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How to avoid mosquito bites: keep biting bugs at bay

A mosquito on a person's skin
A mosquito on a person's skin (Image credit: Joao Paulo Burini)

From the annoying whine of an incoming mosquito to the maddening itchy welts they leave you with, knowing how to avoid mosquito bites is up there with knowing how to pitch a tent when it comes to spending time outdoors.

Mosquitos tend to live in areas of thick vegetation and they love moist conditions and standing water. Their season begins in the spring and ends in the autumn, peaking in the summer. Female mosquitoes feed on human blood by piercing your skin using a long mouthpart during which time they inject their saliva into your bloodstream. Most of us are allergic to their saliva which is why we soon end up with very itchy welts which can make for a very uncomfortable time in the wild.

Most mosquito bites are nothing more than an uncomfortable nuisance, though they can become infected which can lead to other complications. In some areas though, mosquitoes can carry and transmit diseases like malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, and several other viruses that pose a serious health risk.

Mosquitos swarm outside a tent at dusk

(Image credit: Cavan images)

Scientists are still trying to find out why some of us seem to be more tempting to mosquitoes than others, but we do know that they’re attracted by carbon dioxide – since you can’t very well hold your breath every time you venture outdoors, we’ve taken a look at how to avoid mosquito bites to help keep you more comfortable at camp. 

Use insect repellent 

It may sound obvious, but your best first line of defense is to make sure you carry and use insect repellent. As we explained in our article on the best insect repellents, they block the receptors that mosquitoes use to sense carbon dioxide, and also smell bad to biting bugs, which keeps them at bay. Though you may prefer a natural repellent, ones using the chemical Diethyltoluamide (DEET) are considered the most effective repellent available. If you’re using DEET, 30% is commonly considered the ideal concentration. 

Steer clear of standing water 

As we mentioned before, mosquitos love to hang out by standing water. They need moist environments for their eggs to hatch into larvae so beware of pitching your tent near marshy wetlands and lakes. 

Get the fire going

The smoke from your campfire is a natural mosquito repellent, so if you’re in mosquito territory, you’ll want to get that fire going as quickly as possible and hang out next to it during peak mosquito hours. 

Man crouching in front of a teepee campfire

Man crouching in front of a teepee campfire (Image credit: Rene Schmidt (Getty))

Avoid peak mosquito hours 

Different types of mosquitoes are most active at different times of day, but some good general times to avoid being outside are dawn and dusk, with the middle of the day being the safest time to venture outdoors unprotected. Now if you’re camping, you can’t hide out in your tent all day but you can wait until after dawn to emerge, and make sure your fire is crackling away by dusk. 

Cover up 

Mosquito season is at its peak during the summer months when you’re most likely to want to dress in shorts and T-shirts, but one of the easiest ways to keep mosquitoes off your skin is to cover it up. It’s worth investing in some light summertime long sleeves and breathable year-round hiking trousers to keep as much skin covered up as possible. 

Wear light-colored clothing 

Mosquitoes seem to be more attracted to dark colors and bright colors, such as black, navy and red. Wearing light colored clothing won’t repel mosquitos, but it might make you less of a target. 

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Adventure.com. She is an author, mountain enthusiast and yoga teacher who loves heading uphill on foot, ski, bike and belay. She recently returned to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland after 20 years living in the USA, 11 of which were spent in the rocky mountains of Vail, Colorado where she owned a boutique yoga studio and explored the west's famous peaks and rivers. She is a champion for enjoying the outdoors sustainably as well as maintaining balance through rest and meditation, which she explores in her book Restorative Yoga for Beginners, a beginner's path to healing with deep relaxation. She enjoys writing about the outdoors, yoga, wellness and travel. In her previous lives, she has also been a radio presenter, music promoter, university teacher and winemaker.