Camping Gear Guide for People Who Dislike Bugs

Camping & Hiking expert Hannah K. shares all the gear you need in order to enjoy a day outside without any bothersome bugs.

Photo by Hector J Rivas
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Bugs exist and take up space everywhere outside, and rightfully so because, well, that's where they live. Bugs—from the annoying mosquitos and ticks to creepy crawlers like spiders—all play an important role in keeping our ecosystem healthy. Yet, for the camper who doesn’t particularly like bugs, keeping the campsite bug-free is on the mind and crucial to enjoying the experience. Now, it’s pretty difficult to make bugs leave you alone, and we want to be respectful since we are intruding on their space. But here are some tips, tricks, and gear that are perfect for the camper who dislikes bugs.

Traditional Bug Spray, Cream, or Homemade Repellent

DEET is best known for keeping bugs at bay so you can avoid those itchy bug bites.

If you don’t want something so harsh for your skin, you can make your own repellent. Mix a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, a half a cup of natural witch hazel, and half a cup of water, with either tea tree oil, eucalyptus, mint, rosemary, lemongrass, cedarwood, or sage. Shake up your bottle and spray around. This natural concoction is a natural way to keep creepy crawlers and other critters away.

If you don’t want to spray anything on yourself, spray some vinegar or apple-cider vinegar diluted with water around camp. Critters hate the smell!

Natural Smells

Bring some citronella candles and hold them around the campfire. Alternatively, bring some torches if you can! Just make sure to put them all out before you go to bed. You don’t want to accidentally start an uncontrolled fire!

They also hate mint of any kind, spearmint, peppermint, etc.. Make some mint tea, get dry herbs and throw them in the fire. You can also throw a sage stick into the fire. These natural herbs smell great, and best of all, bugs are not a huge fan.

Speaking of smells, bugs are attracted to food. Keep your food locked up and away. They are also attracted to sweaty skin. When it’s warm out we sweat more. Stay hydrated and wash off frequently to avoid any natural body odor.

Finally, use scent-free body items like scent-free deodorant, lotion, and shampoo. Bugs will use these unnatural smells to find you.

P.S. Cook a nice camp meal with lots of garlic—bugs don’t like the smell.

A closeup of a small, hairy spider on an out-of-focus leaf. The spider is facing the camera.
Photo by Umesh Soni

Location, Location, Location

Before you head out, look at the campground. Especially in warmer months, avoid camping near a large water source. Think high and dry to avoid the bugs. Sleeping next to the ocean or river is nice in summer, but bugs think so too!

The season is also important in planning your bug-free trip. Avoid heading out the first warm weekend as the seasons shift. My first ever thru-hike experience wasn’t planned so carefully. We went the first warm weekend in early May and I can’t tell you how many ticks we saw. You can read more about everything I did wrong here. But the moral of the story is, the ticks were after me and if we had just gone a week earlier, it may not have been so bad.

Gear to Keep Bugs Away

To keep bugs out of your face, use the Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net that is budget friendly, can fit into your back pocket, and will keep your face bug free. There is a cinch cord you can use to tighten to fit your needs.

Want more coverage than just a head net? The Coghlan Bug Jacket has long sleeves and a torso to cover your whole upper body with protective material.

For even more coverage, wear long layers (pants and long sleeves). In the summer, go for a lightweight button down to keep the sun away and bugs off. The Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Expedition Shirt and Jammer Knit Pant have insect repellent technology in the fabric for an added layer of bug-free protection. The fabric is also UV protectant, wicking, and quick-drying.

Several different butterflies sit atop sliced apple and banana slices that are sitting on a piece of wood.
Photo by Emiko Peterson-Yoon

For the most coverage, pair the Sea to Summit Bugwear Jacket and Mitts with the Sea to Summit Bugwear Pants and Socks and a head net for full-body protection.

If you are a hammock camper in need of a bug net, check out the Grand Trunk Mozzy Net Lite that will help you sleep better knowing mosquitos won’t get you! This particular option is a two-person size and weighs approximately 18oz.

Say you go camping on a summer night and want to enjoy the stars all night long. You don’t want to sleep in a tent but you also don’t want bugs to get you. Check out the Sea to Summit Double Mosquito Pyramid Net. Great for two people for summer camping under the stars. You can also use it while travelling to countries where extra protection from more dangerous mosquitos is necessary.

I also highly recommend a tent with a screen room attached. This will give you freedom to look out, feel the breeze, and look at the stars without the nervous feeling that ticks are crawling toward you. The Coleman Steel Creek 6-Person Fast Pitch Screened Dome has a complete screened-in porch that you can sun soak in and escape the bugs. Many Coleman tents have this as an option, so look for that brand if you are interested in the additional screened-in porch.

Another luxurious camping option is the Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite Cot Bug Shelter that is perfect for the solo camper. It is essentially a cot with a bug net attached and tent poles to pitch up the net. This would be a great option for summer nights where you want to sleep out under the stars.

A closeup of a red-orange slug with black antennae. The slug is on a trail in a forested area.
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann

While bugs are a part of the camping experience, many prefer to have a bug-free camping experience. I enjoy not waking up with 20 bug bites, but at some point that may be inevitable. However, I strongly encourage learning to love and respect critters in our natural spaces. From banana slugs to butterflies to spiders to yes, even mosquitos, acknowledging and learning about how these bugs keep us alive and our ecosystem healthy will lead to a greater understanding of our natural world.

Look into these tricks and gear pieces to help have a bug-free camping/hiking experience. If you have any questions on finding the right gear for your next adventure, please feel free to reach out to me or one of my fellow Camping & Hiking experts and we'll be happy to provide free advice and gear recommendations on keeping any bug attacks at bay.

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Written By
Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...

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