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The 5 best bug sprays and repellents, for fending off mosquitos, ticks, and other bothersome insects

  • Bug spray helps fend off mosquitos, ticks, and other bugs that can be a nuisance while spending time outdoors.
  • Sprays and repellents are also effective in warding off bugs that might carry dangerous diseases.
  • Our top pick, OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray, uses DEET and is highly effective at repelling insects.
  • For those who don't want to use DEET, Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent is our favorite alternative.

Bug spray isn't always the first thing you think of when deciding what to pack for a camping or backpacking trip. Despite being often overlooked, it's a vital addition to anyone's pack (along with general mosquito repellents) — dealing with swarming bugs or mosquito bites is never an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors.

DEET (diethyltoluamide) remains the most popular bug spray ingredient due to its effectiveness at protecting from ticks, mosquitos, other bugs, and all the diseases they carry. Decades of research prove DEET to be the best for protecting humans from these bugs, though it is toxic to aquatic creatures like fish.

Worthwhile alternatives to DEET are either picaridin and permethrin, both of which are less toxic and likely just as effective at repelling bugs. However, the scientific community is still testing these alternatives, so DEET remains king.

And while chemical bug sprays may or may not harm you or the flora and fauna you encounter, they're highly toxic to many aquatic animals, can trash your clothes, and often smell terrible. Some people are even allergic.

For anyone sensitive to DEET or other chemical bug sprays, I've found a few eco-friendly picks that won't hurt you or the environment as much as other sprays. Just know that DEET and picaridin are still the most effective at repelling dangerous ticks and mosquitos.

A note to parents: The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) does not recommend using any bug spray on children under six months of age but suggests treating clothes with permethrin. After a child reaches six months, picaridin is the safest choice.

Head here for the full article written by Owen Burke.

LAST UPDATED

May 8, 2022

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My only complaint is that eventually, backflushing won’t be enough. These can clog up after some time and no amount of back flushing will fix its low flow. I went through 2 on the AT. However, it will attach to Smart Water Bottles and most bladders!

Anna Hamrick

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Built for backcountry reliability and portability, the Sawyer Squeeze filter is our pick for the best portable water purifier.

Pete Ortiz
Writer

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The Sawyer Squeeze was (by far) the most common Pacific Crest Trail water filter this year – for the fifth year in a row. It’s a $39, 3 oz / 85 g hollow fiber filter that rids your drinking water of protozoa and bacteria (and floaties). It can be used with Sawyer bags (included with the filter) or with compatible water bottles (Smartwater is the bottle of choice for many hikers).

Halfway Anywhere
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