Summer is coming, and with the onset of heat comes the appearance of infectious insect: mosquitoes.
Well, only by a few sprays of mosquito repellent, you can easily guard yourself against them while enjoying your time outdoors.
But what to choose, when you’re nearly lost in the jungle of products presented on the pharmacy aisle?
You may be wondering whether they are safe, which you can use for your kids, which is the most effective.
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No worries, as today I will give you my reviews on some of the best mosquito repellents for camping and backpacking being sold;
In a hurry and want to get straight to the point?
Great best mosquito repellent must check my 3 criteria:
- Recommended by CDC
- Registered at EPA
- Reliable brand product
What is the best mosquito repellent?
Talking about mosquito/insect repellent, this product may work for this person but may not work for that person.
So, it may take a few try before you get your “right” repellent.
However, they all must have compound which was registered at EPA (safe for human, animals and environment),
You can’t take a blind fold and pick one randomly, either. It is better to researching before buying your best mosquito repellent for camping and backpacking than none.
Repel DEET 100 (or 30):
If you need the strongest insect repellent available and you’re not allergic to DEET or you don’t hate DEET,
Plus you’re willing to carefully store and use the repellent so that it won’t damage your clothes or equipment, it will be the right one. No Repel DEET 100 for kids.
Sawyer Picaridin 20% Premium:
Friendlier version of DEET with less intense protection. Extra effective against mosquitos and flies.
Famous for its use with kids. No harm to synthetic materials.
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus:
If you’re a team of nature-based product, you have sensitive skin and your main goal is protection against mosquitos, this is for you. No kids under 3.
Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus:
A nice repellent to use for your kids which also takes care of your and your kids’ skin with moisturizer and sun block features.
This is not recommended if you go to high bug density area which deems to be insect-borne disease prone.
Sawyer Permethrin Clothing premium:
“The only insect repellent currently used for factory treatment of clothing is permethrin” – EPA .
So, if you want clothing insect repellent and you’re considering products which are not permethrin, reconsider the option. Can be used for kids.
All are registered with EPA as safe compounds to use as insect repellents.
Top 5 best mosquito repellent reviews for camping and backpacking
Pros: long-lasting, effective repellent against varieties of mosquitoes, ticks and bugs.
Cons: unpleasant smell, greasy, not good with nail polish, damage plastic and synthetic material, can’t be used for children.
Suitable for: high density of bugs and insects areas; people who outdoor is life and work; long outdoor trips; frequent hikers, hunters, campers.
If you are heading to areas with humid tropical weather and severe insect condition, Repel 100 Insect Repellent is a very economical and effective solution for you.
A small amount will go a long way and keep you bit-free for quite a time (half a day).
BUT, is DEET safe?
Whether using DEET a threat to your health is still controversial. There’s no record of health problems which DEET is the main cause.
One customer has shared: “I have used (and continue to use) as close to 100% DEET products as I could find for over 40 years and have developed no external or internal health issues”.
Despite the debatable health-related issues, researchers estimated that people around the world put on DEET 200 million times a year.
Because DEET is the most effective way and the best mosquito repellent for camping and backpacking to protect you from insect-borne diseases such as malaria, West Nile, Zika, etc.
It is a choice of those who outdoor is their work or life like wildlife agency, or of those who live in the areas where mosquitos and insects thrive.
DEET 100 is a no for children, but DEET 30 and below is okay.
Note: Do read and follow instruction; Avoid eyes, lips, nostrils and open wound.
How to apply:
- Apply on skin, spray on hand and rub over your face, avoid eyes, lips and open wound, spread evenly, a thin layer is enough.
- Reapply after instructed time. Wash after use.
Pros: most effective on mosquitoes; gear safe, non-greasy, nicer scent, can be used for children
Cons: so-so with flies or ticks, no sweat resistant formula
Suitable for: people with DEET allergies, hiking/backpacking, beach/ riverside camping trips.
The advantages of (Picaridin) Sawyer Products Premium has over DEET:
- Less smell (DEET odor gives some people headache);
- Friendlier with skin, no more oily feeling or burning sensation with someone who has sensitive skin.
- Doesn’t damage plastic and synthetic coating
Hence, Picaridin is considered to be a new alternative to DEET to a certain extend.
It is quite popular among fishermen since it can prevent water born bugs, and doesn’t damage your gear. It’s also very highly-recommended by Consumer Reports.
However, if you are in the areas with high bug density, DEET will always be better protection.
I say “bug”, if you just need the best mosquito repellent for camping or flies, I can’t say whether DEET beats Picaridin.
One funny thing about this product is that, if you miss some place while covering your skin with insect repellent, with DEET, it will be okay;
but with Picaridin Sawyer Premium, you will see some bites the day after. So, you need to cover most of your exposed skin with thicker layer than you do with DEET.
Picaridin (20% and below) is famous for its use with children. They work wonderful, but personally I prefer IR3535 repellent since I have a thing for this formula. Why? Read on.
How to apply:
- Spray on your skin a fair amount and make sure you leave no area exposed.
- Reapply after perspiration/ after 8 – 9 hours on a long journey.
Pros: eco-friendly, compatible to most types of skin, natural scent, can be used on clothes.
Cons: short-lasting, not effective against flies or ticks or chiggers, no children under 3
Suitable for: people with DEET/ Picaridin allergies, family camping trips, and tropical areas.
If you’re no team of DEET or allergy to DEET, this Lemon Eucalyptus repellent from Repel is for you.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus is the only plant-based active ingredient recommended by CDC for mosquito repellent.
And because the product is plant-based with high concentration of plant oil, it is suitable for most types of skin.
Not just skin you can apply it on, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus can be used on clothes since it doesn’t damage synthetic fabrics or materials.
Does it work?
Yes, it worked fantastically. I was totally mosquito bit-free each camping trip I used Repel Lemon Eucalyptus repellent.
No harm reminding you that if your main goal is to repel ticks, chiggers or black flies, this won’t be the best choice.
Back to the point of the best mosquito repellent for camping and backpacking, many agencies recommend this for those whose destination is malaria-prone areas, I followed them and that was the right decisions…
…It is one of the best mosquito repellent available on the market.
In spite of all the great features Repel Lemon Eucalyptus mosquito repellent has, you may miss this from the manufacturer: “It works great for outdoor outings, but should not be substituted for DEET-based products”.
Hence, if you travel to where all types of insect and insect-borne disease are serious problems, you shall reconsider your choice of repellent.
I won’t guarantee you like the smell of Repel Lemon Eucalyptus even though it’s lemon-like and more natural than DEET’s or Picaridin’s.
But, one thing I can say for sure – the smell is strong. The smell won’t go away until you wash. More importantly, the smell still stays even though your repellent guard is long gone.
Thus, note that smell can’t be the sign of whenever you should reapply the repellent.
Do you think about pure Lemon Eucalyptus oil?
Forget about it. Lemon Eucalyptus formulated as repellent is what undergone various tests for safety and efficacy as well as registered with EPA, not “pure oil”.
Children? “Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not to be used on children under the age of three years” – CDC.
How to apply:
- Apply on skin like other skin repellent, avoid eyes, lips and nostrils. Too thin layer might not work.
- To make sure you get no bite or tick, reapply after contact with water/ during long trips every 3-4 hours when you sweat.
Pros: like lotion repellent, kid-friendly, moisturize, sun block, repel wasps and bees, can be used for children
Suitable for: beach trips, family trips, countryside camping, insect season at home
Just like Lemon Eucalyptus oil, is classified as biopesticide repellents (derived from or are synthetic versions of natural materials) by EPA, hence IR3535 repellent is human-friendly.
Why I have a thing for IR3535 especially Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus as I said above?
Because Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus from Avon makes IR3535 repellent more than it is. It is not only insect repellent but also lotion which gives you benefits for the skin.
- Keep skin moisturized (Aloe Vera and vitamin E plays as a moisturizer)
- Sun block (SPF 30)
- Non greasy, light and smooth on skin
- Can be used for kids and animals
- Nice light smell
I must say it seems so perfect! I especially love the kid-usable feature. This was what I chose for my 2-year-old niece.
However, since nothing is perfect, I wouldn’t dare using this if I go to Africa or anywhere which claimed to be insect-borne disease prone.
I used this for the kids, I used this when I hiked or camped somewhere nice and didn’t want mosquitos to bother me. But…
…I won’t use this anywhere with severe insect condition or whenever I go on a long journey (applying more frequent than usual is annoying, 2-3 hours each).
Why? If it doesn’t protect us from the mosquitos as effectively as other repellent? Why is it one of the best mosquito repellent for camping and backpacking?
Let’s recall the 5 benefits above if you use Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard.
How to apply:
- Application is similar to that of lotion.
- Reapply every 2 -3 hours, especially in buggy area if you don’t want to get bitten.
Pros: as effective as DEET in use for clothing and outdoor gear, long-lasting, odorless, can be used for children.
Cons: toxic with cats
Suitable for: all outdoor activities especially hunting (as you always wear clothes!)
“Most repellents can be used on children aged >2 months” – CDC. Which also means, no repellent for children under 2 months old
I first tried Permethrin product because one information I came across: “Permethrin was first registered at EPA for use as clothing repellent by the military in 1990”. After a while, I chose Sawyer.
I must say, they made a fantastic clothing insect repellent out of Permethrin which is not only safe and effective but also:
- Leaves no stain on clothes: If there’s stain on your clothes when using clothing insect repellent, there’s no way that product will sell.
- Odorless after 2 hours dry (4 with humid weather): it smells at first, but after 2-3 hours left drying, no smell.
- Compatible with almost all fabrics even the fragile one silk, wool, cotton and outdoor-furniture: I used almost for anything when camping such as shoes, sleeping bag, tent
- Lasts up to 6 weeks and 6 washing: with me, it generally lasts 4 washing. Maybe I choose hard wash and dry cycles while doing laundry. Hence, it depends how you treat the treated clothes.
- Can be used for dog: It worked, but I prefer something less bothering from the vet.
- Prevents bed-bugs in a god-know-what motel/hotel/cabin: I read the tips by chance and by chance I once went to a rented cabin had bed-bugs which I couldn’t complain to the host. Sawyer 0.5% Permethrin saved me.
Here are what you can’t do using permethrin:
- Wash treated clothes with non-treated clothes since some may come off and go to your underwear. Remember, permethrin is for outer clothes only.
- Exposed your cats with wet permethrin. Permethrin is toxic with cats.
Permethrin is toxic to fish and aquatic creatures. So, do not dispose permethrin in waterways, empty permethrin containers must be disposed of inland. Don’t spray permethrin around fish aquariums either.
Don’t worry too much. Permethrin was registered at EPA and has been used for decades. It quickly breaks down in the environment and leaching permethrin from fabrics to the environment is negligible.
How to apply:
- Treat your clothes in a ventilated area.
- Spray directly to each side of your piece of clothing until it is moistened.
- Then let dry for about three hours. Store sprayed items in airtight plastic bags.
Ask yourself this
To reduce the trying number or have the right decision at the first time:
1. How healthy is your skin?
Don’t choose mosquito repellents with high chemical concentration if your skin is sensitive – may cause unwanted side effects.
For example, DEET 30 and Picaridin or plant-based Repel Lemon Eucalyptus may be compatible with your skin than DEET 100.
Among the products I reviewed, Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard is the best mosquito repellent for your skin.
2. Where are you going?
Do some research and make sure that you’re using the right repellents. Since this is “mosquito” topic, all the products I reviewed are effective against mosquitos.
But, for more information, Repel DEET 100 works for most insects, Sawyer Picaridin 20% wards off the mosquitos and the flies best, mosquitos hate Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.
3. How long does your trip last?
Remember, protection time matters. Reapplying after a short time is annoying.
Repel DEET 100 and Sawyer Picaridin are the one for you if you hate that, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus is so so, Avon IR3535’s effect duration is just up to 3 hours
4. Who do you use insect repellent for? Kids? Pets?
No DEET 100 for kids, Cat hates Permethrin
5. Do you use on skin or clothes?
Sawyer Permethrin is the one you need
Truthfully, after reviewing those mosquito repellents I feel like I’m a repellent nerd.
Well, may it be I’ve been using them a lot while camping and backpacking, and like women like to try and ear new clothes, I do, too. The difference is, I like to try new insect repellents.
Anyway, up till now, those five above are my best mosquitos repellent for camping and backpacking.
Don’t let your excitement of camping and backpacking be ruined by constant buzzes and bites! Hear me out.