OUTDOORS

Best Insect Repellent: You Can Actually Enjoy the Outdoors Without Bite Marks

Woman applying insect repellent
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

So you’re planning to head out on that hike you’ve been thinking about all week, or you’re planning the next neighborhood barbeque, but then you remember all the bugs in your area and you start to second guess your plans. Were the repellents you used before, not effective? That’s why having the best insect repellent the market has to offer is so important.

Insect repellents, as their name states, are manufactured to repel insects away from you, so that you can enjoy the nature. But, there are so many different brands on the market, and not all of them are effective. Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve done all the work for you and your final choice will be fast and informed.

In this article, you will get more familiar with the features that should be considered when making the choice of an insect repellent, so that you know what to keep an eye on, in order to make sure you are getting the right one. And speaking of making the choice, after getting armed with knowledge, you will have a chance to read the reviews of the finest choices on the market, and pick the one that best suits your personal preferences.

Our Top Picks

Product NamePrimary Active IngredientApplication
Method
Effective TimeNatural/ChemicalPrice
Ovvio Oils NaturalLemon eucalyptusSpray4 - 6 hoursAll-naturalCheck price on Amazon
Cutter Lemon EucalyptusLemon eucalyptusSprayUp to 6 hoursAll-naturalCheck price on Amazon
Sawyer Products PicaridinPicaridinSpray/lotion12 - 14 hoursChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Repel 100DEETSprayUp to 10 hoursChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Sawyer Products Maxi-DEETDEETSprayUp to 10 hoursChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Sawyer Products PermethrinPermetrhinSprayUp to 6 weeksChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Cutter BackwoodsDEETSprayUp to 10 hoursChemicalCheck price on Amazon
Coleman Sportsmen DEETSpray8+ hoursChemicalCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

Of course you want to know all about the product you’re buying before you get it and you want to know that you have the right bug spray before you start relying on it, right? So, how do you know that a specific type of insect repellent is better than the rest? You’re going to have to look at what it can do.

Ingredients

The main ingredients used in insect repellents can be placed in two categories: chemical or synthesised plant oil. Some people stay away from chemical ingredients, because they’re very strong, and work like insecticides, leaving a burning sensation on your skin and sometimes a foul smell. It’s also important to note that you may have allergies to these types of chemicals or you may just want to avoid chemicals for personal or health reasons.

Best insect repellent

Image credit: ag.ndsu.edu

Synthesized plant oils are natural, smell nice and don’t burn through your skin, but might not be as effective in the long-run. This is important to consider for those who don’t like using chemicals or who may be allergic to different types of chemicals. It is possible to have allergies to plants as well, however, so be careful about what you’re using.

Where You Are

If you’re going away in a place that’s swarming with dangerous bugs and you want to avoid getting a dangerous viral disease like the ones transmitted by the Zika or the West Nile viruses, you might want to consider a more powerful repellent. Most times, this means a chemical-based product, though some plant oils work well too.

If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t have as big of a bug problem or at least not a highly dangerous one, you might be able to be more flexible on what you choose. Also make sure you’re looking at what kind of bugs the spray repels and what type of bugs might be in the area you’ll be.

Duration of Application

Different sprays will last for different lengths of time, so it’s important to look at just how long each product you’re considering may last. This generally depends on the specific ingredients that are used in them, the main ingredient, such as DEET, Picaridin or other types of natural, plant based products.

Woman applying insect repellent on a boy

DEET is the longest lasting product for insect repellents and generally lasts 8-10 hours or even more. Picaridin, another chemical option, lasts approximately 6-8 hours, which means you still get a decent amount of protection. When it comes to non-chemical options, lemon eucalyptus is the first option, with a lifespan of about 4-6 hours. IR3535 is the best choice, however, lasting 4-8 hours.

Main Insects Avoided

While it’s best to choose a repellent that covers a vast array of insects, from spiders and chiggers to mites and fleas, some products are custom-made to target and exterminate a specific bug. It’s important to consider what’s more prevalent or likely in your area and make sure the spray you’re getting, targets those insects.

Insect repellents

Look at sprays that have a wider range of insects, however, rather than something that only targets one thing. If you limit yourself too much, you’re just not going to be well protected and you may find that you get bit up, by something you didn’t think about.

EPA Registration

The EPA doesn’t register just any product, so you want to make sure that you’re getting something high quality. Look for the EPA registration or certification to make sure that your product is going to work the way it says, because that’s what the EPA looks at.

EPA registration also means that the product is safe for you to use and doesn’t have illegal chemicals or anything that’s unnecessarily harmful to you. The EPA will help you immensely in finding what’s really needed for your trip.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Once you’ve looked at all of the factors that you need for your next insect repellent, it’s time to look at the repellents themselves. That way you know what you’re getting and just where you should be looking in order to keep yourself protected on that next trip out.

Ovvio Oils Natural Insect RepellentOvvio oils

Price: Approx. $25

Weight: 4 oz

Dimensions: 1.5 x 1.5 x 6 in

Specific features: 100% natural, pleasant aroma, long-lasting, non-toxic, DEET-free

Best use: Backyard activity, camping trips

Description: The Ovvio Oils Insect Repellent is a high quality repellent that provides you with plenty of insect protection without using chemicals at all. In fact, the active and inactive ingredients are all natural, which means it’s safe for your entire family.

There are no alcohols, synthetic insecticides or animal based products in the repellent, which means that you’re getting something that’s super safe for your continuous use and the continuous use of your entire family. It uses lemongrass, eucalyptus and cedar oils instead, which are natural ways of keeping bugs away.

Since this is the case, you don’t have to worry about applying it directly to your skin. The same goes for young children and even your pets. Plus, the natural ingredients have another advantage: they make it smell really nice and fresh. The main fragrance notes include citrus, fresh leaves, lavender and floral aroma.

Resistant to water and perspiration, this product stays on for between 4 and 6 hours, and that’s guaranteed by the company itself. This cream is a super easy to use product that is great quality as well.

PROS:

  • All natural ingredients
  • Lasts 4 – 6 hours
  • Pure extracts with no dilution ingredients
  • Sweat and water resistant

CONS:

  • Cream instead of spray
  • Doesn’t last as long as some chemical products

Related: To even more ensure your mosquito safety, wearing a pair of lightweight, yet mosquito bite proof pants is a smart idea. Therefore, we recommend the Solstice Apparel Insect Repellent Convertible Pants. They are comfortable, convertible, and even have insect repelling properties.

Check the price on Amazon

Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect RepellentCutter Lemon Eucalyptus

Price: Approx. $5

Weight: 2.4 oz

Dimensions: 1.3 x 2.1 x 5.7 in

Specific features: Effective, natural, works for up to 6 hours, contains oil of lemon eucalyptus

Best use: Trips in mosquito infested areas

Description: If you constantly get bit by mosquitos, and looking for an effective DEET-free product, the Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent here is a great option for you. It’s made with natural ingredients to make sure that you and your family feel more comfortable using it, even for your youngest members.

Made to get rid of mosquitos, which can cause Chikungunya, Zika, Dengue and West Nile, this spray keeps the mosquitos far away from you. When you spray it on you’ll be protected for up to 6 hours, even if you end up with a large swarm of mosquitos in the area.

There’s also no DEET in this spray and no other insecticides, which means you can feel better about using it. Instead, you get lemon eucalyptus to get a great scent and still get great results at the same time, even when you spray it over your clothes.

PROS:

  • DEET and insecticide free
  • Protects against mosquitoes that may carry harmful diseases
  • Repels for up to 6 hours
  • Made by a well-known company in bug repellent

CONS:

  • Scent can be strong
  • Not ideal on heavier materials

Related: The Ever Pest Ultrasonic Pest Repellent system is designed to keep bugs and other pests away from you. Whether it’s rats and roaches or spiders and fleas, this ultrasonic pulser will definitely help your bug spray work even better.

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Sawyer Products Picaridin Insect RepellentSawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin

Price: Approx. $8

Weight: 4 oz

Dimensions: 1.2 x 2.8 x 6.6 in

Specific features: 20% Picaridin, odorless, doesn’t damage gear, 12-14 hours effectiveness

Best use: Hiking trips

Description: The Sawyer Products Picaridin Insect Repellent features 20% Picaridin as the main ingredient, which is a chemical ingredient. This can be a drawback for some, however, it’s a great ingredient for getting rid of insects around you and making sure that you don’t get bitten. The EPA approved concentration is enough to last you all day, up to 14 hours.

This product doesn’t have a very strong odor, so it’s great for more sensitive family members and for enjoying your time outside. It also is made to be safe for your skin as well as your clothes and anything else that you need to spray it on.

By spraying yourself thoroughly with this product you can keep anything away, and the variety of sizes available is great for anywhere you might be interested in traveling to. You can even find this brand in different styles including a lotion instead of the spray, that makes the application process even easier.

PROS:

  • Effective against all types of mosquitos
  • Rated as a safe and effective insect repellent
  • Uses Picaridin which is more effective than DEET
  • Effective up to 14 hours

CONS:

  • Not as effective for mosquitos as other insects
  • Doesn’t seem to last as long as other options

Related: If you are a fisherman, you know that having just an insect repellent will not be enough when the sun starts setting down, and you are still on or near the water. Therefore, we recommend getting the Lixada Ultra-fine Mesh Summer Bug Wear. It will protect your body from mosquitoes from head to toe.

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Repel 100 Insect RepellentRepel 100 Insect Repellent

Price: Approx. $8

Weight: 4 oz

Dimensions: 2.2 x 0.8 x 6 in

Specific features: 98.11% DEET, lasts 10 hours, works against mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, biting flies

Best use: Extremely mosquito infested environments

Description: With the Repel 100 Insect Repellent you’re getting a product that uses DEET, one of the most well-known insect repellent products out there on the market. It’s designed to work for up to 10 hours and helps you avoid a range of different insects.

With this repellent you can keep away mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers and biting flies, no matter where you happen to be. That means even if it’s an area where these bugs are plentiful you won’t have to worry about them getting you.

This product has a 98.11% DEET content, which is EPA approved, so you know that you and your family are safe and that you’re going to be protected from those nasty insects while you’re at it. You get the absolute maximum level of protection from everything out there with this.

Available in several different sizes as well as different packs, you’ll be able to get everything you need out of this one, and for any occasion that you might have as well.

PROS:

  • Keeps away a variety of bugs and insects
  • Lasts up to 10 hours
  • High concentration of DEET
  • EPA approved

CONS:

  • Can feel sticky or thick
  • Scent can be overwhelming

Related: These Repel Mosquito Wipes can be a great addition to a good bug spray because they make double sure that you’re prepared and that you have something quick and easy to use if you’re in the middle of that hike and need a little additional support from the bugs.

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Sawyer Products Maxi-DEET Insect RepellentSawyer Products Premium Maxi-DEET

Price: Approx. $8

Weight: 2 oz

Dimensions: 6.5 x 3.8 x 1.5 in

Specific features: 98% DEET, low odor, lasts 10 hours, can be applied on skin and clothes

Best use: Jungle trips

Description: The Sawyer Products Maxi-DEET Insect Repellent is another DEET based product, and with a 98% content, you can rest safe and sound from insect bites even in high-density mosquito areas. The main bugs that it works on, are mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, gnats, and ticks, and you can rest assured that you’ll be protected for up to 10 hours.

Since DEET as the main ingredient, it means that this product uses chemicals, but it definitely provides you with the benefits that you’re looking for as well.

Whether you’re heading out into your own backyard where a few stray mosquitoes might join you, or you’re heading deep into the jungle where you’ll encounter all kinds of large bugs, you’re going to get what you need from this product.

With this insect repellent, you can spray yourself or your clothes and not worry about getting wet either, because this spray works even after you get into water.

PROS:

  • High concentration of DEET
  • Low odor formula
  • Lasts up to 10 hours
  • Can be applied to skin or clothes

CONS:

  • Sprayer leaks
  • Comes out in a stream rather than spray

Related: Even though the insect repellent will keep you safe from bites, the annoying mosquitoes and other bugs will still definitely fly around your head. Therefore, having a hat with a net protection will come in handy, especially in heavily mosquito infested  areas. We recommend the UShake Mosquito Net Hat.

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Sawyer Products Permethrin Clothing Insect RepellentSawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing

Price: Approx. $10

Weight: 12 oz

Dimensions: 3.5 x 2.5 x 9 in

Specific features: Stops and kills insects, active ingredient, Permethrin, resists for 6 weeks or 6 washing cycles, used on fabrics

Best use: Hunting trips

Description: If you want a good item that will ward off and kill insects that get near you, getting a good item like the Sawyer Products Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent is the optimal choice. That’s because it can be safely sprayed on your clothes and camping equipment without damaging them.

The active ingredient is a synthetic molecule called permethrin, which is completely odorless and doesn’t stain your clothes so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to apply it. You can spray on liberally over your clothes and not have to worry about insects or anything happening to that favorite T-shirt of yours.

Another great benefit of this product is that it keeps you protected for up to 6 weeks and up to 6 washing cycles, which means you spray your clothes once and you’ll be set for a long time to come. You can even spray it on your tent, sleeping bag, sheets, pillow or furniture to keep bugs away from you at all times.

When it comes to rain you still don’t need to worry because this product is designed to keep out bugs, even if it gets wet.

PROS:

  • Lasts up to 6 weeks or 6 washes
  • Uses Permethrin as main ingredient
  • Prevents ticks and many other insects which cause disease
  • Easy to spray and apply

CONS:

  • Designed for clothing, not skin
  • Can have odor initially

Related: For your skin you’ll want the 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent. This lotion is high quality and protects your bare skin, while the reviewed spray will protect your clothing and other fabrics around you in the wilderness.

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Cutter Backwoods Insect RepellentCutter Backwoods Insect Repellent

Price: Approx. $20

Weight: 6 oz

Dimensions: 1.4 x 2.6 x 7.5 in

Specific features: 25% DEET content, repels mosquitoes, lasts for 10 hours, sweat-resistant, 360° spray pump, unscented

Best use: Seashore trips

Description: Although Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent has a low concentration of DEET, at about 25%, it does still help you keep mosquitoes away easily. It’s available in a spray bottle, which makes it easy enough to spray over your skin and clothes to protect for up to 10 hours.

Ideal for mosquitoes and great for other insects as well, this spray lasts for up to 10 hours and makes sure that you can travel through the backwoods and the worst areas for infestations without having to worry about bug bites. You’ll even be able to trust it while you’re in damp areas, sweating or even after it gets wet because it keeps you protected at all times.

This system has a low odor, so you can use it even when scent is important, and you’ll be able to carry it with you easily no matter where you’re going or for how long.

PROS:

  • Lasts up to 10 hours
  • DEET as active ingredient
  • Ideal for insects
  • Sweat-proof spray

CONS:

  • Low concentration of DEET
  • Works best for mosquitoes, but not for other insects

Related: The Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repellers here are designed to give you a 15 foot zone where mosquitoes won’t dare to go. You don’t even have to spray anything, which means it’s a great additive to the sprays you already have.

Check the price on Amazon

Coleman 40 Percent DEET Insect RepellentColeman DEET Insect Repellent

Price: Approx. $15

Weight: 15.2 oz

Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 in

Specific features: 40% DEET content, at least 8 hours protection, wards off most insects, non-greasy, odorless, sweat-resistant, 360° spray

Best use: Swamp lands, fishing, hiking, camping

Description: This Coleman 40 Percent DEET Insect Repellent makes sure that you and your family are protected against anything that might be out there, from mosquitoes to ticks, fleas and chiggers. It even works if you’re out there working up a sweat and can last up to 8 hours at a time.

The unique design of the canister means that it’s lightweight but also durable and that it won’t rust, making it great for your next trip.

You can even spray it at any angle without having to worry about jamming or streams rather than a full spray. User-friendly and great for getting bugs out of the way, this is a great option to protect you from diseases that might be carried by a number of insects.

You can spray this over your skin or your clothes and other fabrics and it will be just as effective at killing bugs and making sure that they stay away from you while you’re out and about, without the annoying smell of most insect sprays.

PROS:

  • Lasts up to 8 hours
  • 40% DEET concentration
  • Sprays on skin and clothes
  • Good even for sensitive skin

CONS:

  • Nozzle can clog
  • Uses chemicals

Related: A citronella candle can be a great addition if you’re looking to keep bugs away because it repels them and then the bug spray does the rest. This Coleman Citronella Candle Lantern is a great option and covers a large area.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

With the Coleman Sportsmen insect repellent, we have reached the end of our article. So, you’ve had a chance to look at the important factors when you’re choosing a new bug spray and you’ve had a chance to look at several different bug sprays. Now, you are sure what you should be getting, right?

If still not that sure, remember to make a list of the features that are most important to you, and go through the reviews again. Check the best use for each product, and see which one matches your needs and areas you planned on visiting.

Now, it’s your turn to share some thoughts. We want to know all about the products that have (and haven’t) worked for you and your family. Is there another important factor when choosing a good insect repellent? Do you use one of these and have a story about it? Do you use something else you think is better? We want to know all about it in our comments section.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.