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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 years, along with a few recommended by other travelers!
Best Insect Repellent
Table Of Contents
Mosquitoes absolutely love me and I have the scars on my legs to prove it.
These pesky little bloodsuckers are seemingly everywhere, no matter how much bug spray, smoke coils, citronella candles, or zappers you have.
They somehow get through and make you their lunch when you least expect it. It’s not just the itchiness that’s annoying–bites can lead to infections and diseases.
So what is the best bug repellent out there to make sure you don’t become a walking mosquito buffet during your next trip?
Best Bug Sprays
Did you know that 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.
Repel 100 Insect Repellent, 4Oz
Best Insect Repellent: Editor’s Choice
The best bug repellent choice 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 the airport thought when they scanned my checked baggage! They never kept it but they always searched my bag for this odd-looking shape.
The key to packing light for your round the world trip is to create a capsule wardrobe. Learn more in my guide!
Repel 100 Insect Repellent, 1Oz
Over time, I haven’t had the need to use as much mosquito repellent. I only use it after sunset, 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 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 when I brought it along on my trip to Cartagena, Colombia.
3-in-1 Travel Bug Spray
When it comes to choosing a good travel bug spray, you don’t have to restrict yourself to a sticky, bad-smelling insect repellent. Bug Guard Plus is a 3-in-1 product that not only gives you protection for pesky critters but also acts as a moisturizer and sunscreen with SPF 30.
Natural Bug Repellent
If you’re looking for a natural solution to rid yourself of bugs then Herbal Armor’s Natural Insect Repellent might be a great travel mosquito repellent choice for you. This bug-ridding solution has none of the chemicals or pesticides used in some of the more traditional bug spray choices.
Badger Deet-Free Natural Bug Spray
Another non-deet option is Badger bug spray which is highly rated by our readers. It has citronella, rosemary, and lemongrass essential oils, so it’s very gentle and reviewers say effective to keep insects away.
Travel Size Mosquito Repellent
OFF makes some great natural products, and users of their natural bug spray say it’s no exception. Built for those on the go, OFF packs their mosquito repellent in a handy travel-friendly sized bottle. It is also available in towelletes which are Individually wrapped and easy to apply.
Check out our list of the best toiletry bags for travel. Which will be the best bag for you?
Watch this video for tips on how to fit all your toiletries into a carryon
Best Insect Repellent Alternatives
Good ol’ fashioned insect repellent isn’t the only way to ward off those unfriendly bugs. When even the strongest bug spray doesn’t keep the critters away, use the additional methods suggested below.
Aside from sprays, there are a few other tactics available to keep the bugs off:
Expedition Travel Mosquito Nets
While I’ve never traveled with one, some travelers 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.
Travel Mosquito Repellent Net
I met one female traveler in India that was so terribly allergic to mosquitos that she traveled with a structured mosquito net.
If mosquitoes are a major issue in your destination, chances are your accommodation will 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.
But if that’s not the case, you can pack a portable mosquito net for your trip. The Portable Folding Mosquito Net is a great choice for keeping mosquitoes away while you sleep, but it’s important to note that it’s too big to pack in your suitcase.
Tip: Keep your doors and windows closed particularly at sunset hours!
Coolmax Liner with Insect Shield
Sea To Summit Coolmax Insect Shield
Part of the reason I never needed to travel with a mosquito net is that I always have a sleeping liner to protect me.
While the strongest insect repellent you can find is a must, 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.
A sleeping bag liner like the Coolmax Liner with Insect Shield is a great choice to stave off those sandflies and other bugs. In addition to helping defend you against the bugs, this liner wicks moisture, adapts to your climate and is made from a soft, comfortable material. It’s unofficially the best strongest bug repellant travel sheet I’ve found.
Tip: Keep in mind that prime insect hours start the moment the sun sets!
How do you select an outdoor capsule wardrobe that’s up to the task? Find out more!
Citronella Insect Repellent Bracelets
In search of the best insect repellant, I tried out some bracelets 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, what are some of the best bug repellent bracelets?
The best bug repellent bracelets are often made with citronella. These ones have a fresh citronella scent and fun bright colors.
Wearers report that they’re best used with one on each ankle and one on each wrist.
Ript Gear Mosquito Repellent Bracelet Band
When you’re not wearing your travel insect repellent bracelet, simply keep it sealed in a ziplock bag so it’s fresh for the next use!
Use packing cubes to keep your belongings organized in your luggage and personal item.
L.L. Bean Insect Shield Long Sleeve Shirt | Sizes XS-XL
Long Sleeve Insect Repellent Shirt
The strongest bug repellent clothing claims to stop various bugs—including mosquitoes and ticks. It is treated with permethrin, which is used as an insecticide for agriculture, in dog collars, and to treat timber.
If you’re interested in using some bug-resistant clothing in addition to your travel bug spray, you’ll be happy to know that some of the clothes don’t look too bad!
A long sleeve crew top is a great choice for the best insect repellant clothing. It’s a travel-friendly choice that’s quick-dry and is built to keep mosquitoes, flies, chiggers, ticks, ants, and midges from bothering you.
In addition to its bug repelling qualities, this shirt can also protect you from UV rays.
Here are the most stylish and travel friendly options for SPF clothing!
Tickled Pink Insect Repellent Scarf
Strongest Insect Repellent Scarf
A scarf that acts as travel insect repellent? You heard us right!
The Tickled Pink Insect Repellent Scarf is one of the best bug repellent clothing pieces. It’s made of lightweight and breathable material that’s built to shield you against a whole host of bugs and critters. It’s also available in a range of other colors to match every personality.
L.L. Bean No Fly Zone Long Sleeve Shirt | Sizes XS-XL
Insect Repellent Shirt
If you need a slightly dressier top, the L.L. Bean No Fly Zone Long Sleeve Shirt is a travel-friendly choice. Lightweight womens relaxed fit long-sleeve shirt is perfect for exploring new trails, navigating new cities, and anywhere repelling insects and sun protection are your top concerns. It’s one of the bug spray travel size shirts, built to shade you from insects and ensure you stay fashionable!
Travel Bug Spray For Your Clothes
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.
The Sawyer Products Clothing Insect Repellent is one of the strongest bug spray for your clothing (but not skin). You can turn any piece of your travel wardrobe into a piece of the bug repellent clothing.
Please Note: Permethrin is extremely dangerous to cats, so be careful when using this type of spray around your pet kitty!
What’s the best insect repellent?
Choosing the best bug repellent for you can be a bit of a challenge, and you’ll likely have to take a stab at a few products before you find the best one. You might even have to combine a few.
That said, when it comes to picking a travel-sized mosquito repellent, we should share the reality that DEET is not good for you. However, as a mosquito magnet myself, I weighed the pros and cons of using a chemical of this strength and decided that the best one for me contains DEET.
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 as it’s simply just not effective enough.
I have found a few other natural options online with good reviews but haven’t tried them myself.
Comparison Chart for Best Insect Repellent
|BRAND | MODEL||FEATURES | REVIEWS||RATING | PRICE|
|Best Bug Sprays|
|4oz Insect Repellent||The best bug repellent choice for me has been Repel Sportmen Max.||Check Price|
|1oz Insect Repellent||They also have a 1-ounce size, which I use on trips that are under two weeks long.||Check Price|
|Bug Guard Plus||Bug Guard Plus is a 3-in-1 product that not only gives you protection for pesky critters but also acts as a moisturizer and sunscreen with SPF 30||Check Price|
|Natural Insect Repellent||This bug-ridding solution has none of the chemicals or pesticides used in some of the more traditional bug spray choices.||Check Price|
|Badger Deet-Free Natural Bug Spray||It’s very gentle and effective to keep insects away.||Check Price|
|Herbal Insect Repellent||Burt’s Bees makes some great natural products, and users of their natural bug spray say it’s no exception||Check Price|
|Best Insect Repellent Alternatives|
|Expedition Mosquito Net||The benefit is that you have an extra layer of protection when you sleep.||Check Price|
|Portable Folding Mosquito Net||The Portable Folding Mosquito Net is a great choice for keeping the mosquitoes away while you sleep.||Check Price|
|Coolmax Liner with Insect Shield||A sleeping bag liner like the Coolmax Liner with Insect Shield is a great choice to stave off those sandflies and other bugs.||Check Price|
|Bug Repellent Bracelet||The best bug repellent bracelets are often made with citronella. These ones have a fresh citronella scent and fun bright colors.||Check Price|
|Mosquito Repellent Bracelets||When you’re not wearing your travel insect repellent bracelet, simply keep it sealed in a ziplock bag so it’s fresh for the next use!||Check Price|
|L.L. Bean Insect Shield Long Sleeve Shirt||A long sleeve crew top is a great choice for the best insect repellant clothing.||Check Price|
|Tickled Pink Insect Repellent Scarf||The Tickled Pink Insect Repellent Scarf is one of the best bug repellent clothing pieces.||Check Price|
|L.L. Bean No Fly Zone Long Sleeve Shirt||Lightweight womens relaxed fit long-sleeve shirt is perfect for exploring new trails, navigating new cities, and anywhere repelling insects and sun protection are your top concerns. It’s one of the bug spray travel size shirts, built to shade you from insects and ensure you stay fashionable!||Check Price|
|Clothing Bug Repellent||The Sawyer Products Clothing Insect Repellent is one of the strongest bug spray for your clothing.||Check Price|
Use Packing Cubes for Carry On Travel
Packing cubes can help organize all the clothes you intend to bring! We designed our own brand of slim packing cubes, with a unique color and numbering system, so it’s easy to remember where you’ve packed everything. See the video below for more.
Learn our hacks with packing cubes in the video above!
We put together a five-part YouTube series showing the different methods to use packing cubes for travel. If you use this specific packing strategy, packing cubes can also compress your belongings. This is the secret to traveling carry-on only!
It’s important to follow the suggested precautions when traveling to areas with mosquitos and other bugs.
What do you think is the best insect repellent? Share them below!
For more travel tips, please read:
- The Ultimate Guide to Travel Toiletries (with Printable Checklist)
- Don’t Worry About TSA Approved Liquids with these Solid Toiletries for Travel
- 5 Tips to Travel Size Toiletries for Minimalist Travelistas
- How to Prevent Bed Bugs While Traveling: 8 Effective Tips
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I’m a big fan of the insect repellent boxes with heated pads. I have used the butane ones and I have a battery powered one I’ll be using this summer. It works in the Pacific Northwest and my friend uses one when he gator hunts in the Everglades.
Hi Karen, thank you for sharing your recommendation with us!! Had never thought of using one!
There is a new product that is the best I ever used. It’s called Proven Repellent. I bought the spray at Ace hardware store. I found their webshop and ordered the lotion for my children, no fumes for my kids and it works for 14 hours. I work a lot in the garden and have a lot of bugs. I haven’t got any bites since I used proven. I even spray it on my dog and she has long hairs and I need to check her for ticks often. Now she’s free of ticks. I’m a new fan :).
Hi Wilma, thank you so much for taking the time to share your recommendation for an insect repellent with us!! 🙂
Thanks for the tip. I bought a bottle of Proven bug spray and it’s the best ever. My family is a fan!!! We use it while watching my son playing soccer and when we go to the park. No more deet…ever!!
We used the Permethrin spray on a trip to Puerto Rico, at the height of Zika virus insanity, and it worked very well. We were there for 4 nights, staying in a treehouse airbnb, and I didn’t get a single bite. You really have to soak your clothing in it, but once it’s dried you can’t tell there’s anything on your clothes.
Thanks for the input Steph! Great advice! sounds like an awesome trip!
Very useful! I recently (unexpectedly) got eaten alive by mosquitos in Rome, so I’d like to try something new next time.
Honestly, I’ve had mixed results with DEET repellents – sometimes they just don’t seem to work for me. I tried the Burt’s Bees one a few years ago and it did work well for me, but it’s not always easy to find here (UK).
Has anyone tried the Avon Skin So Soft products which have natural insect repellents in them? I’ve heard good things but not tried them myself. Definitely interested in those bracelets too and would love to know more if anyone has tried them. Thanks!
I haven’t actually tried that particular brand! But thanks for the recommendation, will have to check it out! Happy travels!
I can’t use Deet based products as they irritate my skin so badly, and have also stained and damaged clothes and jewellery. I found the Avon Skin So Soft to be effective in repelling insects but it was just too oily and greasy for me, especially in humid climates. I have found the best protection is to cover my skin with lightweight clothing. As long as the fabric covers the skin I don’t find it necessary to spray repellent. Some of my tops have long but loose sleeves. To deter the really determined bugs, I sometimes put hair scrunches round my cuffs so they cannot sneak up the gap! My favourite solution is sticking to cooler climates. Bugs tend to be less prevalent and it’s less of a problem being unable to wear shorts or dresses!