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Travel & Leisure: The 9 Best Bug Sprays for a Bite-Free Outdoor Adventure

Whether you are a mountain type of person who likes nothing more than to completely or a beach bum who can’t wait to slide into a bathing suit and work on your tan, don’t forget that bug spray is just as important to pack as your sunglasses and sunscreen.

Just like you choose your face moisturizer according to your skin’s needs, you should always consider two factors when picking the most appropriate bug repellent for you and your family: your skin’s sensitivity and how dangerous the insect situation is where you’re going.

The CDC, Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization, and Environmental Working Group all recommend DEET-based products for heavy-duty protection against a wide range of pests. While the chemical concentration may vary by product (usually between 10 and 98 percent), formulas that contain at least 30 percent DEET are the most effective. A higher DEET concentration doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get better protection, it just means you’ll be protected for a longer period of time.

Picaridin- and IR3535-based products are also EPA-approved options that provide long-lasting protection against bugs. Picaridin is actually considered more effective against flies than DEET.

And finally, there are natural and organic bug sprays that are made with synthesized plant oils such as oil of lemon eucalyptus and natural plant oils such as soybean, lemongrass, citronella, and cedar that are good for people with sensitive skin. It’s also important to note that, of all of the options we just mentioned, only natural plant oils are not registered with the EPA, which means that they are safe to use, but are not as effective as the other three ingredients.

Here we rounded up the nine best insect repellents that will keep the bugs away this summer.

See the full list from Dobrina Zhekova on Travel & Leisure's website here.

LAST UPDATED

October 27, 2023

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

James Wong
Freelance Writer

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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
Contributor

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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