During the summer season, camping is the ultimate escape for city dwellers taking a break from traffic and crowded tourist spots. In addition, there are few things more gratifying than going off the grid for an uncomplicated life in the woods. However, it seems that the fresh air we seek cannot be easily attained because of pesky mosquitoes. You could search the local sporting goods store for bug zappers or even the internet for wacky natural repellents (like burning sage), but we've turned to the experts to find out what really works. Marco Johnson, field staffing director at the National Outdoor Leadership School, and Daniel Grillo, Program Coordinator at REI Outdoor School, shared to Men's Fitness on how you can keep mosquitos at bay during your next camping trip.
1. Choose the Right Campsite
Johnson suggests choosing for an area that received good wind as the breeze will help blow bugs away. It's a good idea to steer clear of areas near lakes, rivers, and creeks. However, sometimes, like when it rains, you just can't avoid water. So, Grillo recommends detecting how much sun versus shade your camp site gets, which is a good sign of how damp your site will remain after a storm since a sunny spot will obviously dry out more quickly.
2. Choose the Right Tent
Grillo says that the best choice is a double wall tent, which is also the most common outdoor shelter available. It includes an inner mesh body for insect protection and a separate nylon rain fly for privacy and keeping out water, two layer tents are also extremely well ventilated for warmer climates. "Although there are dedicated mosquito shelters, simply setting up a tent without a rain fly provides similar protection without the need to invest in additional equipment," he adds, emphasizing that many don't realize the fly isn't necessary for ventilation and protection. Always make sure to always zip it closed immediately when you enter and exit.
Moreover, Grillo advises treating your tent with a repellent like Sawyer Permethrin Spray, which can be used on clothing, tents, and mosquito nets. "These are best sprayed on tent bodies rather than rain flys or tarps, which get more exposure to sun and rain," Grillo adds.
3. Choose the Right Bug Spray
Johnson proposes picking a bug spray with DEET, a chemical ingredient used by manufacturers for years. When choosing a formula, there is no need to buy a solution that is made up of more than 50 percent DEET. "We tend to think more is better, and that's not necessarily the case," says Johnson. "The percent is not how well it will actually keep bugs away from you but rather how long it will last. It's a lot like the SPF factor on sunscreen," he states.
For those with sensitive skin, Grillo recommends Picaridin as an alternative to DEET. When choosing the right application method, i.e., lotions, sprays, wipes, Grillo says it all depends on preference.
4. Cover Up
Johnson urges campers to keep covered. "Clothing is an excellent way to protect yourself from bugs of any sort, but especially mosquitoes," he says. Select lightweight shirts with long sleeves, wind pants, and perhaps even a mosquito head net-not exactly stylish, but it gives maximum protection against pests.
5. Make Your Clothes Mosquito-Resistant
After covering up and choosing the right clothing, make apparel more mosquito-resistant with this simple camper's trick. "Campfires are also great at repelling insects, and some hikers swear by 'smoking' their clothes as a form of natural repellant," claims Grillo. Make this possible by line drying clothes downwind of the fire. He suggests opting for a lighter-colored clothing, as well, as many hikers agree that darker colors attract mosquitoes.
6. Don't Be Smelly
"Just as with preventing bear and rodent visits, minimizing odors is helpful for preventing biting insects," Grillo says. Unfortunately, BO from that four-hour hike can be just as attractive to mosquitoes as strongly-scented toiletries utilized to mask said odors. The camping expert supposes that the best way to minimize appeal after a particularly active and smelly day is to use lightly scented deodorant and rinse off with water before changing into a fresh set of clothes.
7. Have a Good Attitude
In the end, there's no way to completely avoid mosquitos-they're just a part of the great outdoors. "You can choose to be bothered, and you can choose to be less bothered," says Johnson. "Your attitude goes a long way to dictating what your experience is like."