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How To Deal With Mosquitoes While Backpacking

How To Deal With Mosquitoes While Backpacking

When you are out backpacking in the middle of the summer, mosquitoes will just be a fact of life.  They are essential to the ecosystems they live in despite the fact that humans only see them as pesky pests.  However, don’t let those mosquitoes ruin a great trip into the backcountry by covering you or your friends in bites.  There are many ways to deal with mosquitoes while out backpacking or hiking.

In this article, I’ll detail many of the ways to keep mosquitoes at bay while you’re in the great outdoors, and even include some of the reasons that they seem so attracted to humans.  Once you understand these reasons, you’ll be better equipped to keep them away from you.

How Do You Keep Mosquitoes Away Naturally?

There are a variety of natural remedies and things you can use to keep mosquitoes away.  Here is a list of some of the more effective items used to keep mosquitoes away

  • Catnip Oil – Besides being used to make cats go crazy, catnip oil is great at naturally keeping mosquitoes away.  It is also commonly known as catmint and the oil is derived from the stem of the plant.  It is a naturally growing plant and can be widely found throughout Europe, New Zealand, and North America.  Some research even suggest that it is even more effective than DEET.  So if you are looking for a great natural mosquito repellent, look no further than catnip oil.
  • Citronella and Citronella Oil – This is another plant that has oil that can be great at repelling mosquitoes.  But it is not as effective as some artificial chemicals.  If you keep a few of these plants on your patio, they will repel mosquitoes.  You can use the leaves to crush up and rub on your skin which will act as a natural mosquito repellent.  Make sure you do not over-fertilize these plants though because that may make them less effective.  Also, although citronella is widely used in bug strays, this plant does not actually produce citronella, it only has a naturally occurring citronella smell which mosquitoes dislike.
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – Lemon eucalyptus is a tree, and the naturally derived oil from the tree can be used as a great insect and mosquito repellent.

How To Keep Mosquitoes Away At Night

One of the best ways to keep mosquitoes away at night is to make sure your tent is completely sealed.  This will ensure that there are not mosquitoes coming and going all night biting exposed parts of your body.  Be sure that there are no holes in the seams or rips anywhere because mosquitoes will find their way in if they can and have a feast while you are asleep. 

Furthermore, stay away from using bright lights.  Mosquitoes are attracted to those lights and will follow them through the dark in order to get some of your blood.

Sleeping under a mosquito netting is also a great way to not get bit at night.  These mosquito nets are specifically made to keep pesky insects away so sleeping under one will ensure a good nights sleep with nothing to worry about.  And you will not wake up in the morning to fresh bites on any exposed part of your body.

Another great way to keep away the mosquitoes at night is to light a campfire and continually throw green pieces of wood on it.

“The green wood that you put on the fire will create a lot of smoke which is great for keeping bugs away from your campsite.”

Besides that, you should treat your clothing with mosquito repellent.  This will ensure that throughout the night, no mosquitoes come to bite you while you are sleeping.  Beyond that, making sure to cover up as much as possible will limit the areas of your body that a mosquito can bite.

Finally, lighting a citronella candle around your tent or the campfire is a great way to keep mosquitoes at bay.  I’d suggest not lighting one throughout the night for fear of starting a forest fire, but having one lit while you are awake is a great way to repel mosquitoes.

Nothing better than a good tent to keep the mosquitoes away at night.

Smells mosquitoes hate

There are a lot of smells that mosquitoes hate.  Here is a short list of some of the better scents that can be used to keep mosquitoes at bay.  They wont want to land on or around you when these scents are near, thus you will not get bitten as much:

  • Peppermint – Both peppermint and mint smells are very good at repelling mosquitoes.  Use the oils from both of these plants to keep away pesky mosquitoes.
  • Basil – The essential oils contained in basil emit a very powerful odor that will repel mosquitoes well.
  • Garlic – Eating a lot of garlic will help create a scent around you that will do a great job of repelling mosquitoes.
  • Lemon Balm – Many different insects besides just mosquitoes dislike the smell of lemon balm.  Use crushed leaves on your skin to keep away unwanted biters.  However, this scent does attract bees and butterflies so if you are allergic, you might want to stay away from using lemon balm to repel insects.
  • Lavender – This plant does a great job at repelling mosquitoes.  Grow it in your house and rub some on yourself or use the essential oil derived from lavender plants to keep bugs away.
  • Marigold – Use these flowers to keep mosquitoes out of your house and away from you.
  • Rosemary – This plant is very aromatic and mosquitoes hate it.  Use it or the oil taken from rosemary plats to keep mosquitoes away.
  • Neem Oil – Rub a little bit of this natural oil on yourself and exposed areas of your body while outside to keep mosquitoes away from you.

Vicks Vapor Rub

In short, Vick’s Vapor Rub does do a pretty good job of repelling mosquitoes.  If you apply a little bit to your wrists, the inside of the elbow, your neck, and ankles, the mosquitoes seem to dislike the scent and steer clear.

I would recommend not using vicks vapor rub if you are going out into horrible bug country because it will not completely keep them all away, but it generally does do a good job of keeping mosquitoes at bay.

The best part about this tip is that if you do get bitten, Vick’s Vapor Rub can be used to keep the swelling of the bite down and make the bite itch much less than a normal bite.


Mosquitoes hate the smell of vinegar.  This is one of the most well known natural repellents to keep mosquitoes away.  You can easily make a great natural mosquito repellent by filling a spray bottle with half apple cider vinegar and half water.  You can also add many different essential oils to this natural spray that mosquitoes hate the smell of such as lavender oil, tea tree oil, mint oil, eucalyptus oil, and lemon oil.

There are many more essential oils that can be added to a vinegar water repellent mixture so do some research to see which ones you like and want to add to your all natural mosquito repellent.

What Are Mosquitoes Most Attracted To?

There are a variety of things that will inevitably attract mosquitoes.  Here is list of things that they are attracted to:

  • Movement – Mosquitoes are highly attracted to movement because that indicates to the insect that they will be able to get blood from either an unsuspecting animal or a backpacker out in the backcounty.  Mosquitoes eyes are highly sensitive to movement because this will detect hosts that have blood to give.
  • Chemical Scents Produced By Your Body – Humans naturally give off a scent and this scent can be detected and tracked by hungry mosquitoes.  For example, sweating especially gives off these scents in concentration making it much easier for mosquitoes to zero in on you as a tasty meal.
  • Bacteria On Humans – At any given time, there is billions of microscopic bacteria growing on, in, and around the human body.  Mosquitoes have an innate ability to track that bacteria and the scent that it gives off making them attracted to humans.
  • Body Heat – The human body is constantly producing body heat through movement and thus, mosquitoes are able to detect this body heat and go in for a bit.  They have thermal sensors in their eyes making it easy for them to figure out where there are warm bodies that have blood to feed on.

What Smells Do Mosquitoes Like?

Here is a good list of smells that will attract mosquitoes.  Try to avoid these scents if you hate those pesky bugs and want to keep them away from you:

  • Scented Body Products – Although there are many scented products that will repel mosquitoes, there are just as many, if not more, that will draw them in.  If you know for a fact that a certain product does not specifically repel mosquitoes, I would recommend against wearing it.  More than likely, it will only attract them to you.  Floral scents especially will attract mosquitoes.
  • Fragrant Lotion – Similar to scented body products, any fragrant lotion will attract mosquitoes right to you.  If you are in the outdoors try to avoid putting those lotions on yourself as you might get eaten alive.
  • Body Odor – Unfortunately body odor attracts mosquitoes.  They especially like salt and lactic acid that the body naturally produces.  So for that reason, make sure you lather up with good insect repellent.
  • Carbon Dioxide – This is literally the air that we breath out after it has been used by our bodies.  Mosquitoes love this scent and are attracted to it unfortunately.  You will emit more of it if you have just worked out, or are breathing heavily for any reason.

Are Mosquitoes Attracted To Urine?

Yes, unfortunately mosquitoes are very attracted to urine.  With that being said, make sure you take care of your business as far away from camp as possible because mosquitoes will be attracted to this scent and will use it to find you.

Clothing That Mosquitoes Can Not Bite Through

Some of the best clothing to wear that mosquitoes cannot bite through are woven nylon and polyester fabric.  By contrast, any fabric that is knit will be easily bitten through by a mosquito.  Furthermore, most spandex or athletic wear will be easily bitten through as well.

If you are going to go out during mosquito season, make sure to stay away from the clothing that will not either repel them or that they can bite through.  Making sure to cover up completely with long sleeves and long pants as well as proper footwear will go a long way to keeping mosquitoes from biting you.

Closer Look: ExOfficio – Bugsaway Sandfly Jacket

Some drawbacks of woven nylon and polyester fabric is that they are not as breathable as other clothing.  Thus you will want to find cloths of this type that have ventilation of some kind or else you will get very hot during peak mosquito season in the middle of the summer.

There are also many garments made today that have insect repellent input and washed into them during the production process at the factory.  Look around at outdoor stores or online to find clothing that has already been treated with mosquito repellent.

Backpacking Mosquito Season

Peak backpacking mosquito season typically happens every year around the summer solstice which normally falls sometime around the third week in June.  Depending upon the year, the peak bug season could be slightly earlier or later than this.

Despite that being peak bug season, if you are planning on going backpacking around these dates, prepare as if it will be peak bug season for a few week around that time or else you might be swarmed with mosquitoes.

Mosquito Repellents – Recommended Brands and Chemicals

Here are some of the best brands and chemicals in order to repel mosquitoes:

  • DEET – This is one of the longest used and most well known chemicals that repels mosquitoes.  It can come in a variety of different strengths but is best to not be used on young children.  Also, it should only be applied to exposed skin.  It loses some of its repellent properties when it is sprayed on clothing or gear.
  • Permethrin – This is a newer chemical that has been proven to be one of the most most effective ways to repel mosquitoes.  You can spray it on cloths and your gear.  There are even many cloths made now that have permethrin treated right into the garment.  The chemical literally incapacitates mosquitoes once they land on you and eventually kills them.  You should avoid spraying this directly on your skin.
  • IR-3535 – This material has only been recently approved for use in the United States.  It has been widely used in Europe for years and has been known to repel mosquitoes, ticks, and biting flies.  Plus it is much less toxic than DEET.
  • Picaridin – This is a chemical that is fairly low odor and does a good job of of repelling mosquitoes.  It will not be damaging to the skin or fabrics that it is put on.

When out on a backpacking trip, it’s important to keep your base weight as low as possible and this applies to every item in your kit. So, same goes for choosing a bug repellent. That’s why we like Ben’s Wipes made with DEET. They are lightweight and easy to pack…

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