30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping for a carefree Trip

This is our ultimate guide on how to keep bugs away while camping.

Whether you’re camping out in the backcountry or in your backyard, bugs can really suck…pun intended. 

It seems like no matter how long or how little time you spend outside, they’ll quickly make themselves known. 

Thankfully, your camping trips don’t have to be intolerable! There are actually a lot of little life hacks to get rid of those flying pests. 

We’ve compiled a list of 30 ways to keep bugs away while camping. Hopefully, these tips help make your camping trip even more fun and bug-free.

Table of Contents

1. Choose a dry campsite – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Before we get into anything crazy, one of the simplest things you can do to prevent being bugged is to choose a dry campsite. Avoid camping in any area that resembles a bog or a swamp.

See, there are a lot of bugs that reproduce in water, including dragonflies and mayflies. But the most infamous of the bunch are mosquitos. These guys love hanging around anywhere with water.

So even though that pond or lakeside campsite may be super picturesque, be warned that camping there could be an invitation for mosquito bites.

In fact, any amount of standing water could indicate a hoard of nearby mosquitos. That’s why it’s important to check your campsite for stray puddles.

2. Traditional bug spray and creams – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Often considered the go-to first line of defense, traditional DEET-based bug sprays and creams can be found at your local Walmart or outdoor store.

These products do a decent job at repelling bugs, but the harsh chemicals aren’t ideal for use on skin. This is especially true for young children (who have a tendency to stick their hands in their mouths!) and those with sensitive skin.

If you’re lucky, then these traditional sprays will work just fine. 

Just remember you may need to consider alternatives if you develop skin irritations or if you’re in a particularly buggy area.

3. Alternative or homemade bug sprays – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

For as many traditional bug-repelling products available on the market, there’s an equal amount of chemical-free alternatives emerging.

A lot of these products are plant-based, so their primary ingredients are essential oil blends and other natural ingredients. These could include lemon eucalyptus, citronella, or lavender.

Another interesting alternative is to simply make your own bug spray. Three-quarters vinegar combined with one-quarter dish soap helps keep flies off of horses.

Be advised that although this method does work, it’s not that strong. Thus, you’ll have to frequently re-apply the mix.

4. Rub on essential oils – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

The sheer amount of essential oils that help repel bugs is worthy of a list all its own. 

For brevity’s sake, citronella, rosemary, lavender, sage, and peppermint are all excellent choices.

They can be purchased in small bottles from an increasing number of pharmacies and even grocery stores – especially those with a focus on organic and natural products.

We recommend keeping one of these palm-sized bottles in a handy pocket for re-applying as needed. 

Remember, essential oils are incredibly concentrated. It’s usually advised to distill them with a little water before applying them to the skin. 

And don’t forget to keep your hands away from your eyes, because they’ll sting like crazy if you get oil in them!

5. Rubbing yourself with citrus, onion, garlic, or mint – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Yes, I’m literally talking about rubbing raw produce on your body.

Seriously! Take an onion, lemon, orange, garlic, or mint leaves and rub them on your clothes and skin. 

This hack can work with any natural bug-repeller, so if you prefer the smell of rosemary to onion, for example (who wouldn’t?) then you can of course use that instead.

As you may have guessed, afterward you’ll smell very strongly of your product of choice. So consider your camping buddies’ noses before you opt for a head of garlic!

6. Mosquito head nets – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Although this isn’t protection for your entire body, mosquito head nets can be a lifesaver.

Mosquito Head Net from Amazon

Mosquito head nets are like wearing a screen room on your head. You can still see and breathe perfectly fine, but you can do so in bug-free comfort.

Plus, “mosquitoes” may be in their name, but they’re amazing at warding off gnats and flies. You know…those awful pests who like to divebomb and buzz around your face without even biting you. Ugh.

If you really wanted to go hardcore, there are mesh shirts and even suits available. These provide full-body coverage that the head nets can’t. 

7. Wearable oil diffuser – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Imagine those large-ish cylinders you see at home goods stores that emit fragrant mists into the air.

That’s the idea behind wearable oil diffusers: they’re smaller, more portable versions of their larger cousins, often fashioned as lanyard necklaces or clip-ons.

Diffusers slowly release the oil fragrance to keep the bugs away. They don’t emit it in bursts of mist.

You fill them with a small amount (usually only a few tablespoons) of water, then add in a few drops of an essential oil of your choice. Place the diffuser around your neck for a portable bug-protection method.

8. Bug repelling bracelets – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Essentially, these are wristbands that are most often treated with citronella or other essential oils. 

Bug repelling bracelet from Amazon

The big draw to these wristbands is that you don’t need to rub the oils directly on your skin. Because of this, they’re ideal for those with skin sensitivities.

Some of the more expensive bracelets are electronic/ultrasonic. These release high-frequency soundwaves that ward off bugs.

However, either of these bracelets should be used in conjunction with other methods. One small bracelet on your wrist won’t offer much bug protection for your entire body.

9. Bug-repelling laundry detergent or additives – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Did you know that your anti-bug crusade can begin in your laundry machine? 

Originally designed to kill or deter bedbugs, these special detergents can be used to infuse a bug barrier straight into your clothes.

Or if you’re really attached to your current detergent, there are a few bug-repelling liquid laundry additives you can mix in with your next load. 

10. Pre-treat clothes with permethrin – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

If you want long-lasting bug prevention for your clothes and gear, consider grabbing a can or bottle of permethrin

This chemical is safe for use on clothes, and it can last for up to 30 cycles in the washing machine.

It’s especially ideal for preventing ticks, which can sometimes crawl onto you via your boots, socks, or other clothing.

Remember that this will leave your skin open for bites, so consider an additional bug-blocking method to be used simultaneously.

11. Ingesting garlic capsules – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Did you ever eat a particularly strong-tasting meal, and then you could smell it on your skin a few hours later?

That’s the concept behind ingesting garlic capsules. Easily available at your local pharmacy, take a few of these to send bugs packing.

Basically, the smell of garlic will come out of your skin’s pores as you digest the capsule. This will make you smell less appetizing to bugs…but also to your human companions too!

12. Start a campfire – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Building a campfire is one of the simplest and most common ways to keep the bugs away. Not to mention, having a campfire is kind of a staple of a great camping trip.

Just like us, bugs – especially mosquitoes – really don’t like smoke. 

By the way, if you’ve never started your own fire before, it’s actually quite easy! We tell you all about it in our article on how to build a campfire.

13. Burn herbs – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

For even more bug-proofing, consider tossing a handful of common herbs into your fire. This makes the smoke even less appealing to the more determined pests.

For example, try sage and rosemary. Not only do they keep bugs at bay, but they also smell nice too!

14. Tiki torches – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Burning tiki torches are a personal favorite of mine, especially for backyard or car camping. 

Tiki torches from Amazon

They burn citronella, which smells amazing. But more importantly, the smell acts as a force field to keep bugs away. 

For best results, we recommend buying several torches and arranging them in a circle around your campsite.

15. Mosquito coils – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Mosquito coils are small, spiral-shaped objects that are imbued with a variety of substances and then slowly burned.

Mosquito coils from Amazon

Some contain insecticides to kill bugs on contact, while others contain more natural ingredients like citronella.

Similar to tiki torches, burning a mosquito coil emits a smoke that mosquitoes dislike.

They’re an incredibly affordable way to deal with mosquitos, even coming in multiple packs.

However, it’s not the healthiest to breathe in the smoke from these coils. As such, they make a good temporary bug-repelling solution, but shouldn’t be your only long-term method.

16. Salt gun – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

If you want to turn bug prevention into target practice, consider a salt gun.

A company called Bug-A-Salt developed a plastic shotgun that fires a few spoonfuls of salt. The basic idea is similar to using a fly swatter: you have to aim and actually hit it in order to kill the bug.

It’s effective against flies, bees, and even cockroaches. But some pests, like gnats, might be too small to accurately hit.

17. Insect fogger – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Insect foggers look like undersized leafblowers. Except instead of blowing away leaves, they emit a chemical fog that kills bugs on contact.

When the fog dissipates, the effects linger in such a way that they’re safe for people while remaining unattractive to pests.

Insect foggers make a handy pre-planning measure as well. For instance, if you know where the bugs are originating, you can spray the fogger there to kill them before they start attacking.

18. Electronic bug repeller – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

An electronic bug repeller is a small device that emits ultrasonic waves that keep bugs away. 

The soundwaves are inaudible to humans, and they don’t involve the use of any toxic chemicals.

There’s been mixed feedback as to this method’s effectiveness, so we recommend using it in conjunction with another method.

19. Bug zapper – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Often resembling a lantern, bug zappers have an internal light that attracts bugs, then electrifies them on contact.

Hanging up a few of these will effectively manage the bugs around your campsite, punctuated by the occasional zapping sound.

20. Battery powered bug repelling diffusers – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Bug-repelling diffusers are similar to wearable essential oil diffusers. They’re often a lot larger, but still quite portable.

Pop in a few batteries, drop in some essential oil, and sit back and relax as the mist emits from the diffuser.

21. Food covers – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Cover your food with a plastic dome to keep bugs off and reduce the odors that attract them in the first place.

However, a lot of food covers marketed for camping are unfortunately made of mesh. This will certainly keep the bugs off your dinner, but it’ll do nothing for managing the yummy smells.

If you have nothing else on hand, a large plastic bowl will work nicely.

22. Avoid sweet-smelling soap – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Yep, bugs seem to like you when you’re sweaty and smell awful, and they also like you when you smell sweet!

Though it may feel like a lose-lose scenario, there is evidence that bugs are attracted to sweet-smelling fragrances.

So consider this your excuse for skipping your bath, and leave the sweet-smelling soap and lotion at home.

23. Avoid beer – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

This is a weird one, but insects seem to really gravitate towards beer. Some people speculate that bugs are most likely attracted to the glycol and fermenting yeasts that are in beer.

Try to avoid drinking a lot of it if you can. At the very least, keep the bottles or cans covered. Otherwise, you might start seeing bugs gathering for their equivalent of happy hour.

24. Avoid bananas – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Interestingly enough, some studies indicate mosquitoes are extra attracted to people who just ate bananas.

It’s not really clear why mosquitoes prefer bananas, or what your skin excretes or smells like that so excites them.

Regardless, avoid bananas if you can help it…even though they provide that extra potassium hit!

25. Avoid wearing very bright or very dark colors – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Wearing bright yellow anything is a sure invitation for bees and wasps. They may think you’re a tasty flower, and as such, they’re drawn to you.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, mosquitoes love dark tones. This means they’ll go nuts for you if you’re wearing black, navy blue, or dark green.

Instead, aim for more neutral colors. Tans, creams, and whites are usually pretty safe bets.

To learn more about this weird color phenomenon, check out our article on what color attracts the fewest bugs.

26. Clean up ALL food from the campsite (beverages and trash too!) – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

You’d be surprised, but keeping your campsite tidy makes a world of difference when it comes to managing bugs.

Keep all your beverages sealed, especially the sweet ones like juices or soda. Put away all food, or keep it covered if it must stay outside.

Don’t forget your trash either. Bugs love the smell of pungent food, and they’ll come flocking if you leave food wrappers, containers and dirty napkins strewn about.

27. Throw coffee grounds in stagnant water to kill mosquito larvae – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Here’s an interesting life hack: instead of tossing your morning coffee grounds in the dirt, sprinkle a handful of them into stray puddles. 

While this is perfectly safe for us, it’s toxic to mosquito larvae. 

In fact, mosquitoes (and other insects too) generally dislike the strong smell of coffee grounds. So feel free to burn them to add a coffee smell to your fire while also repelling the bugs!

28. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring, sedimentary rock that is ground into a fine powder.

It dries out an insect’s exoskeleton on contact, which kills them. Thankfully though, it’s non-toxic to humans.

This is another personal favorite of mine. I sprinkle a spoonful of it in my houseplants to manage the gnats that love to crawl around in the dirt.

For your trip, bring a bag of it and sprinkle gently around and in your campsite.

29. Stuff pieces of cloth in zipper gaps – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Unfortunately, some tents aren’t the best at being perfectly sealed off from bugs. 

The most common entry point is the place where the three zippers meet. Sometimes, these zippers create a tiny gap where a determined bug could slip inside.

To remedy this, try stuffing a wad of toilet paper (or whatever fabric you have on hand) into the zipper gap.

30. Use bug-repelling bulbs (does not attract bugs like regular bulbs) – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Consider swapping the bulbs in your camping lanterns for bug-repelling bulbs. These special yellow compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs don’t attract bugs the same way that standard bulbs do. 

So grab a few of these for your campsite to reduce the chance of your nightlights being swarmed by all sorts of gross pests.

30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping
30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

Conclusion – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

We hope this list has helped show you that your next camping trip doesn’t have to be plagued by pests.

In actuality, we’ve seen that there are plenty of ways to keep the bugs away (rhyme intended!). 

Just remember that any one of these tips on their own likely won’t be enough. You’ll probably have to use several methods at once. 

Experiment with some (or all!) of them until you find the right combination that works for you.

Frequently Asked Questions – 30 Ways to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

What are Some Things That Attract Bugs? – FAQs

There is a wide range of potential attractants for insects.

Sweets: Sugary and sweet foods, such as fruits, sugary beverages, candies, and other sweets.
Moisture: Bugs like mosquitoes congregate around pools of water and humid areas.
Light: Insects like moths and beetles are attracted to lights at night.
Scents: Many pests are drawn to pungent odors like those given off by perfumes and scented candles.
Heat: Some insects, such as those that thrive in warmer climates, may seek out areas that are noticeably hotter than their surroundings.
Decaying matter: Pests like flies and beetles, for example, congregate around rotting food and animal waste.
Carbon dioxide: The carbon dioxide we exhale when we breathe is a key indicator for mosquitoes in locating their next meal.

The best way to avoid a bug infestation or bites is to avoid the things that attract them. Protecting food from insects can be as simple as covering it, getting rid of any pools of water around the house, spraying some bug spray, and turning off the porch light at night.

Why Does Citronella Repel Bugs? – FAQs

It is common practice to use citronella, a natural insect repellent, to ward off mosquitoes and other pests. The product is effective because it covers up the scents that draw insects, making it more difficult for them to find food.

Species of lemongrass plants that are rich in a compound called citronellal are the source of citronella oil. Candles, sprays, and other bug-fighting products frequently use this compound for its effective insect-repelling properties.

Citronella oil’s fragrant smoke or oily residue can be used to cover up smells that attract pests. Mosquitoes and other insects will have a harder time tracking down their prey, resulting in fewer bites and fewer infestations.

In some cases, chemical insect repellents like DEET may be more effective, but citronella can be a safe and natural alternative for those who would rather not expose themselves to such chemicals. However, some people may still be sensitive or allergic to citronella oil, so use caution when applying any insect repellent.

What is “Leave No Trace?” – FAQs

Leave No Trace is a code of ethics for outdoor recreation that stresses the importance of conserving natural areas and keeping the human impact to a minimum. It’s a way of thinking that advocates for the preservation of natural areas and the safety of wildlife and other tourists.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a nonprofit group that works to spread awareness about the importance of leaving no trace while enjoying the outdoors.

There are seven guiding principles, and they are as follows:

  1. To get ready for something, plan in advance.
  2. Durable surfaces for outdoor exploration and camping
  3. Put trash in the right containers.
  4. Don’t take anything home.
  5. Lessen the effect of the campfire
  6. Observe a healthy dose of awe when viewing
  7. Practice courtesy toward the other guests.

Outdoor enthusiasts can aid in preserving natural areas for future generations by adhering to these guidelines. All trash should be removed, trails should be followed, plants and animals should not be harmed, and visitors should be given their space.

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.