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Looking at the Best Bug Sprays and Insect Repellents
For so many of us, there isn’t much better than being able to enjoy the peace and beauty of the great outdoors. Whether you are fishing, hiking, camping, or hunting, you are becoming one with nature.
Unfortunately, becoming “one” with nature also often means that you are joining the territory of millions of other critters. Some might be massive (like the moose) or smaller (like the raccoon). Fish, birds, bears, and countless others dwell in the same woods you are enjoying.
Among those numbers also include thousands of species of bugs. Though they are often the smallest, they are often the most obnoxious. Very few things can strip us of enjoying nature more than pesky bugs biting us or buzzing around our legs and faces all day.
To help ensure that you keep these pests at a distance, we will be looking at the best bug sprays and insect repellents available on the market.
Why You Should Use Bug Sprays and Insect Repellents
Now, we all know that person who either refuses to use bug spray or is too lazy to come prepared for a day in the woods or on the water.
Some just simply can’t be bothered trying to be organized enough to pack a can of spray. Others take the “tough” approach. You know the types, right?
“Oh, come on! Stop being a baby! You don’t need any bug spray!”
The reality is that we don’t live in caves anymore. You can argue that we would be better off living a more “natural” life, but that doesn’t mean we need to suffer while outdoors.
And for those who are apprehensive to use bug sprays or insect repellents because of DEET or other chemicals, there are plenty of options that provide safer, healthier options.
Before we look at the best bug sprays and insect repellents, let’s take a look at why you should use them and how to choose the safest products that won’t ruin your clothing or make you, your loved ones, or even your pets sick.
Why You Should Use Bug Spray or Insect Repellents: How Do They Work?
Some folks with a decent background in science probably have a solid understanding of how the chemical or electronic properties of various insect repellents and bug sprays can keep these pests away.
For most, however, a breakdown of how these products work can be helpful.
Chemical-Based Bug Sprays
Bug sprays generally use a mixture of synthetic and natural chemicals. Synthetic chemicals can include DEET, 2-undecanone, IR3535, or Picaridin. Natural chemicals, on the other hand, are often oil-based. Products based off of citronella, eucalyptus leaves, or even catnip are some of the most popular.
For most products on the market, these products are intended to work a repellents – quite simply, they repel the bugs. Insecticides or pesticides, on the other hand, work to actively terminate the bugs.
In simpler terms, the goal of repellents are meant to make human (and other animals) less attractive to bugs. Some bugs might be attracted to our sweat or body heat – both of which go up during warmer months. Other are drawn to open wounds or dead cells as potential meals. Flies are even drawn to the carbon dioxide being expelled on our breath.
By effectively masking these scents, many bugs don’t even recognize that we are there. This is why flies, mosquitos, spiders, and other bugs tend to leave us alone when we have bug repellents in place.
What is DEET? Are Bug Spray Chemicals Safe?
As expected, you wouldn’t want to spray an insecticide or pesticide (like Raid) on your clothing. The synthetic chemicals contained in these products can cause plenty of uncomfortable health issues.
Bug sprays and insect repellents, on the other hand, it is important to stick with brands with EPA-approved ingredients. Most – even those containing DEET – have been deemed safe for human contact (not consumption) by the EPA.
Now, you might have heard of the time before, but what exactly is DEET?
Technically called N,N-Diethyl-meta-Toluamide, DEET has been used as an insect repellent for over half a century. Due to a history of human side effects (including rashes and skin irritation), products containing the chemical have become less popular in recent years.
Keeping in mind that the goal is to repel the bugs (instead of ending their lives), there are plenty of options with natural ingredients that are better for you, your belongings, and the environment as a whole.
Electronic Insect Repellents
If using synthetic or natural chemicals is not your preferred method, you’re fortunate to be living in a time where technological advancements allow for an alternative.
Electronic devices that emit high-frequency ultrasonic sound waves are becoming more popular than ever. Dozens of items have hit the market in recent years with the goal of keeping bugs at bay.
Considering that the average human can hear sound that emits between 15 and 20,000 hertz per second, these products have to produce a much higher frequency. The goal, again, is to disturb the bugs and keep them away while producing minimal risk or discomfort to ourselves.
That said, many electronic insect repellents produce sound waves around 65,000 hertz. This is high enough that human ears won’t be affected.
Does Bug Spray Expire?
Most products have a long shelf life. The best bug sprays can last several years, especially if kept out of extreme temperatures.
If you are looking for a clear expiration date on your can or bottle, though, you might be searching for a while. Many companies do not print this information on the product itself.
To test your product at home, spray a few times (away from your face). If the scent does not match the original (or smells strange), then it’s time to discard that can.
Likewise, you can test your insect repellent lotions by squirts a couple drops onto a disposable surface (like a napkin, paper plate, etc.). If the lotion looks off-color or has a strange scent, pitch it!
So, What Are the Best Bug Sprays and Insect Repellents?
As with almost any list, the results will be largely subjective. That said, some brands have incredibly high name-recognition and trust in the industry. Other lesser-known brands have consistently received stellar reviews.
To help streamline the selection process, we are going to share some of the products that at least have to be considered among the best bug sprays and insect repellents on the market today.
When it comes to electronic insect repellents, the folks at Thermacell have established a solid reputation. Producing several different models, including the Thermacell MR-450 Mosquito Repeller, the MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller is designed for anglers in mind.
In particular, the Thermacell products aim to keep mosquitos away while you are fishing. If you’re even been on the bank or the boat and had these pests swarming your face, your know how frustrating that can be.
You can hook this handy device (or even a pair) to your boat to maintain a 15-foot “no fly zone” for mosquitos. It’s portable nature makes this an incredibly handy and versatile insect repellent.
Now, for folks who plan to stay fairly stationary, the Thermacell MR-450 Mosquito Repeller might be a better option.
Intended largely for patios, this is also a great electronic repellent to use during your camping trips. If you’re the type who likes to ditch the tent and break out your sleeping bag and sleep under the stars, this could be a great choice.
Rather than taking the device with you (like you would the MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller) the MR-450 is meant to remain stationary. That makes it great for evenings on the porch or even campfires!
While Sawyer makes several different types of their picaridin-based insect repellent, this is one of the best for human contact.
Meant to be applied to your skin like any other lotions, the formula is intended to deter mosquitos, ticks, and other insects.
The brand is also known to be especially popular with anglers. If you plan on fishing during the summer months, it doesn’t hurt to stock up.
Need some for the whole family? You can get Sawyer Premium Picaridin Insect Repellent Lotion in an industrial size as well!
With a name like Ultrathon, your product has some high expectations to meet.
Luckily, Ultrathon Insect Repellent was developed for the United States military. It has also been tested in some of the most insect-ridden sectors of South America.
Looking for a more natural bug spray? Then Coleman Botanicals Insect Repellent might be your best bet.
Fueled by lemon and eucalyptus oils, Coleman Botanicals’s plant-based bug spray is entirely DEET-free. What is lacks in synthetics, however, it makes up for in efficiency.
This spray is able to repel mosquitos for up to six hours. That’s a health day on the water or in the woods. The pleasant scent might help offset some of the funk you accrue in the summer heat, too!
Plus, it’s non-greasy!
Another great bug spray for folks who want to avoid chemicals, Natrapel Lemon Eucalyptus Pump is also about as simple as it gets.
That’s right – the product uses only one ingredient to repel mosquitos and other bugs. Lemon eucalyptus oil is not only known to be an effective deterrent, but it’s also one of the cleanest bug spray ingredients on the market.
Natrapel can be sprayed directly on your clothes before you head outside! It’s also safe for your belongings. So go ahead on throw some on your socks, your sleeping bag, or even your tent for extra protection.
If you’re looking to incorporate some synethics into your bug spray for added “security,” then Repel offers a couple options for all types of outdoors enthusiasts.
Repel Sportsmen Max Formula Aerosol Insect Repellent is a nice mid-way for folks who aren’t looking to go “full-DEET,” but who also want to make sure they have a strong enough formula to repel gnats, ticks, no-see-ums, chiggers, flies, and mosquitos. If you’re planning on fishing or camping in the American southeast, you’ll want that type of protection.
As you will see below, Repel also offers a much stronger, fully DEET-based product. But the Sportsmen Max is a solid aerosol bug spray that will handle most conditions.
This is actually my preferred bug spray when fishing or hiking or Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. In southern states, however, I might opt for a slightly stronger formula.
There’s always two sides to a coin.
If you aren’t overly concerned about using all-natural products, then Repel 100% DEET Insect Repellent Pump might be a little more to your liking.
Also, with an almost-entirely DEET-based formula, Repel is ensuring that the bugs won’t want anything to do with you.
As one of the more recognizable names in the world of bug sprays and insect repellents, it’s hard to beat the long-lasting formula and reputation during extended outdoors excursions.
Another fully DEET-based bug spray, Ben’s 100 Tick & Insect Repellent has a history of living up to its name.
Lots of people consider mosquitos when they are looking for the best bug sprays, but ticks are about as nasty insects get. Plenty of products using oils have been proven effective at repelling ticks, but sometimes you just want that added security of knowing.
If that sounds like you, then a product like Ben’s is probably your best bet.