The 8 Best Bug Repellents to Buy in 2018

Protect yourself and your stuff

Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent
Courtesy of Amazon.

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Spending time in the great outdoors shouldn’t result in massive bug bites and itchy episodes. There are many insect repellents that can keep the bugs away and provide protection against the diseases carried by mosquitos, ticks, and more. But certain products, chemicals, or application methods are more effective at insect control than others.

Choosing the best bug repellent to buy begins with understanding when and where you may be using the product. For instance, there are bug repellents specifically designed for use in heavily wooded areas. Others are produced with added sunscreen for UVA and UVB protection. Some insect repellents are made to treat your gear, or even your dog! The good news is that there is an abundance of safe, effective products on the market to keep you from feeling miserable and itchy on your next outdoor adventure. Read on to learn more about the best insect repellents to buy.


  • 01 of 08

    Best Overall: Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin

    For a superior level of bug bite protection, look to Sawyer’s Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin. This formula is available in a lotion or spray application, and provides provide eight hours of protection against biting flies, gnats, chiggers, and sand flies and 12 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks (opt for the lotion formula and get up to 14 hours).

    What people love most about the Sawyer Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin is that the formula is DEET-free, but still offers extensive protection against mosquitoes and ticks, gnats, chiggers, and sand flies, and biting flies. In fact, it is actually more effective than DEET at warding off biting flies. While not all-natural, Picaridin is widely regarded as safer and less harsh than DEET.

    Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman or prefer casual strolls in the summer, this Picaridin spray by Sawyer will give you ample protection without the health concerns of DEET-based formulas.

  • 02 of 08

    Best for Deep Woods: Repel 100 Insect Repellent

    If you’re heading into the deep woods and expecting to face an army of insects, then a DEET spray like Repel 100 Insect Repellent is a powerful weapon against insect bites and insect-borne disease.

    With a formula made up of 98.11% DEET, this spray is highly concentrated and repels mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, biting flies, chiggers, no-see-ums and fleas. It lasts for up to 10 hours and comes in a pump spray bottle for easy application.

    DEET is considered to pose no health concerns to the general population, and it is the top level of insect protection available on the market today. Many users of this spray by Repel report not even being bitten by a single bug. Some, however, didn’t care for the strong chemical odor. One point of caution with this product is that it can melt plastic and care must be taken not to get it into eyes, mouth, or open wounds. Still, if you’re looking for the ultimate protection against bug bites in heavily infested areas, Repel 100 will do the job!

  • 03 of 08

    Best for Long-Lasting Protection: 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion

    If your outdoor excursion will last more than a few hours – and you expect to sweat or encounter the occasional splash of water, then reach for 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion.

    Lotions are typically longer-lasting than other methods of insect repellent application. This 34.34% DEET formula lasts up to 12 hours and has time-release technology to keep the bugs away. While it’s not waterproof (so you’ll need to reapply after swimming) it is splash and sweat-resistant. As with other DEET-based repellents, it can dissolve plastic and should not come into contact with eyes, mouth, and open wounds.

    Happy, itch-free users of this 3M product praise it for its long-lasting protection and easy application. The lotion itself was thick without being sticky. If you plan to be outside for an extended period of time and want a product with a lower level of DEET than our pick for ‘Deep Woods Protection,’ choose this 3M product that offers ongoing protection, even despite sweat or damp conditions.

  • 04 of 08

    Best with Sunscreen: Avon SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard

    Outdoor activities often involve exposure to bugs and sun – so it makes sense to look for a product that protects against both. Avon’s Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30 is a great solution.

    For handling insects, the lotion uses IR3535 – an insect-repelling compound. It’s worth noting that the formula is hypoallergenic and DEET-free, but not considered to be “all-natural.” To keep you shielded from the sun’s harmful rays, the formula includes a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays. To note, most dermatologist recommend using a separate bug spray from SPF because bug spray can lessen the effectiveness of the SPF (and you apply too much repellent). So, if you are going to be spending time in the hot sun it's best to apply separately and do your SPF first, followed by your bug spray. 

    As an added bonus, many users find the formula to be moisturizing. So whether you’re looking for an insect repellent, sunscreen, or moisturizer with perks, this hypoallergenic lotion has extremely high reviews and thousands of happy users for three good reasons!

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Best Natural: All Terrain Kids DEET-Free Natural Insect Repellent Spray

    You may be looking for an all-natural insect repellent for a variety of reasons, but one thing you don’t want to compromise on is protection. The All Terrain Herbal Armor Insect Repellent Spray is DEET-free and safe for kids and adults alike.

    Featuring citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass and geranium oils and boasting 26% active natural ingredients, this formula has a mild, herbal smell that many users find to be pleasant. It may need to be rubbed in for maximum absorption, but won’t ruin clothing.

    All-natural insect repellents tend to offer a little less protection than their chemical-laden counterparts. Some users reported still being bitten by insects when using this spray. However, most people reported that with regular application at the recommend intervals, the majority of bugs were kept away. So for a natural insect repellent that is safe for kids and sensitive skin, choose this formula from All Terrain and you’ll have peace of mind.

  • 06 of 08

    Best for Clothing: Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent

    If you want superior all-around protection, it’s not enough to just spray yourself with insect repellent. You’ll also want to spray your clothes and your gear. Some insect repellents, however, will damage clothes or melt plastics. Sawyer’s Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent is a product specifically designed to treat clothing and gear without damaging it.

    Permethrin, a common chemical compound that repels dozens of different insects, is particularly useful as a repellent for fabrics and clothing. It is not ideal for topical applications, since skin contact causes the chemical to lose its effectiveness. However, when applied to fabric, Sawyer’s Permethrin Insect Repellent will last for up to 42 days of sun exposure, or six washings.

    This is a great choice if you want to create an extra barrier of protection between you and bugs you may encounter. It also is a wise buy if you’re traveling and want to treat your luggage. Campers may find value in treating tents, sleeping bags, and chairs with this Permethrin spray. Note, however, that the manufacturer does state that the spray can be used on waterproof fabrics — but may have a harder time adhering. A bonus use for this spray: Apply to your dog’s fur for up to two weeks of protection from mosquitos, fleas, ticks, and more. Pick up a bottle of Sawyer’s Premium Permethrin spray and treat your clothes or gear before your next adventure.

  • 07 of 08

    Best Repellent Wristband: SelpHbalance Mosquito Repellent Bracelet

    If you’re looking for insect repellent in the form of a bracelet that can be worn around the wrists or ankles, the SelpHbalance Mosquito Repellent Bracelets come highly recommended.

    These DEET-free and all-natural bracelets use Citronella, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Geraniol, and Lemongrass oil to deter insects. Kids and adults alike will appreciate the convenience and multiple color options of these soft, micro-fiber bracelets. Wear them on your wrists or ankles, or loop around your backpack, shoelaces, and other places for an additional defense. Twelve bracelets come in a package, so you’ll have plenty to make sure you’re well-protected.

    The manufacturer states that these bracelets are waterproof and reusable for up to 240 hours. Many users report that getting them wet did not seem to lessen their effectiveness. Additionally, the resealable package makes it easy to store them for later use. A few users complain of the smell, but many insect repellents have a discernible scent of some type. Additionally, the repellent does not seem to be as strong as some other products on our list, but for a wearable form of insect control, these SelpHbalance Mosquito Repellent Bracelets make a great choice!

  • 08 of 08

    Best Wipes: Repel 94100 Sportsmen 30-Percent Deet Mosquito Repellent Wipes

    Insect repellent wipes offer the ability to quickly apply protection without the hassle of spreading in a lotion or potentially inhaling chemicals from a spray formula. The Repel 94100 Sportsmen Mosquito Repellent Wipes are a top choice for bug repellent that can be easily swiped on.

    This formula contains 30-percent DEET, so they’re not a chemical-free formula. However, many people found them to be effective – even in tropical or heavy insect-infested areas. Parents may appreciate being able to wipe on the repellent without worrying about little ones inhaling the mist from a spray or ingesting lotion during the application process.