Using the best insect repellents to protect yourself from bites is a necessity of travel and depending where you live, of life. Whether you style yourself as tourist or traveller, budget or high-end luxury, business traveller or pleasure seeker, city slicker or beach bum, there are some travel certainties. Once you’re in a tropical climate, mosquitoes and their barbaric bloodsucking insect brethren will do their utmost to find you. And when they do, you should be prepared with the best mosquito control at your disposal.
By prepared, I mean you need to have a mosquito repellent system in place that doesn’t just consist of running out and buying some some insect protection spray from the local supermarket. This is entirely necessary if you want to gain the upper hand in “The War Of The Moz”.
(Yes, that is a thing. I just officially made it up).
As you can see, using the best insect repellent is important stuff.
This post is not going to detail the physiological features of the flying fiends who would have your blood for breakfast. Neither will it list out all the ghastly infections and diseases that may befall you if you have chosen to breeze into your chosen location unarmed against these miniscule monsters with the top rated mosquito repellent on the market today. Instead, I will pre-suppose that as a minimum, you have heard of malaria, and you have probably heard of Zika. Therefore, you already know that both of those things are VERY BAD and should be avoided at all costs. Using the most effective insect repellent is a good first step in enjoying your bug-free travels without encountering either of these nasty conditions.
Insects suck – and so do their bites
Even without all of the ghastly infections, at the risk of stating the obvious, insect bites are bad, right? They itch and weep for days. For me, they now erupt into golf-ball sized welts that sometimes refuse to die without the aid of antihistamine lotion. Until the lotion kicks in, they serve as a muse to make-up artists who enjoy Halloween.
Also, as an ultra-competitive person, it bugs me (no pun intended!) that something so small and evil can attempt to ruin my travels. So I find a certain appeal in finding insect repellents that work and then gliding through tropical locations practically undetectable to the nasty little blighters. A bit like I imagine Harry Potter must feel when he’s sneaking through Slytherin House in his Invisibility Cloak.
I say “practically undetectable” as you never know. Insects are evil geniuses who are forever concocting new ways to find new blood to suck. But these mosquito repellent products, especially when used in combination, will give you the best possible chance of enjoying your tropical stay without suffering the bites.
In case the wee beasties still manage to sneak a sip of your claret despite your best efforts with these mosquito repellers, we have included ideas for bite remedies as well.
Best Insect Repellents for avoiding bites
Apart from the old-fashioned method of spraying yourself liberally with insect repellent substances (see below), this little gadget is hands down the best deterrent for mozzies and flying insects that we have ever found.
The LifeSystems Portable Mosquito Killer is a small, battery-powered mosquito repellent device that kills mosquitoes dead in their tracks. We have used these since 2013 when we travelled to Africa, and since then in many countries in Asia and Central America. I cannot recall ever being bitten in a room when one is switched on. Where the mozzies have dared to stage an invasion, I have found some of them dead on the floor the next morning.
How does it work?
Zapped by clever, insect-targeted death rays while I was sleeping soundly? I’d like to think so. But actually, this electronic mosquito repellent takes small cartridges that slowly emit a mozzie repellent scent that is harmless and odourless to humans, but deathly for our tiny winged enemies. It weighs only 125 grams in your bag, and the cartridge refills last for up to 6 nights. It is one of the best indoor insect repellent methods I have found, and I would never again travel to a hot country without one.
Let’s face it, you can buy mozzie spray wherever there are biting insects and people, especially tourist people. But I have only ever found these babies to order online. One plus a pack of refill cartridges is well worth the weight and space in your backpack.
If you are shopping outside of the US, use this link to browse the Lifesystems Portable Mosquito Killer in your local Amazon store.
Plug in Mosquito Killers
We have also use used plug in mosquito killers. These work really well too, and save carrying around AA batteries. However, the one issue we have found with them is that if you move countries a lot, as we currently do, then the plug may not always be compatible with the local sockets. Not a deal-breaker as they are still very effective.
One of the best mosquito plug in devices is the Ultrasonic Pest Mosquito Repellent. This is a sonic mosquito repellent that uses ultrasound waves that are sufficiently annoying to pests as to make them go away, but definitely safe enough for humans and pets big and small.
If you are shopping outside of the US, use this link to browse the Ultrasonic Pest Mosquito Repellent in your local Amazon store.
2. Insect repellent lotions
Now, I really don’t want to get into any discussion about the relative merits of DEET on this blog post. Suffice to say, if I personally have a choice then I’d prefer to avoid the pain and risk of mosquito and sandfly bites now, today, and if this means covering myself with the best DEET bug spray that money can buy, then I am personally at peace with that.
It seems that DEET has never been proven to cause risk to humans in reasonable doses, in any case. And DEET is widely believed to be the most effective mosquito repellent around, as it makes you effectively invisible to the mozzies.
The best mosquito repellent with DEET will be at least 40% and preferably more than 50%.
Where to buy it?
As I said, you can buy variations of insect repellent pretty much anywhere. We used to think it was only worthwhile taking a small amount of insect repellent spray or lotion along in your luggage and just buy the rest wherever you are. However, this was before we had spent months in Asia. Insect repellent containing DEET that is available in supermarkets in Asia tends to be only around 10-15%, which is not really worth bothering with.
To get high deet mosquito repellent, you need to visit a pharmacy and it will then cost upwards of $10 for small bottle. So now, we do tend to stock up on the strong stuff whenever we can find it at a reasonable cost.
The best mosquito spray that we have found available online in the US is Repel 100 Spray. One of the strongest mosquito repellent sprays available with over 98% DEET will give the highest possible protection against mosquito bites.
If you are shopping in the UK, then our favourite is B01N5HOQAH Jungle Formula,. This is a tropical mosquito repellent containing containing 50% DEET and it is one of the all round best insect repellent sprays we have found. They also offer a roll on mosquito repellent.
Bug spray without DEET
If you are someone who prefers to avoid DEET, whatever your reasons, then there are natural mosquito deterrent alternatives available. When we are staying somewhere for a long time and need to use insect repellent every day, then we do switch to a natural insect spray alternative.
The Herbal Armor Deet Free Natural Insect Repellent spray uses a combination of 26 active ingredients including 6 essential oils that act as a herbal insect repellent to keep the bites at bay.
For readers who are shopping in the UK, Jungle Formula do have a natural mosquito repellent for skin as part of their range too.
More recently, I have seen sunscreen with insect repellent become available too.
3. Insect repellent wipes
Bug repellent wipes are also really useful. They are not liquid so they are allowed on planes because you can’t use wipes to blow up a plane like you can a bottle of normal insect rep… oh, well. Let’s not go there. Suffice to say, mosquito repellent wipes are good for use on flights. Although you can get packs of wipes, we prefer to use the single-wrapped ones. This makes sure that the active ingredients are preserved and the wipes stay wet.
Bens Wipes are 30% DEET wipes. They come single wrapped and offer up to 8 hours of protection against mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. They are also available online in both US and Europe, using the links below.
US shoppers can check prices of Bens Wipes below.
Outside of US, click here to check prices of Bens Wipes.
4. Insect Repellent Wristbands
We discovered insect repellent bracelets in Bali. A small supermarket had those festival-style rubber insect repellent bands impregnated with citronella. They were surprisingly effective. But they did make us look like overaged students. And I know some people cannot get on with the scent of citronella. If you are this person then skip on to item 5. If you don’t mind the scent and are reading this post because you were hoping for some natural, non-DEET insect repelling remedies, then read on.
We now use the Parakito stuff which in our opinion, are the best mosquito repellent bands. These are a range of soft fabric mosquito repellent bands and also keyrings which have a small pocket in which you insert a citronella-scented tab (which is one of the best natural mosquito repellents and does the mozzie repelling magic part).
You can buy refills for the tabs. Although not exactly stylish in design, they are a step up from the rubber student festival mosquito repellent wristbands.
Outside of the US you can find the wristbands here
and the refills here.
5. Mosquito Repellent clothing
This can be done in two ways. You can buy special mosquito spray for clothes, or your tent or sleeping bag. It contains permethrin and will last for several washes. Again, different product brands are available depending on where you are shopping. For US, the Repel range has a permethrin spray that lasts up to two weeks.
For the UK, the Lifesystems Ex-4 spray does the same job.
The drawback of this method is that a bottle is quickly used up after a few items of clothing are treated. For longer term travel this would mean having to either carry several bottles of it around, or keep sourcing it in different places.
To get around this, there are also now mosquito protection clothing ranges such as Solstice or Ex-Officio (US) or Craghoppers Nosilife (UK). These ranges are made of fabrics engineered with insect repelling properties that claim to last for the lifetime of the clothing. You can see some examples below.
Or if you are shopping in the UK, check out this Craghoppers NosiLife Lifestyle Bayame Men’s Long Sleeve T-Shirt or this Craghoppers Womens/Ladies NosiLife Appleton Long-Sleeved Tee.
6. Mosquito nets
If they are used correctly, then mosquito nets can be one of the best insect repellent defences for your sleeping skin. In places where there are a lot of mosquitoes, many hotels and hostels will have them already installed. You can of course also carry a travel mosquito net. As we are always carrying our Lifesystems portable ray of death, we don’t usually bother, although we do always use them in hotels if available. However we have never been travelling anywhere where we cannot buy batteries, so mosquito nets still make the list for this reason! And, they are another course of insect repellent without DEET, if you prefer not to use it.
Outside US shoppers coghlans mosquito net.
7. Citronella incense coils
One of the very best outdoor bug repellents, and another non deet mosquito repellent is incense coils. I would not actually pack these in the backpack due to size and weight considerations. However, they are usually available in local supermarkets so I will often pick some up if we are staying in one place for a few nights or more especially if we are sitting outside a lot. I have also often used them during summer evenings even on our balcony at home. The coil means they last a lot longer than a traditional incense stick and the citronella scent is not an overly strong scent. They are very popular in hotels in places like Bali or Vietnam where there are tons of mozzies. So this gives me faith that they are one of the best natural bug repellent methods around.
Outside of US, click here to browse mosquito coils in your home country.
Treating Insect bites
If the arsenal of the best mosquito protectionabove still proves insufficient protection against the malevolent mozzies and you find yourself scratching red and swollen bite marks, then the treatments below will help to soothe them.
8. Bite creams/antihistamine lotions
I never go to any hot country without an antihistamine cream. I do have some extreme reactions to insect bites where they become huge and swollen so when this happens I rely on medication to control the immune reaction. If you just want something to reduce the itching, then some aloe vera gelwill cool and soothe the bite spot. Tiger balm is also good against bites.
Some people even say that Tiger Balm acts as a very effective natural mosquito repellent, although I would not usually rely on it alone.
9. Bite relief pen
This clever little device works by delivering a concentrated dose of heat to the bite spot. Used directly on the affected area, it tricks the body out of the immune reaction to the bite, reducing swelling and itching for several hours at a time. It takes normal AA batteries.
If you are outside of the US, click here to browse for the Bite Away in your home country.
10. Hot water
Bear with me, it really works! Actually, hot water works by the same principle as the bite relief clicker above, it fools the immune reaction. Wet a clean towel with water as hot as you are able to stand it without scalding (or screaming, if anyone else is around) and hold it against the bite spot until the itching subsides. It’s also surprisingly effective.
So there you go. That is our arsenal in the War of the Moz – some of the best protection against mosquitoes that we have found. We find this collection of top 10 mosquito repellents methods works very well and have yet to be struck down with malaria or other insect-borne diseases.
Do you have any top tips or products for the best anti mosquito defences against the dastardly bloodsuckers? Share in the comments below!
This article is not intended as medical advice. You should always talk to a doctor or pharmacist for travel advice or in case of any reactions to insect bites, bite remedies or insect repelling products, especially if you are pregnant or taking medication. Take care of your health.
This article contains affiliate links. Retailers will pay us a small commission – at NO cost to you – if you buy anything once you click through. We have personally tested these methods during travels on the plains of Africa, beaches of Asia and forests of Central America. Whether they contain affiliate links or not.