Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away? – The 9 Most Important Tips To Repel Wildlife

Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away?
Do Campfires Keep Wildlife Away?

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. Naturally, tent campers wonder, “Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos 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? – Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away?

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? – Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away?

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

How to Keep Bears Away While Camping – Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away?

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 – How to Keep Bears Away While Camping

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 – How to Keep Bears Away While Camping

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 – How to Keep Bears Away While Camping

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 – How to Keep Bears Away While Camping

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.

Things you Can do to Campfires To Keep Mosquitoes Away – Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos 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 – Things You Can Do to Campfires to Keep Mosquitoes Away

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 – Things You Can Do to Campfires to Keep Mosquitoes Away

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 – Things You Can Do to Campfires to Keep Mosquitoes Away

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 – Things You Can Do to Campfires to Keep Mosquitoes Away

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
  • Safe
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Lemongrass
  • Clove
  • Basil
  • Cedarwood

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.

Cook Garlic – Things You Can Do to Campfires to Keep Mosquitoes Away

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.

Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away?
Do Campfires Keep Wildlife Away?

Conclusion – Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away?

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.

Frequently Asked Questions – Do Campfires Keep Bears or Mosquitos Away?

What Other Animals Can Campfires Deter? – FAQs

A campfire can provide warmth and comfort during outdoor camping trips, but it can also deter certain wild animals.

The following are some examples of wild animals that may be frightened by a campfire:

  • Insects: A campfire can help keep mosquitoes, flies, and other biting insects at bay.
  • Coyotes: The light and smoke from a campfire can make coyotes feel uneasy and reduce their likelihood of approaching your campsite.
  • Bears: While not all bears are deterred by a campfire, the smell of smoke can sometimes deter them from approaching your camping area.
  • Skunks: Because these nocturnal creatures avoid bright lights and loud noises, a campfire can help keep them away.
  • Snakes: Although uncommon, snakes may be scared off by the heat and light of a campfire if they sense danger nearby.

While a campfire may deter some wild animals, it is not foolproof protection against all wildlife encounters. It’s still important to take proper precautions when camping in wildlife-infested areas, such as properly storing food and keeping a safe distance from any potentially dangerous animals.

Can Essential Oils Serve as Bug Repellents? – FAQs

Without the use of harsh chemicals, essential oils are a natural and effective way to repel bugs.

The following essential oils can help keep bugs at bay:

  • Citronella: Because it repels mosquitoes and other flying insects, this oil is commonly used in candles and bug sprays.
  • Peppermint: The scent of peppermint is repulsive to ants, spiders, and other crawling insects.
    Eucalyptus: The strong scent of eucalyptus oil can deter mosquitoes, flies, and other flying insects.
  • Lemongrass: Lemongrass oil, like citronella, repels mosquitoes and other flying insects.
  • Lavender: While lavender is known for its calming effects on humans, it is also a natural insect repellent that can help keep moths, fleas, and mosquitoes at bay.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties that make it effective against ticks and other biting insects.

Add a few drops of these essential oils to a carrier oil (such as coconut or jojoba) or mix them with water in a spray bottle to use as a bug repellent. To ensure there are no adverse reactions, test on a small area of skin before applying to larger areas.

What Should I Do if a Bear Comes to my Campsite? – FAQs

Meeting a bear at your campsite can be a terrifying experience, but knowing how to handle the situation safely is critical.

If a bear enters your campsite, follow these steps:

  • Maintain your cool: It’s critical not to panic or make sudden movements that might startle the bear. Speak calmly and firmly to alert the bear to your presence.
  • Slowly back away: Move away from the bear slowly, without turning your back on it. If you run, the bear’s instinct to chase you will be triggered.
  • Make yourself appear larger: If the bear continues to approach, raise your arms above your head, stand on your toes, or wave an object such as a jacket or backpack.
  • Make use of noise and deterrents: To scare the bear away, yell at it, clap loudly, or use an air horn. If you have pepper spray or bear bangers, you can also use them as deterrents.
  • Leave the area: After the bear has left your campsite, pack your belongings and move at least 100 yards away.

It is important to note that feeding bears is usually illegal and can endanger both humans and bears. When camping in bear-infested areas, use proper food storage techniques such as storing food in sealed containers or hanging it from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from any tree trunk.

Ben Wann- Tent Camping Expert

My name is Ben Wann, and I’m a lifelong tent camper and backpacker who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.