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6 Mosquito Repellents to Help You Keep Your Sanity During Bug Season

It’s that time of year. The mosquitos are out en masse, and they’re looking for blood. Last year, we just about lost our sh#t due to all the mosquitoes on the PCT in Oregon through most of July. They were so bad, in fact, that many of the hikers we met abandoned the trail because they were being driven mad by the constant buzzing bombardment—and this year is looking to be a repeat. This inspired us to go on the hunt for some of the most effective mosquito repellent products we could find to help keep the bugs at bay, minimize the bites, and soothe the itch. Here are some of our faves.

REPELLENT SPRAYS & LOTIONS

When hiking during mosquito season, a good repellent is mandatory. Proven Insect Repellents employ non-toxic Saltadin, a derivative of black pepper, as its active ingredient. This substance has proven to be just as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums, and more effective than DEET in repelling ticks—but without the toxicity. It’s also more environmentally friendly. We found a little bit goes a long way, and we like its clean, non-greasy feeling. Available as a 12-hour spray and a 14-hour lotion.  

Effectiveness rating: 5/5  ••  PRICE: $9–$13

Forget the toxic DEET repellents and armor up with Sawyer Picaridin Repellents. Created from a synthetic solution derived from Piperine, these repellents ward off mosquitoes, ticks and biting flies, and are safe for use on people and gear! It goes on feeling clean and comfortable, and has a mild citrus scent. Available in lotions and sprays, we like the lightweight lotion packets. They’re easy to stash in a pocket for quick access when needed. A single application of either lotion or spray is effective for a whole day of hiking.

Effectiveness rating: 5/5  ••  PRICE: $8–$9

REPELLENT APPAREL

If slathering your face with bug spray is not your ideal solution, just pop on a Bug Bucket. This floppy, wide-brim hat sports a permanently-attached mesh bug net for protecting your face, ears and neck from the biting buggers. We actually found this combo to be more comfortable and effective than trying to use an ordinary net over our regular hat. When not in use, it even stashes up nice and small into its own pocket for easy storage. Plus, it’s quick-drying, moisture wicking and has UPF 50 sun protection. That’s win-win-win-win!

Effectiveness rating: 4/5  ••  PRICE: $35

The Bugout Infinity Scarf is infused with Insect Shield repellent, and sports a stylish appearance that makes it equally attractive worn on the trail or around town. The super-soft, cotton blend material is lightweight and breathable for keeping cool, and doesn’t smell of chemicals. We found this accessory great for warding off mosquitoes around the head and face without needing to apply extra facial repellents. When it got extra-buggy, we just pulled it up around our heads for extra protection. Effective lifetime is 70 washes.

Effectiveness rating: 3/5  ••  PRICE: $40

There’s nothing quite as annoying as mosquitoes drilling through your shirt fabric to tap into your sensitive skin underneath—especially in areas you can’t easily see. Bug Barrier shirts, infused with TempraTech Insect Shield, helps keep those sneaky suckers away from the hidden areas. The lightweight, poly-blend Tech Travel LS is nice for keeping the bugs at bay while staying cool and comfortable, while the poly-stretch Expedition LS serves up maximum bug and sun protection with versatile venting features.  

Effectiveness rating: 4/5  ••  PRICE: $60–$85

REPELLENT ACCESSORIES

This tiny Backpacker Repeller attaches right to your stove fuel canister and adds only 4 ounces to your pack—a small concession to stay comfortable in camp. When activated, it emits a DEET-free allethrin repellent which creates a safe space that significantly reduces mosquito harassment. Even when camped near water, we had little trouble with bugs, and found this to be a great alternative to slathering on extra sprays and lotions. Repellent tabs are good for up to four hours of use.   

Effectiveness rating: 4/5  ••  PRICE: $40

AFTER-BITE RELIEF

Even in long sleeves and pants, headnet and slathered in bug repellent, a few mosquito bites are still inevitable. Green Goo helps relieve the itch and irritation, reduces inflammation, and accelerates healing time. Containing only all-natural organic ingredients and essential oils, it also works on cuts and scrapes, blisters, sunburns and chafing. And it’s safe for use on adults, kids and dogs. We keep a stick of Green Goo in our own first aid kit—because it works! Available in a 0.6-ounce stick and 0.7-ounce tin.

Effectiveness rating: 4/5  ••  PRICE: $8–$9

Looking for more great gear selections? Check out this year’s Must-Haves Gift Guide for even more camp comforts and trail conveniences to help make your hiking adventures even more enjoyable!

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