How to Keep Bugs Away at the Campground

Aug 2, 2021 | Gear & Tech

How to Keep Bugs Away at the Campground

Bugs are an inevitable part of camping, but you can temper their annoyance and prevent bites with these products and methods.

By Kerry Sainato

Photo: Kerry Sainato

There’s no way around it: You’ll encounter plenty of bugs during your camping adventures. At best, they’re a slight annoyance. At their worst, they can spread dangerous diseases like Lyme. But there are ways to mitigate insects, along with any risks they bring, from your outdoor experience. Here are tried-and-tested tips on how to get rid of bugs while camping.

Tips for Keeping the Bugs Away While Camping

Choose the Right Campsite

When reserving your campsite, look for a site that’s located away from water, like ponds, to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your area. Find a spot with plenty of space to park your rig away from tall grass and dense brush where bugs like to live. 

Most reservation sites offer maps and photos of the campground to help you choose a less bug-prone spot.

Get Comfortable With Screen Time

Ensure that screens on your RV windows and doors are free from holes that allow insects inside. If repairs are necessary, choose screens with mesh that’s fine enough to keep bugs from getting through.  

Teardrop camper with door open and magnetic screen door installed
Photo: Kerry Sainato

If your RV didn’t come with a screen for your door, consider purchasing an easy-to-install, aftermarket magnetic screen door. This will help keep a cool breeze flowing through your RV while acting as a barrier for bugs. Additionally, a canopy with screen panels allows you to eat and relax outdoors even in the most buggy times. It also has the added benefit of protecting you from sun and rain.

Wear Clothes That Cover

When it’s particularly buggy, cover your body with long sleeves and pants. And remember that the thicker the material, the harder it is for mosquitoes to bite through your clothing.

When hiking in dense woods, tuck your pant legs into your socks and boots to prevent bugs like ticks from latching on. Wearing a hat with mosquito netting offers extra protection.

Keep a Lid on Food

Keep flies, bees, and ants at bay by making sure your food is sealed and packed tightly. If possible, transfer foods from cardboard to tightly sealed plastic or glass containers. 

Repel With Protection 

There are many different application options for bug repellent, including spray, cream, or wipes. Find a bug solution that works well for you and your family. 

A study by the Journal of Insect Science found that repellents with 30 percent lemon eucalyptus oil or 98 percent DEET produced the best reductions in mosquito attraction at a distance around 3 feet.  

Keep Fido Safe

Make sure your furry travel companions are up-to-date with their Lyme vaccines, and apply flea and tick treatments as directed by your vet. Check your dog regularly for ticks so they don’t spread the parasites to you and your family by bringing them inside your RV.

If you’re a Costco member, watch for when the store puts flea and tick treatment on sale, offering major savings.

The Best Products for Repelling Bugs When Camping

Various brands of bug repellent wipes and sprays in an outdoor setting
Photo: Kerry Sainato

DEET Insect Repellent

The study by the Journal of Insect Science confirmed that repellents with DEET are the best bug sprays for camping. DEET is also proven to be very safe for external use and isn’t considered harmful for the environment. Ben’s 100 Insect Repellent offers a fragrance-free formula with 10 hours of protection.

If you prefer to use a wipe instead of a spray, Ben’s also sells its DEET repellent as individual wipes.

Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

The most natural bug spray option that works is a repellent that contains lemon eucalyptus oil. Cutter offers a popular, highly-rated option that has a fresh, clean scent and lasts up to 6 hours. 

Mosquito Repellent Balm

For another lemon eucalyptus oil option, try Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Balm. It’s a pocket-sized balm that’s perfect for taking on buggy hikes. The natural balm is made with olive oil, beeswax, and other natural repellent oils, which makes for a smooth, non-greasy, and great smelling bug repellent option.

Pretreated Clothing

The brand Insect Shield makes clothing, socks, and pet gear that protects against an array of biting bugs, including mosquitos, tickets, and chiggers. An odorless bug repellent is built into the garment and lasts through about 70 washings. 

You can pretreat your existing camping wardrobe by spraying a permethrin insect repellent on clothing, gear, and tents.

Wearable Mosquito Repellent

The OFF! Clip-On mosquito repellent was the only wearable device that kept mosquitos away in the Journal of Insect Science study. If you want on-the-go protection without applying repellent to your skin, this wearable option is a great choice. 

Mosquito repelling lantern on arm of camp chair overlooking a lake
Photo: Kerry Sainato

Cartridge Mosquito Repelling Devices

Hate coating yourself in bug spray? Thermacell sells an array of products that keep bugs away without dousing your clothes and skin. Its products are powered by a safe fuel cartridge that heats a repellent mat and creates a 15-foot mosquito-free zone into the surrounding air. Many campers favor the Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Lantern because it provides both a light source and a bug-repellent solution. The Thermacell MR300 is a more minimalist product for those only looking for bug protection.

Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

These low-tech, natural incense sticks work for up to 45 minutes and create a bug-free zone wherever you burn them. Light several at once to create a wider bug-free area. 

If you do end up with some bites on your camping trip, try these recommended bug-bite relief products:

Device with fan that repels mosquitos sitting on ledge with group of people gathered at a campsite
Photo: Kerry Sainato
What is the best insect repellent for camping?

The best insect repellent for camping is an option that contains 98 percent DEET. For a natural product, choose a repellent that contains 30 percent lemon eucalyptus oil. 

Can you spray a tent with bug spray?

It’s not recommended to directly spray your tent with bug spray meant for your body. Some sprays can damage your tent material. You can spray a permethrin insect repellent on your tent (and other gear) at least 2 to 4 hours before use. Make sure your tent is free from holes and tears that could allow bugs inside.

How do you bug proof a campsite?

You can mitigate your interaction with bugs while camping by booking a campsite as far away as possible from water, dense woods, or tall grass.

How do you get rid of mosquitoes in a campsite?

A Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Lantern or Rechargeable Repeller are popular options for getting rid of mosquitos at your campsite. These devices create a 15-by-15-foot mosquito-free zone by dispersing repellent into the air through a heat-activated mat. 

Don’t let pesky bugs keep you from enjoying nature. Use this advice and product recommendations to help keep bugs from driving you back into your RV.

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Kerry Sainato

Kerry bought a tiny teardrop trailer on a whim over four years ago and is now an enthusiastic RV traveler. She spends most of her camping nights in New England, but is working on plans for a year-long cross country journey with her husband. Kerry also owns and operates a cooking blog,, and loves cooking over the open fire during her camping adventures.