Nothing can ruin a camping trip quite like bugs. While they may serve a great purpose in maintaining nature’s delicate balance, they’re quite annoying when trying to relax at your campsite. To make life more enjoyable, you’ll need to know how to repel bugs when camping.
These camping tricks to keep bugs away will be especially helpful during the spring, at the height of bug season in most US locations. Here are easy ways to avoid being bugged on your next camping trip.
How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Campsite
You should first consider reducing the number of bugs you welcome into your campsite. Various bug repellent and pest control solutions can help you keep bugs out of your campsite and avoid itching mosquito bites.
Bug spray is the obvious one. These solutions are meant to be sprayed on clothing, tents, and other camping gear to repel mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and other insects. Bug sprays contain different ingredients, such as DEET, picaridin, and lemon eucalyptus. They must be applied and re-applied at recommended intervals.
Bug Torches, Lanterns, and Candles
Torches, lanterns, and candles can be used in conjunction with bug sprays and other repellents or as standalone solutions. Options include battery-powered models designed to sit on a camping table, hanging lanterns that can hook onto your RV awning, and rechargeable/refillable pods. But they all put out a repelling scent that helps with mosquito control.
Bug zappers hang somewhere inside or outside of your RV. They attract bugs and zap them when they get close enough. Most use UV light technology to attract insects and a small, controlled electric grid for zapping.
Disposable bug traps are another solution if you’re looking for something a bit more affordable. They usually contain a chemical attractant and some sort of sticky substance to trap bugs. You set them up when you arrive at camp and throw them away when you pack up.
Smoke is one of the best natural bug repellents there is – bugs hate it. Lighting a fire a little before sunset reduces the number of mosquitoes and other bugs willing to come close enough to bite or harass your camping party.
Just make sure you practice fire safety and follow regional fire restrictions. If the campground you chose doesn’t have fire pits, bring your own portable fire pit so you can smoke out those pesky insects.
How to Avoid Bugs While Camping
To reduce bugs in or around your RV, you can employ one, two, or all four of those bug repellent ideas. In addition, there are ways you can avoid bugs altogether. Here are a few of our favorites:
Choose Campsites Carefully
It’s easy to be enticed by campgrounds right next to lakes, rivers, and other waterways. But water is the natural breeding ground for many of the bugs you’re trying to avoid. Stagnant water is especially important to avoid. But if bugs really get under your skin (pun intended), try to avoid campsites near water.
Find an Awning Room
Enclosing the area underneath your RV awning with a screen room is a great way to create a bug-free outdoor living space. Most will offer screen windows with mosquito netting to allow plenty of air to flow through the room, but these windows can often be closed if you want to maintain your privacy.
Shop RV awning rooms to find a model that’s compatible with your RV’s awning.
Set up a Screened-in Shelter
The advantage of a screened-in shelter is not having to worry about compatibility with your awning. They can be set up anywhere to keep your outdoor dining space free of nasty, biting insects.
Wear Loose Clothing
Loose layers can also help protect you from unwanted insect bites. There are a few tips that outdoor enthusiasts use when layering clothing in insect-laden environments.
- Tuck pants into socks.
- Especially important for avoiding ticks when walking in tall grass.
- Tuck long-sleeve shirts into gloves.
- Use a buff or handkerchief to protect your neck.
- Wear a hat.
- Don a mosquito head net if things get really ugly.
Go Inside at The Right Time
Lastly, you can also avoid the times of day when bugs tend to be most active: sunrise and sunset. That’s not to say you won’t get bitten at high noon, but dawn and dusk tend to be the height of bug activity in most places.
The great part about most RVs is that you can sit inside and be sheltered from bugs while watching sunrise or sunset through your panoramic windows.
The Best Bug Repellents for Camping
One of the main differences in bug repellents is their dominant ingredient. So let’s divide the best bug repellents for camping into three main categories:
Picaridin-based repellents (like this one from Sawyer Products) have become more popular in recent years. In test cases conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), picaridin repellents with a 20 percent concentration performed comparably to DEET-based repellents.
DEET has been controversial for quite some time now, but most studies suggest it is safe when used as directed. Test cases have proven that DEET-based repellents with a 15 to 30 percent concentration perform as effectively as 20 percent concentrated picaridin repellents.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oils are also an effective natural bug repellent when used with a 30 percent concentration. Other essential oils, such as thyme, sage, and tea tree, can be used to create an effective natural insect repellent.
Keep in mind that lemon eucalyptus is NOT recommended for children under three years of age, and no repellents are considered safe for newborn babies under the age of two months.
You might consider other repellents for young children, such as wearable wristbands, mosquito wipes, or a citronella candle. Although less research has been done to prove the efficacy of these solutions, they can be more comfortable and easier to apply to young kids.
And if you want to have a little fun trying to get rid of bugs at your campsite, pick up one of these bug-hunting devices.
Dealing with Bugs When You Get Home
Just because you’ve dealt with bugs while camping doesn’t mean you’re in the clear when you get back home. Bugs can follow you home on clothing, camping gear, or even inside your RV.
So follow these tips to minimize the chances of bringing bugs back from your camping trips:
- Throw clothing into the dryer. Heat-treating your clothing in the dryer desiccates insects and their larvae. Do this before washing your soiled camp clothing.
- Check camping gear. If your gear mainly lives underneath your RV, do this before you even leave camp. But if everything gets unpacked and stored in your home or garage, unpack everything and check for bugs before you drag them inside. This is also a good opportunity to wash your gear. Just make sure everything dries completely before packing it away.
- Prepare for your next trip. Clean out bug zappers, refill or recharge lanterns, and restock bug sprays.
With these tips and solutions in your RV tool kit, you can keep bugs away while camping, so they don’t ruin your trip. You’ll have the ability to repel bugs or create comfortable, bug-free spaces to relax, even when visiting bug-friendly environments like the Everglades and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Do you have other methods to rid your campsite of bugs? If so, share them with us in the comments below!
Tucker Ballister is a Technical Content Writer for Camping World and a lover of the open road. You can check out more of his adventures and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.