Stuff Ya Gotta Have: Insect Repellent That Works
There you are, relaxing in your camp chair with your favorite beverage, soaking in the sights and sounds of the campground. And then it happens. That tiny buzzing, right near your ear. Your eyes shift from side to side.
The buzzing continues…and the flailing begins.
You slap your ear, then your cheek. It lands on your arm, but before you can make contact with it, it’s gone. You spy it on your leg, but not before it already sinks its syringe-like beak into your skin. You strike, it splats…but it’s already too late. In its place, a pink welt already begins to grow. And suddenly, you hear the buzzing begin again.
Mosquitoes and their pesky cohorts are some of the less-enjoyable things about camping. And for some, especially those who are allergic or sensitive to bug bites, it means itching, scratching and discomfort that can linger long after the trip ends.
There are many products on the market available to help repel bugs, including coils, candles and even clip-on units. We asked KOA Facebook campers what they liked best, and this is what they told us:
Tried & True
For some, like Janis Piccarreto, the good old-fashioned spray repellents are the only choice for them, despite having tried other products. Deep Woods OFF! was a popular choice mentioned by our campers, as were Cutter and Repel.
“We use anything that has DEET,” says Ami Rowland. “My boy gets horrible infections from mosquito bites, and I want nothing to do with the horrid little things.”
Several, like Mary Ellen Davison mentioned that she enjoys the OFF! wipes as well. “They don’t smell as strongly as sprays,” she wrote. Tommy Moore agreed. “You can put it exactly where you want it, and not in your eyes or on your lips, which is what happens using a spray.”
Another favorite? Avon’s Skin-So-Soft.
“I prefer the Skin-So-Soft spray from Avon,” says Jodie Carson. “It smells good and actually works. It works great for black biting flies, too.”
Billy Gognat agrees. “I use the Skin-So-Soft when I’m out,” he says. “It sounds funny for a man to use it, but it works fine for me.”
Feel the Burn
Although Phyllis Brunk says that they are fans of sprays, they combine repellents for the best results. “We use Deep Woods OFF!, citronella candles on the picnic table, tiki torches with citronella fuel and yard guard fogger.”
John Brewer says that they, too, opt for repellant sprays, but they still bring candles to the campground. “Tiki torches [and] citronella candles seem to be less effective,” he says, “but we still use them.”
“Lately we have been strategically placing the citronella candles around us ( in a circle ) while we are around the campfire or at a table and it seems to have helped,” says Beverly Nelson. “However, I think it may look like we are performing some sort of ritual (laughing out loud).”
“We started using these mosquito sticks that burn like incense,” says Karen Kline Boghossian. “They actually work fairly well. They have about a 10-foot radius so you can set up a perimeter or put one down next to your chair. They burn for about 3 hours before going out, and smell pretty nice, too.”
While mosquito repellent coils are also still being used as an effective way to combat bugs, according to campers like Cindy Whysall Willey, John Clarke shared an idea that those of us at the Kompass had never heard before.
“We use Tim Horton’s coffee cup holders,” he says. “Just light them on fire and they smolder and keep the bugs away.”
Melissa Caudle reminds other campers that caution should be used with products that use smoke or scents to keep away bugs. “Citronella candles give my husband really bad asthma attacks,” she says. “People need to be aware that this is a possibility.” And campers should also be aware of any specific restrictions about open flames at the campgrounds at which they are staying.
One of the things that campers told us again and again also came as a bit of a surprise: using dryer sheets as bug repellent. How does it work?
“Pull them through a belt loop, lay them at your feet, or tuck them anywhere,” says Janet Thomson. “Ones with too much scent give me a headache, so I look for a light scent, but they do work!”
Kathy Dykes also opts for dryer sheets to keep bugs away. “Golfers use [them] all the time,” she writes. “Just pin or tie one to your belt loop…the cheap one[s] work well.”
“I was told for infants and toddler to use fabric softener sheets on them,” says Cheri Adams. “Just rub it on their skin.”
Another surprise? Using mouthwash to create a “force field” around the campsite.
“Listerine in a spray bottle,” says Aimee Kennedy. “I’m not kidding—it works!” She suggests spraying the air, making a “wall” around the area that you are sitting in.
Pete Monsees also uses Listerine “…mixed 50/50 with water, sprayed on our chairs and benches—even the ground near us—works fantastic,” he says.
Other ideas from our campers including butane-powered repellent dispensers available through ThermaCELL, as well as the new clip-on repellent from OFF! Others suggested natural products, like eucalyptus oil, bug repellent soaps or even crushed wax myrtle leaves.
Perhaps the most unique bug repellent, though, came from Dale Henderson, who told us, “I just keep my wife close by. She acts like a magnet to mosquitoes, [so] they never bother me…”
Do you have a great way to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away from you when you’re camping? Share ‘em with us, below: