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What’s the Best Mosquito Repellent For Camping?

What’s the Best Mosquito Repellent For Camping?

Clearly, the best mosquito repellent for camping is one that WORKS! There’s nothing worse than setting out to enjoy the great outdoors with pesky mosquitoes showing up to ruin the fun. For campers and other outdoor enthusiasts, a product that truly offers protection against mosquitoes is a coveted item.
There are hundreds, even thousands of products that claim to repel bugs so you can enjoy outdoor activities on your camping trip. But we spend a lot of time outdoors, and we’ve tried many different types of insect repellents.
We’ve found that some don’t hold up to their claims about keeping biting insects at bay at all. Others are only marginally successful. Fortunately, we’ve found a few different types of insect repellents that work well for us.

So, we’ve compiled some research in addition to our own personal experiences. In today’s post, we’ll look at those products as well as other popular products.

How Do I Keep Mosquitoes Away From My Campsite?

Here, we’re talking about avoiding mosquito bites when you’re sitting outside. There are a number of ways to attempt to do this, and as noted above, some work better than others (we’re leaving bug zappers out of this list since you’re not likely to want to power one while RVing).

Fan

Perhaps one of the simplest solutions (with no chemicals or other active ingredients), we use this method of repelling bugs when we’re having dinner on the patio or sitting around the fire pit. We’ve found it to be very successful in that setting.
Pick up an inexpensive oscillating fan. Position it so that it oscillates and blows across the area where you’ll be sitting (it’s summer, it’s probably warm anyway… so having a fan blowing on you feels great).

Works like a charm. Why? Because mosquitoes can only fly at a speed of around 1 to 1.5 mph. Your fan will easily beat that speed and the little buggers just won’t be able to land on you.

Lasko Elegance & Performance Pedestal Fan, 18 Inch, Black 1827
  • 3 Quiet, Energy-Efficient Speeds - allows this free standing pedestal fan to provide a cooling breeze around the home or home office. With a portable...
  • Adjustable Height & Tilt-back Head - give you the ability to direct the cooling air right where you need it. The fan's stand or pedestal, adjusts up...

Here’s a video where we’re using this method:

Thermacell Radius

The Thermacell Radius Mosquito Repellent can help to keep mosquitoes away from your backyard, campsite, or patio.
This product creates a 15-foot zone of protection against mosquitoes. It uses heat-activated technology and is scent-free. Powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, a single charge provides up to 6.5 hours of continuous protection.

We’ve used this product and it works great for us. As always we encourage you to check out Amazon reviews when shopping.

Sale
Thermacell Radius Zone Mosquito Repellent, Gen 2.0, Rechargeable; Includes 12 Hr Mosquito Repellent Refill; No Candle or Flame, Easy To Use & Long Lasting Bug Spray/DEET Alternative
  • EFFECTIVE MOSQUITO PROTECTION: Thermacell Radius Mosquito Repellent creates a 15-foot zone of protection against mosquitoes. Easy to use, one button...
  • HEAT-ACTIVATED TECHNOLOGY: Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with up to 6.5 hours of continuous mosquito protection per charge. No fuel to...
Sale
Thermacell Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller; Advanced Repellent Formula Provides 20’ Protection Zone; Compatible with Thermacell E-Series & Radius Only; No DEET, Spray or Flame
  • EXTENDED MOSQUITO PROTECTION: Extend the Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Rechargeable E55 with this 40-hour refill. The E55 (not included) creates a...
  • HEAT-ACTIVATED TECHNOLOGY: Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with up to 5.5 hours of continuous mosquito protection per charge. No fuel to...

Citronella Candlea

Many people swear by citronella candles for sitting around outdoors. We’ve never had good luck with citronella products. However, citronella is regarded as a natural mosquito repellant and certainly preferable to applying bug spray… IF it works.

Citronella candles come in many different sizes and shapes.

Tabletop:

OFF! Backyard Citronella Scented Candle, Triple Wick, Ambiance Enhancing Centerpiece, Burns for up to 50 Hours, 23 oz (Pack of 6)
  • This mosquito candle enhances the ambiance of outdoor occasions
  • 3-wick citronella oil candle

Lantern:

Sale
Coleman 70+ Hour Citronella Candle Outdoor Lantern - 6.7 oz
  • One 6.7 oz Coleman 70+ Hour Outdoor Lantern
  • Keep this camping lantern with your other camping accessories to have it ready for your next camping adventure

Tealights:

Sale
24 Pack Citronella Candles Outdoor, 240H Burning for Natural Soy Candle, Citronella Candle, Portable Camping Candles Set for Patio Garden Balcony BBQ, Gifts for Summer
  • 【Long Burning 24 Pack】Each citronella oil candle is 2.3Oz, each burning time is 8-15 hours, and the total burning time of 24 candles is more than...
  • 【Real Citronella Oil Products 】 A high proportion of citronella oil mixed with pure soybean wax emits fragrance during the burning process, Helps...

Mosquito Nets / A Screen Room

Mosquito nets may not be a practical suggestion for some. However, mosquito netting is particularly effective IF sprayed/pre-treated with a product such as permethrin prior to use. Mosquito netting that’s pre-treated with permethrin has been very effective against malaria and many other illnesses. You can read more about that here.

Some mosquito nets you could consider are:

Coghlan's 9640 32x78 Mosquito Bed Net, Multicolor, single wide / 180-mesh
  • Rectangular single-wide mosquito net provides fully enclosed protection against biting insects and mosquitoes when sleeping outdoors or indoors.
  • Fine white 180 mesh polyester netting with floor base completely covers a single wide sleeping bag or cot.
Sale
MEKKAPRO Ultra Large Mosquito Net with Carry Bag, Large 2 Openings Netting Curtains | Camping, Bedding, Patio | Carrying Pouch and Hanging Kit
  • Keep out mosquitoes, noseeum, black flies, wasps, bugs and other pesky insects with MEKKAPRO's Natural Mosquito Net. Whether hanging the screen...
  • Scientifically proven optimal hexagon mesh design. Made for maximum breathability yet impenetrable by pesky mosquitoes, insects and other bugs,...

And if you have some that isn’t pre-treated with permethrin, you can buy some to spray on your own netting/clothing before use:

Sale
Sawyer Products SP657 Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent for Clothing, Gear & Tents, Trigger Spray, 24-Ounce
  • Add a layer of protection to your clothing and gear with Permethrin insect and tick repellent spray — perfect for use on shirts, jackets, pants,...
  • Ideal for backpacking, backyard BBQs, and other outdoor activities, it's effective against more than 55 kinds of insects — from disease-spreading...

Or, if the idea of setting up mosquito netting isn’t your idea of fun, you could get a portable pop-up screen room, instead (they’re useful for all sorts of reasons!):

Sale
CLAM Quick-Set Venture 9 x 9 Foot Portable Pop-Up Outdoor Camping Gazebo Screen Tent 5 Sided Canopy Shelter with Ground Stakes and Carry Bag, Green
  • VENTURE MODEL SPECS: Lightweight, portable 5-sided canopy designed to provide shelter against the elements; Set-up inner dimensions measure 9 feet...
  • KEEP WATER & BUGS OUT: Taped roof panel resists water to keep you dry inside; High-quality mesh screen and extra-wide skirt help keep bugs, flies,...

What Is the Best Mosquito Repellent for Personal Use?

There are a number of mosquito repellants for individual use. These are capable of protecting you at your campsite or while you’re on the move hiking, fishing, or roasting marshmallows.

DEET is the chemical we hear most about in terms of being an effective bug repellent as it’s been around for 50 years.
We try to avoid DEET if possible. So, we’re going to offer our top suggestion. And then we’ll link to a highly rated DEET product for those of you who choose to use it.

Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent

Picaridin repellant is proven to be an effective repellant. Picaridin spray repels mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects that can cause illness (you can learn more about picaridin here).

Wirecutter tested 23 bug repellents and conferred with the EPA, the American Mosquito Control Association, and other sources. Wirecutter’s #1 choice is Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent because:

  • It’s EPA-approved as safe
  • It’s effective
  • It sprays accurately and evenly to offer excellent coverage

One of the reasons we like picaridin as an insect repellent is because there are a number of ways to use it: it can be used as a personal spray/lotion applied directly to your skin, or as a spray for clothing/shoes/tents/netting/etc.

This pump spray is Wirecutter’s #1 pick (again, great for applying to skin, clothing, netting, etc):

Sale
Sawyer Products SP5442 Picaridin Insect Repellent, 4-Ounces, Twin Pack
  • Safe for use on the whole family, long-lasting insect and tick repellent spray deters a wide variety of pests — up to 12 hours against mosquitoes...
  • Fragrance-free topical insect repellent with 20% Picaridin — more effective at repelling biting flies than DEET; repels disease-spreading ticks...

But it’s also available as a lotion:

Sale
Sawyer Products SP564 Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, Lotion, 4-Ounce
  • Safe for use on the whole family, long-lasting insect and tick repellent lotion deters a wide variety of pests — up to 14 hours against mosquitoes...
  • Fragrance-free topical insect repellent with 20% Picaridin — more effective at repelling biting flies than DEET; repels disease-spreading ticks...

There are also pump and trigger spray bottles available in a variety of scents. (This one happens to be Wirecutter’s “Runnerup” pick):

Ranger Ready Picaridin 20% Tick & Insect Repellent, Scent Zero Deet-Free Bug Spray, 8 Oz.
  • EFFECTIVE BUG REPELLENT: Unscented bug spray with Picaridin 20% for full-body application, also safe on gear
  • NON-GREASY & ODORLESS: Picaridin 20% insect repellent provides 12 hours of protection from ticks and mosquitos, and 8 hours from gnats, flies,...

Even S.C. Johnson & Son (creators of Off! products) have jumped on the picaridin bandwagon:

OFF! Defense Insect Repellent Aerosol with Picaridin, Deet Free Bug Spray with Long Lasting Protection from Mosquitoes, 5 oz
  • A long-lasting mosquito repellent that protects from biting flies and also works as a tick repellent
  • Proven protection from mosquitoes and biting flies

We’ll reiterate here that these products are also highly effective against ticks, which have their own list of issues/problems you want to avoid.

We promised to link to a DEET product, so let’s cover that one next.

Cutter Backwoods Dry Insect Repellent, with DEET

DEET is well-tested and shown to work as an effective bug repellent. No doubt about that. But they tend to be oily, smelly, and – well – there are some questions about the overall safety of DEET (though clinical studies have shown it to be safe and effective).
Cutter Backwoods is an effective product that contains DEET to protect you from mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, and other bugs. This product sprays on wet (but dries without an oily/sticky residue), is sweat-resistant, and is advertised to last up to 10 hours:

Sale
Cutter Backwoods Dry Insect Repellent 4 Ounces, Aerosol, With 25% DEET
  • PROTECTS UP TO 10 HOURS: Formula contains 25 percent DEET.
  • SWEAT RESISTANT: Won’t sweat off – lets you be active in the outdoors even in warm, humid conditions.

Off! Clip-on Repeller Fan

If you need personal protection but don’t want to slather yourself with bug spray/lotion, this battery-powered repellant fan is a product that can clip onto your belt or backpack. We’ve tried it and it works, but you need to be aware that the repellant used in this product is 31.2% Metofluthrin.
While the repellant doesn’t get sprayed onto your skin, it has some inhalation toxicity (thus the “Caution: Poison” label on the product) and is definitely toxic to dogs.
If you have young children or pets, this may not be the best choice for you.

OFF! Clip-On Mosquito Repellent, Clip-On Fan Unit and 1 Repellent Refill, Attaches to Belt, Waistband, or Purse
  • No skin application neeeded, simply clips to your belt, waistband, purse, or next to you.
  • Battery-powered repellent fan
Off! Clip On Insect Repellant Refill, 3 Packs of 2 (6 Total)
  • Each refill provides up to
  • Does not require skin application

Thermacell MR150 Portable Mosquito Repellent

Another Thermacell product, this one can be used around your campsite, in your backyard, on your patio, or on your backpack as you’re hiking, fishing, etc.
Like the Thermacell Radius recommended above, the MR150 offers a 15’ invisible, scent-free protection zone. It’s fuel-powered by tiny butane canisters and uses a replaceable repellant mat to repel mosquitoes. This makes it a great choice when camping/RVing off the grid and you don’t want to have to recharge (yet another) device.

Check out the reviews on Amazon. While we haven’t personally tested this product, it appears to have been met with rave reviews from many who have.

Thermacell MR150 Portable Mosquito Repellent w/Mats & Cartridge, Olive (2 Pack)
  • Allows users to repel mosquitoes with a 15-foot protection zone
  • Can be used anywhere outdoors to repel mosquitoes
Sale
Thermacell 48-Hour Unscented DEET-Free Shield Refill Packs for a 15-Foot Protection Zone with 12 Mats and 4 Fuel Cartridges (2 Pack)
  • 15-FOOT PROTECTION ZONE: This 2 pack scent-free shield provides users with a 15-foot protection zone; Perfect use at a barbecue, while camping, at...
  • 48 HOURS OF PROTECTION: Purchase includes 12 replacement mats and 4 fuel cartridge that combines for 48 hours of protection

Repellants Made with Essential Oils

Many people prefer to use essential oils to counter mosquitoes and other bugs while camping. In particular, oil of lemon eucalyptus is considered one of the most effective essential oils for this purpose.

A number of products are available with this plant-based approach to repelling mosquitoes. We’ll link to several that have good reviews for being effective.
We ask you to bear in mind that reviewers have different uses for mosquito repellants. So you may see a glowing review for a product that was used mid-day near a lake and a horrible review from someone who went hunting at 5 AM and tried the product deep in the forest. It’s always good to keep usage in mind.

That said, the following natural bug repellent products have many excellent user reviews:

Sale
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Mosquito Repellent, 4-Ounce Pump Spray, 1 count
  • MADE WITH OIL OF LEMON EUCALYPTUS: This DEET-free insect repellent provides you with protection during adventures in the backyard and on the go.
  • REPELS MOSQUITOES FOR UP TO 6 HOURS: This repellent keeps you and your family protected for hours, so the fun doesn't have to end.
Natrapel 12-Hour Insect Repellent, 6 oz. Eco-Spray Picaridin Bug Spray – Family Insect Repellent for Mosquitoes, Ticks, & More, Black (0006-6878)
  • CDC recommended formula of 20% Picaridin is the recommended concentration to guard against diseases transmitted by insects including the Zika Virus,...
  • Easy to apply and easy on the air with the Eco-Spray can that delivers even, continuous spray without releasing harmful aerosols.
California Baby Plant-Based Natural Bug Repellant Spray - Skin Safe, Formula for Babies, Toddlers, Kids, Outdoor Protection from Mosquitoes, Biting Flies, Fleas and Tick, 6.5oz, 2pk
  • Premium Baby Insect Repellent. More than a mosquito repellent for kids, this fast absorbing spray can also repel biting flies, ticks, and fleas.
  • Premium Baby Insect Repellent. More than a mosquito repellent for kids, this fast absorbing spray can also repel biting flies, ticks, and fleas.
Murphy's Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray | DEET Free | Plant Based, All Natural Ingredients | Mosquito and Tick Repellent | 2 Ounce Pump Spray | 3 Pack
  • Protects Against Mosquitoes for up to 6 Hours: Without any nasty chemicals like DEET, you’ll have up to 6 hours of worry-free protection on your...
  • Protects Against Ticks for up to 4 Hours: Our specially formulated spray provides protection against deer ticks for up to 4 hours, as well as lone...
Badger - Anti-Bug Balm Tin, DEET-Free Mosquito Repelling Balm, Badger Balm Bug Repellent, Certified Organic Insect Repellent, 2 oz
  • CERTIFIED ORGANIC BUG REPELLENT - Badger Anti-Bug Balm repels biting insects naturally with the pleasant aroma of Citronella, Cedar and Lemongrass...
  • SAFE AND EFFECTIVE - Badger mosquito repellent balm doesn't contain synthetic chemicals, DEET, or petroleum products and its been tested to provide 3...

Repellent Bracelets

We’re including repellent bracelets for the kids as they’re the target user for this type of product. They’re easy to get kids to use (they can be worn on the wrist or ankle – or both!) and don’t require them to hold still while you spray/smear bug spray all over them. They also use natural ingredients (like lemongrass and citronella) instead of other chemicals that could have long-term, detrimental effects!

Worth trying? Could be! Up to 70-80% of reviewers say they actually work fairly well.

Superband Mosquito Repellent Bracelets for Adults & Kids - Pack of 50 - Long Lasting, Natural Bug and Insect Repellent Bracelet - Waterproof, Individually Wrapped, Deet-Free Bands - Neon
  • NON TOXIC & DEET FREE - Our bug repellent bracelets are 100% deet-free and made completely from natural ingredients. Safely wear these mosquito bands...
  • NON TOXIC & DEET FREE - Our bug repellent bracelets are 100% deet-free and made completely from natural ingredients. Safely wear these mosquito bands...
Sale
Cliganic 10 Pack Mosquito Repellent Bracelets, DEET-Free Waterproof Bands
  • DEET FREE, MADE WITH ESSENTIAL OILS – Our repellent bracelets are made with essential oils: Geraniol Oil, Lemongrass Oil and Citronella Oil....
  • 10 RESEALABLE BAGS – Each mosquito repellent bracelet is individually wrapped in a resealable bag, keeping it fresh and increase the life span.
Mosquito Guard 20 Pcs Mosquito Repellent Bracelets for Kids - Mosquito Repellent for Patio - Plant Based Mosquito Bands - Mosquito Repellent Outdoor
  • NATURAL INGREDIENTS: Each mosquito repellent bracelet is made with natural plant-based essential oils: Citronella, Lemongrass, and Geraniol
  • DEET-FREE BUG REPELLENT BRACELETS: Our mosquito repellent bands are completely DEET FREE

What’s Your Favorite Mosquito Repellent for Camping?

As always, we like to hear from our readers about what has proven to be effective for you. Drop us a comment and let us know how you succeed in keeping mosquitoes and other annoying insects away from your campsite and person!

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Brian Burry

Sunday 31st of July 2022

My wife’s sister and her adult son visited the Amazon, where they used the Sawyer Products both for their persons and the products for their clothing. Zero bites of ANY Kind! I want for a 50 Anniversary of a 2 day battle in the Mekong Delta Jungles, south of Saigon, Vietnam with 3 fellow combat soldiers. It was a Mission to Honor and Heal, where we Honored those we lost in that battle by burying a hatchet we had engraved the names of those fellow soldiers killed. We all used the same two Sawyer Products, for the body and for the clothes, in that 105 degree, high humidity jungle we WERE NEVER BITTEN! It is pretty natural ingredients and worked! So did burying that ceremonial hatchet, we prayed for those soldiers, for their families and after the years and years of nightmares ceased! Symbolism does have value!🇺🇸🙏🏻

TheRVgeeks

Monday 1st of August 2022

What an amazing testimonial, Brian. Thank you!

Judy Bowen

Sunday 31st of July 2022

Love the Thermocell products and the fun of using the salt gun and zapper racquets. I am a bug magnet and emit too much CO2 for my comfort. I have also installed ‘no see -Um ‘ screening material over all my RV screens. Sleeping is comfortable.

Kim

Sunday 13th of November 2022

@Judy Bowen, whats the zapper u speak of? And do u use any lotions or sprays? I just went to the Dominican and got devoured by mosquitoes or something else. Someone on the plane was telling me she was going to buy a plug-in zapper for her room cuz I figured that was when I got most of them Thanks for your response

TheRVgeeks

Monday 1st of August 2022

Great to hear, Judy! We sat outside with our Thermacell last night and those pesky 'squeeters didn't bother us at all!

Stan

Sunday 31st of July 2022

A couple of observations based on lots of time outdoors: - DEET works; essential oils don’t, and neither does Avon Skin So Soft lotion. - A head net ($3.00 or so from Amazon) can really help. Even if your repellent keeps them from landing and biting, the swarm can drive you bonkers. - Beware that 100% DEET is a “hot” solvent, and if it’s on your hands it can take the letters/numbers off your camera controls. I hate to tell you how I know… - Pre-treating clothes with pyrethrin spray works, and survives multiple washings, so you can avoid wearing repellent on most of you. Keep up the good work!

Scott Taylor

Sunday 31st of July 2022

Minimizing insect encounters is NOT just for "comfort"! Vector-borne illnesses (infections transmitted by bug bites) are on the rise. Most folks are familiar with, and concerned about, Lyme Disease from ticks. At least that one can be tested for and treated. Others, such as Powassan virus, cannot. The Deer Tick is not our only bug of concern. The range of Lone Star ticks has expanded north into New England from the mid-Atlantic region. ANY tick is a harborer of diseases waiting to be transmitted. Don't discount DEET usage - it is effective, safe, and affordable. Picardin is the upcoming repellent, effective but more costly. Permethrin is highly effective for gear and clothing (pants, shoes, socks, gaiters, bandanas, etc.). Coupled with a repellent like DEET or Picardin, it is a great defense to venture about in the great outdoors. Botanical repellents just don't cut it - they offer minimal protection and a VERY short time of effectiveness. The risks associated with a vector-acquired illness GREATLY outweigh the theoretical risk of using a chemical-based repellent such as DEET or Picardin. Thanks for the informative article!

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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