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Natural Ways To Keep Bugs Away When Camping Or Kayaking

Nicola Burridge
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Camping and kayaking can be lots of fun. But it can be less fun when you’re joined by uninvited guests.

Bugs have a knack for ruining your outdoor fun. So how do you keep them away?

If you’re looking for a natural way to keep bugs away when camping we have put together some tips that could help.

Natural Ways To Keep Bugs Away When Camping Or Kayaking - Pinterest ImagePin

9 Tips For Naturally Repelling Bugs And Pests Outdoors

1: Bug Repellent As A Natural Way To Keep Bugs Away When Camping

Woman whacking a bug while campingPin

Applying a natural bug repellent can be one of the best ways to reduce the chance of bug bites on your next camping trip.

Many bug sprays on the market use DEET, which is a synthetic product known for its bug repelling properties for mosquitos and ticks. A natural alternative to DEET is lemon eucalyptus oil, which is often found in some of the more natural repellents that are aimed at keeping bugs away while camping.

There are many natural repellents that are designed to be applied directly to your skin. For maximum protection, you should apply the insect repellent on all exposed skin. This can help to mask the natural odors given off from your body, which can help to prevent bugs from detecting your existence.

Some bug repellents come as creams and lotions. Others can be found as wipes. And you can even wear a bug repellent bracelet to keep bugs away while camping or kayaking if you want extra protection without having to reapply a repellent cream.

Additionally, you can apply apple cider vinegar to exposed skin to act as a deterrent. This natural vinegar is also generally considered to be a good antiseptic, so it can also be applied directly to bites if your repelling methods aren’t 100 percent effective.

2: Use A Bug Spray

A bug spray can be a useful type of bug repellent for camping as it can be used as a type of natural insecticide. This can be sprayed inside your tent to prevent bugs from getting inside while you’re out on a hike or chilling out by your campfire.

It can be a good idea to spray the bug spray inside the tent as you leave in the morning, then close up the tent to prevent bugs from getting inside while you’re out and about. Do it again in the evening before you settle in for the night. This way, your tent can be repelling bugs while you are enjoying your dinner or evening drinks.

You can make your own natural bug spray by adding essential oils, such as lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, or citronella oil to some water inside a spray bottle.

You can then spray the essential oil bug spray inside your tent, over your camping equipment, and over yourself (clothing, skin, and hair). These natural bug sprays can give you added protection from flying bugs and other insects while you’re out and about in the great outdoors. 

Bugs hate the strong smell of some of these essential oils, so using a natural insect repellent with these ingredients can be a good way to avoid bugs on camping trips, keeping bugs and flying insects as far from you as possible.

3: Fire Is A Natural Bug Repellent

Group of campers on campfirePin

Fire can be one of the most effective natural bug repellents out there. Lighting a campfire can help to keep flying pests and other biting insects away from your campsite, especially if you’ve decided to camp next to a lake or stagnant water. Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for flies and other bugs.

Smoke, in particular, tends to be what the bugs don’t like. So keeping a campfire burning while you set up camp can make it much more enjoyable, as you shouldn’t have as many flies swarming around your head.

You can also choose to burn scented leaves or add some lemon eucalyptus oil to your fire or barbecue.

Fragrant herbs, such as rosemary, sage, mint, and lavender are generally considered beneficial for keeping insects away. You could easily add a few sprigs of herbs to a barbecue while you’re cooking, or throw some on your campfire.

Remember to check the local laws and regulations around setting fires in your particular area. Campfires and barbecues can cause wildfires in some parts of the country. Some places don’t allow you to have any type of fire. In other places, fire restrictions may only apply at certain times of the year.

If you camp in an area that allows campfires, be sure to stay safe, keep your fire small, and extinguish it properly when you’re ready to leave.

4: Burn A Citronella Candle

Citronella candles are commonly used around the world as a mosquito repellent and to keep away other bugs. One of the benefits of citronella candles is that they are a natural product, made from citronella oil. So when you burn the candles, you are not burning chemicals.

Citronella candles are a natural repellent that can be ideal to use on a kayak camping trip or even in your backyard or balcony in the summer.

Citronella gives off a strong odor when heated or burned, which can mask the scent of humans, warding off potential biting creatures.

These types of candles are generally designed to work in the area where they are burned. So if you stray from the candle’s immediate area, you may lose the protection provided by the candle.

This is why it can be a good idea to have several citronella candles around your campsite to prevent any flying creatures from coming too close.

You could also potentially use these candles on your kayak if you have anchored your boat to fish. But make sure the candle is on a flat surface and away from anything that might catch fire. It’s also useful to make sure it’s out of the way of you and your paddle.

You don’t want to risk it being knocked over and burning your kayak (or risk throwing hot, melted wax all over your boat and gear). If you tend to be clumsy, you might find a bug repellent bracelet might be more suitable (and safer) for your kayak fishing trip.

For camping and kayaking, it can be a good idea to put the citronella candle or tea lights inside a container, such as jelly jars.

5: Use Essential Oils

Using an essential oil on an outdoor adventure or camping trip can be a good alternative to traditional bug sprays. There are various essential oils that can be natural repellents for keeping bugs at bay.

Lemon eucalyptus oil, in particular, can be an excellent natural bug repellent and is often found as an ingredient in traditional bug sprays and mosquito repellent.

Many of these oils can be applied to the skin but they can also be diluted and put inside a spray bottle to use as in your tent or RV or spray over your camping or kayaking gear.

Additionally, you can make your own bug repelling diffusers to use at your campsite. Lemon eucalyptus oil can be a good one to use in a diffuser because of its strong scent.

Neem oil is also a great way to keep bugs away while camping. Neem oil is often found in products that are designed to keep insects away from your plants and garden. This is a natural product that can also be applied to your skin and hair as an easy way to keep any insects away while camping.

You can mix the neem oil with coconut oil and apply it over your skin, as this combination of oils repels mosquitos for several hours.

Natural witch hazel is also thought to be a good remedy for keeping bugs at bay and can be used directly on your skin. It also tends to have soothing properties that can be useful if you do get a bug bite.

6: Choose Your Clothing Wisely

Bugs can get through your clothing if it is loose fitting, even if you wear long sleeves. To best protect yourself from getting bitten or irritated by bugs, you should wear long sleeve shirts and long pants. This is especially important if you plan to camp near a lake or river, or at the coast. But bugs also tend to be found near trees and long grass.

Flying bugs tend to be found close to standing water. So if you plan a kayak fishing trip, you might want to make sure your head is covered as well as the rest of your body if you want to keep the bugs at bay.

Your clothing can give you an added layer of protection for your skin and make it more difficult for the bugs to find a spot to bite you. Bugs will generally bite you in a place that’s easy for them to access, so the less skin you have exposed, the less likely you are to get bitten.

As well as long pants and long sleeves, you should also think about your socks and shoes. Long socks and closed-toe shoes can be better options than sandals or flip flops if you want to keep bugs away while camping.

If you want to take your clothing protection to the next level, there are products out there that have bug repellent built into the fabric. You can usually find these shirts, pants, and sometimes accessories, in outdoor stores and stores selling sports clothing and equipment.

> Our guides to kayak clothing

7: Use A Mesh Screen Or Mosquito Nets

Tents With Bug Screen At CampsitePin

A mesh screen can be one of the most effective ways to keep bugs away while camping. This can be an essential piece of camping equipment in the summer months. Most tents already have a built-in mesh room inside the main tent with screened in walls.

Having your own screen room can stop the bugs from entering your sleeping area while you’re out enjoying yourself or sleeping at night.

Mesh screen rooms can be an important barrier to aid in bug prevention on your camping trip. They can act as a layer of defense for disease control by keeping a small area safe and bug-free.

Many people use mesh screens at home to stop insects and critters from gaining entry to their homes. For camping, it’s just the same. If you have an RV, you’ll probably want to make sure you have a mesh screen over your windows and door so that bugs can’t get in when you open the windows or come and go.

Adding a mesh room or awning to the side of your RV can give you some safe, bug-free space around your RV and can help to prevent bugs from getting inside your motorhome.

> The best kayak rack for an RV

If you plan to sleep outdoors and under the stars, you might want to add a mosquito net to your list of essentials. You can hang a mosquito net over your sleeping area or attach one to your hammock.

There are even mesh hoods you could wear over your head if you plan to fish or hike in high bug zones in the early mornings.

The mesh should be small enough to keep out even the smallest bugs, such as no-see-ums and little black flies.

> Get rid of no see ums and midges

8: Cover Your Food

A useful way to keep bugs away when you’re camping or picnicking is to use a mesh food cover over your food platters. The mesh is designed to prevent flies and other pesky bugs from getting to your tasty snacks.

A mesh food cover provides a physical barrier, like a mesh screen room for your food, so your food can remain on display and easy for you to access on your picnic table without bugs being able to reach it.

Mesh food covers are essential for backyard barbecues, picnics, and camping. And you can usually pick one up pretty cheaply. Plus, this can be one of the more natural methods to repel bugs, as it doesn’t require bug sprays. It’s best not to use bug sprays around your food.

If you’re short on space for a kayak camping trip, you can usually find collapsible fly food covers that should fit easily inside your gear bag.

9: Avoid Bananas And Alcohol

Research has shown that mosquitos bite you more after eating bananas and drinking beer. So if you want to repel mosquitoes, avoiding bananas and alcohol on your camping trip could be a good place to start.

Because many bugs tend to be attracted to the odors given off by humans, the foods you consume can determine how attractive you are to the bugs. This is because the odors given off through your skin and from your breath can change depending on what you’ve eaten.

The study compared the effects of eating bananas and eating grapes on the number of mosquito bites suffered by the host volunteer.

Eating grapes had no effect on the number of insect bites. But eating bananas saw a significant increase in the number of mosquito bites.

You don’t need to eat a lot of bananas to increase your chances of getting bitten. The increase in bites resulted after eating just one banana.

Similarly, if you want to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos and keep bugs away while camping, don’t drink beer. Studies have shown that mosquitos bite you more after drinking beer.

Drinking alcohol, specifically beer, increases mosquito attraction, which can be bad news when it’s time to relax around the campfire with a cold one.

There may also be other food and beverage items that increase the risk of attraction from bugs. However, research is limited and has only so far been carried out on bananas and beer.

You may find that some foods you eat may help to keep bugs away while camping rather than encourage them. Garlic, for instance, has long been considered a repellent food for many creatures (mythical or otherwise).

Bugs don’t like garlic, so eating garlic can be an effective and natural way to repel insects and other pests. However, while it might keep the bugs away while camping, you may also repel the people you’re with if you eat too much.

You can also use garlic extract and garlic bulbs in gardens and on plants as a natural insecticide, as most bugs should be put off eating the plants if they’re covered in garlic. You could apply this technique to yourself but that could be a difficult odor to get rid of when your camping trip is done.

Maybe you could find some wild garlic and set up your camp nearby.

If you’re on a kayak camping trip, avoid alcohol when paddling. You might end up with a DUI.

In Conclusion

There are various natural ways to keep bugs at bay while you’re camping, kayaking, or just enjoying your time outdoors.

While some of them might work for some people, you may have to go through a little trial and error till you find a way that works for you.

You can limit your exposure to bugs by keeping your skin and head covered, using a natural bug repellent, and avoiding stagnant water on your adventures.

Limit your consumption of bananas and beer and make sure you have some lemon eucalyptus oil and citronella candles in your gear bag.

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