Campsites are frequented by plenty of wildlife, from flying pests to bears. Fire is quite a jarring element, so lots of people think it’ll help keep the wildlife away.
Unfortunately, campfires won’t get rid of bears—but loud singing around the fire might. However, campfires can repel mosquitos and other flying pests. The smokier the campfire is, the more it repels these insects.
I’ve done some further research into this to help you learn what to do to repel wildlife, so let’s explore deeper.
Do Campfires Repel Mosquitos?
Campfires can repel mosquitoes, flies, moths, and other flying pests that you’d rather not have near you while camping. Specifically, it’s the smoke that repels them. The chemicals in wood smoke are what keep them away from you.
A study has shown that people are far less likely to be bitten by mosquitos while around smoke. You can read about that study here.
While it’s still possible to be bitten by a mosquito while you’re around a campfire, it’s significantly less likely. This is one of the many reasons why learning how to build a campfire is such a useful skill.
The red and orange hues of the fire may also help keep bugs at bay, which you’ll know if you understand what color attracts the fewest bugs.
Lastly, mosquitoes are highly sensitive to CO2, as they track their prey using their CO2 sensors. Smoke contains an abundance of CO2, which may blind mosquitos, leading them to fear smoke.
A study here shows that prolonged activation of the neurons that sense CO2 disorients mosquitos.
Do Campfires Repel Bears?
It’s a common misconception that campfires repel bears. In truth, bears fear neither the fire nor the smoke. However, bears do fear loud noises and flickering lights, so if you’re loud around your campfire, then it may seem like the fire repels bears.
You can read all about bears’ relationships to campsites in “Are Tents Safe From Bears?” Spoiler alert: you can make your campsite pretty safe from bears!
However, it’s not the campfire that will help you do it. In fact, if you cook around the campfire, you may even draw more bears to you.
You can help keep your campsite safe from bears by:
- Changing out of the clothes you cooked in and storing them in an odor-proof bag
- Limiting the number of foods that produce a strong scent
- Disposing of your trash safely
- Keeping your products like deodorant and shampoo in odor-proof containers
What Keeps Bears Away When Camping?
Ensuring that you use unscented trash bags, keeping food and toiletries in odor-proof containers, and storing everything up high, will help keep bears away when camping. There are a few other steps you can take to keep your campsite bear-free, too.
Be Loud and Proud
Camping trips are vacations, so it’s time to have fun. Rig a speaker up and blast music as loud as is appropriate, sing campfire songs, tell ghost stories, and laugh with your friends and family.
When you’re loud around your campfire, bears see it as you marking your territory. They won’t want to come near you if you make your presence known.
Ensure you still follow the campsite’s rules so you don’t get loud enough to disturb other campers nearby!
Keep Your Campsite Clean
Never store trash or food waste on your campsite. Not only will it attract bears, but mice, rats, ants, and other bugs.
Ensure everything that has an odor is stored in an odor-proof container, and dispose of trash away from your campsite immediately.
Keep trash in an odor-proof container in your car, or find somewhere on the campgrounds to dispose of it safely in a non-scented trash bag.
Avoid hanging your food or trash out of arm’s reach, as bears have become startlingly good at accessing this stuff anyway.
Cook Somewhere Else
If you want to cook, that’s great, but try not to do it at your campsite. If you go fishing, cook at the lake before going back to your tent. If you parked your car away from your campsite, consider some tailgating.
If your campgrounds have a communal area, cook there, then return to your tent. Ideally, change your clothes when you get back, and store them in an odor-proof container or bag.
Light It Up
Lights are a great way to temporarily spook bears, especially if they flash. Rig some lights—especially flashing lights—near your campsite on short trips.
Bears will eventually realize that lights are nothing to fear, but they can help on short trips.
What Do You Put On Campfires To Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Burning citronella leaves helps repel mosquitos due to the strong odor. Citronella candles are also a great way to keep mosquitoes away from your campsite. There are several other methods you can use to keep mosquitoes away, too.
Make It Smokier
You’ll find lots of tips on reducing campfire smoke in this article on why campfire smoke follows you.
Do the opposite of those tips.
The more smoke you have, the less likely mosquitoes and bugs are to bother you. So, use wet wood or green wood, use lots of grass and leaves for kindling, and smoke the place up!
Make sure you try to sit away from the smoke and avoid letting it follow you, though.
Camp Somewhere Dry
Mosquitoes frequent damp, humid areas, so try to select a dry campsite. Stay away from lakes, bogland, and areas where it rains frequently. Camping in the summer will help you find dry land to camp on.
Use Red Lighting Near Your Fire
Mosquitoes dislike red lights, so if you can find a red lantern or string lights, I recommend using them. If you’re using a flashlight to light your way, then a red flashlight will help keep mosquitoes away from you.
Burn Various Herbs
It’s not just citronella that mosquitoes dislike. If a herb has a strong odor, then the mosquitoes won’t like it. Here are a few things you can put on your campfire to create an odor that you’ll love, but the mosquitos will hate:
- Lemon balm
To go the extra mile, consider buying essential oils with these odors and putting some on your clothes. You can even dab some behind your ears, on your wrists, and on your neck if the essential oils you procure are safe to use on your skin.
Mosquitoes hate garlic, so it’s time to break out the garlic bread and toast it over your campfire. The smell is too strong for them, like the scent of the herbs above.
Keep in mind, it’s not the best idea to cook something garlicky if you’re in an area frequented by bears. Only use this trick if you’re on an open, flat plane where you’re certain there are no bears living.
Under the right circumstances, your favorite garlic treats will be an asset to keeping the mosquitoes and other bugs away from you.
Lighting up a campfire is a great way to keep bugs away, and getting loud around it will help keep back the bears. Remember to always carry bug spray and follow the best safety practices to keep bears away, too. Carrying bear repellant is another good call!
And remember, always follow the best campfire safety practices, such as never leaving it unsupervised, putting it out before bed, and keeping a careful eye on kids when the fire is lighting.