With all the excitement about summer camping trips, bonfires and barbeques, it’s easy to forget that warm weather heralds the return of some all-too-familiar outdoor nemeses: mosquitos, black flies, no-see-ums, ticks and other biting and stinging insects. Those whizzing little welt-inducers can ruin an outdoor experience faster than you can say "s'mores" and turn even the most Zen nature lovers into slaphappy madmen.
Whether you’re hiking, running, paddling, or just hanging out outside, a good insect repellent is vital for the summer season. Not only can bug bites leave you itchy, but they can spread a host of nasty diseases, including West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever, Lyme disease, or malaria, depending on where you live and travel.
Knowing the importance of effective repellents, we scoured the web to find the top products that will keep bugs at bay. While some are traditional repellents, others—such as larvacide disks, clothing sprays and CO2 traps—offer protection without the use of sprays or lotions. We ranked the items based on durability, longevity, effectiveness and price. We also considered the “sticky factor,” and whether or not the products use the controversial chemical DEET. Although rare, case studies have shown this chemical repellent to be at fault in adverse effects ranging from allergic reactions to death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the end, we recommend a combination of these items for the most comprehensive protection from bugs, and that you follow the CDC’s mesaures for the use of traditional insect repellents:
- Only apply products to exposed skin or clothing, per the instructions on the label, and be careful to never to use bug spray under clothing.
- Do not use repellents on cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Do not apply products to the eyes or mouth and use them sparingly around the ears.
- If using a spray, do not apply the repellent directly to your face. Spray the product on your hands first and then apply.
- Always wash your hands after application to avoid putting bug spray in your eyes.
- Adults should always help children handle repellents and avoid applying products to children’s hands.
- Don’t go overboard. Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin. If bugs continue to bite, apply a little more.
- After you’ve returned indoors, wash your skin with soap and water. This is even more important if you use repellents on a daily basis.
- Wash treated clothing before you wear it again. For specific guidelines about this precaution, check product labels.
Keep in mind that there are also measures you should take to protect yourself, including tick checks and avoiding outdoor activities at times of day when insects are most active. For a complete list, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.