A little dose of the outdoors is good for the soul. Going camping allows you to take time to breathe in the fresh air and be one with nature. Getting close to nature demands respect, and it’s important to remember that wildlife rules this land – including insects.
So how do you keep bugs out of your tent?
It’s not easy, but it can be done by controlling scents, lighting food sources, and using the proper bug repellents. You can also use some insect repellents that are Deet based but this will mainly repel mosquitos. Other manufactured chemicals can be used to encircle your tent to keep ground-based insects away but be sure they are safe for the environment.
The pesky little creatures swarm about your head, around your food, and sometimes like to make camp with you in your tent. It can not only be annoying to hear a buzz in your ear when you’re trying to get some much-needed rest, but it can be dangerous. Mosquitos and ticks can carry with them diseases that can have repercussions much farther than ruining your trip.
Bugs have their purpose, though. They’re an integral part of the circle of life for the wilderness. They’re the food for some of the other critters you may welcome the sight of when you’re out in the woods. Though you can’t exterminate them all, you can do your best to keep them from the privacy and solace of your tent.
The debris around your tent can act as a home base or a food source for a lot of insects.
The best way to ensure your own designated turf isn’t overtaken is to start by avoiding the places they like most. Rotting logs, still water, and light posts are some of the worst places you can opt to make camp near. All of these things offer bugs exactly what they need to flourish.
Keep your tent away from water
Camping by lakes has its allure, though, and lights are important to help guide your way. Keeping a reasonable distance from the lake is a good start. It’s also important to avoid any standing puddles.
Bugs like mosquitos love water. Their impossibly thin legs are able to land on the water without breaking the surface, making it an attractive spot to hang out. They’re much less likely to be swatted off by the water than a human.
Do your business far from your tent
The moisture of bodies of waters and puddles attracts them on a maternal level as well. This is a similar reason as to why they’re attracted to the often repulsive stench of outhouses. The smell signals to them that something is rotting, ripe, and moist – an ideal location for laying eggs. Once they locate that, they’re sure to locate your water cooler as well if it’s close enough.
Using portable toilets or camping facilities are your best bet but if you have to go out in nature, make sure it’s a good distance from the camp.
Keep the lights down
Even if your tent is dry as a bone, bugs will find an excess of light to be inviting. Bugs are just like us in that they need road maps. Their internal navigation is dependent on the moon or the sun as a benchmark. Unfortunately, when they see a bright white LED bulb, they can’t distinguish the difference and they deem it to be true north.
Artificial light is inviting, and if it’s in your tent then there’s a good chance these little pests will find their way in by any means. Try to keep it low, dim, or off when it’s not absolutely necessary. If it’s time to retire and read a book, zip your tent up completely before you switch it on.
As for light at your campsite, a fire is your best bet. The smoke from a well-built fire will make be a deterrent to all types of insects, from mosquitos to spiders.
Spiders like the dark, damp, cool earth. Mosquitos know that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and they can expect an instant death. Inherently, no living thing wants to walk straight into their death.
But a fire can only be near your tent, and definitely not in it (hopefully if you’re planning a camping trip that fact goes without saying.) Keeping your tent tightly sealed up will be a good start to keeping bugs out, but there are a few more things you can do.
Get a tent screen
If your tent has a screen, that’s even better! Even if they can see the light inside, the screen will help protect you from them. For some particularly hazardous areas, buying a mosquito net might be in your best interest. Some of them are treated or can be treated, with repellent to keep them at bay.
Keep scents to a minimum
Firstly, bugs are attracted to scents and one of their favorites is human sweat. Some claim that there are specific blood types they’re attracted to, but any amount of sweat is bound to send an alarm out to all the bugs around.
Don’t try to cover your scent with perfumes. That will only invite even more bugs to the sweet smell. Your best bet is to sit down by the fire and do nothing but stare at the smoke. The second best to be as hygienic as possible while you enjoy your time and give yourself a good wipe down before you retire.
But your sweat doesn’t just stay on your skin, but it also gets into your clothes. Bugs get that, and those stinky socks you hiked in for 6 hours are now a very attractive breeding ground.
Don’t leave them idly around in your tent, or bugs will be bound to break in. Try a bag that also helps contain the stink, like ziplock or other scent-proof brands, so they aren’t sen buzzing for the smell.
Scents that repel
The good news is, there are plenty of scents that bugs don’t like that can ease your mind while camping. Citronella is one of the most infamous mosquito-repellers.
It comes from a plant, and you can get the oil already infused into a candle or as a spray. A few mists in your sleeping bag will help to keep them at bay.
Burning citronella can be helpful, so long as it’s not inside your tent. This is a terrible idea, for as a replacement of bugs you’re likely to simply set your tent on fire. Then you’re at the mercy of them out in the open. Keep the candles out.
If you want to take your protection a notch higher, you can rub these scents on your skin. Though citronella may be irritating, there are various other potent and protective plants to use. Lavender is a popular one since its scent is generally well-liked by humans and hated by bugs.
Most floral scents will only help attract bugs, like rose-scents, but lavender will be your ally in repelling them and smelling sweet.
Peppermint is another potent repellent. Ants, beetles, flies, and moths all detest peppermint. It is very potent, and some people may not like it as much.
Cedarwood, patchouli, and eucalyptus offer alternatives to peppermint for keeping bugs out of your tent. All of these can be found in essential oils, which gives you an added relaxation factor as well.
If you’re not the type to go perfuming your sleeping bag, fear not. Just like a vampire, bugs are repelled by the scent of garlic and onions. Hanging some by your tent door can be a powerful guard against them slipping in.
Keep food and drinks sealed
Keeping food and drinks out of your tent and sealed can help deter many different insects.
Fruits can be a major attractor of bugs. They are, after-all, harvested from outside before they make their way to your local supermarket. Although they’re great to bring camping, bugs know exactly what it smells like, and they want in.
Similarly, that goes for candy and sweets. The smells will attract bugs because they think it’s food they want. If you want to keep them in your tent, keep it all tightly covered to avoid delicious wafts escaping.
Bugs aren’t all about sweet-smelling fruits and wet places to reproduce. They also have a wild side with a taste for beer and soda.
The sugar that’s inherently in beer and soda (sorry if I ruined that for you) signals to bugs that it’s got nutritional content that is good for them. If you bring some brews for your trip, don’t leave cans lying around. Those last few drops will be a magnet for all types of hungry bugs.
Ashes to Ashes
Ashes are a natural deterrent to insects. The ashes will literally dry them out. If there are leftover ashes from a previous camper, collect them and spread them under your tent footprint and around the outside of your tent.
If there are no ashes available, collect some after you have a campfire and spread them around the parameter of the tent. Just be sure there are no hot embers in the ashes.
This will actually keep most ground-based insects away from your tent.
There are some scents bugs like, and some they don’t. At the end of the day, the important thing is to keep hygiene in mind. Making sure everything is clean and up-kept and in order can give you powerful results against bloodsuckers and pest. Even if they get in, a tidy tent will allow you to spot them more quickly than one that’s in disarray.
Take as much control as you can if you’re serious about combatting bugs. Choose a smart spot for setting up camp. Think high and dry. Stay near to your campfire, away from excess water and light. This should help keep inevitable bugs to a manageable minimum allowing you to do your part to fend off the rest.
At the end of the day, you’re going camping and you’re going to encounter bugs. There’s a big difference between seeing them and attracting them, so it’s there that you have control. Knowing what they like and don’t like gives you the chance to stay a step ahead and keep them away from your tent.
Try out a few of the different scents and techniques to see what works best for you. Don’t feel too discouraged if you still end up sleeping with a few here or there. Crack a beer and try to make peace!