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Mosquitoes absolutely love me and I have the scars on my legs to prove it. It’s not just the itchiness that’s annoying–bites can lead to infections and diseases.
With so many options, it’s hard to know what’s the best insect repellent so I’ve put together a list of products I’ve tried over the past eight years along with a few recommended by other travelers! Which ones would you recommend?
Best Insect Repellent
These pesky little bloodsuckers are seemingly everywhere and no matter how much bug spray, smoke coils, citronella candles, or zappers you have, they always seem to get through and make you their lunch when you least expect it.
Did you know that my insect repellent causes me to check my carry-on bag? As a long term-traveler who spends much of my time in the tropics, I rely heavily on bug sprays to keep me bite free.
The best insect repellent for me has been Repel Sportmen Max. However, I’ve only been able to find it in the US. There’s another brand more commonly available worldwide but I haven’t found it as effective.
Three months into my round-the-world trip, I ran out of my preferred spray and had to buy what was available locally. To my dismay, it didn’t work as well, plus ants loved the other brand!
Due to this, instead of traveling with one giant can of aerosol I always packed two before leaving the USA for the next segment of my journey. Imagine what the security at airport thought when they scanned my checked baggage! They never kept it but they always searched the bag for this odd looking shape.
Over time, I haven’t had the need to use as much mosquito repellent; I only use it after the sunsets so I’m no longer traveling with those large cans. Because I’ve had such success with this brand even in the worst conditions, I refuse to buy anything else, if I can help it.
I switched to their 4oz, 100% DEET product and it’s been working well so far (although it’s still too large to carry on). They also have a 1-ounce size, which I use on side trips that are under two weeks long.
The only variety of this brand’s products that I don’t like is the solid stick. I didn’t find it very effective on my trip to Cartagena, Colombia earlier this year.
The reality is that DEET is not good for you. But as a mosquito magnet, I weigh the pros and cons of using a chemical of this strength.
In Thailand, there’s a natural lemongrass spray that everyone uses. I didn’t find it as effective as DEET, but it helped a little. Personally, I would only use it if I had no other choice; it’s just not effective enough. I did find a few other natural options online with good reviews but haven’t tried them myself (shown above).
Aside from sprays, there are a few other tactics available to keep the bugs off:
I’ve never traveled with one, but some travelers do use travel-size mosquito nets. The benefit is that you have an extra layer of protection when you sleep, but the disadvantage is that they can be tricky to set up if your accommodation doesn’t have anything to hang the ends on.
I met one female traveler in India that was so terribly allergic to mosquitos that she traveled with a structured mosquito net like the one shown above.
To be honest, if mosquitoes are a major issue in your destination, then your accommodation will usually have a net situated above the bed. If you book in advance, you can also contact your accommodation to see if they offer mosquito nets.
Keep your doors and windows closed particularly at sunset hours.
Part of the reason I never needed to travel with a mosquito net is because I always have a sleeping liner to protect me.
Strong insect repellent is a must, but there’s one thing it won’t protect you from: sand flies. They’ll attack day and night–and they are far worse than mosquitoes. Bring along a long sleeve top and trousers to defend from the brutal sand flies.
I got bitten so badly that I looked like I had chicken pox. The only way I could sleep was fully covered inside of my sleeping liner. Our accommodation in Utila, Honduras was right next to the water so I’m not sure if you’d have relief staying further away.
Keep in mind that prime insect hours start the moment the sun sets.
I used these insect repellant bands during a one-week stint in the Borneo jungle. It was hard to tell whether they worked or not because I used them in addition to bug spray. However, I figured it didn’t hurt to have them and they didn’t take up space!
So, how else to combat mosquitoes?
Bug repellent clothing comes claims to stop various bugs–including mosquitoes and ticks. The clothing’s treated with permethrin, which is used as an insecticide for agriculture, in dog collars, and to treat timber.
Some of the clothes don’t look too bad!
If your budget doesn’t allow for a whole new insect-repellent wardrobe, you can purchase it in spray form and treat your own clothing, plus other items like shoes, camping gear, bed sheets, and mosquito nets. It’s effective for around 70 washes when built into clothing or at least 6 washes when used a spray.
These are just some tips based on my personal experience. It’s important to follow the precautions you feel necessary when traveling to areas with mosquitos and other bugs.
What do you think is the best insect repellent? Share them below!
For more tips, please read:
- Best Eco-Friendly Beauty Products
- 5 Steps to Choosing Toiletries
- 14 Point Checklist: What Travel Beauty Products to Pack
- 5 Must-Have Beauty Products for Travel
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