, and won’t irritate your skin.
(This is my favorite for Picaridin bug spray.)
This is another alternative for DEET. The mosquito repellents that contain IR-3535 are non-greasy, lightweight, and invisible once applied. IR-3535 was developed in the 1970s in Europe. In 1999, it became available to the US market. It’s not that popular when compared to DEET and Picaridin. But, it has a reputation of being safe and still getting the job done. However, it’s a bit less effective than the alternatives.
This lovely concoction is not meant to be used on the skin. Permethrin is an insecticide for your clothes and camping gear. It provides at least 15 days of protection, and that’s more than fascinating. Permethrin effectively repels mosquitos and fleas and is widely used in public mosquito handling programs.
All the bugs that are not repelled will be killed when they come in contact with Permethrin. You can buy Permethrin as powder, liquid, or spray. DEET for your skin and Permethrin for your gear is probably the best protection you can get. This product is safe for humans and dogs but can be dangerous to cats. So keep Mittens far away from Permethrin.
Natural mosquito repellent sprays
If you are not a fan of chemicals, you can always opt for natural-based sprays for repelling mosquitos. These sprays are based on essential oils of rosemary, citronella, eucalyptus, and cedar. They are great and smell great, but not as near effective as DEET and Picaridin.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – OLE
Not to be confused with lemon eucalyptus oil. OLE is probably the best natural mosquito repellent for camping. It is an oil extracted from leaves and twigs of the lemon-scented eucalyptus plant. Its protection is as effective as DEET. OLE will provide you cca 7 hours of protection and is completely safe for anyone older than three years. (this one is okay if the bugs aren’t too heavy…or hungry).
This ingredient is sourced from the wild tomato. Weird. But it has proven to be more than effective. It is registered in the United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2-Undecanone will not repel only mosquitos but also raccoons, cats, and dogs. Thus, it’s not a great choice if you go camping with your pets.
How to apply the best mosquito repellent for camping
Believe it or not, but there are wrong ways to apply your mosquito repellent spray when camping. If you do so, you will reduce the effectiveness of the spray. Or worse, possibly harm yourself or your kind. So, we won’t let that happen. Follow our steps.
- Sunscreen goes first.
Sun protection is one of the 10 essentials, and you should always carry it in your backpack. You should always your sunscreen first and wait for it to be absorbed in the skin. After that, you can apply your mosquito repellent. Don’t use products that are both sunscreen and repellent, as they are impractical.
- Only apply the mosquito repellent spray on the exposed skin.
There is no point in spraying your skin when it is protected by clothes. And it’s always better to protect yourself with light, long-sleeved clothes. Take special care of feet and ankles. Those are sweet spots for mosquito bites.
- Bigger is not better
Large quantities of spray will not give you better protection. On the contrary, they might cause skin irritation. Stick to the recommended dosage highlighted on the package. Also, never reapply the repellent unless it’s necessary.
- Apply the mosquito repellent spray safely
Apply the spray only on your skin. Never on eyes, nostrils, or open cuts. To reach the complicated spots, spray some on your hands. Then gently apply the spray with your hands. When you are protecting children, do the whole thing with your hands. Don’t give them spray to use, and never spray the repellent on their hands. Children should be at least two months old if you want to apply repellent to their gentle skin.
How do you keep mosquitoes away in your sleep?
Wear bright pajamas
Mosquitos are attracted to darker colors. Bright ones like white and yellow will repel mosquitos, as it reminds them of the sunlight. These little creatures are not too smart. So the best thing is for you to wear bright pajamas. Also, suggest dark pajamas to the most annoying member of your camping gang.
Don’t use your smartphone
Mosquitos are attracted to the light that your smartphone screen produces. And most of us have a nasty habit of scrolling the net just before sleep. Skip it. You are camping anyway. Why would you spend time scrolling the Internet?
What are the worst mosquito repellents for camping?
Desperate times seek desperate measures. In history, people tried everything to get rid of mosquitos. That includes rubbing themselves with garlic and/or vinegar, eating bananas, drinking too much gin and tonic. Also, people burned cow poop, coconut shells, used coffee grounds and aromatic herbs. And usually, it doesn’t help.
- Citronella candles – a study from 2017 has shown they are completely ineffective. Citronella oil is effective, but the candles contain only 5% of it.
- B1 skin patches – debunked by the study from 2015.
- Various braces containing lemongrass or citronella – also a hoax. Their efficiency is so low they are useless after minutes.
- Ultrasonic devices – although popular, also ineffective. But hey, at least they are not expensive.
- Smartphone apps – if you believe this one, you deserve to be bitten by something much worse than mosquitoes. Perhaps a Bigfoot.
- Bug zappers – will kill a bunch of bugs. Sadly, the wrong ones. Mosquitos are not attracted to it.
- Bats. One pretty useless research claimed that bats can eat 1000 mosquitos per hour. What they failed to mention is, bats were starving, and the room was full of mosquitos. In nature, mosquitos are not the favorite snack for bats.
Best mosquito repellent for camping FAQ
Are mosquitoes good for anything?
Fair question. Do these little bloodsuckers have any purpose, or they just ruin our camping for fun? Out of cca 4000 species of mosquitos, only about a hundred species are harmful to humans. So, mosquitos have a purpose, as everything in the ecosystem. Mosquitos pollinate plants and serve as a food source for birds, fish, frogs, and other insect predators. However, people just hate mosquitos and would like to see them all eradicated.
Do electronic mosquito repellers work?
No, neither one of them. Every day, new studies constantly prove that not a single one of those ultrasonic repellents work. On top of that, some people think that a smartphone app can serve as a mosquito repellent while camping. To be honest, all those devices and apps are pretty cheap, so you won’t be scammed that much. But trust us on this. They. Do. Not. Work.
Does Vicks Vapor Rub repel mosquitoes?
Yes, but it is not as effective as people claim. Vicks Vapor Rub has a few ingredients, like menthol and cedar oil, that act as natural bug repellents. However, it’s just not that effective. Unless you want to reapply Vicks every 10 minutes, opt for a professional mosquito repellent spray.
Is DEET cancerous?
DEET has an unjustified bad reputation for years. Over the years, reputable organizations (including the American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend using DEET as a mosquito repellent (like this one).
DEET is even safe for children older than two months. There has not been any connection between DEET and cancer, and believe us, people have tried to find one. After all, DEET is on the market for 75 years. If it were cancerous, it would be removed a long time ago.
Even if it does make your tongue go numb.
So, with that being said, if you can find something that works well…and it is DEET free, that would be the better choice.
Do mosquitoes die after they bite you?
If only it were that easy. No, mosquitos don’t die after biting you. The same one can bite you over and over again and make your night a living hell. A mosquito’s mouth is meant for sucking blood continuously. Mosquitos have smooth needles for sucking your blood and simultaneously injecting saliva into your bloodstream. Mosquito’s saliva ensures that your blood doesn’t coagulate. Also, saliva is the reason why mosquitoes bite itches like heck.
Let’s be honest here. Whatever you do, you won’t exterminate the mosquitos 100% from your campsite. However, using the methods listed above, you can significantly lower their number. Especially if you combine a few methods, like protection for your skin and your clothes. In the end, try not to be too bothered by a bite or two. Remember, you invaded their territory, not the other way around. So, sit back, enjoy, and don’t let an itch or two ruin your camping. Also, bear in mind that none of the folklore mosquito repellents are as near as effective as modern scientific solutions. Hanging garlic outside of your tent will only scare vampires and fellow campers, not mosquitos.
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