8 Tips for Dealing with Mosquitoes

Posted: Mar 20, 2014 by Sam Szarka

Mosquito by Eli Christman

As every backpacker knows, mosquitoes are a part of the summer outdoor experience. At times, however the bugs can go from a nuisance to real pain in the neck (pun intended!). But there are a few things that you can do to keep the little pests from ruining a trip. The following is a list of tips that I’ve found helpful in my backcountry travels.

Wear light colored clothing

Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colored clothing. Most likely this has to do with their ability to sense the heat which dark clothing tends to retain better than light clothing.

Cover up exposed skin

It makes sense to cover the exposed parts of your body to prevent the bugs from getting close to your skin. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced that mosquitoes can bite through the soft cotton of t-shirts and jeans. Having multiple layers on helps. Wearing tough, tightly woven fabrics helps as well.

Avoid the times of day when mosquitoes are most active

The time of day when mosquitoes are most active tends to vary depending on the species and the weather at the moment. However, my experience has been that mosquitoes in Colorado tend to be most active from dusk into the evening.

Protect your head

A mosquito head net that covers your head and neck will prevent bug bites when the bugs are fierce. It may look unusual, but it will prevent bug bites. Tip: Use a hat underneath the netting to keep the net away from your face.

Use the correct bug repellent

DEET is a potent mosquito repellent that is the active ingredient in many outdoor mosquito products. Apply it to your exposed skin and clothing. DEET is known to be very effective when applied properly. It does have one major drawback: it is a solvent and will damage synthetic fabrics (nylon, polyester, rayon, etc.) If you need something to apply to synthetic clothing, use a permethrin based insect repellent. Permethrin is a powerful chemical that kills insects on contact.

Avoid mosquito infested areas

Mosquitoes are most common in marshy, boggy areas where there is plenty of stagnant water for them to reproduce. They also like to hang out in wet meadows, stands of trees, and thickets where they rest on a blade of grass or flit about in the shade of a tree waiting for you to walk by. Your trail of choice will likely take you across prime mosquito habitat so you probably can’t avoid them. But it helps to know where these guys are likely to hang out so you can get your bug repellent ready and your clothing adjusted.

Face into the wind

To keep the buggers off of your face and neck, turn into the wind as this helps to prevent the bugs from landing. Hiking in breezy and windy conditions also helps because mosquitoes tend to be more active in calm conditions.

Avoid being last

When hiking as a group on a trail, it helps not to be the last in line. It takes time for mosquitoes near the trail to home in on the CO2 emitted by your group as you pass by. The first few in line will be gone by the time they are aroused by your scent.

For more backpacking tips, refer to my Colorado Backpacking Guide, or my backpacking blog.

Mosquito Image Credit: Eli Christman, CC license