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10 Natural Ways To Keep Bugs At Bay

This post was updated on March 19th, 2024

Summer camping means dealing with bugs. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it. That said, there are some options when it comes to how you deal with these pesky little creatures.

Obviously, you could go with the usual bug spray you find at any box store. However, many people don’t like to put the chemicals found in these bug sprays on their skin. Luckily, there are plenty of other options, meaning you likely won’t need to turn to the chemicals.

1. Light a candle

Citronella is well known to keep bugs away. Lighting a few citronella candles in your RV or outdoor lanterns on your picnic table will help solve your bug problems without requiring you to spray anything. Besides, citronella smells amazing and will have your campsite smelling awesome as well.

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Coleman Citronella Outdoor Lantern – Available on Amazon here

2. Switch to LED lights

If you use outdoor lighting, you might consider switching to warm white LED lights. This particular kind of light doesn’t tend to attract mosquitos, meaning you can enjoy your evenings in peace. On top of that, LED lights use less electricity and create less heat—both major bonuses in our book.

3. Put up a screen

If you like to eat outside—or even just sit outside—during the day, putting up a screen tent might be just the key. A screen tent offers a bit of shade while also keeping the bugs from landing on you and your dinner. Best of all, because the sides of the tent are mesh, you’ll stay nice and cool inside.

4. Light a campfire

Smoke is a natural insect repellent. Lighting a campfire might be enough to ward off those pesky bugs, and since most of us have campfires while camping anyway, this shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Campfire - Photo by Mark Doliner
Campfire – Photo by Mark Doliner
Mark Doliner from San Mateo, CA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Add some sage to the fire for a particularly effective method, and you’ll definitely be able to roast marshmallows without swatting away little pests.

5. Cover your skin

Of course, biting bugs won’t bug you if they can’t get to your skin. Try putting on some long, loose-fitting clothing to create a barrier between your skin and the biting insects out there.

Going with lighter colors can also be helpful as they’ll keep you cooler, making you more comfortable and less likely to attract the bugs that rely on temperature to find their way around.

6. Invest in bracelets

There is also the option of repellent bracelets. Many people swear by these things, and we’ve had some good luck with them as well.

The bracelets keep bugs away without the use of any chemicals and they don’t leave anything behind on your skin. They’re easy to slip on and off and make repelling bugs a cinch.

7. Set up a fan

Oddly enough, setting up an oscillating fan can actually help deter bugs by blowing them away. This works especially well for small, lightweight pests such as no-see-ums, but even flies and mosquitos are likely to steer clear of a fan. Why not grab one and set it up near your chair or in the RV for a breezy, bug-free experience?

8. Try essential oils

Many people use essential oils as a bug repellent, and some people even mix up their own natural bug spray and store it in a spray bottle to use whenever they need it. Some of the best oils to use for this purpose include:

  • Citronella
  • Peppermint
  • Lemon
  • Eucalyptus
  • Basil
  • Clove
  • Thyme
  • Lemongrass
  • Geranium
  • Lavender

Just make sure you’re using your oils safely by keeping them age-appropriate (some oils should not be used on young children) and using carrier oils when necessary. This page provides a fabulous essential oil bug repellent recipe.

9. Put on some baby oil

Many people believe that baby oil is another great repellent. Since it contains no harmful chemicals, this is an excellent choice for those who are trying to avoid DEET.

The theory is that this works by suffocating the bugs who try to bite. While there is no scientific evidence to back this up, many people stand behind the theory saying it worked for them 100%. We say it’s worth a try!

10. Shower regularly

Mosquitoes are attracted to sweat. The less sweaty you smell, the less they’ll want to bite you. Of course, not sweating during a summer camping trip is never going to happen. However, you can shower regularly to cut back on your odor and hopefully keep the bugs away.

Shower regularly – Photo via iRV2

Hopefully one or two of these options will work for you so you can enjoy your summer camping without a single bug bite. After all, there’s no camping quite like summer camping, and no insect should stand between you and your adventures!

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