Best Bug Repellent​ For Camping Or Hiking List – DIY Options

This post was most recently updated on March 30th, 2020

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If you are looking for DIY options over commercial insect sprays or repellents, the good news is that there are cheaper and effective alternatives using ingredients right there in your pantry or bathroom cupboard. In this article, I cover a list of homemade solutions for repelling insects while camping out or hiking.

bug repellents for camping
DIY options – Best bug repellent for camping for ants, mosquitoes, and flies

☞ See also my article on homemade non toxic cleaners.

DIY Bug RepellEnts

I no longer use commercial bug sprays.

If you are wanting to do away with these also, here is a list, which includes ones I use and others that may interest you. Think of adding these to your list of camping gear or maybe one or two to your backpack when on that hiking trail to keep the bugs at bay.

DIY Best Mosquito Repellent Spray

I live in at the coast in the tropics, so mosquitoes, flies, sandflies, and midges are common annoyances.

If you ask me what is the best mosquito repellent, I’d say this DIY one that I’ve used time and time again and found that it works superbly.

It is a DIY recipe for a homemade mosquito spray that was given to me some time ago by an army reserve volunteer.

I consider this not only a most effective mosquito repellent but it works against sandflies, midges, and marsh flies as well. My friends even remark how well it works compared to commercial brands, particular against sandflies.


The original recipe is equal parts Dettol Original First Aid Antiseptic Liquid and baby oil (which is typically mineral oil).

For a greener option, substitute a light vegetable oil base, such as grapeseed oil, rather than baby oil that is mineral-based.

A light oil that’s a good substitute for mineral oil. Click image for price at Amazon.

I find grapeseed oil is a light silky moisturizer and it’s suitable for all skin types. It’s a non-fragrance alternative you can use to replace mineral baby oil in this insect repellant recipe.

Place the mixture in a pump spray bottle and shake before each use. (The parts will tend to separate in the bottle when not in use).

For the container, you can recycle a pump spray bottle, for example, one that had contained a hair care product. Or, look to buy a pump spray bottle at your department store or online.

Make sure to label your bottle to avoid misusing it.

How It Works

It masks you from the mosquitos and other biting flies that are attracted to the heat, carbon dioxide, and odor emitted by your body.

Limiting Exposure

Overall, I try to limit my exposure to biting insects using screens or netting, but physical avoidance is not always practical when you are camping out or hiking in terrain where these critters are likely to attack.

I’d much prefer this recipe to being bitten or worrying about potential issues of ingredients1 in commercially available products.

DIY Ant Repellants

There is nothing worse than being bitten by an ant (especially, like…when you’re trying to meditate). Ouch! Imagine my surprise when I found a colony of ants nesting under my meditation cushion (for real). By the way, if you are wanting a new or replacement meditation pillow, see my article covering the best type of inner filling and structure for comfort in these.

The following bug repellent is great for deterring ants. You can easily make this up at home beforehand to take with you camping.

You never know whether you’ll have those annoying ants or not. They can get through the tiniest gap and you don’t want them invading your camping supplies.

Generally, at home, I don’t worry about ants as they tend to move inside seasonally with the coming wet season here and usually, they move outside again when the weather settles.

That is unless the invasion gets too much, they are the type that bite or they are getting into food items (or, yeh, they invade my quiet space). Then, I look for solutions.

But when you are out camping, you don’t want the critters getting into your supplies, because, the shop isn’t nearby to replenish those food items.

Borax Mixture Ant Attractant

I’ve used this method and it works to keep ants away. It is a mixture of half borax and half treacle (or molasses) placed in a container away from where you concentrate your activities.

Time needed: 10 minutes.

Borax Ant Repellant Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Source A Small Plastic Container

    Find a small empty plastic container with a lid. Tip: Recycle. Use an empty plastic container with a lid, from a tub of yogurt or similar container, for example.

  2. Add Holes

    Add holes in the top and lid, large enough just so the ants can access the mixture. You can use a small cordless drill for this or just a hammer and nail, depending on the container.

  3. Mix Ingredients

    Mix equal parts borax and treacle (or something just as sweet and gooey) and place in the plastic container, secure the lid.

  4. Place It

    Put it somewhere close to where the ants are annoying you, but out of the way of prying hands and pets and away from where you sit, sleep, or eat.

How It Works

The ants that are the scouts take it back to the nest. Because the colony gets sick on the borax, the Queen ant directs the scouts elsewhere. No joking.

Warning: keep the borax mixture out of reach of pets and children. Borax is a natural mineral and has no known hazard issues, though it is advised to limit its exposure to children (you can learn more here).

Ant Barriers

Ants can sneak through the tiniest of gaps, like the seal of the honey jar in the closed food crate – but you can use barriers to keep them at bay. Here are ways that are recommended:

☞ Try sitting the honey jar inside another container with a layer of cornflour placed around it. (I’ve tried this…it works).

☞ Place freshly cut slices of lemons in their pathway. (Yet to try this).

☞ Try sprinkling cayenne pepper liberally in their pathway or around items like the food crate or picnic basket to keep the ants from getting into your camping supplies. (Yet to try this).

Best Fly Repellent For Camping

DIY solutions for getting rid of flies that include fly traps, like those listed by Erhlich, can apply while camping. The following is a fly trap using vinegar and dish soap.


A fly trap bug repellent for camping. A DIY solution for getting rid of flies. Source:

Final Thoughts

It worries me to think of the effect of these on my health long-term, not to mention the impact on the environment. So I write about the types of DIY products I use to lessen my exposure to potentially toxic chemicals and options considered less toxic to us and the environment.

What DIY Bug Repellents Have Worked For You?

I’ve shared a few simple ideas for insect repellents when camping. I consider these better for my family’s health and for the environment, but at the same time, they help our budget. What are your favorites?

You May Also Like…

No more food wrap for me, I’ve made a couple of sets of beeswax wraps (and you can see how I did that here) and I just love them. They make great gift ideas for the environmentally conscious. If you don’t have time to make them yourself check out the ready-made sets online. My list of thirty or more gift ideas inspired by nature includes links to online places where you can easily buy them.

For hair that is soft and lustrous, you can use products straight from the pantry. For example, virgin olive oil. You can see how and a list of others in my article on homemade natural hair moisturizers.

My article on dental health using alternatives to conventional toothpaste.


  1. Briassoulis, G., Narlioglou, M., & Hatzis, T. (2001). Toxic encephalopathy associated with use of DEET insect repellents: a case analysis of its toxicity in children. Human & Experimental Toxicology, 20(1), 8–14.

Information Sources

Apart from those mentioned above, generally, the sources of these DIYs are what I’ve learnt along the way. Another has been an old 1975 book on handy household hints that was passed on to me by my father.


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