Genius Tricks For Keeping Pests Away From Your Campsite

Some people may feel like camping isn't for them. And, as much as we love camping, we really empathize with that reluctance to take on the great outdoors. Unfortunately, pests — all the way from teeny ticks to giant bears — are really no fun to deal with but can be a very real part of the camping experience. Due to this, some forethought and planning are required to prevent insects and animals from invading your campsite, eating your food, and even endangering the health and well-being of your fellow camping companions, including your furry friends.

Luckily, most of the tips you need to know are pretty straightforward, and once you've got the supplies and the know-how, applying them will feel like second nature. So, let's go over all the creatures that can ruin a fun time out in nature — from small to large — and all the genius tricks you can use to keep them away from your campsite!

Keeping away the creepy crawlies

The worst of the worst are the creepy crawlies that somehow find their way into everything. Though they're probably the scariest looking, we'll give a pass to spiders as they usually are just hunting for a bug-sized snack, not your peanut butter cups or your blood. Most of the time they're the good guys. Safely scoop them up if you find them in your tent and put them back outside.

Ants, on the other hand, can be a major nuisance and can completely invade a campsite if you're not careful about where you set down your food and how you store it. If you know you're going to be somewhere where ants are a particular problem (like desert areas), use some dish soap or orange oil mixed with hot water and spray it around the perimeter of your camp.

Ticks are a major concern for campers in North America. To avoid ticks, stay out of areas with tall grasses and wear long sleeve shirts and pants where possible. Regardless, always check your body for ticks once you return to camp. If you have pets with you, put a tick collar on them and keep them leashed so they don't go running through grasses. Some bugs like beetles, flies, and moths are just going to be a part of your camping experience, but natural oils and scents like cedar, lavender, or rosemary can be effective at repelling them.

Making flying insects turn tail

From baking ingredients to alcoholic beverages and even herbs, there are tons of everyday household items that can repel the worst insects that plague our outdoor experiences. Due to the fact that insects are attracted to the smell and carbon dioxide that humans and other animals give off, scented products are usually recommended to keep insects away. However, if you've tried citronella candles before and found they didn't work all that well for you, we recommend trying a fan. This will literally blow away insects like mosquitos since they aren't very strong fliers and also dissipate the odors they love so much.

If you still want to try scented products, natural odors that are said to work are citronella, lavender, thyme, rosemary, sage, or lemongrass. These can be used in either their herb form — fresh or dried — or as candles. If using herbs, place them in your campfire near the edge of the flames to slowly burn them and send the pests packing.

Fans and odor-producing candles and herbs are also more eco-friendly as they don't attract bugs to kill them like bug zapping lamps — which could also attract and kill beneficial bugs — or emit noises like ultrasonic pest repellers. These sound emitters may distress other animals nearby, including your own pets.

Preventing midnight snackers

Repelling insects is one thing, but rodents are — quite literally — a whole different animal. Though they won't come after you, they will come after your food. Worse yet, if you're in an RV, you might inadvertently bring a few of them home with you. This might be a mouse's dream come true, but it will be your worst nightmare.

To keep them out of your food when car camping, you'll follow the basic food storage rules. During the day, you'll still want to keep your food secure in a cooler in your car when you're not eating. Also, do not leave open food unattended, even for a moment. At night, follow the same rules and do not store food (or any scented products) inside your tent — again, place them inside a cooler in your car or in a bear box if one is available.

If you're camping in an RV, stuff a tube sock filled with steel wool in any opening that could potentially let in a mouse. Remember, if they can get their head through, they can get their body through, too. If you can't fill every possible entry point, also consider sprinkling peppermint oil on some cotton balls and placing them in drawers and cabinets around your camper. This will keep mice away and make it smell minty and fresh in there.

Deterring the cute but dangerous

Though they are incredibly adorable from a distance, medium-sized to large animals like raccoons and bears can quickly become a nuisance. They can carry a variety of diseases we really don't want to contract and are dangerous. Some wildlife may not even be scared of humans if they are used to being fed by them, especially bears. Unfortunately, if this happens, some bears won't stop breaking into cars and houses looking for food and need to be put down. This is another great reason never to feed wildlife, as it could put both humans and animals in harm's way in the future, and to pack your food up safely when in bear country.

To prevent these fluffy balls of danger from invading your camp, follow the previous instructions about keeping your food secure but with a few extra tips. If you're in an RV, consider purchasing a motion-sensing light that you can turn on when you go to bed. This way, you will be alerted if anything raccoon-sized or larger slinks by your camp, and they might be scared off by the light. This shouldn't disturb your fellow campers too much and is a safe way to keep animals from hanging around.

Backpacking without attracting pests

If you're backpacking, you're probably wondering what you're supposed to do with your food since you won't be able to carry a cooler with you. If you're in the backcountry, you may also not have bear boxes available to use. So, here's what you need to do instead.

You'll need to purchase a hard-sided bear-proof food canister. These food canisters will keep out any kind of food-motivated critter but should still be kept at least 50 feet from your tent. It used to be recommended to use what's called a bear hang, which requires a rope and a sturdy tree or elevated object to hang your food bag from. However, these are known to be ineffective against determined bears, and it's just plain hard to execute properly. So much so, they are not even allowed in some parks, so be sure to check what the rules and recommendations are for food storage before heading out.