You know the feeling — you’re hiking, climbing, hanging out at the pool/beach, or simply relaxing outdoors and you start to feel that tickle on your skin and hear the buzzing in your ear. Mosquitos are approaching, and they’re getting ready to strike.
Maybe they go for your elbow, or your ankle, or maybe the back of your knee where you can’t quite reach it in time. The tickle turns to an itch and you realize, ugh, they’ve bitten you and now you’re left with an irritating itchy bump that’s going to stick with you for a little while. Luckily, there are bug sprays that can protect you from this fate and keep the bugs at bay while you enjoy the outdoors.
There are several active ingredients that offer proven protection. The most common is DEET, which is time-tested but can have an unpleasant odor. Another option is Picaridin, which is effective and has minimal odor, but can be more expensive. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a synthesized plant oil, making it a more natural option. While it is effective, it may need reapplication sooner than DEET or Picaridin. We’ve rounded up options in each category, so you can find the one that works best for you.
Whichever you choose, these bug sprays will ensure that those pesky insects won’t know what hit em’.
1. Repel Sportsmen Max Formula Bug Spray
This Repel Max Sportsmen bug spray is 40% DEET with powerful bug repellant properties. It provides up to eight hours of protection against mosquito bites, ticks and other natural nuisances, and was developed with outdoor enthusiasts in mind. It comes in a portable bottle that you can bring anywhere and easily apply upside down as needed throughout your adventure.
Pros: Powerful formula, 40% DEET, portable bottle, great for longer periods of time outdoors.
Cons: This formula may expire quickly after being exposed to extreme temperatures.
2. Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent
DEET is the most common insect repellent, but Picaridin is a popular alternative for a number of reasons. It has less of an offensive odor, and some studies have shown that it is as effective or more effective than DEET. This small spray from Sawyer has 20% Picaridin and comes in a 4 oz spray bottle. You can also choose a lotion or convenient lotion packets.
Pros: Effective formula without the DEET odor. Available as a spray or lotion.
Cons: More expensive than some other options.
3. Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray
If you’d prefer a natural formula, this option from Murphy’s is made using oil of lemon eucalyptus to ward off mosquitos and other bugs for up to six hours. It comes in a handy two-pack, and each bottle is a convenient 4 ounces, making it a great option to take on a hike or a camping trip.
Pros: More pleasant lemon eucalyptus scent compared with DEET. Convenient two-pack bottle.
Cons: Oil of lemon eucalyptus isn’t as long-lasting as DEET, and will need reapplication.
4. OFF! Family Care Insect & Mosquito Repellent
Each container has 4 oz of aerosolized spray, allowing you to continuously dispense it to offer quick protection. Two cans are included. This spray utilizes 15% DEET. Since it dispenses as an aerosol, it’s a great option for families with children who might not be patient enough for a liquid spray or lotion.
Pros: Aerosolized spray for quick application. Convenient two-pack.
Cons: Since it’s an aerosol, there might be more wasted formula that goes into the air.