Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS
Some of the most scenic places to go camping or backpacking are also the places that mosquitoes like to hang out. If you're camping light, every ounce counts, but there are still ways to keep from getting bitten without adding much to the weight, and without using any chemical repellent.
Personally, I'm nervous about sprays for your skin that contain DEET. They work, though not necessarily well enough to prevent an arctic-style mosquito horde from getting in a few bites. But when you're spending all day outdoors camping, you need to keep reapplying the spray several times a day. I like looking for other solutions not involving chemicals on my body, and mosquito netting is a simple, practical solution. Best yet, it works, and it doesn't wear off in six hours!
See this page for information on mosquito protection when you're active, but on this page are some ways to repel mosquitoes at night, while backpacking or camping light.
Hammock + Mosquito Netting = Luxury
The best thing about a hammock is that no matter how hard the ground is, you have the same comfortable place to sleep. Unfortunately, you're right there in the air with the mosquitoes.
There are two easy ways to solve the problem: get a hammock with a built-in mosquito net, or add your own mosquito net to a hammock you already have. Buying a hammock with a built-in net may be a little more expensive, but the net is already attached, has a zipper on it so it will definitely seal well, and there's no work involved. But if you have a hammock you like, and already own a mosquito net, or want to get one and play around customizing the set-up, making your own will save a few dollars.
Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro Hammock keeps bugs away
The Skeeter Beeter Pro Hammock is big and comfy, but packs up small and weighs just 27 ounces. They say it's rated to hold up to 400 pounds, and it's wide enough to fit most any individual person, or two who really want to snuggle. It comes with all the ropes and hardware you need, plus a stuff-sack to store it in. If you're camping, the only extra thing you'd want would be a tarp overhead for rain protection.
The mosquito net is permanently attached, but you don't have to use it when bugs aren't a problem. Just flip the hammock over and lie on the other side. You might think you could just collapse the net and lie on top of it with the hammock right side up, but don't do it! It'll put too much strain on the netting and maybe pull it away from the zipper. Like any netting, it needs treated with a bit of care but will last a long time.
I can set this thing up fast, maybe ten minutes or less. The fabric is nylon parachute cloth, silky and cool-feeling in summer, though if the nights are chilly, you'll want to add a good sleeping bag. The total length is 10 1/2 feet long, so you'll need two trees at least that far apart, and it has a generous width of 5 feet.
"This hammock is lower in price than others, especially since it has everything included, even the bug net, so I was surprised at the quality. Light weight, easy to pack and unpack, and quick to set up."
"Bigger than I thought, very roomy. Wish it had poles on the ends to keep it flatter, so two people could take advantage of all that room without sliding against each other, but then it wouldn't be as light or easy to pack. So nice not to fight the bugs."
"I've used this backpacking and hang it in the yard when I'm home. Very durable and has a silky feel to the fabric that sheds dirt. When the bugs aren't a problem you can flip it over and use it as a regular hammock. Only complaint is that it's bigger than it needs to be, but it's still so lightweight I can't really complain."
Pramex Long-Lasting Insecticidal Net is World-Class Protection
The Pramex Net is shaped so you can hang it over a cot, suspended from one or two overhead lines, or you can adapt it to fit over a plain hammock that you already own. It's shaped like a rectangle with an open bottom, 71" long, 39" wide across the top, and 59" high. It weighs 17 ounces.
But what's really special about this net is that it's impregnated with 2% permethrin, so if you accidentally lean up against it, mosquitoes won't land on it long enough to bite through. If it gets a small hole in it, mosquitoes also won't spend time trying to work their way in to get you. Of course, you can buy other nets that are just fabric, if you want to avoid all insecticides, but personally, I'm comfortable with permethrin on clothing and things other than my skin, when I really really need to keep bugs at bay.
The Olyset technology they use to incorporate the permethrin puts it inside the fibers, rather than on the outside like if you just sprayed it with permethrin clothing spray, so it lasts longer. The manufacturer says the net never needs re-treatment. "Never" is a long time, but a study in Africa, where protection from disease-carrying mosquitoes is a big deal, showed that even after three years of use, Olyset-treated nets were still killing and repelling mosquitoes.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends nets impregnated with pyrethroids like this, for people in places where they have to worry about serious diseases from mosquitoes, because "These insecticides have been to shown to pose very low health risks to humans and other mammals, but are highly toxic to insects and knock them down, even at very low doses." The World Health Organization has given full recommendation to nets treated with this Olyset process.
So if you're serious about keeping mosquitoes away, this is the net that will do it. It's a little stiff-feeling, not silky soft like the net over the Skeeter Beeter hammock, but it's designed with holes big enough to allow plenty of air circulation on those hot nights. It's light weight but tougher than cotton or nylon nets, since it's made to stand up to daily use in third-world countries.
You can use the six loops in the top to hang it on a line strung between two trees or across a large tent, letting the sides touch the ground so mosquitoes can't get under.
"Stiffer than I expected, but very durable, while being lightweight and easy to pack. You'll need to supply your own cords to tie it up and also a storage bag. It's just the net, nothing else."
"Not oversized, just barely long enough for my cot. I thought the holes might be too big to keep out mosquitoes, but it worked perfectly, and the larger holes make it cooler than tight netting."
"The price is higher than other nets but it's stronger too, plus has the extra insecticide to keep mosquitoes off. Not sure if it would work for smaller bugs like no-see-ums."
"Have used it for two years (seasons), and still holding up. They say you can wash it with soap and water and it will still have the permethrin in it. I washed it once and it still seems to work fine. Very sturdy, but coarser than I expected."
Atwater-Carey Sleep Screen Protects You in Your Sleeping Bag
This sleep screen is a nifty idea. It's smaller and lighter than a full-size screen tent, but it covers where you need covered, on your upper body, since your lower body will be in a sleeping bag or under a blanket.
The poles hold the screen away from your face, arms and upper body when you're lying down, so the bugs can't bite through. If you like to camp under a tarp, or just under the stars on a dry night, or have a tent that doesn't keep mosquitoes at bay, or just use a bivy over your sleeping bag, this will protect you. It also works with a bed or cot, as long as the surface you're lying on is at least 22" wide. Indoors, on a hot night, it holds a little heat in, but is a lot better than covering your face with a sheet or blanket.
It weighs 10 ounces and opens up to a tent-shaped dome, 34" by 22" at the base. It folds up into a tube-shaped package, including the poles, 17" inches long and 2 1/2" diameter. I'll admit it's not the easiest thing in the world to set up the first time you try it, but once you get the hang of it, it's easier. There's no need to string a cord overhead or use a hook, since the poles support it completely. Tuck your sleeping bag along the edges or lay extra clothing there at night if there are any cracks that mosquitoes could sneak under.
"Compact and convenient. Does what it's supposed to. Atwater-Carey used to be called Repel, which is the name I bought it under."
"Not thrilled with the hassle to set it up, but once it's up, I love it. The mosquitoes buzz around outside but can't get to you."
"We took two of these on a trip to help in Haiti. Very convenient because you don't have to worry about hanging a net, so they're good anywhere, sleeping on a mat on the floor, bed, or camping."
Product photos courtesy of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.