Best Insect Repellents On The Market – The Key To A Bite-Free Outdoors

Insects are annoying, and always uninvited.

Among them, we all have a fear of mosquitos and the deadly diseases that they can carry. 

In 2018, prepared campers and hikers like you were able to eliminate the Zika virus from being contracted in the continential United States.

West Nile is also on the decline, and it’s all because people are finally getting prepared.

Before you head out into the wilderness, it’s important to have provisions in mind to avoid unnecessary contact with all insects.

The best insect repellents cover more than just mosquitoes: you’ll also be avoiding ticks and fleas, and with that, lyme disease and malaria.

We’ve showcased the top five insect repellents on the market, stated what they protect you from, and answered your burning questions surrounding the safety of each ingredient.

You’re preparing for an outdoor trip, and we’re taking some of that burden off your shoulders by finding the best insect repellent available for you and your family.

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Name

Rating

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#1

Sawyer Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent Review

BEST SPRAY

Sawyer Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent 

(4.8)

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#2

REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Review

REPEL Insect Repellent

(4.3)

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#3

Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Review

Cutter HG-96014 Insect Repellent

(4.1)

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#4

Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent Review

BEST LOTION

Sawyer Products Insect Repellent

(4.5)

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#5

Avon SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard PLUS IR3535 Review

Avon Skin Soft Bug Guard Plus

(4.3)

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Let's now review each insect repellents bag individually:

Sawyer Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent

If you’ve done your homework on insect repellent, then you know a little bit about DEET.

It’s the primary ingredient in most repellents, and it’s great at its job, but it also poses toxicity issues if ingested.

Basically, if your kid chews on their clothes or they’re too young to know better, it could be an issue.

Sawyer’s repellent works differently while still keeping insects away in an ultra effective manner.

It’s the best insect repellent for camping and families for a reason: you don’t have to spray it onto your kids or apply it to your skin like a lotion.

Instead, you actually apply it at home well before the trip, and let it dry. 

It’s effective for six weeks, and can withstand mild washes so you won’t have to worry about it every single day.

The thoughts of, “Did I apply repellent? How long would it have lasted for?” and all that will be silenced.

It’s effective against mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks and mites, and will also keep non-harmful (but ultimately annoying) insects at bay.

You can apply this to your tents, to your camping gear (anything that isn’t waterproof), and provide a huge area of effectiveness that will last over the course of your entire camping trip.

SPECIFICATION

  • Active Ingredient: 0.5% permethrin
  • Protection Time: Six weeks (yes, for real)
  • Effective Against: Mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, mites
  • Odorless: No

REPEL Insect Repellent

It’s odorless, it’s colorless, and it’s not going to leave a sticky residue.

It’s arguably the best insect repellent clothing could ever have, because it’s not going to starch up your fabrics and make them feel like you’ve just gotten them out of the laundromat. 

When it makes contact with your skin, there’s no oily feeling; once it dries in about 2-3 minutes, you won’t even realize that you’re wearing it.

That’s thanks to the roster of natural ingredients alongside the active ingredient.

Using oil of lemon eucalyptus alongside a 70% blend of other natural ingredients, they throw in the picaridin (repellent variety) to make this effective against insects.

The trade-off for having a naturally-based insect repellent is that there will be a higher cost per ounce. That, and the strength is diminished, so it will require additional applications.

It comes out in a straight and pressurized spray, so be ready during your first application as to not soak one spot of your clothing or skin.

Keep it twelve inches away from the area you wish to spray, and be sure to time your use so you can reapply it before the six hour mark runs out.

SPECIFICATION

  • Active Ingredient: Picaridin
  • Protection Time: Six hours
  • Effective Against: Mosquitoes, deer ticks
  • Odorless: Yes

Cutter HG-96014 Insect Repellent

Whatever it is about lemon eucalyptus, it’s the best mosquito repellent additive that really amplifies the properties of picaridin.

Cutter is a brand alternative to REPEL, and as such, you’ll see a lot of similarities in the end products. 

Namely, the duration. You’ll get six hours of use from this which will repel mosquitoes and deer ticks while you’re camping, and it does a fine job of doing so.

As mentioned before, applications cannot be missed, because this really does only have a six-hour window before it’s gone entirely.

It’s a non-sticky and non-oily consistency, so you can put it on your clothes as well as your skin without any problems.

The natural lemon eucalyptus will absorb into your skin, but the active ingredient, picaridin, simply loses its effect and has to be washed off in the shower.

The great thing about picaridin is that unlike DEET, it doesn’t damage synthetic fibers or materials in your clothes, so there’s no risk to your personal belongings while wearing it.

As with anything natural, it’s a bit most costly for a smaller amount.

When you work that into the application times, it may seem like a non-budget-friendly idea, but it doesn’t take unnecessary extreme measures into mind, so you won’t have repellent stuck in your clothes for six weeks on end.

SPECIFICATION

  • Active Ingredient: Picaridin
  • Protection Time: Six hours
  • Effective Against: Mosquitoes, deer ticks
  • Odorless: Yes

Sawyer Products Insect Repellent

We’ve covered sprays, but now it’s time you know about the best insect repellent lotion.

It applies differently, which will come with its benefits and drawbacks, but it’s effective as is the rest of the Sawyer products line at defeating mosquitoes and ticks.

This repels them for up to fourteen hours straight, so basically, one application per day will handle everything.

It uses a blend of picaridin and piperidine to get that effect, and ends up with a low but pleasant citrus scent when you apply it.

Keep in mind that this is great for protection in lower populated areas, and won’t be as effective as Maxi Deet, which is another Sawyer product that’s best suited for deep wooded activity.

For simple camping and everyday use, this gets the job done without exposing your family to harsh chemicals and additives.

Lotion does leave a bit of an oily feeling on your skin, which is far from pleasant, but it’s what’s available to you.

Don’t expect that feeling to dissipate immediately; it takes about twenty minutes for some of it to absorb into your skin and feel natural.

When it comes time to wash it all away, you will feel a bit of slickness in the shower water as it washes away leftover residue.

SPECIFICATION

  • Active Ingredient: Picaridin, piperidine
  • Protection Time: Fourteen hours
  • Effective Against: Mosquitoes, ticks
  • Odorless: Citrus aroma

Avon Skin Soft Bug Guard Plus

While Avon isn’t the best insect repellent spray, it’s up there in terms of dependability and ease of application.

 This simple lotion applies smoothly onto your skin, and leaves behind a nice scent that they call gentle breeze, which smells like fresh linen.

However, it’s oily, and you’re definitely going to feel it on top of your skin.

The reason it’s so thick is because it’s also an SPF 30 sunscreen, and to do that, it needs to have an adequate way to apply to your skin.

That SPF 30 protection is waterproof for up to eighty minutes, but the entire mixture is only good for about two hours without the introduction of water.

It’s a short-term solution, but brings those extra benefits with it. 

This isn’t recommended for two or three-day camping excursions, but it can be used with another repellent when water activities are introduced, or simply to replace your normal repellent at home.

SPECIFICATION

  • Active Ingredient: Non-specific
  • Protection Time: Two hours
  • Effective Against: Midges, mosquitoes, deer ticks, black flies, gnats
  • Odorless: Gentle breeze scent

Insect Repellent Buying Guide and FAQ

Insect Repellent

What to Look for When Buying Insect Repellent

  • DEET: It’s the most common thing that you’re going to see in any insect repellent, and for good reason: it’s effective. DEET can be harmful if ingested, and appears as an oily but clear liquid with a very distinct odor.
  • Picaridin: Often used in aerosol cans, picaridin is an odorless and colorless liquid that repels insects, usually for shorter amounts of time than DEET or permethrin. It is viable in travel-sized and short-term insect repellent, and usually is not used in insect repelling lotions.
  • Permethrin:
  • IR3535:
  • Essential Oils:

Types of Insect Repellents

Cream Repellent

Even the best insect repellent cream is going to be a bit oily, a bit greasy on your skin, but it gets the job done.

Cream or lotion-based repellents can also come with SPF protection from the sun, so you’ll be able to wrap two benefits into one.

These repellents are often seen as less viable than spray-on repellent.

Residue is left behind on your skin, which can clog your pores, but also make another application halfway through the day less effective.

When insect repellent runs out and needs another application, it needs something to stick to.

If you’ve already got a layer of cream repellent on, your next application just has a slick, oily surface instead of porous skin to latch onto.

It can be effective, but be sure to clean up in between use to maintain maximum efficiency.

Spray-on Repellent

Spray type Insect Repellent

Old reliable. Spray-on repellent never fails, whether it’s dollar store chemical sprays or the best natural insect repellents, the application makes all the difference.

Spray-on repellent allows you to coat your clothes evenly without worrying about tarnishing or degradation. 

It’s also versatile, so you can spray it onto most surfaces or items in your camping outfit to extend its duration and your lack of pesky insects buzzing around your head.

Spray-on repellent does come with a few minor grievances, though.

For one, you get less out of an aerosol can of this stuff than you do with lotion-based repellent. 

You’ll end up spending a bit more per ounce, unless you happen to buy it in bulk beforehand.

Other than that, spray-on is preferred by hunters and campers alike for its versatility, and the lack of an oily feeling left behind on your skin. 

Spray and just forget about it.

Can You Put Insect Repellent on Your Face?

You can put it on your face, but you cannot spray it onto your face.

Instead, spray a small amount into the palm of your hand, and use your opposite hand to gently rub insect repellent onto your skin.

Don’t rub it in hard; your pores can clog with it and cause irritation, even in those who seem to have flawless skin that isn’t affected by much.

Insect repellent in your eyes can cause short- and long-term damage, which is why it’s also best to bury your face in your arm when applying it to yourself.

Can You Mix Sunscreen and Insect Repellent?

Mixing Sunscreen And Insect Repellent

You can, but you have to be careful. DEET is known to degrade sunscreen, removing up to half of its effectivity.

That means less protection and for half the duration, on average.

Picaridin, permethrin and lemon of eucalyptus don’t negatively interact with most sunscreens in the same way. 

You can find mixtures of non-DEET insect repellents with sunscreens so give you the best of both worlds.

These are formulated to work in tandem, so you aren’t suffering a lapse of coverage in either department.

How do You Use Insect Repellent Spray?

You can use it for your clothes, your skin, or depending on what repellent you get, you can also use it on your camping gear.

Some sprays, such as the Sawyer spray on the top of our list, can last for up to six weeks on clothing and equipment.

You use it through either spraying, applying like a cream or lotion, or rubbing into your skin.

How Often Should You Reapply Repellents?

As often as the package directs you to.

Most repellents that use all-natural ingredients, such as lemon of eucalyptus, only have about a six-hour time frame on them before you need to reapply them.

High percentages of picaridin will allow you twelve to fourteen hours of protection, and some DEET sprays might offer protection for up to eighteen hours.

If you are noticing mosquitoes surrounding you when you’re only halfway through an application, consider applying more.

Sweat can sometimes degrade repellents on hot days.

What Percentage of DEET is Best?

You’ll usually see 98.1% DEET in a lot of sprays, with 1.9% of the mixture being dedicated to “other ingredients” for application purposes.

DEET is best used in high doses, while alternatives like picaridin only need about 20% to be fully effective.

DEET does not work well in mixtures under 80%, which you may see as “safe alternative,” when in fact they’re just diluting DEET and its presence in the mixture is still there.

How do You Apply Insect Repellent Properly?

How to spray insect spray

To use insect repellent spray, you should position the bottle 12-18 inches away from the area that you wish to spray.

From there, you will be able to effectively cover a large area without having a high concentration of liquid on one spot.

For lotion repellents, simply squeeze the bottle into your hand, choosing the amount carefully, and emulsify it with your hands.

This means to rub it together a little bit until the consistency begins to change, and then simply wipe it on your exposed skin.

Rub in circles for 5-10 seconds per area to ensure nowhere is left uncovered.

For one-wipes, you just wipe your exposed skin with them lightly.

Once you’ve wiped everywhere down, go over it one or two more times until the wipe has been used up.

It is intended to be single-use, so the amount in those wipes are designated for one use of repellent.

Insects at Bay, Peace of Mind All Day

Whether you want a temporary solution or a six-week way to keep the bugs at bay, there’s something here for you.

It’s time to get rid of those pesky insects and avoid mosquito-borne diseases and bites, as well as ticks, chiggers and mites from sticking to your clothes.

The only thing you want to bring back with you on the camping trip is a plethora of good memories with your family—leave the insects where they belong.

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