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The 8 Best Mosquito Repellents to Keep the Bugs Away, Tested and Reviewed

These repellents will help you maximize time outdoors, while minimizing the itch that follows.

It’s happened to us all: a pleasant moment outdoors is dive-bombed by that all-too-familiar high-pitched buzz of mosquitoes. Or worse still, you miss the sound altogether and find your your arms and legs ravaged the next day. To help you enjoy your time outdoors without feeling itchy and full of regret, we’ve rounded up the best mosquito repellents by trying them out ourselves.

The most common health outcomes of mosquito bites range from minor irritation, to blistered welts, depending on your reactions to mosquito saliva (the stuff that makes you itch). Then, there’s the added risk of mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue, chikungunya, zika, and West Nile virus.

Whether you’re a bona fide mosquito magnet, an outdoors enthusiast, or just after a safe repellent option for your family, the market is flooded with bug repellent options. DEET vs. non-DEET? Spray vs cream application? Essential oils vs synthetic chemicals? Odorless vs scented?

Lucky for you, we’ve got your back (and neck, and wrists, and ankles). First, we talked to a dermatologist, an entomologist, a mosquito biologist and a hiking enthusiast to get their insights on what works best. Then, after testing 12 popular insect repellents on the road, along the riverside, in the park, in long grass, and at the beach, we rated our top products across a variety of categories. Read them here.

LAST UPDATED

October 20, 2023

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Samson McDougall

Samson McDougall is a journalist, copywriter, editor and science graduate. His work encompasses everything from web copy for science museums to writing sexual health articles for universities, info sheets for first-in-category pharmaceuticals to brand messaging for wearable touch therapy by neuroscientists. Samson specializes in making the complex simple, using the English language to democratize knowledge through highly effective, accessible communication. He holds a BSc with a double major in Ecology and Zoology, a post graduate Diploma in Professional Writing & Editing, and has been working as a writer/editor for more than 15 years.

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Sawyer has an alternative [to DEET] made with Picaridin, which works just as well without spoiling your clothes.

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Zinzi Edmundson, the founder of Treehouse newsletter, who gardens in Maine, suggests spraying your shoes, especially (she uses Sawyer’s permethrin).

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I carry bottles of water, but I also have a Sawyer squeeze water filter. Also, if it’s cold, make sure you sleep with your water filter in your sleeping bag, so it doesn’t freeze.

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