Should You Use a Citronella Candle in a Tent?

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As an avid backpacker, I have a healthy amount of disdain for the mosquito, so if something might repel them, I’ve definitely tried it. Most of the mosquito repellents, outside of the tried and true substances like DEET, were ineffective but harmless. However, after a fiery mishap in my tent, I learned the hard way that citronella candles could be harmful inside a tent. 

You shouldn’t use a citronella candle in a tent. Citronella candles fill your tent with smoke debris and, most importantly, are a fire hazard. The risks of getting caught in a tent fire surpass any risks associated with mosquito bites. There are safer methods to keep mosquitos out of your tent. 

Luckily, I wasn’t hurt; the citronella candle burnt a hole in the roof of my tent, so I spent that night getting eaten alive by mosquitos, but I was able to put out the fire before it was disastrous. Since then, I have learned some safe and effective tips to keep your tent a mosquito-free zone. Read on to learn if you should use garlic or lemon-scented perfume on your next camping trip!

Citronella Candles Are Unsafe and Ineffective for Tents

The New York Times recently published an article in which Laurence Zweibel, professor of biological science, explained how mosquito repellents work. According to Zweibel, mosquitos have a large number of chemical receptors, and good mosquito repellents will block most or all of these chemical receptors. 

It is true that citronella does block some of the mosquito’s chemical receptors, but not enough to be any more effective than any other candle. The smoke might be what is doing most of the work in a citronella candle, not the scent. 

In other words, not only are citronella candles not safe in your tent, they wouldn’t be a good choice for repelling mosquitoes even if they were! 

Safe and Effective Mosquito Repellents for Your Tent

Luckily, citronella candles are not the only defense your tent has against mosquitos. There are plenty of other methods that I have listed below so that you can sleep soundly on your next camping trip. 

One thing that I won’t mention is using DEET mosquito repellents. They work well, but the smell and potential harms of the chemical are reason enough to avoid spraying these inside your tent. 

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Check Your Tent During and After Setup

First thing’s first, make sure that your tent doesn’t have any holes or tears in the fabric that will let mosquitos in.

Preferably, this would be something you do before leaving on your camping trip so that you can patch any entry points. However, keep some materials to patch new holes on hand as well. Setting up a tent is always the hardest part of a camping trip, and new tears are bound to happen sometimes. 

Keeping your tent sealed up is the most effective way to keep mosquitos away. If the mosquitos can’t get in, they can’t bite you! So, get your tent completely sealed up and only unzip the doors when entering or exiting the tent.

Pick a Campsite Away From Water

When you are picking out a campsite, try to keep in mind that some places will have more mosquitos than others. You are going to want to pick a spot that there are fewer!

According to the CDC, Mosquitos like to congregate near water of all sorts. If you keep your tent away from any bodies of water, swampy areas, and tall grass, then you are more likely to be able to keep mosquitos out of your tent. 

Use a Portable Fan Inside of Your Tent

Surprisingly, outside of keeping your tent sealed and away from mosquito habitats, one of the most effective ways to keep your tent mosquito-free is a portable fan. 

According to The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), mosquitos are not great fliers. They are very light and have weak wings, so even a mild wind will keep them away. 

Thus, setting up a small, portable fan will be a great way to repel mosquitos. Even those that do manage to get inside will immediately want to get out since they will feel as though they are in a high-powered tornado. 

Since you are camping, make sure to pick a fan that is going to work in your tent. A fan that needs a power outlet is not going to be a good choice. One that can run on batteries or has a good amount of work time between charges is the best bet for camping. 

Geek Aire Rechargeable Outdoor High Velocity Floor Fan

The stable fan structure based on aerodynamic and the advanced brushless DC motor makes this rechargeable floor fan produce a quiet and strong wind.

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My personal choice in fan is the Geek Aire Rechargeable Outdoor Portable Fan from for my camping trips. It’s a bit pricey, but it lasts forever on a single charge, is waterproof, and also functions as a power bank if I need emergency power. 

Portable Fan Rechargeable, 8-inch 10400mAh Battery

Powered by a 10400mAh large-capacity battery, it can be used wirelessly without wiring restrictions. After fully charged, it can work continuously for 8-36 hours according to the air volume speed. You can enjoy the refreshing cool breeze all day long.

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If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, this DrChop Portable and Rechargeable Fan from has great battery life, a built-in flashlight, and hooks for hanging up in your tent! It’s affordable, and reviewers say it’s a great fan for the price. 

Of course, even these small fans are going to be way too heavy and large if you are camping on a backpacking trip. As my grandfather always said, “an ounce in the morning feels like a pound in the afternoon.” 

WiHoo Mini Handheld Stroller Fan 5200mAh Battery

The small fan with unique flexible tripod design. This tripod uses high quality metal and Silicone cover, you can bent any angle you want, grip it, wrap it, stand it, keep it durable, flexible and stable.

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For backpacking trips, I love this WiHoo Mini Handheld Stroller Fan from for my tent. The bendable tripod arms are so handy, and it lasts a long while between charges. It’s also light enough to be practical for backpacking. 

Final Thoughts

Skip the garlic oil and natural scent repellents for a good portable fan. Don’t take it from me, the backpacker who reeked of garlic and almost died in a fiery citronella candle accident. Instead, listen to the mosquito and disease experts I’ve cited, who’ve confirmed that candles, oils, and dietary choices are going to have minimal effect in mosquito repelling.

Hopefully, this article will help you make your next camping trip one full of campfire songs, gooey s’mores, and great memories since you now know how to keep those pesky mosquitos out of your tent and away from your veins!

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