As every backpacker knows, mosquitoes are part of every outdoor activity. They are the backpacker’s worst enemy in the jungle. Mosquito bites are a reality when you’re off camping in the woods. Worse than the itching and nuisance it can bring, you might even get serious infection and blisters when scratching the bite area and it goes out of hand. Although it’s best not to scratch the bitten area to prevent further infection, who can resist? Even just thinking of the biting sensation can drive you restless if neglected. Fortunately, there other options available than a good scratching to prevent serious itching and keep these little insects from ruining your trip.
Below is a list of the things helpful in repelling mosquitoes which are useful for your incoming back-country travels.
Use the correct mosquito repellent
The best anti-itch method is really using an insect repellent, although at some point, mosquitoes still get a bite or two despite your best efforts. Studies shows that DEET serves as a true repellent for mosquitoes. The smell of the chemical repellent forces mosquitoes to back off, saving you from bites and scratches. Apply it to your exposed skin. Although DEET may work like a charm, it does have one major drawback. Since DEET is a solvent, it will damage synthetic fabrics (polyester, nylon, rayon, etc.). If you need something to apply to synthetic clothing, choose a permethrin-based insect repellent. It is a powerful chemical that kills insects on contact.
Cover up exposed skin and use proper set of clothes.
It makes sense to cover the exposed skin especially your arms and legs to prevent mosquitoes and bugs from getting close to your skin. Unfortunately, mosquitoes can bite through the jeans and shirts with soft cotton so it’s best to wear tough and tightly woven fabrics instead. Wearing multiple layers of clothes can help as well.
Your clothing may also be sprayed with repellent for greater protection. Always remember that mosquitoes are attracted to dark colored clothing so avoid wearing one. Instead, wear lightly colored fabrics.
Using plants as natural repellent
In case you forgot to bring any chemical repellent and don’t want to cover up during one of your camping activities or treks, using plants as natural repellent for mosquitoes can also be one of the best options to use. There are varieties of plants that contain compounds that can help repel mosquitoes. Depending on the plant, you can release the repelling compound by crushing, drying, or either infusing the plant into an alcohol or oil and applying it directly on your skin or clothes.
Below is a list of wild plants that can be used in repelling mosquitoes:
- Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla) – This plant is native to northwest and usually found in shady, moist areas. This can be rubbed either fresh or dried directly on your skin to repel mosquitoes.
- Pineapple Weed (Matricaria matricarioides) – This plant can be used as aromatic repellent when applied on skin when crushed. It can be found edges of roads, lawns, and other disturbed areas. This plant grows all over North America.
- Wormwood, Mugwort, and Sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) – All these plants can be used as aromatic smudge that is known to be very effective mosquito repellent. You can also crush the leaves and apply directly on your skin. These plants grow in the drier habitats of the west including deserts, plains and mountainous regions.
- Snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) – This is a shrub tree with white blossom balls generally found in mountainous areas in Canada and United States. The natural scent of this plant repels mosquitoes when applied. Rub this directly on your skin. You can also place it around your camp to keep mosquitoes from the area.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) – This plant is known with its fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and multi-colored flowers native to the Mediterranean area. Grind its leaves and apply to your skin. You can also put some around your camp for additional protection.
All these plants repel mosquitoes by smell. Typically, its effect will only last for a few hours, which means frequent re-application to your skin is required. Also, when using wild plants as repellent, always make sure to correctly identify the plant before using it to avoid using poisonous plant look-alike, which instead being used for protection, may even worsen the situation.