We all look forward to a next warm-weather adventure. Whether it’s swimming in the ocean, hiking in the woods, or eating s’mores around a campfire, these experiences make the best memories. Unfortunately, insects can quickly ruin an outdoor trip.
To make sure you don’t get eaten up by mosquitoes and aren’t subjected to insect-transmitted diseases like dengue fever, Lyme disease, or Zika, you need a top-quality mosquito repellent. But the answer to which mosquito repellent is best for you really depends on what you’ll be doing outdoors and for how long.
We’ve created a comprehensive guide that will tell you what to look for and will help you choose the best mosquito repellent for you and your family.
Quick Answer: Best Mosquito Repellents
- Best Overall: Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent
- Best DEET: OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII Dry
- Best Natural: Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
- Best Wipes: Cutter Family Mosquito Wipes
- Best Ultrasonic: Neatmaster Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
- Best Candle: Repel Insect Repellent Citronella Candle
- Best Incense Sticks: Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks
- Best Bracelet: Evergreen Research Insect Repelling SuperBand
Things to Consider When Buying Mosquito Repellent
Here are the main things to think about before buying mosquito repellent.
1. Type of Bug Repellent
When most people think of bug repellents, they automatically think of sprays. While sprays are still very popular, there are several other repellent options that may make a better choice depending on what type of outdoor activities you’ll be doing. Ultimately, the main ingredients will have the most impact on the effectiveness, but the type of repellent is a high priority for some.
- Spray: Sprays are still the most common type of repellent. They can be sprayed on your skin and some can also safely be sprayed on your clothing. With sprays it’s important to cover your skin evenly and avoid your eyes.
- Lotion: Lotions can be more effective than sprays since they’re absorbed more into your skin and so you can get longer protection from them. Just make sure you don’t choose an option that’ll leave your skin feeling heavy and greasy. Some also moisturize your skin and protect you from the sun, which is convenient if you accidentally leave your sunscreen at home.
- Wipes: Wipes are popular for those on the go. They can be easier to use on children because you can easily get to places like ears and necks.
- Bracelet / Wristband: Some people like bands because they’re convenient and you don’t have to put anything directly on your skin. You can wear them for hours without having to worry about reapplying a spray. Unfortunately, they’re typically less effective than more common options like sprays and lotions.
- Ultrasonic Device: These devices emit sounds that are designed to drive away pests. They are typically made for indoor or garage use. Not only can they be helpful in driving away mosquitoes, but also household pests like snakes, rats, mice, spiders, etc. Unfortunately, while some people love them, others argue they’re not effective.
- Candles: Sometimes candles work very well, other times they don’t. If the wind is blowing, then these candles aren’t likely to be very effective. However, if you’re able to light several candles in an area and there’s limited air movement, then candles may be your new favorite type of bug repellent.
- Incense Sticks: Many incense sticks are created with a combination of essential oils. This is another repellent that works for some, but not others. It depends on the ingredients, the wind, and the size of the area you’re trying to protect from mosquitoes. Unfortunately, they don’t typically last very long before you’ll have to use another one.
2. Active Ingredients
You’re likely to see one of three main active ingredients in bug sprays – DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Some others have a blend of essential oils. It is important to be clear about each type.
- DEET: This is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. It’s been used for more than 50 years and is ideal for those who plan to be outside for an extended amount of time. When it comes to children, formulas with concentrations of 30% or lower can be used on children older than two months. On the negative side, some question the safety of DEET. It can be harsh on your skin and some studies (while not conclusive) argue that it may contain carcinogenic properties. Nevertheless, bug sprays with DEET are very effective and still sell well. Usually, products with at least 30% DEET will provide the long-lasting protection you’re looking for.
- Picaridin: Newer to the market than DEET, picaridin became available in the US in 2005. Some of the best mosquito sprays actually have picaridin as their primary ingredient, not DEET. It’s a synthetic repellent that’s proven to be just as effective as DEET without the greasy feel and it won’t damage plastics or synthetic materials like DEET does.
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus: This is the only plant-based active ingredient recommended by the CDC. It’s proven to repel mosquitoes, however it only does so for up to six hours. Other active ingredients can repel mosquitoes for more than 10 hours.
3. Size of the Container
This is more important if you’re going to be flying with the repellent. Many airlines charge for checked luggage (if you’re not flying overseas), so more and more people now travel with carry-ons only. If you fall into that group, then it’s important to make sure all your containers are 3.4-ounces or less. Depending on the length of the trip and the number of people using the repellent one bottle may not be enough so consider bringing multiple bottles or checking a bag.
4. Length of Effectiveness
Bug repellents with DEET and picaridin are going to protect you for the longest amount of time before having to reapply. Oil of lemon eucalyptus can protect you for up to six hours. For some people that’s fine. However, if you’re going to be cycling, hiking, or doing anything else all day and don’t want to have to worry about reapplying, then you should consider a repellent that’s picaridin or DEET-based.
Best Mosquito Repellent Reviews
Now that you know what to look for, here are the best options currently on the market:
Best Overall Mosquito Repellent
With 20% picaridin, Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent can repel mosquitoes for up to 14 hours. It comes in a lotion and a spray that also repel flies, ticks, gnats, fleas, and chiggers. Picaridin is non-greasy, has a low citrus odor, and won’t damage synthetic coatings or plastics. The spray can be applied to your skin and your clothing, so it’s ideal for those who will be outside for long periods of time hiking or camping. For maximum protection for the whole family, Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent is definitely the best repellent for mosquito protection.
Best Mosquito Repellents with DEET
It’s long been believed that OFF! creates the best spray on mosquito repellent, and their Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII Dry doesn’t disappoint. Formulated with 25% DEET, the spray offers extended protection from mosquitoes, chiggers, gnats, biting flies, and ticks. The aerosol spray makes it easy to apply in a continuous sweeping motion. It has a powder-dry formula so it won’t make your skin greasy or oily. Whether you’re camping, fishing, or just going to the park for an afternoon, OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII Dry protects for hours so you can have long-lasting fun.
When searching for the best mosquito repellent spray, don’t overlook Coleman 40% Deet Insect Repellent Spray. It offers protection for up to eight hours and is non-greasy. The six-ounce can of bug spray is unscented so you can enjoy the smell of the outdoors. It’s great for everything from sitting around a campfire to hiking. The can has a locking cap, is rust-resistant, and can spray from any angle. It can also be used on skin and clothing. You’re guaranteed to be able to enjoy the outdoors in comfort when you choose Coleman 40% Deet Insect Repellent Spray.
Best Mosquito Spray with 100% Deet
Another one of the best bug sprays with DEET is Ben’s 100% DEET Insect Repellent Spray. It offers more than 10 hours of protection against insect-transmitted diseases like West Nile Virus, Zika, and Lyme disease. It comes in a 3.4-ounce spray bottle, so it’s TSA-approved and can travel in your carry-on luggage. This is super convenient if you’re heading to the beach for a week or spending spring break somewhere like Lake Atitlan. It’s registered with the EPA, easy to apply, and fragrance-free. If you’re going to be in an area with a high bug density, be sure you bring along Ben’s 100% DEET Insect Repellent Spray.
Best Natural Mosquito Repellent
The best natural repellent for mosquito bite prevention is the Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent. This DEET-free repellent is made with oil of lemon eucalyptus and repels mosquitoes for up to six hours. It comes in a four-ounce bottle and won’t leave your skin feeling greasy or sticky. The bottle is small enough to conveniently fit in anything from a purse to a fanny pack, so you can conveniently carry it wherever you go. For a strong repellent with no chemicals, go with the Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent.
Best Insect Repellent Wipe
Designed for the whole family, the Cutter Family Mosquito Wipes are 7.15% DEET but still soft on skin. The wipes are designed to protect well against mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, biting flies, chiggers, and fleas. Each resealable pack includes 15 towelettes. These are especially practical for children because you can wipe their face, ears, and necks and not risk getting spray in their eyes. These wipes are super convenient to toss in your beach bag or tote bag for on-the-go application. To make sure you get the best mosquito repellent for babies and small children, the Cutter Family Mosquito Wipes are the way to go.
Best Ultrasonic Mosquito Repellent
Though most people think of sprays when they think of the best insect repellents, the Neatmaster Ultrasonic Pest Repeller is an ideal option for indoor protection against mosquitoes and other pests. It plugs into the wall and is suitable for areas between 80 – 120 square meters. It has three different settings – red emits an ultrasonic wave for a severe infestation, green emits a bionic wave for a light infestation, and blue emits an electromagnetic wave for an infestation in the middle. The green and blue settings are inaudible, while the red setting does have a sound. It’s non-toxic and safe for humans and pets. Not only does it repel mosquitoes, but it can also repel spiders, mice, rats, roaches, snakes, etc.
Best Mosquito Candle
Repel Insect Repellent Citronella Candle is a 20-ounce candle that keeps mosquitoes away from your deck for up to 40 hours. It’s made from real citronella oil and packaged in a convenient green container that also works well on your patio, porch, or at a campsite. The candles are budget-friendly, so you can use multiple at the same time if there are a lot of people in a large outdoor area. The candles weigh about 1.5 pounds each, so it’s easy to scatter them around your deck and yard. For a long-lasting repellent that can create a perimeter of protection against flying insects, the Repel Insect Repellent Citronella Candle is a great option.
Best Mosquito Incense Sticks
Made with plant-based ingredients, each Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Stick offers up to 2.5 hours of protection within a 12-foot radius. Each stick is highly concentrated with ingredients like rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, citronella, and cedarwood essential oils and bamboo. The ingredients create a light and refreshing scent when burned. Each package includes 12 repellent sticks that are ideal for enjoying dinner on your deck, eating s’mores around a campfire, or other fun outdoor activities in which you’re not moving around too much. For an all-natural, DEET-free repellent, the Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks are loved by people and hated by mosquitoes.
Best Mosquito Repellent Bracelet
Bracelets don’t often make the list of the best bug repellents, but the Evergreen Research Insect Repelling SuperBands are highly rated among users. They don’t use DEET or any harsh chemicals, but are infused with three all-natural oils (lemongrass, geraniol, and citronella) that are safe for adults, children over three, and pets. They can fit on your wrist or ankle and offer up to 200 hours of protection both indoors and out. Not only are they all-natural, but they’re non-toxic and waterproof, making them easy to use for everything from swimming to golfing. Stop worrying about having to reapply your spray every few hours and try out the Evergreen Research Insect Repelling SuperBand.
While long sleeves and long pants can help protect against mosquitoes, they’re not always ideal. Having quality mosquito repellent with you can help improve any vacation. It’ll keep everyone from getting bitten up without irritating your skin so you can enjoy the full beauty that nature has to offer.