Camping can be a fun pastime anytime of year, especially if you’re looking for a summer getaway that connects you with nature and isn’t going to break the bank. And one of the best ways to make sure you have a great experience is to be proactive when it comes to avoiding pests.
Besides being nuisances, common campsite pests like ticks, mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and ants can cause painful or itchy bites that can have major complications for some people. The possibility of encountering bugs doesn’t need to deter anyone from heading out to camp, though. With a few extra items and some preventative steps, campers can enjoy the outdoors without feeling like they are being swarmed by bugs.
Preparing Before Camping
A happy camper is a prepared camper, especially when it comes to avoiding outdoor pests and encouraging them to temporarily stay away. The first step is to choose whether you wish to repel bugs naturally or with more traditional repellents. When making this decision, be sure to consider whether anyone in your camping party has allergies, sensitive skin, or is a younger camper who may need kid-friendly alternatives from what the adults are using.
A must-have item for any camping trip is a bug repellent spray. Whether natural or DEET-based, these sprays will offer a great defense wherever you are during your trip. There are plenty of recipes for homemade bug sprays for those who choose to not use a DEET spray. Be sure to read the ingredients and follow the instructions provided with the specific repellent spray you’re using. Know how often you should reapply the spray and be prepared with enough spray to last throughout your trip.
Along with your bug spray, don’t forget to pack a first aid kit that includes tweezers and anti-itch cream just in case someone does get bitten while on the trip.
Certain outdoor pests, like mosquitoes, are more prominent during certain times of the day. The most common time you will be bitten by a mosquito is at dawn or dusk, so pack pants and long-sleeve shirts to wear during these times. When it comes to preventing ticks, hats and long socks are important, and choosing light-colored clothing will make it easier to spot ticks that may be hitching a ride on your clothes.
While glamping is becoming a popular alternative to its more rugged cousin camping, anyone who plans to vacation outdoors should consider bringing along hygiene products. Make sure to pack hygiene items that are fragrance-free to avoid unintentionally drawing in unwanted pests. Some outdoor pests like scented soaps, shampoos, colognes, and deodorants just as much as we do!
If you’ve chosen to go tent camping, check before you leave home that your tent zips completely or that you have appropriate bug netting to protect you while you’re inside. Those who really want to create a bug-free haven may want to consider investing in a camping screen room—a large tent or canopy with screened-in walls that let you see through to the outdoors while keeping bugs and other critters from joining you inside.
Other extra items that you may want to consider are bug-repelling diffusers or coils, citronella candles/lanterns, and herb bundles (sage, mint, rosemary, and eucalyptus work best).
Keeping Pests Away at the Campsite and Beyond
You’ve made it to your site, inspected your cabin or erected your tent, and are settling in. Start off on the right food by making sure to keep a clean campsite. This is one of the most important things you can do to avoid inviting unwanted pests (and other larger critters) into your area. Flies and ants love food scraps and can become quite annoying in large numbers. Make sure to cover all food when unattended and place garbage in a sealable container immediately when finished.
If the smell of smoke doesn’t bother you, consider keeping a fire burning while you are at your campsite (remember to never leave a fire unattended, especially if you are camping in a heavily wooded area). Many pests despise the scent of smoke and will steer clear. And remember those herb bundles mentioned earlier? Toss those in the fire for an extra dose of insect-repelling smoke.
No matter where you store your footwear during your trip, make it a best practice to shake your shoes out before putting them on. Spiders and other biting insects may harbor inside them while they aren’t being worn. The same should be done for items like sleeping bags and towels that are left unattended and exposed for long periods of time. Spiders also like to hide in wood piles, so if you are the one manning the fire, be sure to check the logs you are adding to the fire before you actually grab them to avoid an unpleasant surprise.
Going on a hike during your trip? Weather permitting, long-sleeve shirts and pants are a great deterrent for mosquitoes, ticks, and stinging insects (just be sure you don’t overheat in clothing that’s too heavy for extreme temperatures). Be sure to stay in the center of the trails while out and check every member of the hiking party (including pets) upon your return to quickly locate any ticks that may have hitched a ride. The most common places to find ticks according to the CDC are under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, on the back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist. Taking these steps will not only decrease the chances of having to remove a tick, but also protect adventurers from Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Through all of this, make sure you are protecting yourself by applying the bug repellant you packed earlier. Doing this will help you return home with very few bug bites, if any at all.