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Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller insect repellent

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.


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


  • 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. I was intrigued however when I saw that Thermacell had created a mosquito repellent device targeting backpackers.

All Thermacell devices work on the same principal. They use a fuel source to heat a mat impregnated with a chemical called allethrin. The chemical is in the same class as Permethrin, which is used in insect repellent clothing. Both are synthetic versions of pyrethrum, a naturally occurring chemical found in certain types of the chrysanthemum plant. The device heats the chemical causing it to vaporize into the air where it does not kill the mosquitos, but repels them.

The EPA Material Safety Data Sheet cautions against eating it or putting into water (toxic to fish). However, the personal protection requirements are to use with proper ventilation (outside only). No protection is needed or recommended for skin, eye or respiratory exposure. The sheet for Deet looks scarier to me.

Anyhow, at only four ounces, the Backpacker version of the repellent device seemed to be worth a try. The repellent promised a 15' by 15' zone of protection by using the isobutane fuel canister that I already carried to power my small stove. The initial package was $39.99 and also contained three of the chemical mats; enough for 12 hours of protection.

The product appears to be well constructed and simple to use. Screw onto a gas canister, slide a mat under the guard, turn it on and push on the starter. A small viewing port lets you check that it’s lit. Gas usage is minimal. Thermacell states that a four-ounce canister will power the repellent for 90 hours.

My first use was at a family picnic. I fired it up on my deck as the sun set and we spent the next hour or so mosquito free. No noise, no mess, and no significant odor. When everyone came inside I just switched it off.

The real test was a recent backpacking trip. The skeeters were bad enough through the day’s hike that some Deet was required. Once we set up camp and had dinner, it was just getting dark. At that point I was expecting an onslaught. Done with the stove, I hooked up the device to my gas canister and started it up. I was still using the original chemical mat. They change color as they’re used up so I could easily tell it was still good. The onslaught never came.

I was thinking that perhaps the Deet from hours earlier was still working, but a quick stroll away from the Thermacell proved otherwise. The mosquitos were still in the area and eager to draw my blood; just not within range of the device. I did not bring a tape measure to gauge the exact size of the “zone of mosquito protection,” but it seemed like the advertised 15’ by 15’ area was a good estimate or even conservative.

Would I take this device on a thru-hike? No; just like I wouldn’t bring a camp chair. If I’m trying to cover long miles, the extra weight and time needed for these conveniences aren’t worth it to me. However, a weekend trip is a different story. This could make a summer evening spent hanging out at the campsite much more enjoyable than slathering on the Deet or being driven into the tent early.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $39.99

An excellent solution to the eternal mosquito problem.


  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Uses the fuel most of us already have
  • Not a strong odor


  • Performance might be affected by wind
  • Mats need to be disposed of carefully

Face it. One of the most uncomfortable things out in the wilderness is those little insects that bother, bite, and suck our blood. It can make a lovely trip a nightmare.


Thermacell has for many years made mosquito repellent devices for home, patio, and hunters/anglers. But most of their products are too bulky and heavy for backpacking. New this year is their "Backpacker" model, which is designed for those of us who travel light.

The heart of the system is a small "mat" embedded with Allethrin, a synthetic version of pyrethrum, a botanical found in Chrysanthemum flowers. The "mat" is heated gently, which puts the chemical into the air. In general, Allethrin has low toxicity for humans and birds (but can be toxic to fish and cats). 

The Backpacker repellent device is lightweight at 4 oz, and the manufacturer claims up to ninety hours of run time with a 4 oz gas canister. The "mat" starts out blue, and as the Allethrin is burned away, it turns white, indicating that it needs to be replaced. A "mat" is supposed to last for four hours each, and I have found this to be pretty accurate. Take care in disposing the used "mats," to avoid environmental impact.


My first chance to test the device, was in our backyard in Sacramento. Sitting on our back patio on warm spring evenings, the mosquitos can get pretty annoying. To operate, one simply moves the on/off valve to the on position, and click the piezo starter once or twice until it ignites. The glow is faint, so you have to look through the screened vent carefully to see that it is lit.

Within five minutes, every mosquito in our patio had disappeared. And we could just enjoy our wine without being bothered. The scent is very faint, and much less noxious than citronella, almost pleasant.

My second chance to try it out was on a damp spring campout in the Sierra foothills. Again, the large number of mosquitos who had gathered to greet me, disappeared within a few minutes. The air these two evenings was fairly calm. I would think if  it were breezy, it might negatively impact its performance. But on this occasion, my whole eating, sleeping, and campfire area was bug free (Thermacell claims a 15' x 15' area of coverage).

The device comes with a carry sack, and is about as simple to operate as it gets.


I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first. But so far, I am very impressed with this device, and look forward to trying it this spring and summer.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $40

This is a great evolution to their older handhelds, which were bulky and require their proprietary fuel cartridges. I hate DEET. I feel this is a far better solution.


  • Uses fuel you will already have
  • Much lighter then previous models
  • Easy to use


  • Mats won't last all night
  • You'll get a little isobutane on your hand when you remove from the canister.

I've used the handhelds for years from BBQ's to week-long backpacking trips. These just plain work and you don't have to cover yourself in DEET!

These are smaller, lighter, and don't require Thermacell fuel! I've already tested this new unit and it works flawlessly. 

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $35



  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Effective


  • None yet

Very impressed so far with the Backpacker Mosquito Repeller. Have previously owned the handheld version and loved it. Decided this would be great for backpacking, used the fuel I already have present for cooking.

Can't speak of the science of this device other than when on, my wife and I have had no issue with mosquitos.  

Comes with a handy sack to put in backpack. Screws onto fuel can easily. Once "On", simply press the ignite switch.  

Even if not using for backpacking, this is a great item to have around in buggy places. Big fan.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $40

Love this product! A real lifesaver when camping, fishing, hunting, picnicking, and fixing fence in tall weeds on our farm!


  • It really does do what it’s supposed to!


  • I really haven’t found any!

Would definitely recommend this to anyone who would like to enjoy their outdoor activities without pesky bugs!


I’ve used many Thermacell products. Love all of them!

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $45

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Price MSRP: $39.99
Current Retail: $17.95-$39.99
Historic Range: $4.66-$39.99
Reviewers Paid: $35.00-$45.00
Weight 114 g / 4.0 oz
Dimensions 97mm H x 50mm W x 67mm L
Product Details from Thermacell »

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