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What's your favorite bug repellent?

It doesn't matter where I'm at, but if there's biting bugs I seem to get eaten alive!  I really don't like feeling greasy or oily from certain bug repellents and I prefer to not be too smelly, but it's not the biggest deal breaker.  What do other people use when they go hiking to prevent getting bitten alive?

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16 Replies

Sawyer Picaridin insect repellant for me. I got tired of DEET-based repellants melting expensive plastics!

I live in a pretty buggy area (Okinawa, off the coast of mainland Japan), and picaridin seems to do the trick. 

I won't use anything other than UltraThon. That stuff does wonders! I've been to notoriously mosquito laden areas (summer in Alaska, the Uinta mountains, etc.) and if I put on UltraThon in the morning, I'm good all day. I've never gotten a bite where I've put it, but I have forgotten certain areas (ankles after taking off my boots!!) and gotten eaten, so I know it was working where I put it! It has a lower deet % while being way more effective than 100% deet, so I appreciate that.

@hikeutah -- what soured me on DEET was when I frosted out my prescription sunglasses from overspray. Holy cow, I am BLIND without my sunglasses, and they are frighteningly expensive. It was time to find something else, and picaridin it is.

Permethrin is great for long-term protection. I soak my hammock, socks, and pants in it before a long trip, especially if I know I am headed into tick territory . 

I have to second @Sweet-Tater with Picaridin. I work outdoors as an ecologist, and we typically carry a lot of equipment with plastic parts. DEET is really nasty to much of that gear, frosting lenses, dissolving adhesives, and generally making everything gummy.  Picaridin isn't a harsh solvent so we dont have to worry about how we handle our equipment, and for us it seems just as effective.

Some of us also use Permethrin for our pants and clothing, which is really great against ticks. I avoid it though as I have a cat at home, and Permethrin is pretty toxic to cats.

I found this review really helpful when we were planning a trip to Africa: . We took both of their top choices: Off Deep Woods Sportsman and Incognito. However, in the end, it wasn't buggy at all, and we rarely used them.

I also like the Off wipes, since I can slip one in my first aid kit and possibly actually *have* one when I need repellent.

And I'm a fan of Permethrin if I know I'm going to be at risk, since I don't have decide if I'm going to put up with the bugs or put yucky stuff directly on my skin, but that worked better when I was traveling, and was wearing the same clothes over and over again.


I don’t like being smelly or greasy from repellants either, but I too am one of those people that bugs really love. I was recently in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with lots of mosquitoes and biting flies. I used Natrapel with picardin and was pleased with how it worked. It is safer for synthetics than DEET.


Picaridin/ Permethrin doesn't work for me for mosquitos.  Maybe they'll die. but only after they bite me!  I've tried just about every spray/ lotion.  What works the best for me is Lemon Eucalyptus.  I think it smells nice and as long as I smell it, the bugs do.  In addition, sadly a lotion works best when I'm sweating a lot, sprays and thing don't cover or last as well.  It sucks because it's like running with sunscreen on, but it works best for me and is a good natural alternative.


I've heard that lemon eucalyptus oil works well.  but I haven't been able to find it at a store.  can you recommend a particular product/brand/store/link that you use?


@NWhiker1 I have a lotion that came in a tube from Repel.  Now I'm wondering just how old it is since I can't find it on the web.  I see they have a pump spray though.  I'm going to buy it and see if it's thinner and still works.  What I have is in a lotion bottle and comes out like sunscreen would.