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Insect Repellents (Bug Dope): How to Choose

DEET and Picaridin-based insect repellent sprays and lotions (bug dope) are available from a wide range of brands and in a variety of form factors. How effective are they are repelling mosquitos and ticks? What are the best concentrations to get? Which ones are the safest to use for children and pregnant women? Can insect repellents damage clothing and gear? Are lotions and wipes more effective than pump sprays or aerosol cans? Are there any natural products that have also proven effective at repelling mosquitos and ticks?

Insect Repellents: Key Takeaways

  • DEET and Picaridin insect repellents are more effective and longer-lasting than most natural insect repellents and oils
  • 20% and 30% concentrations are just effective as 100% but may need to be applied more often
  • Repel Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), a natural insect repellent, is also quite effective in a 30% concentration. Other natural products are not effective.
  • Insect repellents are best used in conjunction with protective clothing. Wear a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a head net when insects are most active.
  • Apply Permethrin to clothing or purchase Insect Shield treated clothing, which repels insects and helps prevent them from biting through clothing.
  • Wrist bands, clip-on fans, citronella candles, and natural repellents like lemongrass, cinnamon, cedar, clove, rosemary, or spearmint don’t work very well.
  • Read insect repellent instructions carefully and apply them as directed. Many questions are answered by reading product directions or manufacturers’ safety sheets, found online.

Continue reading more on bug repellents written by Philip Werner here.

LAST UPDATED

October 20, 2023

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Philip Werner

Philip Werner quit his corporate job in 2010 to become a full-time hiker, guide, and outdoor writer. Since then he's hiked over five thousand miles, become an adept fly fisherman, XC skier, and written over 2500 backpacking and hiking articles for SectionHiker.com.

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This repellent is easy to apply and effective without staining clothes.

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Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent uses 20 percent picaridin to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, and other biting insects. It provides up to 12 hours of protection, so a little bit goes a long way.

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Sawyer’s 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent delivers long-lasting protection against pesky insects like mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and gnats. Formulated with 20% picaridin — an odorless, non-greasy alternative to DEET — you can count on this spray to provide up to 12 hours of protection against mosquitos and eight hours against other bugs.

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