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The Best Bug Repellents

Everyone should avoid bug bites. For a bug repellent that’s safe and effective—and that won’t stink or leave a puddle of oil on your skin—skip the DEET and get a picaridin formula, like Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20 percent picaridin. It’s the best bottle of bug spray we found after testing 17 repellents and talking to everyone—from the EPA to the American Mosquito Control Association. One fact to establish up front: There’s no evidence that mosquitoes can transmit the coronavirus—but the diseases that biting insects do carry ain’t no picnic either.

Our Pick: Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent

The best bug repellent

Our research led us to seek a spray with a 20 percent concentration of picaridin, a repellent chemical that’s as effective as DEET but without the drawbacks. Sawyer is our favorite, but any repellent with 20 percent picaridin should have the same effectiveness. We zeroed in on Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20 percent picaridin in particular because its smart bottle design makes it easy to apply evenly and accurately. Its pump spray is less likely than aerosol competitors’ to overspray or leave a puddle on your skin, and its secure, two-capped design prevents accidental leaks inside a backpack or other bag. Sawyer’s repellent is widely available in a variety of sizes—smaller ones for the backpack and a larger size to keep by the front door.

Continue reading more of the bug repellent reviews written by Doug Mahoney here.

LAST UPDATED

December 3, 2023

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Media Mentions from Wirecutter

Wirecutter’s mission is to recommend what really matters. Each year, we independently test and review thousands of products to help you find just what you need. Our goal is to save you time and eliminate the stress of shopping, whether you’re looking for everyday gear or gifts for loved ones.

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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

Media Mentions

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

Laura Fenton
Contributor

Media Mentions

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