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Keeping the Critters Out of Your Campsite

When you enter the outdoors, you step into a world that isn’t your own. You transition from a place where humans dominate to where wildlife outnumbers you substantially, so it’s fair to assume that at some point, you’ll come across unwanted wildlife.

This could range from ticks, mosquitoes, and other creepy crawlies to reptiles and large mammals such as bears. While the majority of these creatures are little more than a nuisance to you on your camping or hiking trip, there’s always the chance that you could run into a few animals that are a little more dangerous.

Here are a few of the most essential items to throw into your hiking backpack and some techniques you can use to keep the critters away anytime you’re outdoors.

Keep Critters Out

Bug Spray

Insect repellents are the best way to keep the bugs off your skin, and are especially helpful for warding off mosquitoes and ticks. When choosing a repellent, opt for one that contains the chemical DEET, which is proven to be safe for humans when used properly and is extremely effective at keeping the bugs away. Of all the repellents on the market, DEET will give you the strongest, longest-lasting protection.

Try to stay away from products that contain naphthalene, which, unlike DEET, can cause environmental problems.

However, if the strong odor of DEET bothers you, try using picaridin-based repellents. Keep in mind that with this product, though, you’ll need to reapply more often. It’s best to toss these items into your first-aid kit, along with anti-itch cream and antihistamine to treat bites and allergic reactions.

Natural Prevention

You can also lower your chances of being bitten by mosquitoes and ticks by following a few simple guidelines. Wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants is an obvious way to limit bites, and you can use this along with repellent for ultimate protection. Some clothes even come with built-in bug protection that keeps dozens of different kinds of insects away.

Around the campsite, you can burn citronella candles and other oils, like lemon eucalyptus, that ward off mosquitoes and provide your campsite with a pleasant scent.

Larger Mammals

Running into dangerous large mammals, such as bears, is much less common than raccoons and deer, but it’s good to know how to keep these predators away, especially if you’re heading into bear country.

Prevention is the best way to keep bears at a distance, which can be done by periodically making noise, such as clapping and yelling, while hiking. Attaching a bear bell to your backpack will also help keep them away. Traveling in groups is a great way to stave off bears, as you’ll naturally be making more noise. But if you know you’ll be hiking where bears have been reported, it may not be a bad idea to also bring a deterrent along with you, such as bear spray.

When choosing a spray, make sure it’s labeled specifically for deterring attacks by bears. An effective spray typically has a concentration of about 1.5 percent capsaicin, the same components found in pepper sprays; they are naturally derived from chilies. Don’t use a can of bear spray that’s been sitting for more than three years, and make sure that it’s always carried in a holster, not your backpack.

Prevention Is Best

One of the most effective ways to keep unwanted guests out of your campsite is to practice a few camping basics. Keeping a tidy camp, following Leave No Trace rules for waste removal, properly cleaning camping cooking equipment, and even keeping up with basic personal hygiene will help ward off everything from mosquitoes to bears.


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