Keep Bugs Out of a Tent in 3 Simple Steps

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Whether you’re tent camping in the wilderness or your own backyard, you’re going to run into bugs. As a camper, you just accept it.

However, you don’t have to accept those annoying bugs from making your tent their home!

With a little preparation and these 3 simple steps, you’ll learn how to keep bugs out of a tent for good.

How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Tent

To effectively keep bugs out of your tent while camping, there are 3 simple steps you need to take including:

  1. Pre-trip bug prevention
  2. Keeping bugs away from your campsite and tent
  3. Ensuring your camping gear doesn’t attract bugs during packing and storage.

Let’s start with the first step.

Step 1: Pre-Trip Bug Prevention

To keep your tent as bug-free as possible during your camping trip, you’ll need to start before you even leave home.

Know What You’re Up Against

There are many bugs potentially waiting for you on your next camping trip, including spiders, mosquitoes, flies, ants, bees, and more. If there is a specific bug that you know will be a problem, planning for that beforehand can save you time (and headache) on your next camping trip.

How to Keep Spiders Out of Your Tent
How to Get Rid Of Mosquitoes in a Tent

More than any other creature in the woods, mosquitos have been on top of the list of most hated bugs by campers. So, I recommend you at least plan to tackle a mosquito issue before leaving home. We cover some effective methods to control mosquitos below.

Use a Bug-Proof Camping Tent

Tent manufacturers have largely perfected the art of making tents that keep out mosquitoes and other pesky bugs, so this shouldn’t be an issue.

Tents, by their very nature, should be properly sealed to protect you from nature’s elements (rain, wind, etc.). As an added bonus, this seal also keeps bugs from entering your tent.

This makes sense for new tents. Unfortunately, used tents accumulate wear and tear over time, leading us to…

Find Bug Entry Points

Bugs get into your tent when you leave the tent door open and through small holes and tears in the mesh, seams, and tent fabric.

Before setting off on your camping trip, set up your tent in your backyard and inspect it from top to bottom for places where bugs are likely to enter.

Tip: This is also a good time to check your tent’s waterproofing by spraying it down with a hose and looking for any leaks.

Looking for things such as rips in the mesh or seams and zippers that don’t quite close all the way is a good way to determine if your tent is fit to keep bugs out.

Keeping the camping tent doors closed and patching up any small holes will help keep bugs out.

Reserve the Right Location

When reserving a campground ahead of time, try to find a spot away from stagnant water, as this can attract bugs and other wildlife.

You’ll also want to steer clear of dense shrubs, underneath trees, and light poles (bugs congregate towards lights) to reduce the chances of a bug infestation.

If you followed the above tips, you’re now prepared for your camping trip! But, the real battle is about to begin. We need to keep those bugs out of, and preferably away, from our tent altogether.

Step 2: How to Keep Bugs Away While Camping

To effectively keep bugs out of a tent, we need to limit their access to the inside of the tent and reduce the number of bugs in and around the campsite.

There are a million different products, oils, and myths that I’m sure you’ve heard of to repel bugs. Some of them work, some don’t.

Either way, there are 3 major tips that will alleviate the majority of the bugs from your campsite and, subsequently, from entering your tent. Let’s first look at these.

Most important tips to keep bugs away while camping

Choosing the Right Campsite

The easiest way to avoid contact with bugs is to simply avoid them.

  • As mentioned above, set up your tent away from standing water. This includes lakes, ponds, small puddles, and even decorative fountains.
  • Be mindful of places where bugs are more likely to gather like bushes and dense vegetation under or near lights.
  • If you are able, set up your tent in an exposed area – someplace without trees or bushes which will allow the wind to blow through and make it difficult for bugs to hover around.
  • Place the entrance of the tent so it faces the wind will make it difficult for insects to fly inside.

Keeping a Clean Campsite

Bugs (and wild animals) are attracted to the scent of the food and drinks you have at your campsite, which is why it’s important to keep your grounds as clean as possible.

Leaving open containers of food and dishes unwashed overnight is just an invitation for insects to invade your campsite… and tent.

Here are some tips to keeping a clean, bug-free campsite:

  • Ideally, store your food in a large plastic container with a secure lid immediately after use.
  • Throw away trash as soon as you can, keep it covered with a tight lid or sealable bag, and make sure you only have one trash bin for everyone in your group.
  • Keep your campsite’s picnic table clean and free of spills.
  • Right after you finish eating, wash the dishes.
  • Make sure to clean up all traces of food and trash before leaving the campsite or going to sleep for the night.

Using Natural Light Sources

Campfires, candles, and even lanterns are great sources of natural light that help repel mosquitos and other bugs.

Campfires produce smoke that is pretty effective at keeping bugs away, though any tiki torch or candle will do the same trick.

Citronella candles produce a pungent smell that has been used for years to repel bugs. Scatter these candles throughout your campsite as they provide a fair amount of light and will keep those pesky bugs away from you and your tent.

Coleman Scented Citronella Candle with Wooden Crackle Wick

Coleman Scented Citronella Candle with Wooden Crackle Wick

Buy Now on Amazon

Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

Other Effective Ways to Keep Bugs Away (and Out of Your Tent)

How to keep bugs away while camping

When properly used, the above 3 methods will prevent the majority of bugs from invading your campsite.

Of course, you’re still going to get some bugs that come along, which we can further try to eliminate with the following:

  • Essential oils, including oil of lemon eucalyptus, catnip oil, mint oil, and thyme oil, have all been proven to repel mosquitos and other bugs, thus acting as a natural insect repellent.
  • Pitch your tent with the windows and doors zipped shut and away from trash bins.
  • Always make sure that the tent is tightly zipped if it isn’t being used.
  • Keep food outside the tent to avoid attracting bugs.
  • Before opening a tent door, brush off any insects that have landed on the fabric.
  • Enter and exit the tent only when necessary and as quickly as possible.
  • Keep the number of people staying in your tent to a minimum. This will reduce the chances of getting bed bugs while tent camping (and bringing them home).
  • Keep flashlights turned off when not in use as artificial light attracts insects.
  • Bug sprays and creams containing the ingredient DEET are extremely effective at repelling bugs. With that said, some campers don’t like using insect repellent on their body as they can have a pungent smell, cause skin or eye irritation, amongst other effects. If you don’t want a bug repellent on your body, you can spray it around your tent and campsite to help keep bugs away.
  • A natural alternative to DEET sprays is vinegar. Spray the vinegar solution on your skin, around the perimeter of your tent, and around your campground to repel bugs and other pests.
  • Avoid using heavy-scented perfumes, colognes, and body products as they can attract bugs.

Step 3: Bug-Proof Your Camping Gear for Future Use

The last step to keep bugs out of your tent is to ensure you don’t:

  • Trap bugs in your tent when packing up.
  • Attract bugs to your tent while in storage.

When packing up camp and heading home, make sure you thoroughly check and clean your tent for any bugs and bug attractants, like food crumbs, etc.

Insects left in your tent may decide to call it home and reproduce, leaving you with a pretty nasty surprise next time you open it up.

The same goes with leaving food crumbs and other bug attractants in your tent. They may find their way into your tent while in storage. Again, not something you want to find next time you open your tent.

Luckily, with the 3 steps outlined above, you should be able to effectively keep bugs out of your tent, and minimize their numbers around your campground.


What Are Natural Ways to Keep Bugs Away When Camping?

While chemical bug prevention is very effective, it’s completely understandable why you’d want a more natural alternative. There are many products and methods that campers can use to naturally keep bugs away, including:

  • Using certain natural oils, for example, oil of lemon eucalyptus, catnip oil, and thyme oil, which have all been studied and proven to repel mosquitos and other bugs.
  • Keeping a clean campsite free from trash, spilled food and drink, and dirty dishes – all things that attract bugs!
  • Using natural light sources like candles, lanterns, and campfires will help repel bugs.
  • Keeping foods on hand that bugs hate like mint, onion, garlic, and citrus fruits.
  • Choosing the right camping spot, away from stagnant water and thick vegetation that attract bugs and pests.

Following these few tips alone will keep the majority of bugs away when camping outdoors.

How Do You Get Rid Of Mosquitos in a Tent?

If mosquitos and other bugs have already gained entry into your tent, you can get rid of them by:

  • Using a fly swatter and killing them one-by-one
  • Placing a Thermacell mosquito repellent device in your tent while you’re away. This hands-off approach will kill any mosquitos in a 20ft radius. Check out our guide to the best mosquito repellent device for camping to find the best option for you.
  • Burning a mosquito coil in your tent. Just be sure the coil is on a fire-resistant plate and your tent is being supervised. I’d also refrain from being in the tent while it’s burning for health reasons.

With that said, preventing mosquitos from entering your tent in the first place is the best way to alleviate this issue.

Can You Spray Bug Spray on a Tent?

While technically you can spray a tent with bug spray, we advise against it as the chemicals and oils in the spray could negatively affect the tent materials and waterproofing.

There are tent bug spray products that are designed for use on camping gear and are effective.

Coleman Gear and Clothing Permethrin Insect Repellent Treatment Spray

Coleman Gear and Clothing Permethrin Insect Repellent Treatment Spray

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Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

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