How to Prepare for Mosquitoes on Hiking & Backpacking Trips
I am one of the unlucky souls that mosquitoes love, yet I don’t want that to stop me from being able to go hiking and backpacking. To prepare for hikes into areas that are known to have a lot of the biting nuisances, I use a variety of methods to prevent getting bit.
What to Wear in Mosquito Season
What you wear can make a big difference in terms of how many bites you can potentially get. Consider covering up with long sleeve tops and pants and keep in mind that looser fitting layers is better than tight layers since it’s more difficult for mosquitoes to reach your skin through the fabric. Looser clothing will also allow air to circulate and keep you cooler in hot weather.
In terms of fabric, woven is better than knit since the weave is tighter and harder to bite through. This means that leggings are not a good idea since they are made of tight fitting knit fabric and make you an easy target. Another bonus of covering up is that you won’t need to use as much insect repellent or sunscreen on your body. Ever since I changed what I wear, I get far less bites than I used to when wearing short sleeve tops and shorts.
When the mosquitoes are particularly brutal, I also use several insect repellent products for a multi-layered approach.
Insect Repellent Products
For Clothing and Gear
Before a trip during mosquito season, I spray the clothing that I’ll be wearing with Permethrin (a synthetic version of the Chrysanthemum flower’s natural insect repellent pyrethrin), including my socks and hat. Unlike DEET, Permethrin won’t damage gear, so you can also spray it on your tent and backpack. On three separate backpacking trips last year to alpine lakes areas, the treated clothing that I wore worked well to repel mosquitoes. A few landed on me, but didn’t stick around long enough to bite. Note: this product should be sprayed on clothing only (not skin). Permethrin can be toxic to cats when it’s wet, but is supposed to be safe after it dries.
For Your Skin
For use on your skin, Picaridin protects against mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, chiggers and fleas. Sawyer has a lotion version that lasts for up to 14 hours, and a spray version that lasts 8 hours. I’ve tried natural products using essential oils, but they don’t work as well for me as Picaridin. If you plan to take a dip in a backcountry lake or stream, this product can be harmful to aquatic life so make sure to wipe it all off before getting in the water.
For Your Head
The last line of defense against mosquitoes that I use is a head net that’s been treated with insect repellent. However ridiculous it feels to wear, it really works. Just remember it’s there when you are eating and don’t try to push food through the net. Yeah, that happens to me all the time. It helps to wear a hat with a brim under the head net to keep it off your face.
Create a Zone of Protection
The Backpacker Thermocell Mosquito Repeller fits on a standard fuel canister to provide a 15-foot zone of protection. I’ve used it on many trips that were during the height of mosquito season, and it really kept the buggers at bay. It works by placing a repellent mat onto the top of the device. The mat is heated by the fuel canister and emits a thin vapor of repellent that creates the protection zone. Each repellent mat lasts about 4 hours, so make sure to take enough for the duration needed for your trip. Pro tip: take an extra partially filled fuel canister leftover from another trip so you can have protection while you cook with your stove. The device uses very little fuel… one full canister would run for 90 hours if left on continuously. I typically only use this device at camp in the morning and evening when the mosquitoes are out in force.
I Heart Pacific Northwest is a participant in affiliate link programs through Amazon and Avantlink, which provides a small commission if a purchase is made through gear links on this site. This does not change the price of the item. I am not sponsored by any gear companies and the items listed here are owned by me and unless otherwise stated, are purchased with my own funds. My policy is to only link to products that I've used and would recommend. Thank you for supporting this blog!