What’s the Best Mosquito Repellent For Camping?

Video best mosquito repellent for campsite

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).


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.

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.

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

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.




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:

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:

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!):

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.

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

But it’s also available as a lotion:

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

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

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:

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.

Thermacell MR300 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 MR300 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.

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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.

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:

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.

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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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>