Whether you have an unlucky friend who always leaves the camping trip covered in mosquito bites, or you are the unlucky friend, it’s important to protect yourself when mosquito season rolls around. After all, just because you haven’t been bitten on this trip, doesn’t mean you won’t be on the next one. Besides unchanging factors like blood type and genetics, variables like how sweaty you are and whether or not you drank beer recently all affect your attractiveness to mosquitos.
Whether you’re camping, hiking or near still water, it’s important to apply an effective repellent to protect yourself from the gnawing demon spawn commonly called mosquitos (Since you’ll be outside, don’t forget the sunscreen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says sunscreen first, followed by repellent).
Common sprays use a few different agents to ward mosquitos off. Two of the most common are DEET and Picaridin. DEET has been around for a long time, and it’s safe and effective. However, according to NPR, some studies have shown Picaridin to be even more effective. Not only that, but DEET can cause some irritation and it smells bad, while Picaridin doesn’t have that problem. If you want a natural option, oil of lemon eucalyptus products have been backed by the CDC (in synthesized form, the CDC doesn’t endorse the use of pure essential oils).
We’ve rounded up some of the best mosquito repellents to buy right now.
1. Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent
While sprays are undoubtedly convenient, a lotion, like this one from Sawyer, helps ensure that you get the amount of protection you need where you need it. This option comes in a pack of two and each bottle is four ounces. This option features 20% picaridin, allowing it to work for up to 14 hours on mosquitos and ticks. The lotion is designed to rub in evenly and be non-greasy.
Pros: Two pack. Four-ounce bottle size is easy to take camping. Rubs in well. Low-odor
Cons: Somewhat pricey considering each order comes with a total of eight ounces of lotion.
2. Repel Insect Repellent Sportsmen Max Formula Spray Pump
The aptly named Repel brand makes a variety of mosquito repellent, including this powerful formula that’s a great option for anyone serious about the outdoors. In addition to mosquitos, this can helps keep away other annoying pests like ticks, gnats and fleas. The potent formula features 40% DEET, and two six-ounce bottles are included. The bottles come in spray form, making the formula easy to apply.
Pros: Potent 40% DEET formula. Two bottles included.
Cons: Can damage synthetic fabrics if sprayed on clothes.
3. OFF! Deep Woods Insect & Mosquito Repellent VIII
This option includes four four-ounce aerosol cans. This spray from OFF! uses 25% DEET to effectively keep mosquitos, ticks and gnats away. If you’re traveling with the family, investing in a spray can be a good option because it’s easy and quick. This formula from OFF! is designed to dry quickly without leaving a slick feeling or sitting on top of the skin for too long.
Pros: Good value, as four cans are included. Convenient spray that is easy to use at different angles and in hard to reach areas. Dries fairly quickly.
Cons: Like other DEET-based products, this has an unpleasant odor and can leave a residue.
4. REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
If you’re looking for a natural option, consider this spray from Repel. The formula features 30% oil of eucalyptus to deliver effective and all-natural insect repelling capabilities. It’s designed to last up to six hours, so you can spray it and forget about it for a day trip. But if you’re staying overnight, the compact four-ounce spray bottle has a protective cap, so you can toss it in your bag and take it on the go. Plus, since it’s naturally-derived, it won’t have the often suffocating odor of DEET.
Pros: Natural ingredients. Compact size makes it easy to take on the go. More affordable than some other options.
Cons: Lemony scent can be overpowering at first.
5. Murphy’s Naturals Insect Repellent
While chemical repellents are safe, you may still prefer a natural solution. This spray from Murphy’s naturals uses oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is the only natural option backed by the CDC. The formula uses 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus, with the rest of the formula comprised of ethanol and deionized water. While the scent is powerful, it’s still a pleasant natural fragrance. Murphy’s Natural is also a member of 1% for the Planet and a certified B Corporation, so you can feel good about buying this spray, too.
Pros: Naturally-derived CDC-endorsed ingredients. Easy to use spray that also has a twist-off cap for getting all of the formula.
Cons: Expensive considering that only one four-ounce bottle is included.