Photo of Christopher Van Tilburg

Christopher Van Tilburg

Professional Wilderness Expert

Mosquito Repellents

Featured On:

  • NationalGeographic
There’s nothing worse than getting eaten alive by bugs, especially for a child. I remember getting chomped as a kid when traveling through the Mediterranean, and lathering up with bug juice when in Southeast Asia. On our recent backpack trip to Indian Heaven Wilderness in Washington State, all four kids in our group survived with very few bites, despite the critters being out in full force. The key: kid-friendly insect repellents and clothing.

Whether you head overseas to the tropics or you take the family for a hike in your local state park, the best protection is two fold, insect-resistant clothing and chemical repellents. Long pants and long sleeve shirts are important: the tighter the weave, the better clothes to keep bites at bay. Chemical repellent is an adjunct: some apply on exposed skin especially on wrists, ankles, neck, and face; one is for clothing only. Other tips: avoid vampire hours just after sunrise and before sunset. Avoid marshes and ponds, which are breeding grounds for skeeters.

Best Mosquito Repellents for Kids by Christopher Van Tilburg

The Best You Can Get

  • Bens 30 Eco-spray

    Christopher says: DEET, short for the chemical diethyl meta toluamide, is the time-tested insect repellent we’ve use for years. I remember spraying on jungle juice as a kid hunting and fishing. Bens 30% formulation is the max concentration the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends for kids. This is just right for a day hike, a few hours on the river, or a seaside campfire. It comes in a six-ounce bottle which is enough for a long weekend for a family. For backpack overnights, when space is a premium, consider a more portable 1.25-ounce bottle.

    • Easy to apply
    • The time-tested formula
    • Only 30% DEET
    • Approved by CDC
  • Natrapel 8-Hour

    Christopher says: Natrapel uses picaridin, a chemical used for years in Europe, which is now approved by the CDC, and reported to be just as affective as DEET. For those who have concerns about the potential toxicity of DEET, this is a great alternative. Natrapel comes in an eight-hour formula with twenty percent picaridin. We experimented on our last trip, using both Deet and picaridin, one on each arm: both warded off Anopheles with success. The Natrapel comes in a non-greasy lotion, which is easy to apply on kids and probably lasts longer than some sprays.

    • Non-DEET formula
    • Approved by CDC
    • Non-greasy lotion
  • Natrapel 8-hour Wipes

    Christopher says: Natrapel Wipes use the same twenty percent formulation of picaridin found in the eight-hour lotion. But the wipes are super handy: tuck one in your passport case, camera bag, or backpack. When you least expect it, you may need a quick wipe down of all the kids: an early morning camp breakfast or an evening sunset stroll on the waterfront. If you want DEET instead of picaridin, Bens 30 comes in wipes, too.

    • Quick application
    • No mess
    • Approved by CDC
  • ExOfficio Kids Buzz Off Convertible Pants

    Christopher says: The best prevention is covering up and using chemical repellents. These pants are treated with premetrin, a CDC-approved chemical that is derived from the chrysanthemum plant. It repels ticks, mosquitoes, flies, and chiggers. It’s not for use on skin, so the fabric is chemically impregnated at the factory. This is a great option for traveling overseas, or for weeklong camping trips because you only need to lather up your kids exposed skin, not their entire legs. The pants are quick drying nylon and the legs zip off to make shorts for summer. As a bonus, they provide up to 30 UPF sun protection. When you get home, toss them in the washing machine: the repellent lasts 25 washings.

    • Treated with permethrin
    • Convertible to pants or shorts
    • Lasts 25 washings
  • Kids Buzz Off Long Sleeve Tee

    Christopher says: Made from lightweight, comfy cotton, the Buzz Off Long Sleeve Tee has the same permethrin repellent as the Buzz off pants. The tee comes in gray for boys, light sky for girls. Match them with Capris for girls and Sporty Pant for boys for a complete outfit of insect protection. They won’t even know they have mosquito-proof clothes on since they are so stylish. When you get home, toss in the wash; the repellent stays on for 25 washing. As an added bonus, the tee also provides some sun protection.

    • Treated with permethrin
    • Comfy cotton
    • Lasts 25 washings

You will be happy with any of these

  • Sawyer Permethrin Pump Spray

    Christopher says: Permethrin is a chemical that is designed for clothing, the same ingredient in Buzz Off clothing. It’s a derivative of the chrysanthemum plant approved by the CDE to ward off skeeters, ticks, chiggers, and flies. This 24-ounce bottle will coat an entire family’s camp or travel clothing. Best of all, it lasts for two dozen washings so you can use the same clothes all summer without reapplying the spray. Some people use the spray for their dog and tent as well, for added protection.

    • Works on clothing only
    • Repels insects and ticks
  • Repel Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

    Christopher says: Of the three insect repellents approved for applying on skin by the CDC (DEET and picardin are two), oil of lemon eucalyptus is a plant-based oil that derived from the Australian native plant Eucalyptus Citriodora. Don’t worry: it is not greasy oil, but a lotion. It comes in a four-ounce pump spray so it’s compact to stuff in a daypack and easy to squirt on kids. It’s effective up to six hours, but has less of a track record compared to Deet or picardin. It used to be hard to find, but now many outdoor stores carry it.

    • Natural
    • CDC approved
  • ExOfficio Kids Buzz Off Nycot Sun Bucket

    Christopher says: The Sun Bucket is a fun hat for kids, and inexpensive to boot. But it also happens to be treated with permethrin to wards off mosquitoes. So parents love it. It’s hard to get mosquito repellent coated all over the face and neck so the hat makes life easier. It has a terry cloth sweatband for comfort and a cinch cord to secure it for canoeing or hiking. The permethrin is good for 25 washings. The hat blocks the sun’s rays too: it’s rated at 30 UPF.

    • Stylish hat
    • Approved by CDC
    • Added bonus of sun and skeeter protection
  • ExOfficio Buzz Off Bandana

    Christopher says: The ExOfficio bandana is a great multipurpose article. Kids can wear it as a scarf, or around neck, to keep skeeters at bay. It’s inexpensive, comes in cool colorful patterns, and the permethrin lasts 70 washings. (ExOfficio uses permethrin in Buzz Off kids socks also). Get a bandana for every member of the family, even the dog.

    • Wear on head or around neck
    • Lasts 70 washings
    • Get one for everyone, including the dog
  • Old Navy Long Sleeve Basic Tee

    Christopher says: A long sleeve cotton t-shirt is a staple for school or play. Although it doesn’t work as well as tightly woven mosquito repellent clothing, which is treated with premetrin, a long sleeve cotton tee is a good start. I make sure my kids grab a long sleeve cotton tee for a quick night camping or an evening at the local waterfront park. Cotton tees are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and easy to wash. They do a pretty good job at warding off most mosquitoes, provided the bugs are not out in full force.

    • Inexpensive
    • Does double duty for camping or school
    • Easy to find

Related Articles