How to Choose the Best & Most Effective Insect Repellents

Rilor Staff
Update: July 27, 2021
Table of Contents

It is important that you know how to choose insect repellers, especially if you have an upcoming outdoor trip. 

Once you are in the wild, you will be exposed to a number of elements. But among them, these insects and critters are the most annoying. They can cause a lot of irritations and distractions to people. And in some cases, they can pose dangers. For instance, mosquito bites can lead to fatal cases of dengue and malaria. 

Now, wearing the appropriate clothing can shield you from these insects. Foolproofing your campsite through bug nets and meshes can fend off these creatures. 

But certainly, the best way to deal with them is by spraying or applying insect repellents. The correct repellent can ensure that you will never be pestered by those tiny, little pests. 

How To Choose Insect Repellents

Before we discuss things further, I have to emphasize that there are repellents that work well on specific bugs. Typically, the repellents you can buy on the market today are formulated against mosquitoes. But some of them have special ingredients that make them effective against ticks.

If your destination is known for the presence of black flies, gnats, and midgets, you might need to get specialized repellents against them. They are not disease carriers, but they are still culprits of nuisances. Meanwhile, keep in mind that the effectiveness of a repellent against different species varies from one brand to another. 

Also, you have to keep in mind that there's no such thing as a repellent for stinging critters. If you are heading to an area where there are hornets and wasps, then you should look for those alternatives that work similarly to traps. 

Type Of Skin-Based Insect Repellents

One of the popular variants for insect repellents is skin-based products. The most common types are picaridin and DEET. There are also options that feature synthetic or natural formulations. 

But when it comes to performance, chemicals tend to produce the most effective and long-lasting defense against insects. They also work on a number of insects such as mosquitoes and different species of flies. Meanwhile, plant oils such as eucalyptus don't offer extensive protection. However, they can guard you against ticks and mosquitoes. 

Many tend to go for plant-based insect repellents because of their safe formulation. If you are into all-natural products, you should go with these options. But then again, let me emphasize that their level of protection is not as great as compared to their chemical-based counterparts. They don't last long, and the insects they repel are somewhat limited.

There's nothing to fear when it comes to these chemical repellents, as long as they have been approved by the EPA. Furthermore, use your due diligence in following the instructions for their usage--especially if you are applying them to your children and pets. Generally, most of these repellents will prohibit you from using them on children below six months old. 

Meanwhile, here are the common types of chemical-based skin insect repellents:

  • DEET - This one is the most commonly used insect repellent. However, it is notable that this chemical can cause several damages to synthetic materials and plastic. Hence, if you sprayed them on your gear, you should wash them thoroughly. DEET may vary in concentration. The highest concentration is 100 percent, which causes the chemical to last for more than ten hours. However, you can get suitable protection at 30 percent concentration. You only need a highly concentrated formulation of DEET if you want something that can last longer. 

Meanwhile, there are also these controlled-release versions of DEET. Their concentration ranges from 20% to 30%, and they can last for 12 hours at least. They are a great choice if you have children. Moreover, they also have mitigated impacts on synthetics and plastic. If you spot an insect repellent using DEET, try to research if it has been approved by EPA and other safety standards. 

  • Picaridin - Picaridin is a versatile choice, as it is effective in various numbers of insects. Specifically, this one is a chemical-based version of the natural repellent present in pepper plants. It can generate protection at 20 percent concentration. I suggest that you get a picaridin-based insect repellent that is contained in a spray canister so that you can protect yourself against ticks and mosquitoes for at least half a day. Picaridin lotions don't last that long as compared to their spray counterparts. 
  • Natural repellents - These repellents are using natural oils such as citronella, peppermint, soybean, and lemongrass. While it is true that they have natural formulations, most of them did not undergo screening procedures from EPA, which would have assessed their level of effectiveness. Because of this, it is not surprising that these natural alternatives are not as effective as their chemical-based counterparts. 
  • Processed plant oils - While it is true that they are using plant oils, this doesn't mean that these repellents have all-natural formulations. In the eyes of the EPA, they are already chemicals and have to be regulated properly to ensure that they are risk-free whenever used by humans. A good example of synthesized insect repellent is the IR3535, which is derived from amino acids. They can keep off mosquitoes and flies and have a duration of eight hours or more. 
  • Accessory insect repellents - Meanwhile, there are also insect repellents that you can actually wear, such as clips, necklaces, and wristbands. These accessories have been infused with natural oils to repel insects. However, they are found to be most effective against mosquitoes. Convenience-wise, these modified repellents are great. But for outdoor pursuits, they might be lacking. They don't have to encompass effects, as they can leave some of your body parts unprotected.

Insect Repellents For Your Campsite

If you want to ensure that your area is bug-free as much as possible, you have to use specialized insect dispersal applications. These amenities are using chemicals that can prevent mosquitoes and other critters from coming in. 

Interestingly, the protection that they can give is limitless, as long as they have enough fuel or content. You can use these devices if you don't want to apply your skin with anti-insect lotions and oils. At the same time, they are a great use if you have no plans to leave your campsite throughout the duration of the trip. 

However, they do come with vulnerabilities, too. For instance, they only work mostly against mosquitoes. Moreover, if the area is windy, then the chemicals they release will be dispersed. 

There are two primary ingredients used for these devices: allethrin and citronella. Allethrin is a chemical that has been derived from synthesizing chrysanthemum plants. They are sprayed in the air via rechargeable batteries or butane fuel. As long as the device is operating, your area is free from mosquitoes. Meanwhile, citronella is often used in citronella candles. They release airborne repellents that scatter in the air. But at the same time, they aren't as effective as those sprays.

In Summary

Insects are natural inhabitants of the wilderness. During your outdoor trip, you need to expect them. Some of these critters are harmless, while others are annoying and can potentially cause diseases and food spoilage. Hence, it is important that you protect yourself and your campsite from these little intruders. 

That's it for now. If you have other inquiries, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

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