How to Avoid Bug Bites While Camping: 8 Tips That Really Work


Whether you are a seasoned camper or just looking to begin camping, you will inevitably run into biting bugs. Though mosquitos are the most common, biting bugs come in several different types: fleas, flies, ticks, and gnats are just a few.

How to avoid bug bites while canping? The most common and effective way to avoid bug bites is to use a spray or lotion that contains DEET.

Trying to avoid bug bites while camping can be a painstaking task and, if not sufficient, can ruin a great trip. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent bug bites; the following are eight methods that really work!:

Apply Sprays and Lotions that Contain DEET

What is DEET?

DEET, or diethyltoluamide, is a common ingredient in insect repellents. It is a yellow oil that can be applied to the skin and clothing. The amount of DEET in a spray or lotion repellent can vary greatly, from 10% to 100%, with 100% DEET providing up to ten to twelve hours of protection.

In other words, the higher the DEET content, the more effective the product will be against pesky bugs.

Using DEET Sprays and Lotions

Spray all your clothing down and allow them to dry before wearing them; this can reduce the amount of skin irritation and odor that you may experience.

After you’re dressed, apply DEET-containing lotion to the exposed areas of the skin. Waterproof lotions are best, as they are less likely to wear off from sweat.

Keep in mind that although these sprays and lotions are the most effective way to prevent bug bites, they can cause issues with certain health conditions.

The sprays can aggravate breathing difficulties in people who have COPD, asthma, or other breathing issues. Lotions can cause skin irritation in people with sensitive skin conditions.

However, there are plenty of other ways you can deter biting bugs from you and your camp, further discussed below.

Use Bug Diffusers

Diffusers are an effective method to keep bugs away from a specific area. Most of them provide a circle of coverage out to a limited amount of feet, but you can use more than one to make the area of the coverage broader.

Diffusers come in many different types: handheld, lanterns, etc. Many tabletop or lantern diffusers use a small amount of propane or another ignition source to ignite and slowly burn the repellent substance, giving off a faint amount of smoke. (Usually, there is little to no odor given off by the smoke.)

Personal diffusers can be carried with you while away from your campsite; they can be transported in a backpack, on your belt with a belt clip, or even stuck in your back pocket. This will keep bugs out of the area you are in.  

However, while diffusers can be very effective and convenient, they can also be a little expensive; you will need to purchase repellent refills to continue using them over long periods.

Related reading: How To Get Rid of Wasps In Your RV (Easy Tips)

Use Permethrin Repellents

Permethrin repellents are useful while camping because they are highly effective against ticks as well as other biting bugs.

It comes in non-aerosol spray bottles, reducing breathing irritation, though it can still cause skin and eye irritation while applying. However, the repellent can be sprayed on clothing, tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, or any other surface you use while camping.

Once applied, permethrin repellent can last up to six washes or up to six weeks, and when dry, there is no odor.

Wear Light, Loose-Fitting Clothing

The type of clothing you wear while camping can help reduce the number of bug bites you receive, too.

For example, wearing dark-colored clothing will likely attract more bugs. Why? Dark clothing absorbs more sunlight, which will cause you to sweat more while outside; bugs love to be in warm, moist areas, so sweaty skin quickly becomes an ideal place to hang around.

So, to avoid this, opt for light-colored clothing instead.

Light pants and long sleeve shirts—although hot during summer months—will reduce the area of exposed skin available for bugs to bite. Loose-fitting clothes can prevent bugs from biting the skin through the fabric.

Some manufacturers have begun making clothing that is made specifically for insect repelling, by integrating insect repellent in the material. This may reduce the amount of spray repellent necessary.

Place Candles and Tiki Torches Around the Campsite

Candles and tiki torches that use citronella will reduce the number of bugs entering the area. Citronella, when burned, emits an odor that bugs dislike and keeps them from coming into that area.

Candles can be placed on a picnic table, while tiki torches can be stuck in the ground around the edge of the campsite, giving you an area of coverage.

Many different types of fluid are available for use in tiki torches, but ones made explicitly for bug prevention are best to use while camping.

Note: Not only do these items keep bugs away, but they will also provide a source of light around the campsite in the evenings!

Build a Campfire

One of the simplest methods that are effective against bugs is building a campfire.

Simply lighting a campfire, which most people will do when camping at night anyway, emits smoke that will flow through your campsite, driving off bugs.

Most people will only light their campfire in the evening hours, but burning your campfire throughout the entire day will significantly help in keeping the bugs away.

Hardwoods such as oak, work best here; they burn longer and produce a good amount of smoke.

Create Your Own DIY Sprays

Essential oils have become a popular ingredient for many DIY projects, including bug repellents. Bugs dislike the smell of the oils, and will likely stay away from you if you use the spray on your clothes or other camping surfaces.

Several different oils can be used to repel bugs, including:

These DIY bug repellents can be made before your trip or packed separately and mixed at your final campsite. You will only need a spray bottle and a vial of the essential oil of your choice.

(Some campers claim also adding a few drops of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar helps, if you’re okay with the smell.)

Mix 15 to 20 drops of oil with a half cup of water. Shake the bottle to mix the fluids and spray the solution on your clothing.

If you’re using a natural essential oil, you can use the spray directly on the skin, although this may irritate the skin for some.

Note: You will need to shake the bottle before every application to re-mix the liquids inside the bottle.

Put Up a Screened Tent

If all your other attempts at keeping the bugs away have failed or the bugs are just too overwhelming in your area, you can always set up a screen tent to keep them away.

Screen tents are tents with netted sides that allow you to see through the side of the tent while letting the airflow from outside come in.

The netting used on the sides have small enough holes that bugs cannot get through; the result is a bug-free area to escape to, while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.  

Final Thoughts

Camping can be a relaxing and enjoyable time for you and your whole family. However, a good camping trip can quickly become a miserable experience if you are not able to limit your exposure to bug bites.

Keeping these eight tips in mind the next time you go camping can significantly help in reducing the number of bugs you will have to deal with and allow you to enjoy the great outdoors for much longer.

Make Your CAMPSITE a BUG-FREE ZONE! Tips You Need This Summer >> Check out the video below:

Jessica Gilmour

Jessica is co-founder of RV and Playa and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the Beach- and RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since December 2017, Jessica playful writing style helps make learning about RV a bit more interesting. Nothing is as freeing as being on the beach (Playa), lacing your feet with the sand, having the water lap your legs and becoming one with nature.

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