Surviving Skeeters on the Trail

Last weekend we headed up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains for some much-needed mountain air and camping. Destination: Loon Lake, which also happens to be the start of the Rubicon Trail. We weren't planning on doing any wheeling, but opted to bring the Jeep, along with our other "Overlander", a 1982 Westfalia named Ferdinand.

At any rate, this year has brought a fair amount of extra precipitation to Northern California and our reservoirs are looking pretty full. Along with that, comes green hills, lots of foliage and a lot of bugs. Mosquitos typically are an annoyance through Spring and they begin to taper into summer, but with all this extra moisture, they are just now ramping up and doing their best to find your skin at a ridiculously aggressive rate.

Luckily, we had the Westy and a way to escape during the busy hours (sundown). Luckily, an hour after sunset each night, they decided to bug out and left us with some peace as the temps dropped a little. During the thick of things last weekend I probably had 50 mosquitos buzzing around my face while trying to BBQ some dinner... not a pleasant moment.

After that trip, I began to recap on what worked and didn't during those times of rampant blood sucking. Here's a few of my tips:


Good spray: Choose your weapon, but I prefer Cutter Dry (10% Deet) as it does a good job of repelling without leaving you feeling sticky through the night. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil does a great job as well. If there's a way to shower and wash it off, I'd go full 25% Deet (Deep Woods Off) and not mind the stickiness. You can also find lotion and balms that do a good job, but be careful where you put it.

Smoke: If you can have a fire, smoke does a great job of keeping mosquitos at bay. Even standing in or near the smoke of a BBQ helps buy you some peace and quiet for a few minutes and your tent partner will think you smell really good all night. There are a few companies on the market who make Mosquito Sticks (think incense) that you can place around your camp. I haven't tried them, but apparently they help.

Keep Covered Up: Keep your skin covered up with full length shirts and pants, plus a good hat. I even spray Cutter on the rim of my hat to add a little anti-skeeter to my perimeter.

Head Nets: If you can keep them away, at least keep them off your face. Head nets do a good job and if you combine that with some earplugs, you'll never know they are there. Sea-to-Summit has some nice products that seem pretty well thought out.

Citronella Candles: For small spaces (in a tent or camper for instance) these candles do a pretty good job. You need a fair amount of them to make a difference outside, but a smoky fire will do better. These Coleman Citronella candles do a great job inside a camper or small space.

Don't be afraid to pack it up and move to higher ground: Seriously, I have rolled into some amazing dispersed campsites, only to find that it was a mosquito haven. On numerous occasions, we've packed it up and moved a few hundred yards to higher and drier ground, and hardly saw a single bug. Look around and avoid camping near large amounts of standing, stagnant water.

Worried about Ticks? Read this great article by Tom Severin for tips on ticks and other crawling annoyances.