Going to the mountains, to the forest or the river is a great way to spend time with family and friends. To get the most out of your activity, you need to be prepared for everything. Many of my readers probably know that the most frequent guests at camping are various blood-sucking insects. In this article, I want to share with you tips on how to repel mosquitoes while camping. Being an avid hiker, I regularly came across these nasty insects. From my own experience, I checked many remedies and gears.
Of course, it is better to think of ways to protect yourself from mosquitoes in advance than to deal with the consequences later. It’s good if you manage to get away with just itchy bites, which is also very unpleasant. But do not forget that these insects can be carriers of such severe diseases as malaria and yellow fever. In total, they carry more than 50 types of various viruses. Besides, if you have one of the mosquito bite allergies, you also need to be able to protect yourself.
Best Way to Keep Mosquitoes Away While Camping
In this article, I will teach you how to make your trip mosquito-free by choosing the right campsite, special gears, clothes, professional and natural repellents. And, of course, I will answer the most popular questions relevant to both beginner hikers and experienced travelers.
Pick the Right Campsite First
Before shopping for an effective camping mosquito repellent, I suggest deciding on the site where you plan to stay. Remember that mosquitoes live near sources of water. They need it for laying eggs, larvae and pupae growing.
Of course, in wild nature, it is not easy to find a place where there would be no standing water. But it’s better to minimize the possibility of mosquitos’ appearance. Look for an area where there will not be a large number of fallen trees (especially with hollow trunks), wetlands, puddles, ponds with standing water. If you still want to spend the day near them, choose places near rivers or lakes with running water and a rocky bottom. In such areas, mosquitoes are less likely to occur.
The activity of these insects is also affected by the ambient temperature. They are most annoying in the range of 62.6 °F (17 °C) to 77 °F (25 °C). As soon as the temperature drops or rises above the specified limits, their activity decreases. That is why mosquitoes prefer to hide in tall grass or the shade of trees on hot afternoons. And if the air temperature at night is kept below 50 °F (10 °C), they can fall into hibernation or even die.
It’s good if the camping site is well-blown. In windy weather, mosquitoes prefer to hide in shelters. Also, try to choose a place on a hill. It is known that mosquitoes themselves do not rise above 15 meters, and if they do, then only with intermediate transplants. Although there are cases when a gust of wind cast them much higher (for example, on the 54th floor of a high-rise building).
Choose Protective Clothes
Despite the hot weather, I recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and dense pants. There was an experiment in the Canadian tundra that showed that a naked person could get about 9000 bites of young mosquitoes in just a minute. Don’t experiment, but do everything possible so that you will not be eaten alive.
You will not be sitting in a net or tent all the time, so you need to think about how to protect yourself from insects. It is believed that they are mainly attracted to dark clothes, so choose shirts and pants in light shades with a tightening on the wrists and ankles. Remember to protect your face and neck and wear a head net.
Fairly dense clothing can protect you from mosquito bites by almost 100%. However, its main drawback is the insulating properties and the lack of adequate ventilation. In such clothes, you sweat, feel discomfort, and you even can get a heat stroke. You can wear light trousers and a shirt, treated with various repellents, or purchase special suits. Nowadays, there are many models of mosquito suits that will protect you from annoying insects and will not block the airflow under the fabric.
Get Anti-Mosquito Equipment
For camping in places where there may be many mosquitoes, I recommend getting a tent with a screen room. With it, you can create a big room, free from a variety of insects, which is well ventilated and provides excellent visibility. By the way, you can make such a room with your own hands. Its installation will take a little longer, but you can adjust its size. Just buy mosquito netting and install it using poles or nearby trees.
If you do not want to purchase a special tent mosquito repellent, be sure to check that there is a mosquito net on the door of your tent and that there are no holes in it insects can enter. Close doors tightly when you enter or exit it.
I do not recommend spending money on special gears like ultrasonic devices or bug-zappers. Firstly, many of them require a connection to the mains or run on batteries, so their work time is limited. Secondly, their effectiveness is still in question. Thirdly, they take up a lot of space in your backpack. Besides, I believe that since you will be in the wild, in the natural habitat of mosquitoes, it is better to choose a method that will scare them away, and not kill them.
Get Rid of “Tasty” Smells
Try not to take hygiene items with intense flavors (soap, shampoo, etc.). Buy products made of natural, odorless materials for this purpose. Also, I do not recommend using perfume while camping (if some use them).
Remember that when choosing a victim, mosquitoes are guided by heat radiation, the smell of lactic acid and carbon dioxide exhaled by humans. Of course, it is impossible to get rid of insects completely, but it is in your hands to reduce the chances of being noticed. Avoid drinking alcohol and physical activity (as much as possible), as they increase body temperature and sweating, attracting mosquitoes. Drink enough water to prevent overheating.
Cover up your own smell with other strong odors. Mosquitos can’t stand onion, citrus fruits, and garlic aromas. Rub your skin with them or their juices. In drugstores, you can even find medicinal products based on garlic. Your body will begin to exude a corresponding smell, which can repel not only insects but also people around you. So be careful.
In order not to once again wonder how to keep mosquitoes away while camping, keep your camp clean. Do not leave food containers open, as the smell lures insects and wild animals. Seal garbage bags tightly and wipe the table right after having a meal. Besides, you know without me that you should not pollute nature with trash. Keep in mind that even a small amount of water in a bottle over time will be a great place for mosquito breeding. Females of some mosquito species can lay eggs even in a thrown soda can or bottle cap. It is especially important if you went on a long trip.
You have probably noticed that some people are more likely to be bitten than others. It is generally accepted that people with 0 blood type are the most “tasty” for mosquitoes, as well as children. It does not mean they cannot go camping; they simply should follow these safety measures.
Use Repellents to Create a Mosquito-Free Zone
I think that is enough for preliminary preparation, let’s talk about how to keep mosquitoes away from campsite. I think one of the most convenient and popular tools is citronella candles. Insects cannot stand the smell of this plant and will bypass your camp. You can arrange a few candles around the perimeter to create a safe area. You can also use pyrethrum-infused mosquito coils, which emit repulsive smoke and aroma, and diffusers, which spray anti-mosquito substances and run on batteries.
Also, pay attention to special lanterns that repel mosquitoes. There is a mat soaked in chemicals that is heated by a fuel cartridge inside. You can find a compact model that will be convenient to carry with you and even hang in a tent. If you go on a long trip, do not forget to bring extra mats (they last for about 4 hours) and cartridges (they can work up to 12 hours). And although insects usually flock to the light, the smell will scare mosquitoes away. Just do not forget to close the tent door tightly.
All these devices help create a safe zone without insects for several people at once. They are suitable for those who, for some reason, cannot use creams and sprays (for example, because of sensitive skin). However, if you exit this zone, you may be attacked by insects. Besides, not everybody likes the persistent smell of citronella and other substances that are used in anti-mosquito devices.
Buy Personal Repellents
Personal repellents are the easiest answer to how do you protect yourself from insects while camping. To save your skin from mosquito bites, use creams, sprays, lotions, or bracelets. I recommend choosing waterproof products. You will probably sweat and want to bath in a river, so the level of protection shouldn’t be reduced.
The basis of the majority of professional products is the chemical ingredient DEET (can also be called diethyltoluamide or N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide). It is one of the most effective tools to repel mosquitoes that has a long-lasting effect. It does not dissolve in water and is not washed off by rain. It is essential to monitor the dosage of DEET because, in large quantities, it can be toxic and cause allergic reactions. If you have sensitive skin or consider this ingredient unsafe, you can choose a cream containing Picaridin. Most manufacturers offer children’s analogs of their products based on natural ingredients or with a minimum of chemicals.
Choosing the best mosquito repellent for camping is up to you. Sprays are very convenient to apply, you do not have to get your hands dirty, but they often require repeated application. Lotions and creams last longer on the skin but can clog pores. The bracelets are comfortable to wear on the wrist, and they are safe for children. However, many users consider them ineffective.
It is important to read instruction manuals carefully. Some products can be applied to the skin only a few times a day. Before using any cream or spray, I recommend testing it on a small skin area. If the place of application does not turn red and does not start to itch, you can safely take it on a camping trip. And, of course, do not forget to wash the product off if it is no longer needed.
Natural Mosquito Repellent Hacks
If you do not want to use complex devices or chemicals against mosquitoes, then useful tools can be found in nature. You can prepare sprays or lotions using natural ingredients. However, it is worth thinking about them in advance, since all DIY remedies need time to rest.
Remember that unlike professional products, they require more frequent applications. Homemade mixtures are easily washed off with water, and their scents wear off quite quickly. Therefore, if you are heading to an area where there are usually a lot of mosquitoes, I recommend that you still get professional repellents. They are more likely to protect your skin from mosquito bites.
Use Natural Aromas
There are many smells that insects can’t tolerate. They not only repel them but also mask your body scent. These include citrus fruits, garlic, onions. You will most likely not be able to eat many of them, but you can rub uncovered body parts with their squeezed juice.
Another strong odor that can help is the smell of vinegar. Spray it around the camp, on the tent, and the skin, if you are not very sensitive to this aroma. It is not very difficult to make a natural spray based on it. In a glass bottle, mix vinegar (you can use both white and apple cider) with a few tablespoons of dried herbs like rosemary, peppermint, thyme, lavender, and sage. Put the bottle in a dark place for 2 or 3 weeks and shake it every day.
Unlike garlic or vinegar, peppermint has a more pleasant aroma for humans but is also a repellent for mosquitoes. You can take a bunch of fresh plants with you, toothpaste with a strong mint flavor, or pour mint mouthwash into a flask and spray around the camp or on your skin.
Cut lime stuffed with cloves is another natural way to keep bugs away when camping. Cut the fruit in half and try to stick the dried cloves as tightly as possible. Thus, It will be a natural repellent with a more pleasant smell than garlic or onion sprays.
Take Full Advantage of a Campfire
Few camping trips go without gatherings around the fire. You can use it not only for cooking food and basking, but also to deter insects. Mosquitoes do not like pungent smoke and smell and, therefore, will stay away from your camping site. However, you can even enhance the beneficial qualities of a campfire.
Not many people know, but both fresh and dried sage is an efficient campfire mosquito repellent. Its aroma drives insects away while it burns, and is absorbed by your clothes, providing long-lasting protection. Rosemary, citronella, peppermint, lavender, basil, and catnip also have similar properties. Choose a plant which smell you can tolerate for a long time or even several days.
Use Essential Oils to Make DIY Repellent
Of all the plants I’ve mentioned above, there are essential oils. Mix up to 20 drops of oil from one or several plants at once with half a glass of water, 0.5 fl oz (15 ml) of alcohol, and add a bit of natural witch hazel astringent. Shake the bottle well before each use. You can spray the mixture on your clothes or apply it directly to the skin.
If you can’t live without a cup of good ground coffee in the morning, I have good news for you. You can pour dry coffee grounds into a puddle of stagnant water (if there is one near your camp) to destroy mosquito larvae. It will save you from annoying insects in the coming days and fertilize the plants growing nearby.
You can also make a homemade mosquito trap, just remember to take everything you need from home. Combine warm water, brown sugar, dry yeast in a narrow-necked plastic bottle, and mix well. Such a mixture will begin to emit carbon dioxide actively and attract mosquitoes, distracting them from you.
Most Common Questions on Finding the Best Way to Repel Mosquitoes while Camping
What Things Attract Mosquitoes to Your Campsite?
Mosquitoes are attracted by the smell of the human body (sweat, exhaled carbon dioxide, and thermal radiation). Insects can smell the scent of lactic acid, which is contained in our sweat, for several kilometers. The more you move or drink alcohol (especially beer), the more attractive you become for mosquitoes. That is why all mosquito repellents have approximately the same principle of action. They mask your own scent, making you unattractive to these insects.
They can also fly to the smell of blood from scratched cuts and bites. If you are dressed in dark or rich colors, mosquitoes are more likely to choose you as their prey, as you are more visible. Also, the sweet smell of perfumes or perfumed cosmetics can attract male mosquitoes to the camp, which do not drink blood but eat floral nectar.
Does Fire Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Yes, a campfire is really a good mosquito repellent. These insects do not tolerate its all-consuming smoke and smell. You can even increase its effectiveness by throwing several twigs of dried herbs into the fire that also repel mosquitoes. Remember to bring sage, rosemary, lavender, or citronella with you. Even if you put out a fire, a strong odor will stay on your clothes and hair for some time, continuing to protect you from mosquitoes.
Does Smoke Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Smoke is one of the best things to keep mosquitoes away. And for this, it is not necessary to make a campfire if you did not plan to. You can use special mosquito coils or just set fire to something that will produce intense smoke and place it near you. For example, a cardboard egg box gives thick smoke. If you still lit a fire, add the mentioned herbs to it or just create more smoke by putting pine straw or dry leaves there. You do not have to sit in the direction where the wind blows, just be near the fire.
What Can You Put in a Fire to Keep Bugs Away?
You can put fresh or dried leaves of those plants in the fire, the smell of which repels mosquitoes. It can be the leaves of citronella, lemon balm, rosemary, lavender, and lemongrass. Also, in stores, you can buy ready-to-use sage bundles, cedar, or citronella logs, which create a fairly thick smoke and persistent aroma, unpleasant for insects.
If you don’t have any of this at hand, you can put more sawdust, spruce needles, and dry leaves into the fire. The aroma will not be as pleasant as the one from herbs, but it will create thick smoke.
Are Bug Sprays Safe to Use?
Insect sprays are safe. However, it is essential to comply with all manufacturer’s recommendations regarding dosage. When choosing the right product, read the label. Look for a spray where the concentration of DEET will not exceed 30% for adults and 15% for children. The duration of protection depends on the concentration of this ingredient. Scientific studies have shown that pregnant women can safely use products with DEET. They do not affect their health or the health of their babies.
If you do not want or cannot use DEET remedies for some reason, the alternatives are Picaridin, IR3535, and lemon eucalyptus oil. However, creams and sprays with DEET are recognized as the most effective against mosquitoes.
Any insect repellent shouldn’t be applied to damaged skin or under clothing. Avoid contact with eyes or mouth and always wash your hands after using it. Parents should apply any sprays and creams to children with their own hands. So you will be sure that kids will not accidentally lick it from their hands.
Summarizing All I’ve Said About the Campsite Mosquito Control
Do not underestimate the danger posed by mosquitoes, so be sure to consider the likelihood of facing them when planning your trip. Their number is affected by the time of year, weather conditions, and the region, but decreasing the possibility of the unpleasant neighborhood is in your hands. Choose a dry site for the camp, buy protective equipment and clothing, personal repellents, and do not forget to grab a bunch of aromatic herbs; they will be useful not only in the kitchen. As you can see, it is possible to fight insects with both professional and natural remedies effectively.
This article is about mosquito repellents, but since there is always a chance that you will still be bitten, you need to know how to handle the bites. Wash the bite area with cool water and soap, apply calamine lotion (or any other anti-itch cream), and put an ice pack on it to remove the swelling. You can also use tea tree and lavender essential oils if you are not allergic to them. Even a banana peel can relieve itching and dry skin. If you have aloe vera in your home, cut a small piece with you. The juice of this plant relieves soreness and itching. To get rid of bites faster, try not to scratch the bitten area.
I hope that the methods described will help you avoid meeting mosquitoes and fully enjoy outdoor activities. Tell me, how do you deal with bugs when camping? Do you have any other useful tips? Do you prefer creams and sprays with DEET or Picaridin? Share your stories in the comments section below!