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Nothing ruins a camping trip like insects. Any avid camper will tell you that one of the most annoying things while camping is having a near-perfect night in nature ruined by insects constantly buzzing around you. Midges are one of the main culprits here, and with them being as annoying as they are, this handy guide is here to tell you all you need to know to protect yourself from them while camping.
Here’s how to deal with midges while camping:
- Start a campfire.
- Choose the right tent and keep it closed.
- If you’re hiking, keep moving.
- Use a repellent.
- Avoid still water.
- Use citronella candles.
- Wear long clothes and cover as much of your body as possible.
- Wear light-colored clothing.
- Do not scratch if you get bitten.
- Use an antihistamine cream.
Although they are smaller than mosquitos, midges can be even more annoying, especially when they swarm around you. However, you don’t have to take it lying down. The rest of this article will go into significant depth about dealing with midges, so you never have to worry about them again.
1. Start a Campfire
It is well documented that fires do a good job of keeping away insects. The generally accepted reason for this is that insects take smoke as a sign of fire which sets off their natural survival instincts and keeps them away.
Starting a campfire is relatively straightforward and is one of my favorite things to do while camping. It’s a great way to bond and share stories while out in nature and comes with the added benefit of keeping insects away.
To start a campfire, you’ll need to follow the following steps:
- Get a fire ring. Most camping sites will have one of these handy if fires are allowed. Fire rings keep your fire contained and will lessen its environmental impact.
- Gather your kindling, tinder, and firewood. These are the three essential components of the fire. Each burns differently but serves a specific purpose. The tinder helps start the fire, kindling helps the fire burn longer, and firewood keeps the fire going for long periods as it burns the slowest.
- Assemble the components in the ring and set fire to the tinder. Tinder catches fire quickly but will transfer the fire to the kindling and firewood before dying.
- Put out the fire with water. Pour water on the fire to put it out, then pour some more on the ash after moving it around. Always remember to put out the campfire. It might seem unnecessary, seeing as most fires will die out on their own, but an untended fire is dangerous and is one of the most common ways forest fires start.
2. Choose the Right Tent and Keep It Closed
If they can’t reach you, they can’t bite you, so always keep your tent closed even when you’re not in it. If you have a good tent, ventilation should not be a problem. Quite a few tents come with provisions that allow you to keep your tent closed and maintain airflow.
One thing that is often overlooked in tents is the color you choose.
Although the color of your tent might seem like it only has aesthetic purposes, there are also quite a few practical reasons why you should choose specific colors. One of those reasons is related to insects like midges and mosquitoes.
If you want to be extra safe in your choice of tent, then it is best to choose a lighter-colored tent because midges are attracted to dark colors.
As a result, a darker tent means fewer insects will notice you in the first place.
- Provide a comfortable space for enjoying all the benefits of the great outdoors with none of the drawbacks
- Spacious 5-sided gazebo with a quick pop-up design with bugproof mesh windows
- 210D Oxford-weave shell is 200MM waterproof and UV-resistant, protective against all weather
Another good tip is investing in a tent with inbuilt precautions against insects. For example, the Gazelle Tents GG501DS Pop Up (available on Amazon.com) is a great choice with bugproof mesh windows.
This mosquito net is perfectly suitable for 10'x10' common straight leg tents, Instant Canopies, Gazebos, Pergola's foldable pavilions, and iron-art tents.Net only; metal frame and canopy top not Included!
Alternatively, the PCAFRS Mosquito Net (available on Amazon.com) is a mosquito net/camping tent hybrid that will keep you very protected.
Related Articles: Are Ultralight Tents Worth It? 5 Things to Know Can Ticks Somehow Get Through Tent Walls?
3. If You’re Hiking, Keep Moving
Hiking is one of the most fun things to do while out in nature. It is great exercise and is one of those things that just makes you feel like you’re one with your surroundings. That said, if you plan to hike and you would like to avoid midges while doing so, then you will need to take a couple of precautions.
The first thing to note is that insects are less likely to catch a moving target. As a result, if you plan to hike, it is best to keep moving outside of predetermined breaks. Furthermore, midges are also attracted to Carbon dioxide, which you produce significantly more of while doing a strenuous activity like hiking.
As a result, it is best to keep it moving if you plan to hike and avoid midge bites. Although you can still take breaks if you need to, try to limit them to as few as you need to reduce the time you will spend stationary.
A final tip while hiking that will be covered more later on is to use repellent on your hike. The repellent will make your body significantly less attractive to insects.
Here is a quick summary to prep you for a hike in midge infested areas while camping:
- If you’re hiking, keep moving to make it harder for midges to catch up to you.
- Try not to stop outside of predetermined brakes.
- Use insect repellent.
4. Use a Repellent
Insect repellent is a popular choice for people looking to avoid midge, and other insect, bites. It is a quick and easy way to minimize the number of insects that will trouble you when you’re out.
Generally, midges and other insects locate prey through visual, auditory, and olfactory signals. Insect repellents work by confusing these signals in the midge and making it significantly more difficult to locate the person they want to bite.
That said, not all repellents are effective, and it is best to know what types you should use and why.
Protect against mosquitos, deer ticks, gnats, no-see-ums, sand flies, and biting midges
The aerosol has a sturdier construction if you were to take it backpacking or more extreme activities.
The most popular insect repellents contain a compound called DEET(diethyltoluamide), which is extremely effective in deterring insects. Picaridin is also another option that you can use as an alternative to DEET. AVON Skin SO Soft Bug Gaurd (available on Amazon.com) is a popular choice from a trusted brand if you want a picaridin-based repellent.
That said, it is synthetic, which some people might have a problem with.
If you’re strongly against artificial repellents, then there is a wide range of natural options you could try. Some of these include:
- Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
- Greek Catnip Oil
- Soybean Oil
5. Avoid Still Water
If your camp is located anywhere near still water, try your best to move away to another campsite or be prepared to spend your entire stay there fighting insects. Insects’ love for water is well documented, and midges are no different.
Midges will not be your only problem here.
A few other insects located around still water are mosquitoes, toe biters, and water striders. Although water striders are not harmful, the first two, along with midges, could make your stay quite miserable.
The main way to avoid still water insects would be to not camp near them, but understandably, this is not always possible. Consequently, you would have to employ the rest of the precautions in this article to minimize the number of bites you take.
6. Use Citronella Candles
Although we touched on repellents before, citronella candles are a big enough deal that they deserve a separate point here. Citronella is a natural midge repellent, and putting it in candle form is a particularly good way to keep bugs away.
A citronella candle will protect you in two ways.
First, as I previously mentioned, smoke protects you from insects as they generally avoid it. Candles produce a bit of smoke, so a citronella candle lit close to you will produce a decent amount of smoke that could act as a midge deterrent.
However, compared to a campfire, the amount of smoke produced here is minuscule, so keep a campfire going if you can.
Second, citronella is a natural repellent for midges and other insects. Once you light a citronella candle, it starts to spread its smell through its immediate surroundings. As its smell deters midges, you could end up in a midge-free bubble.
At the very least, it will keep the number that approaches you to a minimum.
Repels mosquitoes and other flying insects in outdoor areas.
A 20-ounce candle provides up to 40 hours of protection.
Related Articles: Should You Use a Citronella Candle in a Tent? How Many Citronella Candles Do You Need?
7. Wear Long Clothes and Cover as Much of Your Body as Possible
This solution is one you will need to consider before you even get to the campsite. Insects cannot reach what they cannot find. As a result, if you keep yourself covered enough, you should be able to keep yourself relatively free from bites.
Generally, it is advisable to pack long-sleeved shirts when you go camping to leave your upper body as covered as possible. If you can, you should also try to wear long trousers when you’re out of your tent.
You should be relatively safe from bites if you can cover most of your exposed skin.
If you’d also like to make sure your face is protected while camping and don’t mind spending a little extra then, a net mesh will give you maximum protection. The mesh covers your head and neck, denying midges access to them.
The Benvo Mosquito Head Net Mesh (available on Amazon.com) is a great choice that won’t break the bank and comes with two meshes instead of one.
Finally, it is best to wear closed shoes to protect your feet whenever you go out. However, if you’d like a more breathable option, then a pair of thick socks will go well with whatever footwear you choose. But please don’t wear them with sandals.
8. Wear Light-Colored Clothing
I previously mentioned getting a light-colored tent when making your choice, but this decision also applies to the type of clothing you bring along with you. Midges, like mosquitos, seem to prefer darker colors to lighter ones.
As a result, you should pack as many dark-colored clothes as possible to vastly reduce the number of insects that bother you.
The only problem with this method is the overlapping between the colors that attract and deter different insects. Not all insects are attracted by the same types of colors. Consequently, in a bid to deter midges by wearing light colors, you might end up attracting the attention of a different type of insect.
Here are some insect types and the types of colors that attract them:
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it points out some of the most common pests you’ll come across and the type of colors to avoid wearing. To get the best use out of this list, try to plan when going camping to find out what insects are most common, then pack your clothing accordingly.
Note: The research on how colors affect different insects is still inconclusive. However, some trends have been found that help to match specific colors with specific insects. Regardless, your mileage may vary here, and I strongly advise that you combine matching colors with another form of protection to keep yourself as bite-free as possible.
9. Do Not Scratch if You Get Bitten
Unlike most of the rest of this article, this point focuses more on what to do if you get bitten instead of not getting bitten. While it is good to avoid getting bitten as much as possible, it is also important to know what to do if you get bitten.
You should never scratch a bite regardless of how much it might itch.
Usually, these bites itch because they cause the bitten area and its immediate surroundings to become inflamed. Scratching the itch rather than improving its conditions will only worsen the inflammation.
It is also best to avoid breaking the skin if a blister forms with scratching. Breaking the skin will likely cause it to scar.
10. Use an Antihistamine Cream
A good antihistamine cream can work wonders after getting bitten by a midge. Antihistamine creams work by inhibiting the action of a chemical in your body called histamine, which causes swelling in the first place.
Use for temporary relief from pain and itching associated with insect bites, minor burns, sunburn, minor skin irritations, rashes due to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Dries the oozing and weeping of poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
Dr. Sheffield’s Anti-itch Cream (available on Amazon.com) is an effective and affordable option.
Avoiding midges and other insects while camping is something every camper should consider before they set out on their journey, as they could potentially ruin a fun camping trip. Generally, a combination of campfires, insect repellent, and long clothing should deter all but the most determined of midges.
If you do get bitten, avoid scratching the affected area to prevent scarring and apply a good antihistamine cream when you can.