Natural Bug Repellents Make Happy Campers

The Fly in the Ointment

Ah, the wonders of Nature! The great outdoors offers many opportunities to relax, explore, energize, and expand your horizons. The different methods for getting back to Nature are endless, from canoeing to rock climbing to camping. But everywhere you go in the warm months, there’s that ever present, pesky problem—bugs. They have their own place in the natural order, but biting insects make any outdoor experience less enjoyable, as well as posing the threat of disease transmission. Bug repellents are a must, but the majority of the products on the market have synthetic repellents, which can have toxic effects on your health. Natural bug repellents are the healthy way to make your campers happy with their outdoor activities.

The Problem with Pesticides

So what’s wrong with having synthetic repellents in your bug sprays? Synthetic repellents are more effective than natural repellents, but they have some disturbing side effects. The most common chemical used as a bug repellent is DEET, which is absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. This chemical is a solvent, able to partly dissolve some kinds of plastic, synthetic fabrics, leather, and painted/varnished surfaces. It has also been reported to cause such reactions as rashes, lethargy, muscle spasms, nausea, irritability, insomnia, mood disturbances, impaired cognitive function, and even seizures and death. That kind of side effect list is enough to give anyone pause, and has made many people consider more natural alternatives.

Repelling Bugs Naturally

Avoiding insects isn’t the main objective. What most people want to put an end to is the bite from the insects. One preventative method for avoiding bites is to not attract insects in the first place by using unscented personal products. Washing with flowery scented soaps and applying perfumed lotions and deodorants can attract all kinds of insect attention. But there are some bugs like mosquitoes that are drawn to body heat and the carbon dioxide we exhale as much, or more than, our scent. For these kinds of insects, bug repellents are a must.

There are many kinds of products on the market that are chemical free. Most of these natural products are based on essential oils that have insect repellent properties, like citronella, pennyroyal, lemon eucalyptus, cedar, geranium, bergamot, catnip, and tea tree oil.  Other essential oils are used in these products for scenting purposes, like rosemary, peppermint oil, and lavender. Citronella is a very popular oil used in natural bug repellents, but some people don’t like the scent. Two popular and effective alternatives are Repel Lemon Eucalyptus and Bite Blocker (this product uses geranium oil and vanillin as its repellent ingredients).

If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s possible to make your own natural bug repellent. There are many variations of homemade repellent, but one effective and great smelling recipe uses a jojoba oil base (this base doesn’t attract insects like olive oil or almond oil, and it doesn’t go rancid), plus the essential oils of eucalyptus, lemon, clove, cedar, orange, lavender, peppermint, and cinnamon. There are also some alcohol based repellents which call for rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or vodka as the base and your choice of one of these essential oils: cedarwood, citronella, lemongrass, pennyroyal, tea tree oil, geranium, or catnip. Alcohol can be drying to the skin, but the oils help alleviate that. Essential oils by themselves can be an irritant, so it’s important to dilute them in some kind of base.

Having Natural Fun

While it’s true that synthetic repellents are more effective and longer lasting, using natural bug repellents not only smell better, but are much better for your health. When confronted with the choice between a bug repellent that can cause any number of issues and an insect repellent that needs to be reapplied more frequently, the smart Nature buff will take the natural way every time. Applying a natural bug repellent can give your happy campers peace of mind, make them smell great, and offer relaxing, bug-free fun.