Open main menu

Bug Protection

Top Picks

How we choose: The best bug protection highlighted here were selected based on 82 reviews of 22 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a bug protection that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

Top Insect Repellent

Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent Treatment for Clothing, Gear, and Tents

user rating: 5 of 5 (5 reviews)

I have used DEET and other products since the early 1980s, but Permethrin treated clothes are much more effective in tick prevention based on my experience in tick-infested areas. Sawyer Permethrin can keep ticks from landing and biting, and can actually kill them on your clothes. It is the repellent I depend on for work and recreation—effective and easy to apply.

Reasons to Buy

  • Doesn’t damage gear like DEET
  • Extremely effective against ticks
  • Safe if used as pre-treatment for clothes
  • Lasts for multiple washings
  • No exposure to stronger concentrations

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not as effective against mosquitos
  • Doesn’t absorb well into water resistant fabrics
  • Can be dangerous if not handled properly
  • More expensive than mixing your own solution

A recent forum thread reminded me I hadn’t reviewed bug protection products that I planned to write up last year.  With today being excellent gear-treating weather for the spring Permethrin application, I decided to finish this review while my clothes dry. My Reviewer of the Month prize last year included Sawyer Permethrin and Picaridin, both of which I have been using for a while before that. I have posted a separate review of Sawyer Picaridin, but wanted to mention it here as it is an integral part of my overall bug defense system in combination with Permethrin.  Usage: I have consistently used Sawyer Permethrin for the last 5 years as my primary defense against ticks.

Read more: Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent Treatment for Clothing, Gear, and Tents reviews (5)

Insect Repellent

Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

I have used DEET and other products since the early 1980s as mosquito and tick prevention for work and play, but now am a full convert to Sawyer Picaridin and Permethrin combination to keep the bugs away. Picaridin has similar effectiveness to DEET without the worries about plastic degrading and other effects on gear.

Reasons to Buy

  • Doesn’t damage gear like DEET
  • Effective against mosquitos and flies
  • No greasy feel or smell
  • Safe for family use (no known health issues)

Reasons to Avoid

  • Leaves a non-oily temporary sheen
  • Not as effective vs ticks

A recent forum thread reminded me I hadn’t reviewed bug protection products that I planned to write up last year.  With spring coming on and today being excellent gear-treating weather, I decided to finish this review.  My Reviewer of the Month prize last year included Sawyer Permethrin and Picaridin, both of which I have been using for a while. I will deal with Permethrin in a separate review, but wanted to mention it here as it is an integral part of my overall bug defense system in combination with Picaridin.

Read more: Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent reviews (2)

Insect Repellent

Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5 reviews)

I'm not a big fan of mosquitos, or of slathering Deet all over myself. This repellant device is small enough to take on short overnight backpacking trips and makes hanging around camp a much better experience.

Reasons to Buy

  • Seems to work as advertised
  • Weighs about 4 ounces
  • Uses a small amount of the fuel I already bring

Reasons to Avoid

  • Still may need another repellant while hiking
  • Four ounces is still heavier than a small pack of Deet

I hate mosquitos. A big part of why I rarely backpack close to my Ohio home in the summer is because I don’t want to deal with them. The choice of getting repeatedly bitten or covering myself in Deet on a hot summer evening is picking one of two bad options to me. So you know, I’ve tried other chemical sprays and lotions. For me, nothing works like Deet. I’d looked at some of the Thermacell products in the past, but they all appeared to be too heavy and/or bulky to bring backpacking.

Read more: Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller reviews (5)

Top Bug Net

Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Large enough to fit over a hat. Small and light enough to carry anywhere. Keeps mosquitoes at bay.

Reasons to Buy

  • Mosquito protection without chemicals
  • Fits over a hat
  • Small and light

I have been carrying the Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net in my backpack for years. I got it as a gift and being so small and light I just stashed it in a ditty bag along with my headlamp and a few other items which I would use occasionally on backpack trips. Up until this summer's PCT section hike from Tahoe to Yosemite I had never needed to use it even in Alaska and the Yukon. While reducing my gear weight before the trip I almost didn't take the head net, then I thought that because of the huge winter that we had in the Sierra I should stay on the side of caution and bring it along.

Read more: Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net review (1)

Insect Repellent

Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

user rating: 4 of 5 (6 reviews)

Searching for a DEET-free bug repellent? This stuff seems to work pretty well and is priced right.

Reasons to Buy

  • Non-greasy
  • Pleasant scent
  • DEET free
  • Essential oil based
  • Great for most flying insects

Reasons to Avoid

  • Scent is strong when first applied
  • Not the best for repelling ticks
  • Only 6 hrs effectiveness
  • Not for highly infested areas

Was looking for a DEET-free repellent that was less chemical and more natural.  I'm pleased to say this works awesome. I was in our yard doing some cleanup in 90-degree heat today when I grabbed my recently purchased bottle. The mosquitos and gnats had come at me out of nowhere so I went to the garage  for the new spray. One spray on each arm, once on each leg, and then I used the hand that I spread it with to wipe the back of my neck. I worked 4 hours without a single bug bite after that and they seemed to leave me alone too.

Read more: Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent reviews (6)

Insect Repellent

Repel Permanone

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Don't leave home without it because it makes all the difference between a bug filled nightmare and an enjoyable experience while trekking thru the woods and fields! I live in the low country of South Carolina near Georgetown and we have more than our share of no-see-ums, chiggars, mosquitoes, biting flies, and ticks. I jokingly tell folks that the mosquito is the state bird! Applying Repel Permanone to your socks, pants, and shirt will keep you virtually bite free. Try it, you'll see that I am right! It's the very best repellent that money can buy.

Read more: Repel Permanone reviews (2)

Insect Repellent

All Terrain Herbal Armor

user rating: 3.5 of 5 (1 review)

This is the only DEET-free bug spray I have found that is effective against the mosquitos and ticks in New England. However, it doesn't work well as you head farther south down the coast.

Reasons to Buy

  • DEET free
  • Smells good (if you like mint)
  • All natural
  • Protects against ticks, mosquitos, spiders, and biting flies
  • Works well in New England

Reasons to Avoid

  • Doesn't work well in North Carolia
  • Doesn't work well in Maryland
  • Limited effect in the Smoky Mountains

I don't remember exactly when I first discovered Herbal Armor, but it is now the only insect repellant I carry when I'm in New England. It is, however, one of the few pieces of gear that I only carry in certain regions. While it has served me well on hikes throughout New England, it has failed me miserably every time I have tried to use it farther down the coast. If I only hiked in New England, I would easily give Herbal Armor 4.5 - 5 stars. However, since I tend to jump all over, I can't always use it, and thus can't rate it quite as high as I would like.

Read more: All Terrain Herbal Armor review (1)

Insect Repellent

Repel 100 Pump Spray

user rating: 3.5 of 5 (1 review)

Basic upper tier bug repellant that for a low price and handy size, is a must for anyone not wanting to get too many mosquito bites.

Reasons to Buy

  • Small size
  • Alright smell

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not as strong as anticipated
  • Container is not leak proof 100%

I bought the Repel 100% Deet, 14 ml size as a backpacking spray while I was out in heavy mosquito territory. Now I usually wear long pants and shirts, but since it was the middle of summer, I hoped that short sleeves would be alright in usage with this repellant. At 100%, its supposed to be as good as it gets right? To sum it up, it works, but not as well as anticipated. I still got bit, definitely in places I had not sprayed — like under my T-shirt and up my shorts. It works on areas that did get contact, like exposed arms and lower legs I had sprayed.

Read more: Repel 100 Pump Spray review (1)

Insect Repellent

Duration Permethrin

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

No more bugs...No more DEET...just that simple!

Reasons to Buy

  • Effectiveness
  • Odorless

Reasons to Avoid

  • Ease of use

So Duration is the first product I have given a 5-star review (I even went to the trouble to list it because I'm that impressed!). I try to withhold this rating for products which excel beyond all my expectations...and the Duration permethrin concentrate did just that. Put simply...this product helped me resolve my longstanding battle against insects...and given that I spend nearly my entire summers along rivers and in wetlands...that's high praise! Unlike the Sawyer products...which I believe are helpful against insects...Duration is a treatment which is soaked into the fabric of clothing instead of sprayed.

Read more: Duration Permethrin review (1)

Insect Repellent

Smidge Spray

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Non-DEET insect repellent, good for midges, mosquitoes, and ticks. It works!

Reasons to Buy

  • It works!
  • Does not use DEET
  • Comes in an aluminium bottle—less plastic waste

Reasons to Avoid

  • Spray-on rather than roll-on applicator

Smidge was developed in Scotland for protection against Scotland's famous midges, but it also claims to offer protection against mosquitoes, horse flies, sandflies, fleas, and ticks.  According to the Smidge website, the product does not rely on DEET but on an ingredient called Picaridin or Saltidin (the latter, if I understand right, being the trade name). It is just as effective as DEET and it works by blocking the antennal receptors of biting insects, meaning they can't smell you.  Smidge claims to last for eight hours.

Read more: Smidge Spray review (1)

More Reviews of Bug Protection

Trailspace reviewers have shared 82 reviews of 22 different bug protection.

Show All »

or add yours

Other Types of First Aid and Hygiene

Find more first aid and hygiene reviewed in these related categories:

First Aid Kits

First Aid Supplies

Hygiene Supplies and Devices

+3 more types

Review Your Outdoor Gear

If you've found this site helpful — or if we've missed something important — please consider paying it forward by some of your favorite outdoor gear.

Why? From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute. will support the outdoor community and help others find the best gear.

Trailspace reviewers are outdoor enthusiasts like you: hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and trail runners who share our experiences with the gear and clothing we rely on to get outside. Learn more about Trailspace