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How to Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes While Camping

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As fans of the movie Jurassic Park know, mosquitoes have been around much longer than humans. They’ve survived the extinctions, climate swings, and man’s best efforts to suppress them. They will always be with us, but with a little know-how, you can do a lot to protect yourself from mosquitoes when camping.

The Campsite

  • Avoid setting up camp near water. This is where mosquitoes live and breed, so camping here puts you directly in the path of mosquitoes and their hatchlings.
  • If possible, place the door of your tent or camper facing into the breeze. Mosquitoes don’t like being buffeted, so they won’t cluster around the entrance and won’t get the chance to invade your space.
  • Spraying repellent around the entrance will help protect your tent or camper. Spray from top to bottom at dawn and dusk, when they are most active. Spray liberally around the bottom edge of the tent, or saturate cloths and tuck them just under the edge.
  • Broom away small puddles, make sure rainwater doesn’t collect in tent folds, and cover buckets you’re collecting rain in. Even a bit of water left in a glass can attract females looking for a spot to lay eggs.
  • A burning campfire will clear the immediate area of all sorts of insects, including mosquitoes. It’s the smoke they hate, not the heat, so even a low-level fire will do.
  • Regular lights in lanterns, flashlights and over camper doors attract mosquitoes. Replace them with LED lights or yellow bug lights, which don’t attract mosquitoes.

Gadgets that Work

  • Citronella candles are a traditional way to protect against mosquitoes. However, many candles contain citronella scent rather than citronella oil. The scent offers no protection, so make sure the candles actually contain the essential oil.
  • Mosquito coils can drive mosquitoes away, but work best on a still day. If it’s breezy, the repellent is quickly dissipated. Even on a calm day, the zone of protection is fairly small. You can increase the zone by placing them at a few points around the campsite.
  • A new type of device uses a warmer to release repellent from a pad. Like mosquito coils, these work best when there’s little or no wind.
  • The current generation of bug zapper lights will reduce the swarm. Originally, bug zapper lanterns weren’t particularly effective against mosquitoes. New models, however, have been found to lure mosquitoes and zap them efficiently.

Effective Repellents

  • The most effective mosquito repellent is DEET, a chemical compound found in many commercial sprays and lotions. Studies have found it safe and effective in concentrations up to 30% for anyone over two years of age. A concentration of just 5% will be effective for about an hour and a half.
  • People who dislike the unpleasant chemical smell of DEET often turn to natural alternatives. A favorite with campers is to place a fair amount of oil, chopped garlic and peppers in a spray bottle, let the mixture infuse, then fill with water to make a spray.
  • Essential oils form the basis of many commercial repellents. One of the leading oils is lemon eucalyptus, which comes from the corymbia citriodora tree. Other commonly used oils are geranium, cedarwood, citronella, peppermint, lemongrass, castor and soybean. Dilute the oil with water to make a spray or simmer in water over a candle or small burner.

Personal Protection

  • In addition to spray repellents, patches worn on the skin that use body heat to release repellent can be quite effective.
  • Don’t wear perfume, which attracts mosquitoes. Instead, try applying essential oils from the list above. Since individual body chemistry interacts with the oils, you may need to experiment to find what works best for you.
  • There are no foods you can eat that will repel mosquitoes, but there are two to avoid that attract them: beer and Limburger cheese.
  • Choose clothes that cover your arms and legs but are loose fitting and comfortable. Also avoid black, blue and red, which are their favorite colors.
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