Home Camping Tips How to Make DIY Bug Repellents for Camping
How to Make DIY Bug Repellents for Camping

5 min

September 8, 2023

You know the saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old.” Well, when it comes to camping, there’s one friend we’d all prefer to unfriend – bugs. 

Mosquitoes, ticks, and other tiny invaders can transform a delightful camping trip into a scratchy nightmare. So, how about we fight back with some DIY prowess? That’s right, folks, get ready to don your mad scientist lab coats and concoct your very own bug repellents. 

Essential Oil Bug Spray

Essential oils aren’t just for yoga studios and spas. Many of these fragrant liquids are also natural insect deterrents.


  • 100 ml witch hazel or vodka
  • 50 ml distilled water
  • 50 ml vegetable glycerin or natural oil (like jojoba, almond, olive)
  • 50-75 drops of essential oils (Eucalyptus, Lavender, Citronella, Lemongrass, Peppermint, or Tea tree)


  1. In a glass spray bottle, combine witch hazel (or vodka), water, and glycerin (or chosen oil).
  2. Add in your chosen essential oils.
  3. Shake well before each use and spray liberally on skin or clothing. Avoid eyes and mouth!

DIY Citrus Peel Candles

Not a spray person? No problem! This DIY bug repellent doubles as a rustic camping decoration.


  • Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruits)
  • Olive oil or any cooking oil
  • A wick (can be a cotton string or twine)


  1. Cut the citrus fruit in half and scoop out (and eat!) the inside, leaving the central stem intact – this will serve as your wick.
  2. Let the peel dry for a couple of days (do this prep at home before your trip).
  3. Once the peel is dry, fill it with oil, making sure to soak the ‘wick’ well.
  4. Let it sit for a while so the oil can permeate the wick. Light it up and let the citrusy scent keep those bugs at bay.

Mud Repellent

If you’re really in a pinch and have no other resources, plain old mud can provide a physical barrier against bug bites. It’s not the most glamorous solution, but it’s readily available in most outdoor settings!


  1. Find an area with damp soil or near a water source.
  2. Mix water and dirt together to create a thick paste.
  3. Apply this mud generously to exposed skin areas.

Plant Rub

Some plants, like sage, mint, and citronella, are known to repel insects. If you’re familiar with local plant life, you can use these plants as a quick bug repellent.


  1. Locate and harvest the plants (make sure you’re not picking poisonous or irritating plants!).
  2. Crush the leaves to release the plant’s oils.
  3. Rub the crushed leaves on your skin.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Reapply Often: Natural bug repellents don’t last as long as their chemical counterparts, so be sure to reapply frequently.
  • Test Before You Trek: Before you slather yourself in homemade bug repellent, do a patch test on a small area of skin to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions.
  • Dress for Success: Wearing long sleeves, pants, and hats can provide an additional barrier against bugs.
  • Smoke ‘Em Out: Bugs dislike smoke. So, if you’re in a non-fire-restricted area, the humble campfire can be a great bug repellent.
  • Scents Matter: Avoid fruity or floral scents in personal care products when camping. They can attract bugs, turning you into a walking buffet!

Whether you’re a seasoned DIY-er or a first-time concoction creator, these homemade bug repellents provide a natural and satisfying way to take control of your camping comfort. So, step into your makeshift lab, get those ingredients ready, and tell those bugs, “Not today!” Happy camping, and even happier repelling!

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