Best Mosquito Repellents Reviewed and Compared
Keeping yourself protected with the best mosquito repellents on the market will not only prevent those irritating rashes, but it can protect you from harmful diseases and viruses as well. As a runner, you need something that won’t come off as you sweat and will continue to keep you protected for long periods of time.
We’ve researched and tested a number of different mosquito repellents to put together a list of the best mosquito repellents and hopefully make your mosquito repellent shopping a breeze this summer.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research
100% plant-based formula
Non-irritating and good skin feel
EPA certified for use against mosquitoes for 6 hours
Best Mosquito Repellents
1. Coleman Botanicals
100% plant-based formula
Non-irritating and good skin feel
EPA certified for use against mosquitoes for 6 hours
Strong lemon scent
Not as effective
Does not repel ticks
This 100% plant-based formula features Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. This is not as effective as the above options but will still provide some protection from insects. This is a good option for those seeking an all-natural formula.Read more
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is a natural alternative to DEET. This formula is completely plant-based and is less irritating than the harsh chemical alternatives. However, this product is not cleared for use on infants under the age of 2.
Moderately effective when tested by Consumer Reports. It does not work as well as chemical repellents but will provide some protection for those seeking a natural alternative. The EPA approves this product for 6 hours of protection from mosquitoes.
This formula is an easy-to-apply oil that does not feel sticky or greasy on the skin. Some people note the lid does leak and recommend not throwing it in your bag.
Although this is not as strong as some of the mosquito repellents on the list, it is still a great choice if you want to use something natural during times when not as many mosquitoes are out.
An affordable option, particularly when compared with other natural formulations.
2. Natrapel 8 Hour Repellent
Effective Non-DEET option
Nozzle may break
Another effective DEET alternative. This Picaridin repellent comes in a convenient TSA-approved bottle that is great for travel.Read more
Picaridin is a synthetic chemical that is an alternative to DEET. It is less likely to cause skin irritation but is still closely regulated by the EPA. Most users do not complain of skin irritation while using this product but there are a few who feel this chemical is still too harsh.
Proven effective for 8 hours for both mosquitoes and ticks.
This formula should be applied onto skin or hands and then rubbed in for full coverage. Most users report that the feel of this product on the skin is much more comfortable than other chemical repellents. This bottle does come in a TSA-approved size, however, some people note the pump has a tendency to break.
This is a good choice for light to medium runs as it does have some sweat protection, but it isn’t very effective when sweating heavily. This spray does not claim to be waterproof but reviewers do not note concerns about the effects wearing off.
Affordable and long-lasting.
3. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
A natural alternative to DEET
Plant-based active ingredient
Most effective natural option
Strong lemon scent
Not quite as effective as chemical active ingredients
Does not repel ticks, flies or other insects
This repellent is the most effective option of all natural repellents. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is one of two natural active ingredients recommended by the EPA and is a good plant-based and natural alternative to DEET.Read more
One of the two naturally-derived active ingredients registered by the EPA. This plant-based active ingredient is much less worrisome than synthetic chemicals but this oil and a large amount of ethanol in this formula still make it a bit too harsh to be used safely on pets or children. Despite being natural, this product is still closely regulated and certified by the EPA for safety.
Consistently rated as one of the most effective options for non-DEET repellents including tests done by Consumer Reports. The EPA rates this product as effective for up to 6 hours for mosquitos. This is a great natural option but is still outperformed by DEET when it comes to efficacy.
This is an oil and although it can be sprayed on, it does need to be spread out using your hands for proper coverage.
The oil-based formula should stand up to water and sweat. Very strong lemon scent. Better than chemicals but still a strong odor.
Fairly standard for insect repellents and cheaper than many other natural alternatives.
4. Sawyer Picaridin
Effective against Mosquitoes, Ticks, Flies, Gnats and Chiggers for 8 hours
Non-DEET 20% Picaridin
Easy to use
Smell dissipates quickly
Slightly more expensive
This non-DEET repellent was among the most effective products when tested by Consumer Reports. Featuring an alternative synthetic chemical Picaridin, this is a great alternative for those sensitive to DEET.Read more
Picaridin is a newer chemical on the market in the US and is one of the active ingredients approved and tested by the EPA. While it does not have the same associated concerns as DEET being newer means it has not been studied as thoroughly. That being said, this product is regulated carefully and has passed all safety tests. It is also widely used in Europe and Australia.
This product has been shown to be more effective than some DEET products and was top-rated when reviewed by Consumer Reports. It reports being more effective at repelling flies than DEET. The EPA reports this product is effective for up to 8 hours.
The pump bottle is easy to use and does not require much time to apply effectively.
This newer formula is not only more effective as a repellent but is also sweat-resistant. This is quickly becoming a popular choice among runners. It does have a chemical odor initially but it seems to dissipate quickly and becomes odorless.
Slightly more expensive than some other options. You pay about the same as other products but for a smaller bottle.
5. Burt’s Bees Natural
All natural oils
Very safe, low-risk ingredients
This 100% natural insect repellent is composed completely of essential oils. This product is unregistered with the EPA meaning these ingredients are deemed to be very safe. However, that also means it has not been tested for efficacy.Read more
This product is unregistered with the EPA because the ingredients are considered very safe, making testing unwarranted. This oil-based, all-natural product is a low-risk option especially for those sensitive to harsher repellents.
Reviewers report this is very effective for a natural repellant but not quite as effective as DEET. Efficacy seems to vary from person to person but most users note some reduction in bites while using this product. This is an unregistered product that has not been tested by the EPA for efficacy.
This is an oil-based product that can be applied to skin or hands and then spread out. A little more time-consuming. The oily composition does leave a slightly greasy feel to the skin.
This all-natural repellent is a nice change from chemical alternatives. Most users are pleasantly surprised to note it smells more strongly of lemongrass than citronella oil.
This comes in a fairly small bottle making it slightly more expensive than some other options. However, the oil formula means a little goes a long way and it will last a while.
6. Cutter Dry
Non-toxic and environmentally friendly
No oily or greasy residue
Won’t damage clothing
Small effect area compared to some products
Not water resistant
This is great for runners with families. Cutter created a special formula that includes 10 percent DEET and repels mosquitoes with viruses such as the West Nile and Zika. It’s also great for family gathering and will keep other bugs like ticks, fleas, and gnats away from the fun!Read more
Cutter is a trusted brand in the industry and created this mosquito repellent with the whole family in mind.
The unscented spray doesn't leave your skin feeling greasy or oily, yet last a long time. This is great because it also doesn’t stain any of your clothes and makes running more comfortable!
It comes in a spray metal can and can be sprayed directly on your skin and clothes. Let the spray moisten the skin then use your hand to spread it around.
This is ideal in any situation including family gatherings, going to fishing, or going for an evening jog.
A cost of a 4 oz can id comparable to the other entries on the list and is a good choice if you want something that you can use in different situations.
7. Off! Deep Woods
Repels mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas, gnats, chiggers and no-see-ums for up to 8 hours.
25% DEET in the recommended range
Easy, full coverage for skin and clothes
DEET may be irritating to skin
If you want to keep the bugs away, DEET is going to get the job done. This stuff provides 8 hours of protection and tops the list of most effective repellents when tested by Consumer Reports. The aerosol formula (without ozone-damaging CFCs) is convenient and provides easy, full coverage that will last for the duration of your run.Read more
The concerns surrounding DEET typically arise from the harsh nature of this chemical. It has been shown to strip paints and melt plastics, not surprisingly it can also be harsh on the skin and cause irritation. There has been one test to suggest other negative effects (see discussion under “Metrics We Used”) but this chemical has been around for a while and consistently passes rigorous testing done by the EPA. DEET does warrant some caution but it has been shown to be safe and is closely regulated.
The EPA and CDC recommend products with 10-30% DEET and this formula falls near the upper end with 25% DEET. Testing by Consumer Reports showed this is the most effective product for repelling mosquitos. This is supported by reviews by users who note this is reliable enough to drastically reduce bug bites.
This aerosol provides convenience and is great to leave by the door for use just before hitting the trail. The application does not require too much attention to detail to ensure it is dispersed; most users report adequate coverage without too much effort. This convenient aerosol formula does not contain CFCs or other ozone-depleting substances.
This was designed to last up to 8 hours and has long been a popular choice among families and outdoor enthusiasts alike. It is great for relaxing and while being active. Chemical odor with a hint of pine. Better than some other chemical products but not the most pleasant scent.
The price is about average when compared with other repellents on this list and it does provide very effective coverage.
8. Thermacell MR150 Portable Mosquito Repeller
Convenient 2-in-1 option for both SPF and insect repellent
Safe Non-DEET alternative
Inconsistent protection from person to person
Only provides 2 hours of protection
The Thermacell MR150 Portable Mosquito Repeller is a unique product in that it doesn’t need smelly chemicals, open flames, or potent odors to keep the pesky bugs away- and best of all, it is portable!Read more
Allethrin has been tested by the FDA and approved for use as a pest control agent and is safe for the majority of the population to use when used according to the manufacturer’s label and instructions.
With a decent coverage area and a good review rating from other customers, the Thermacell MR150 Portable Mosquito Repeller seems like a great choice for runners, campers, and adventurers of all sorts.
With a fully portable set up and long battery life, the device is easy to use. Refill cartridges are easy to install and can last up to 12 hours. It is easy to set up and hook up just about away to chase the bugs away.
This product is waterproof so long as it is not drenched or submerged in water. It has been reported to have a reduced area of efficiency in rainy and high humid areas but can still provide relief. The key to creating Thermacell’s unique 15 x 15-foot zone of protection is the slow heating and releasing of allethrin, a synthetic copy of the natural repellent found in chrysanthemum flowers.
This is a very affordable product, especially when you consider the portable nature along with a 12 hour effective use time per cartridge. It may be a little costly upfront but it more than pays for itself!
9. Ben’s Mosquito Wipes
Lightweight and convenient
Great for travel
Effective against mosquitoes and ticks
Pricey for daily use
DEET wipes are an effective and convenient option for runners. These lightweight wipes can easily be stashed in a pack or waistband without worry about any chemicals spilling on your gear. The repellent is designed to sit on top of the skin and evaporate slowly to provide long-lasting protection without being absorbed into the skin.Read more
This product does have DEET as the active ingredient and is closely regulated by the EPA for safety. It is designed to sit on top of the skin rather than being absorbed.
30% DEET is at the upper end of recommended DEET concentrations and is effective for repelling mosquitoes. This has been tested by the EPA but they do not report how long you can expect it to remain effective.
Easy application that can be focused on exposed areas. Individually packaged wipes can easily be tucked away for reapplication. This non-liquid and effective option is perfect for travel. Some users complain they can be a bit greasy but overall find these wipes very convenient.
These wipes are not water-resistant but users do not feel a need to reapply throughout the course of vigorous activity. Fragrance-free although some users do note a chemical odor with the initial application.
The price will add up if you plan to use this as a daily repellent as the wipes will dry out after a day. However, this option is affordable and easy to justify for travel or stocking emergency kits with these convenient wipes.
Protects against mosquitoes, biting flies, gnats, and more
Last up to 12 hours
Splash and sweat resistant
Used in the military
May feel oily
Smell may be strong for some
This mosquito repellent was designed for those of you who love to stay outdoors for longer periods of time. Developed and used by the United States army, you can count on this being tough and providing maximum protection against mosquitoes and deer ticks.Read more
This formula was originally created and used by the US military to protect them from some of the harshest jungles in the world and is still used by troops today.
This lotion features a Time Release Protection formula that slows the evaporation of the main active ingredient, DEET, which provides long periods of protection of up to 12 hours. If you’re planning on spending the day hiking the trails, this is the choice for you!
This comes in lotion form and can be spread on your skin with your hands. It’s designed to sweat and splash resistant, so you don’t have to worry about re-applying as often.
Ultrathon is a mosquito repellent of choice for runners who like to spend longer periods of time outdoors and hit the trails. Also a great choice for marathon runners.
This comes in the middle of the pack when it comes to costs, which makes it a great value considering hoe effective it is.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
The number one reason people use mosquito repellents is to avoid getting bitten and thus avoid the nasty side effects that can come with a mosquito bite. However, it is also important to make sure the repellent you are using is safe and will not hurt you or cause any negative side effects or have an adverse effect on your health. We made sure to check every product we included here for safety to help you get the best mosquito repellent possible.
Many people show concern about the harsh chemicals used in insect repellents, particularly the best-known active ingredient, DEET. DEET does have the capacity to strip paints and melt plastics which is concerning for something we are putting on our skin.
An additional cause for concern arises from the results of one study showing brain cell death with long exposure to the chemical. This study is largely outnumbered by extensive research done by the EPA showing no ill-effects with normal use.
Insect repellents should be used only during select months of the year and select locations and this inconsistent use drastically reduce any risk associated. Unless you plan to bathe in high concentrations of DEET every day of the year, the only risk associated with normal use is skin irritation.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes and regulates 4 active ingredients for use in insect repellents: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Products containing these active ingredients need to be registered by the EPA, meaning they have been tested for safety and efficacy. Any products using these active ingredients that have not been registered are considered illegal and are not safe for use.
The EPA recognizes alternative and more natural ingredients such as Citronella Oil and many other essential oils for use in unregistered products. This means the products are made with ingredients deemed safe enough to not require further testing. Unfortunately, this also means this low-risk, natural products are not tested for efficacy.
Another important factor to consider when looking for a way to keep the pests away is how effective your chosen repellent is. In some cases, it might be better to choose a product that costs a little more or that has a little bit stronger active ingredients and be able to use one or two applications rather than having to constantly reapply to get any benefits. We check each product on our list to make sure they are effective and worth using.
How well does it repel insects and how long will the protection last? This is obviously of great importance when choosing a repellent. DEET and Picaridin are most consistently recommended for effectiveness when tested both by the EPA and independent groups like Consumer Reports. However, efficacy does vary based on a variety of other factors as well and can vary from individual to individual, especially when it comes to the more natural options so we took user reviews into account as well.
If you’re planning on using DEET in places where mosquitoes pose a high-risk for disease, think twice. Although DEET is extremely effective at deterring mosquitos on your first encounter, the more that these insects are exposed to this chemical the less likely they are to be repelled. This makes it a great option for those who need hefty short-term or one-time protection, but if you’re backpacking, traveling, or hanging out with a lot of these bloodsuckers on a regular basis or frequenting the same places consider an alternative.
Most mosquito repellents come in the form of sprays, but there are other options available so it is worth considering how the repellent is applied and how that will affect when and where and how you can use it. Some people may not be able to use a spray or lotion but can use another form of repellent so it is worth knowing what options area available. This guide includes a range of products and applications for you to consider in your search.
When most people think of insect repellent they think of a pump bottle or aerosol can but there is actually a wider variety of formulas including wipes, oils, and lotions. The ease of application is important to note, especially for runners who may need a repellent on the go. Skin-feel is also an important factor for many people. Some repellents leave skin feeling greasy or sticky so we looked for options that provide protection without getting in the way.
It is worth thinking about when and where you generally use mosquito repellents and what you need from your repellent. If you need something for a quick run around the neighborhood that may well be a different product than what you would use for a hiking trip or for a long-distance run. If you can’t or don’t want to use sprays you may need to consider what else you can use. Our list has many repellents that can be used in many different situations.
It is difficult to determine how long mosquito season will last as mosquito activity correlates more with the temperature than the time of the year. However, you may have a good idea of how often the critters are out and how much you will need to be applying a repellent. If you have a feeling you will be applying repellent daily for longer than a few weeks, you may want to avoid high concentrations of DEET as the risk of skin irritation may increase the more consistently you use it.
If you are trying to squeeze in a quick run before or after work, you may need something more quick and convenient that can be thrown in a gym bag or glove box, like towelettes. Also if you are applying sunscreen before a run as well, it’s a better idea to pass on the repellent or find a one that has sun protection as well. Applying repellent and sunscreen at the same time can lessen the efficacy of both. You could also consider clothes that have UV/UB protection.
The final point to consider as you search for the best mosquito repellents to use on your next run is to look at the value and cost. You will want something that is, of course, affordable but you also want something that will meet your wants and needs and that you will actually use. What is a valuable repellent for you may not be the best choice for someone else so be sure to keep your personal wants and needs in mind as you check out the products on our guide.
Fortunately, insect repellent is not too costly across the board. However, the differences between the type and frequency of application will affect how quickly you run through your stores.
It is important to remember that price and value are not the same thing. Many runners get confused and this can affect how they choose the right products for their wants and needs. The price tag is what the item costs and is what you are going to pay for it in a monetary sense. The value if what the item ends up being worth to you and is what you would be willing to pay to buy it again. A product that worse well, is safe, easy to use, and that helps makes your runs better will be worth its weight in gold. A product that is not effective, that hurts you or makes you sick, or that you end up not using that much is not a product that you would invest your money in again. Remember to think about the situation where you are going to use the repellent, how long you need to use it for, and any special considerations you may have like health and safety concerns and the like. Then when you find a product that can meet your needs and satisfy your wants and that does a good job, remember that is the product that is of the greatest value to you.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Mosquitoes tend to be attracted to certain people over others, with 20% of the population reporting more susceptibility to bites. Certain chemical markers in the skin are attractive to female mosquitoes and can be detected up to 115ft away. This means what is effective for one person may not be as effective for someone else. This is what makes selecting products for something like pest repelling difficult as everyone is different.
It is important to think about your overall health when selecting a product for mosquito ad best control. If you suffer from breathing difficulties such as asthma or COPD or have certain allergies to chemicals or products then you need to use extra caution during your selection process. You also should speak to your health care provider if you have several chronic conditions such as cancer, thyroid disorders, compromised immune system, or other serious health concerns before using a pest repellent of any kind.
Choosing the right repellent means finding something that works in the environment you are in. If you are in a neighborhood, you will need a different product than when you are hitting the trails for a 2 hour run. Think about the time of day too as sunrise and sunset and of course anything at night are the worst for mosquito bites and will require the use of a very strong repellent. Also, consider the weather and environment you will be running through. Rainy weather and wetter locations will need repellent that is waterproof. If you are running with your child you will likely need something different to use on them than you would on yourself. So be mindful of when and where you are running so you can plan accordingly!
Other Factors to Consider
There are a ton of options when it comes to insect repellent. Not only are there brand names to consider but there is also a multitude of active ingredients that all claim to keep the creepy crawlies at bay. With each active ingredient comes a confusing mix of facts and rumors concerning the efficacy and safety of each. To help sort through the madness, we have used the following metrics to determine the top 10 best mosquito repellents available to runners.
Most repellents are designed to be worn outside and in hot or humid weather. The best repellents should not be affected by sweat or water during a long run.
If you think back to the days of summer camp or evening barbecues, you can probably evoke memories of the chemical smell of DEET. While this may bring back happy memories for some, most people prefer to avoid this strong chemical scent. Smell has long been a complaint of many repellent users and some modern companies have addressed this issue. This may not be a big deal if you’re running alone or aren’t planning on going to any public places, but products with a strong odor can affect those with medical conditions or sensitive airways. We looked for formulas that repel insects, not people.
In 2005 the EPA recognized additional active ingredients such as Picaridin, IR3535 and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus for use in insect repellents. Picaridin and IR3535 are both synthetic chemicals that are easier on the skin than DEET. While initial reports suggest they are safer than DEET, these are still newer chemicals that have not been around long enough to be researched as thoroughly.
It is also important to note the concentration of each of these active ingredients. Repellents on the market range widely and while you can find repellents with 90-100% DEET, going above the 10-30% range doesn’t make it more effective. It may increase the amount of time that the repellent will last, but if you can just reapply there’s not much point in worrying about the concentration level of your mosquito repellent.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the areas you run in or plan to run in to know what bugs you’re dealing with and what they may be carrying. If you are traveling in a high-risk area where insects may be carrying Malaria, Zika, Chikungunya or West Nile Virus you want to find the most effective repellent period.
If you are running in lower risk areas and are just hoping to reduce the number of bites, you may opt for a repellent with less harsh ingredients and subsequently, lower efficacy. Similarly, you may want to note the other insects that are in your area. If you have concerns about ticks, DEET may be more attractive. Whereas if biting flies are an issue, Picaridin may be more beneficial.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Q: How do I use insect repellent safely?
A: Make sure you read and follow the instructions on the bottle. Each repellent will vary but typically it is not necessary to apply repellent under clothing. Many also recommend showering or rinsing off skin after you have come inside. Make sure to read the instructions on the label to ensure you are using it properly.
q: Q: Does insect repellent expire?
A: As long as they are stored reasonably well, mosquito repellents should not spoil or go bad. However, they do begin to lose effectiveness, usually after several years. If you are noticing your favorite repellent is not working as well as it used to, it may be time for a replacement. Remember to check for expiration dates before you buy and before you use any repellent that has been stored away for a while.
q: Q: Can I use repellents on my dog?
A: Most mosquito repellents humans use are not suited for dogs and Picaridin hasn’t been tested for long-term effects, so it should just be avoided. Many flea and tick products will also repel mosquitos so talk to your vet and they can make a recommendation, although you should avoid excessive use of these types of medications. There are also natural options like essential oils that will repel mosquitos and can be used on your pets if you dilute it, but you’ll need to apply it more often than other mosquito repellents and always consult your vet before using a solution like this because some oils are toxic to animals.
q: Q: Should I use 90-100% DEET?
A: Any product certified by the EPA is safe for use. However, studies have shown a diminished return on increasing DEET concentration over 30%. Really the concentration of DEET has more to do with how long protection will last rather than effectiveness. So, 10% of DEET will work just as effectively as 30% for the first 1-2 hours. After you reach 20-30% the length protection only marginally increases with the concentration. So, while 30% of DEET may protect you for 7-8 hours, increasing the concentration above 90% only buys you an extra 2 hours for 9-10 hours of protection.
q: Q: Are there any natural options for repelling mosquitoes?
A: There are some mosquito repellents that can be found in nature, but if you’re looking to avoid bites from mosquitoes altogether–especially in places where mosquito-borne diseases are a risk–you should probably opt for a chemical repellent. Otherwise, you can try things like lemon eucalyptus oil, lavender, Greek catnip oil, or tea tree oil. There are some repellents that use these as ingredients already and advertise as “natural” products. You can even do things like throw thyme in your campfire to repel mosquitoes without having to apply anything directly to your skin. Be aware that essential oils aren’t regulated and that if you haven’t used them before you could be at risk for an allergic reaction. Try spot-testing any oils you intend on using and always buy from reputable providers.
q: Q: Are there safe repellents for children?
A: There are several products on the market today that help protect children from bug bites while they are outdoors. For older children a spray repellent may work but for younger children you will likely want to avoid sprays and try something else. Repellent stickers were made largely for children so they can be protected without the skin of getting too much of the spray on them or ingesting it in some way. If you do a lot of running with your child or they spend a lot of time outdoors or seem prone to mosquito and bug bits you will want to talk to their pediatrician to see what options might be best to keep them safe!