The Key to a Bite-Free Outdoors: 5 of the Best Insect Repellents in the Market

Camping is all about experiencing everything nature has to offer, and that includes pesky and dangerous insects. If you hate bugs, mosquitos, or any insect that sits and picks on the skin, camping will be hard for you, dear friend. But that doesn’t have to be that way every time you venture out because the best insect repellents are here to rescue us.

Whether you’re hiking on a steep trail, sitting around the camp, or lazily lying inside your tent, applying insect repellents beforehand will provide protection from biting insects. This way, you can go on with your activity comfortably without the fear of catching Dengue, Zika, or any insect-borne diseases after a few days.

On that note, we’ll be sharing with you some information regarding the mechanism by which insect repellents work, top tips to keep insect away while camping, and lastly, a carefully selected list of the best insect repellents in the market.

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How Do Insect Repellents Work?​

Insects, especially mosquitoes, are thought to be attracted to humans through carbon dioxide emissions, the scent of sweat, and body heat.

These are just some theories of course, but scientists have revealed that one of the most probable reasons why people are particularly the ones prone to attack, among other living things, is somehow connected with the human body’s natural body smell.

Fun fact: Mosquitoes can smell a thousand times better than us! Hence, insect repellents are designed to evaporate on the skin, with its molecules dispersing and blocking the insect’s sense of smell thereby preventing it from reaching its target.​

This is how common insect-repellent ingredients such as Picaridin or diethyltoluamide (DEET) work. With a concentration ranging from 7.5 to 98%, DEET provides reliable protection from insects for up to ten hours. After this period, you may need to reapply it.

DEET is not proven to be entirely safe, especially in high concentrations. Many clinical researches have linked the use of the compound to seizures and damages to objects it comes in contact with such as rubber, plastic, leather, etc. Thus, it’s imperative to wash your hands after application of repellents containing DEET.

Since DEET presents risks at high concentrations, topical products containing 30-40% DEET is the only concentration deemed safe for human use. For children, no more than 30% DEET is suggested. Also, it should not be applied to irritated or inflamed skin, cuts, and wounds.

DEET tops the list when it comes to effective repellent ingredients. But since it is associated with some health risks, people may want to look for alternatives which don’t impart side effects, particularly natural insect repellents.

But the question is, do natural insect repellents work?

Do Natural Insect Repellents Work?​

Do Natural Insect Repellents Work?

Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, citronella, and tea tree oil are plant-derived extracts commonly used in natural repellants.

They are safer and seem to cause fewer health problems or none at all.

Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) are considered as the topnotchers when it comes to efficacy.

OLE is extracted from the gum eucalyptus tree and has already been proven to repel insects to some extent, similar to repellents containing low concentrations of DEET.

Picaridin molecule, on the other hand, is modeled after a naturally-occurring chemical in black pepper plants. Research suggests that at levels of 20% and above, picaridin offers as much protection from insect bites as DEET. However, below 20% concentrations were evaluated to be less effective.

A great thing about Picaridin is it’s safe for even for infant use, though we can’t say as much with OLE as it may sting the eyes.

Making A Mosquito Trap​

Do you know that you can quickly reduce the number of bugs and mosquitoes lingering in your campsite without applying topical repellents?

All you need are plastic bottles, warm water, brown sugar, and yeast. Place a couple of these plastic traps around your tent or campsite, and you’re all good.

Learn how to make a mosquito trap below. Hope it helps!​

5 Tips On How To Keep Insects Away While Outdoors

1. Use Unscented Hygiene Products

Do you still recall earlier how insects are mostly attracted to our body’s scents? Surprisingly, the magnitude of their attraction intensifies with the addition of fragrant products such as perfumes, scented soaps, and deodorants.

Thus, when you’re planning to go outdoors, use unscented hygiene products to keep insects from targeting you. Simply put, be unattractive (not physically, of course).


2. Choose Dry Camping Spots

Insects frequently lay their larvae on shallow water bodies and damp places like marshes, ditches, slow-moving streams, and so on.

To lessen the number of bites you’ll surely be getting, choose high and dry spots quite far from water bodies where these pesky insects thrive.​


3. Cover Your Body From Head To Toe

Dress up in long sleeves, waterproof shoes, dry-fit pants, and wear caps. This outfit lessens skin exposure and therefore slims down the chance of getting feasted on by insects.

Interestingly, there’s this clothing infused with a chemical called Permethrin which acts as an insect shield. Fabrics made with this chemical impart insect repellency and typically retains its efficacy for up to 75 washings.​


4. Always Keep Your Mesh Tent Doors Closed


5. Make Use Of Insect Repelling Tools

Citronella candles, mosquito coils, and mosquito lanterns are all very useful products meant to deter mosquitos.

They emit scents that scare mosquitos away, leaving your vicinity insect-free. Well, they can’t rid the area of mosquitos completely, but they can definitely reduce the mosquito population in the vicinity.​

Product Reviews: Our Top 5 Picks For The Best Insect Repellents (Mosquitoes, Ticks, Flies...)

Sawyer Products’ Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, our top pick for the best insect repellent, is more effective than DEET and is geared towards the total elimination of mosquitoes, ticks, and flies.

A generous single layer application of this lotion can keep you protected up to 14 hours against ticks and mosquitoes, and approximately up to 8 hours for biting insects and flies.

It’s even effective against the yellow fever mosquito species that carries the Zika Virus, one of the most feared diseases to date.

For those who prefer using repellent sprays, it’s high time you switch to lotions. Yes, you can use sprays on your clothing items and fabrics but when it comes to the skin, lotions stick much longer; thus, they can guard our exposed skins even for extended periods.

It’s also worth noting that this particular product is ideal for family use - it has been proven safe for pregnant women and children.

We have read that Picaridin is a more secure alternative to Deet, so we’re naturally thrilled to try this lotion.

Our first weekend using this product turned out to be a low mosquito weekend -- not one tick or chigger has landed on our skins!

We also loved how nice and subtle this lotion’s fragrance is. We’ve tried many repellents before, and they hardly worked at repelling insects but helped a lot to repel humans – their scents are too intense that you’ll regret putting them on.


Pros

  • Has a pleasant smell
  • Lasts long; few reapplications needed
  • Effective against all kinds of insects
  • Does not stain clothing or fabric.

Cons

  • Users need to use large amounts to cover the skin.

When the going gets tough, you need a reliable insect repellent by your side to provide protection under any circumstance like Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

The active ingredient in this spray is Lemon Eucalyptus which is derived from the leaves of the Eucalyptus citriodora tree.

Simply spray and rub this product all over your skin, backpack, and gear for lasting coverage though you may need to spray every 5 hours or so to get maximum protection as this natural repellent’s scent fades away quicker than DEET or Picaridin.

The spray can repel insects for up to 6 hours and is effective against mosquitoes carrying Chikungunya, Zika, Dengue, and West Nile virus.

Indeed, this product seems to be the best natural insect repellent out there which gives amazing results.

In our opinion, this stuff works fantastic. It lasts for hours and it lacks a harsh chemical smell. We had zero bites, and we’re trekking for about three hours that time. However, this spray can sting the eyes and should be kept away from flames and heat sources as it contains 45% ethanol.


Pros

  • Has a pleasant smell
  • Lasts long
  • Effective against all kinds of insects
  • Does not stain clothing or fabric.

Cons

  • Some people may find the scent too strong
  • Needs frequent reapplications.

Protect your gear and clothing against pesky insects with Sawyer Products’ Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent. This stuff is designed to be sprayed on clothing items, tents, and other gear.

They best thing about this spray is it doesn’t just turn biting insects away; rather it can kill them. That way, it reduces the pesky insects' population and prevents them from further harming other people.

Synthetic Permethrin, when sprayed on fabrics, can last six washings and doesn’t emit any odor, making it a fantastic, strong, and odorless barrier against mosquitoes and ticks.

Any hunters reading this? Good for you because this is your best bet for an insect repellent yet. Since it's odorless, it won’t affect the hunting process – deer, elks, and fawns who use their noses like a second sight won’t detect a different smell that will make them sense something amiss.

We used this years ago on our Peruvian jungle trip, and it worked incredibly well. We sprayed it in our hiking pants, tents, shirts, and hats. We got very few bites, and we didn't even notice them until we saw them lying dead outside the tent.


Pros

  • Unscented; ideal for hunting purposes
  • Lasts for a very long time
  • Effective against all kinds of insects
  • Does not stain clothing or fabric.

Cons

  • You may need to saturate your things thoroughly with this spray for it to be very effective.

Mosquitoes and biting bugs are no match against Repel’s 100 Insect Repellant that is fuelled by 98.1-percent DEET formula. This handy spray aims to provide complete protection, especially in severe insect-infested areas.

We love that this product comes in a convenient travel-sized container which makes it so easy to stuff in the pack’s pockets, unlike sprays and Permethrin-based products which commonly has protruding nozzles.

You’ll also be delighted to know that this spray protects for long – up to 10 hours. And it lives up to its claims because we never got bitten anywhere after using this spray. However, if you hate strong-smelling products, this is not for you.

It smells like paint thinner and it kind of oils up on the skin. Disconcertingly, it numbs your tongue and mouth as well, if you accidentally manage to get it there, i.e. by applying to your face and licking your lips.


Pros

  • Lasts long
  • Comes in a travel-convenient packaging
  • Effective against all kinds of insects
  • Does not stain clothing or fabric.

Cons

  • Has a strong chemical smell
  • Leaves an oily residue on the skin
  • May sting the eyes and other parts of the face.

This last entry’s a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it’s a sunscreen lotion that possesses insect-repelling properties.

Having SPF 30 and infused with Vitamin E and aloe, this wonderful lotion protects the skin from the harmful UV rays while keeping it moisturized and soft. It’s also water-resistant so you can definitely use this on beach bumming and such.

It’s DEET and Picaridin-free but is uses other synthetic ingredients that seem to deter biting insects away like beta-alanine. The compound is classified as a biopesticide by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and is a lesser known mosquito repellent across Asia and Europe.

We can say that this product is great as a moisturizer and sunscreen, but it doesn’t ward off bugs all the time. May be it’s only ideal for camping in open spaces or fields where there aren’t many bugs around.


Pros

  • Works great as a sunscreen and moisturizer
  • Non-greasy
  • Lasts long.

Cons

  • Does not ward off bugs that effectively.

The Verdict

All the products we’ve chosen in the list are effective against bugs, mosquitoes, and other insects. The determining factor among them, therefore, lies in the time frame in which they can effectively ward off insects.

Our choice for the best insect repellent is none other than Sawyer Products’ Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, mainly because of the following reasons:​

  • It’s safer than DEET – fewer health risks are associated with Picaridin
  • Provides protection for up to 14 hours – the longest we’ve ever heard of
  • Does not emit a strong smell, rather a subtle, barely-there scent
  • Proven safe for pregnant women and children
  • Lasts longer than repellants in spray form.

What’s up, camper? Have you been to any insect-infested spots lately? What form or brand of repellent did you use? Can you suggest other products aside from the ones we rounded up? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! Don’t forget to hit "share". Cheers!

The Key to a Bite-Free Outdoors: 5 of the Best Insect Repellents in the Market
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