There’s no denying that heading to the great outdoors is one of life’s most exceptional experiences. Fresh air, abundant nature, the chance to get our heart pumping with a good hike, or to relax after a hectic week by reading a book in our campsite.
Unfortunately, one of the downsides of the outdoors, and the warmer weather coming up, is mosquitoes. Encounters with these annoying critters may be unavoidable, but there are some tips and tricks you can use to prevent getting bitten during your next outdoor adventure.
One of the main reasons to avoid mosquito bites – apart from the constant itching – is that mosquitoes carry diseases. The Mayo Clinic states that “mosquitoes can act as reservoirs of diseases such as West Nile virus, encephalitis, malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever.” These viruses, amongst others such as Zika, are transferred by mosquitoes through their saliva when they bite a human or animal.
Mosquito bite prevention
There are two main ways to protect yourself from mosquito bites: barrier methods and sprays. When used together, you will have the highest chance of returning home bite-free.
The primary goal of barrier methods is to form a protective layer between you and the mosquitoes, therefore keeping mosquitoes from being able to bite you. Two of the most common barrier methods are netting and protective clothing. They both offer a reliable layer of protection without any adverse side effects to your health.
Some of the most common barrier methods are the following:
Bug head nets: If you don’t mind looking a bit strange, these head nets are effective and comfortable. And appearance aside, you get complete protection when you’re being swarmed by mosquitoes. Therefore, whenever you head into an area you know to have a high mosquito population, it’s a good idea to invest in a bug head net.
Screen tents: These are also a great investment, and the good thing is you can find high-count mesh tents for a low price online or in outdoor stores. Make sure that you correctly fasten it to your tent as soon as you’ve set up the campground, so you can rest and sleep in peace.
If you don’t like the sound of wearing a barrier method and would rather purchase something else, or in case you’re looking for an added layer of protection, there are loads of types of mosquito sprays available on the market. Sprays offer instant protection and are easy to apply.
DEET: This is the most common mosquito spray, and the chemicals you slather on your skin will help cover your body odors. While it doesn’t stop mosquitoes from landing on you, they won’t bite as long as the ingredients are still active.
DEET offers low side effects and excellent protection, even though some people are put off by the smell. The downside is that some users can experience side effects such as irritated skin or a more severe condition, but these risks are lower than the impact of contracting a mosquito-borne disease. Also, it can decompose gear or plastic, so try to limit its use as much as possible around your clothes or equipment.
IR3535 and Picaridin: These substances are viable alternatives to DEET and offer a similar protection level. They smell much better than DEET, and any side effects are less common. You can also use them on synthetic clothing or gear, as it is not as abrasive and won’t cause any damage.
If you don’t like the smell of DEET or have suffered an allergic reaction, then they’re a fantastic option. The only downside is that they are not as reliable when it comes to protection from midges.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus: This natural plant oil helps repel mosquitoes, and has been proven by scientific research to be as effective as other repellents. You do need to remember to reapply more frequently, as it does not last as long as synthetic repellents, and should make sure that you are purchasing oil of lemon eucalyptus that is made from all natural sources.
Some other, not as common, but still effective ways of controlling mosquitoes during your camping trip are the following:
Mosquito lanterns and lamps: Lanterns and lights work by emitting heat through their pads, which functions as an insect repellant. High-quality lanterns and lamps help clear an area of around fifteen square feet.
Clip-ons and wristbands: If you don’t like slathering or spraying insect repellant directly on your body, you can choose a clip-on or wristband while you’re camping or hiking.
Bug zappers: The way bug zappers work is by attracting and electrocuting all nearby insects, including the dreaded mosquito.
All of the above products exist to prevent bug bites by deterring or killing mosquitoes, and they’re a great help. Nonetheless, you must use specific caution while using them, as chemicals capable of harming mosquitoes and other insects can also harm other wildlife, and can be detrimental to your health. Bug zappers or larvicides can also harm other species that are a vital part of the ecosystem.
Wear the right clothing
Wearing the right protective clothing is another good option to avoid mosquito bites. Some useful clothing tips include:
- Wearing long sleeves while camping or hiking, as you will have less exposed skin. Loose fitting tops are a better option as mosquitoes can still bite you through tight clothes.
- Wear light colors, as you will attract more mosquitoes when you’re wearing dark colors such as navy blue or black. It will be harder for mosquitoes to see you when you’re wearing lighter clothing.
- Treat your clothing with a mosquito repellant such as permethrin, or look for pre-treated clothing to use during your hike. Permethrin is infused into the clothes fabric, increasing their repellency, and reducing your skin’s exposure to insects. Clothing that has been treated with permethrin normally retains effectiveness for a long time, even after being washed multiple times.
Pick the right spot for your campsite
When you know the types of habitats that mosquitoes prefer, you will be more prepared to avoid camping in those areas or know to make sure you’re taking extra precautions and doubling up on protective barriers or mosquito repellents.
- Mosquitoes never stray very far from standing water, so whenever possible, set up your camp away from large puddles, lakes, or any area with an inch or more of standing water.
- You should pitch your tent somewhere that has a breeze, as mosquitoes are not known for their flying prowess. A light breeze will keep them from getting too close to you.
Eat the right food
This thought may have never crossed your mind, but it’s essential that you’re aware that mosquitoes are attracted to rich-in-potassium food, as they are lured by the smell. Therefore, on the days before and during your camping trip, avoid eating these foods, including bananas. The potassium will seep through your skin after you’ve eaten a banana, which will, in turn, attract mosquitoes.
On the other hand, garlic is a great food to eat or have around, as it acts as a natural repellent against mosquitoes. The cause is not known, but it’s believed that it is the smell of garlic that mosquitoes tend to stay away from.
The best way to prevent mosquito bites will vary from person to person, so we recommend that you experiment and try different methods. There are a lot of environmental factors to take into consideration, as well as loads of mosquito species, so recommending a one-stop-shop solution that will fit everyone is almost impossible.