There is nothing quite like being outdoors and one with nature. That’s what makes hiking and camping trips so great. What isn’t so great is the mosquitoes and other biting insects that can turn your little slice of paradise into an itchy hell. More importantly, mosquitoes can carry diseases like West Nile fever and malaria in certain areas, so preventing mosquito bites can be paramount to remaining healthy.
Repellents containing DEET are effective and if used in concentrations of 10% or less and in the prescribed manner they are likely to be relatively safe, but there have been concerns about toxic effects in higher concentrations. Many people are now looking at alternatives to DEET-containing products.
Here are some easy tips to keep the mosquitoes away naturally when you are hiking or camping, so you can fully enjoy your outdoor experience.
1. Pack some Bounce dryer sheets – stock up at the supermarket before you leave home. There are many brands of dryer sheets but Bounce have the best record for actually deterring flying insects – it has to do with the particular pH of the Bounce brand.
Tie a fresh dryer sheet to your belt or belt loop and this will keep the “mozzies” away. You can put one in your pocket and then pull most of it out so it’s hanging out, just waiting to keep those pesky insects away. Hang one on the stroller to keep your baby safe. Hang one on the umbrella pole of your dining table to have a “bite-free” meal. You can also rub the dryer sheet on your skin and your clothes.
Chemicals present in the dryer sheets apparently combine with the natural chemicals produced by your skin to form complexes which deter most mosquitoes and other flying insects.
2. Make your own Essential Oil Spray Repellent– citronella (lemon balm), peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, lavender, geranium and cat-nip are all essential oils that have been shown to repel mosquitoes. Cat-nip is said to be 10 times more effective than DEET.
You can’t apply essential oils directly to the skin so you have to make a solution. For a spray solution, dilute 10 ml (approximately 1/2 fluid ounce or 2.5 teaspoons) of essential oil with 80 ml (approximately 3 fluid ounces or 1/3 cup) of water or grain alcohol (vodka whiskey etc). Put this in a spray bottle and use as needed. If you are using alcohol, Vodka will be least likely to leave you smelling as if you’ve been drinking!
Solutions of this concentration work for 30 minutes to 2 hours, so you need to apply frequently, particularly after swimming.
In India, neem oil mixed in coconut oil to make a 1-2% solution has been found to be very effective, so if you are backpacking in India, make sure you get some of this.
Try this Spray – 10 ml (approximately 1/2 fluid ounce or 2.5 teaspoons) of citronella added to 80 ml (approximately 3 fluid ounces or 1/3 cup) of water or Vodka. Then shake and apply as a spray. Alternatively, use a 10 ml mixture of citronella, eucalyptus and lemongrass oils in 80 ml of water or alcohol.
Cat-nip repellent is very good but you can’t use in small children or those with a cat-nip allergy. Mix 5 ml (approximately 1/4 fluid ounce or 1/2 teaspoon) of catnip essential oil with 240 ml (approximately 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup) of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit) and 240 ml of water (approximately 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup).
3. Make your own Essential Oil Repellent – this is a strong version using essential oils where you just dab a few drops on your skin or clothes or soak some paper towels and leave them near tent-doors. You must be careful with some essential oils if you are pregnant or using on a child less than 2 years if using this method.
To make the repellent, add 10 drops of essential oil to 30 ml (approximately 1 fluid ounce or 2 tablespoons) of vegetable oil, such as almond oil, olive oil, soy oil, in a glass jar. Stir to combine. For essential oils, choose one of the following: citronella (lemon balm), peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, geranium, lavender, basil, garlic, eucalyptus and feverfew.
Try this Oil – 5 drops of lavender oil plus 5 drops of lemongrass oil added to 2 tablespoons of almond oil. Dab on skin or clothes (only if 3 years or older)
4. Use Fresh Herbs – If you have fresh basil, you can rub some crushed leaves on your skin to act as a repellent. Alternatively, rub lemon grass leaves on the skin – better still, use the substance inside the lemon grass stalk.
You can also crush herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, basil and garlic, and place in a dish near where you are eating or sitting – it’s best to cover the dish with a muslin or other mesh cover to prevent the insects flying into it.
5. Use Lemon Washing up Liquid – put some lemon scented washing up liquid in a shallow white dish with a thin layer of water and place about 6 meters (20 feet) away from where you are. This is not so much of a repellent but it attracts the mosquitoes away from you!
Hopefully, these simple and natural remedies will keep you “bite-free” this vacation.