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The 9 Best Bug Repellents of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Keep ticks away with these effective sprays and lotions

When spending time outdoors, using a tick repellent provides a measure of protection against these crawling insects that can transmit infections like Babesiosis, Lyme’s Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to humans.1

But before you reach for any bug spray to keep ticks away, check the product label. Emily Mader, a public health researcher at the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases (NEVBD), says that the primary factor to consider when picking a product is that “the repellent has been evaluated for efficacy in repelling ticks specifically.” She points out that many insect repellents are only evaluated for the prevention of mosquito or fly bites, and might not necessarily work against ticks. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a search tool on its website, where you can indicate that you’re specifically looking for EPA-registered repellents with effectiveness against ticks.

In the course of testing 11 different bug repellents, we evaluated formulas with active ingredients that are also effective against ticks. We made observations about the effectiveness, odor, and ease of application while using DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 (a DEET-free repellent) products for outdoor activities like hiking, camping in the woods, walking, yard work, or spending time in a grassy backyard. We also compared other popular formulas to those we tested, looking for the best tick repellents to keep you protected during any outdoor occasion.

Here are the best bug repellants, written by Erican Puisis.


October 20, 2023

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Erica Puisis

Erica Puisis writes about home products for The Spruce and specializes in interior design and plant care. She's contributed to Forbes and smart home blogs like Smart Home Solver and TechDigg.

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

James Wong
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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).

Laura Fenton

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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.

Shilletha Curtis