Whether you're spending your summer camping in the UK or backpacking abroad, we’re sure getting ravaged by insects isn’t on the itinerary. Nothing ruins a glorious day out quite like the crazy itch of insect bites, plus, more than just an annoyance, biting bugs can also carry diseases. This makes picking up a repellent high on the agenda of summer essentials.
However, deciding on the right one can be difficult, especially if you have babies or kids in the family. Do you go natural or use the trusted mosquito destroyers DEET or Picaridin? Is a spray, roll-on, or even a pack of wipes best? Our buying guide will answer these questions, and our recommendations from Amazon, Boots and Tesco will help you decide which brand to go for.
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The two big players in the chemical world are DEET and Picaridin. When choosing a repellent with either of these ingredients, make sure you get a formula with between 20-30% at least, as this is where they both max out at protection. An even higher percentage means that the product will last for longer without needing to be re-applied.
Yet, being chemical products, there are some risks. Firstly, it is not recommended to use high percentages on young children. Each manufacturer will list the age guidelines for their product, so we strongly suggest following those. Secondly, DEET is known to have quite an unpleasant smell that might be a bit too much for some.
Beat persistent bugs by doubling up with a mosquito repellent device
While not technically natural products, oil of lemon eucalyptus, citrepel, and IR3535 are synthesised chemicals based on natural products. This chemical replication is necessary because, while they do have some repelling properties, these plant-based ingredients cannot repel insects efficiently in such small quantities.
Repellents such as these are fine for use on children's skin and are often relatively effective, although not quite as effective as chemical-based products. If you’re looking to steer clear of annoying bites as opposed to dangerous disease-carrying ones, they should be fine. Also, they do need to be re-applied more frequently.
If you prefer to keep things natural, then a chemical-free repellent is the choice for you. These formulas usually contain citronella as their active ingredient which is a completely safe and non-toxic plant. This also means that, while it will repel insects, it will not kill or poison them – unlike some chemical ingredients.
Bear in mind that there are some doubts about the effectiveness of natural products, and if you’re travelling to places where the bugs are known to carry dangerous diseases, you may have to forgo them to be safe. Furthermore, while safe, allergic reactions to citronella are not unheard of, so perhaps consult your GP first if you are prone to sensitivities.
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Spray bottle repellents are the most popular and the most common, due to their convenience. They're easy to apply and simply require a spritz and a quick rub in before you can set off on your day out.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly how much you have applied or whether you have missed a spot, so you will have to be fastidious with your application. Plus, there is the possibility of wastage.
The advantage of roll-on and stick repellents is that you can directly see where you have applied them, which therefore should ensure you don't miss a single spot. Also, they tend to come in smaller volumes as more concentrated formulas, making them a good pick if you're trying to pack as lightly as possible for a trip or hike.
Be sure to check out our recommended hiking backpacks for your outdoor adventure
The biggest advantage of a lotion-style repellent is that they are generally the most economical, in that you'll usually get more millilitres of product for less. It’s also easier to see how much you have applied.
The downside is that it can take a while to apply, which isn’t so much of an issue with adults but can be rather difficult if you have a child that just wants to get out and about.
A rather recent invention is repellent-soaked wipes. They are simply applied with a sweep over the areas you want to cover, and then left a short while to dry. Plus, like most forms of wipes, they come in a convenient pack that can be easily stored in any bag.
However, you only get a certain amount per pack, which could leave you exposed if you run out while on your day out. Plus, you may be lumbered with carrying your rubbish if you’re on a particularly long expedition or out in the wilderness.
If you’re looking to have an active summer which will result in plenty of sweating, or you're simply spending time in a hot climate, then picking up a sweat-resistant repellent that will stay put even as you perspire is a wise choice.
Likewise, if you’re spending time near bodies of water, where bites can be particularly frequent and rough, you might want to consider a waterproof repellent. This should save you having to reapply every time you’ve been for a quick dip to cool down.
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Insect Repellent Spray
A Hugely Popular Spray Offering the Strength of DEET Without the Smell
Natural Insect Repellent Stick
A Quality UK-Made Product With Sustainable Ethics
Repel Maximum Lotion
Created Especially for Travellers to Tropical Climates
Tropical Formula Repellent Wipes
Great Value Wipes That'll Cover the Family All Holiday Long
Expedition 100+ DEET Insect Repellent Spray
Extra-Strong 10-Hour Protection for Jungle Explorers
Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent
A Natural, DEET-Free Option That Really Works
Insect Repellent Roll-On
An Environmentally Friendly Roll-On From a Trustworthy Brand
Maximum Insect Repellent Spray
A Strong Repellent for Those Travelling to Risk Areas
Natural Powerful Mosquito Repellent
Ideal for Families Thanks to a Kid-Safe Formula and a Pleasant Smell
Insect Repellent Balm
A Non-Toxic Option Made With Only 4 Natural Ingredients
As a number 1 bestseller on Amazon, Smidge has huge support for its product. The repellent itself is non-sticky, waterproof and known not to smell unpleasant at all due to its use of Picardin instead of DEET, a similarly effective chemical that's known to have a minimal odour in comparison.
The 20% concentration is strong enough to keep away an array of nasties, as well as lasting for a credible 8 hours. And to top it off, it's carry-on-friendly and safe for use by the whole family, including children over 30 months.
This plant-based product protects against a wide variety of little pests including mosquitoes, ticks and midges. It's completely family-friendly and suitable for even pregnant women and young babies.
Mosi-Guard also has sound sustainable ethics, including a commitment to certain planting and harvesting criteria and employing the majority of their staff from local communities. If you're making a conscious decision to support UK-based companies that produce quality goods, this is the one to go for.
Created with tropical destinations in mind, this maximum-strength repellent from Boots' own-brand range should see you safe wherever you decide to travel to – it has an insect repellent factor of 4, the highest possible rating.
Plus, the lotion comes in a respectable 100 ml bottle at around the same price as other products, making it both travel-friendly and good value for money.
This carefully formulated repellent from Xpel was constructed using IR3535, which is a naturally-occurring amino acid that bats away bugs but doesn't cause them any harm when doing so. Plus, with it being DEET-free, it's suitable for all the family.
The wipes come in packs of 25, which should last one adult around eight days when used daily. This multi-buy of 6 packets, then, will enable you to cover a large family for a week's holiday for less.
This repellent from Lifesystems is made with explorers in mind. It has a super-high 95% DEET concentration which should see you well-protected even in the highest-risk areas. Plus, each application will last you 10 hours before you need to reapply, making it perfect for those sleeping in the wild.
Surprisingly, the company claims that this is suitable for both adults and children over the age of 6 years old. While this might be overkill for most holiday destinations in Europe, if you're really fed up with aggravating bites, you'd be hard-pressed to find a product more reliable than this.
This natural-based repellent uses lemon eucalyptus oil to ward off vexing bugs, including mosquitos that may transmit Zika, West Nile, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses.
This spray works for up to 6 hours at a time and has many excellent reports on its effectiveness and the fact that it doesn't stain clothing. Just be aware that it will need to be reapplied if heavy sweating arises. In addition, due to its 118 ml volume, this will unfortunately not be able to be taken in your hand luggage.
This clinically tested roll-on from Incognito uses the same formula as their fan-favourite spray. The active ingredient of lemon eucalyptus is recommended by many leading health organisations, including NHS Scotland. Also, because of its use of friendlier ingredients, this can be used on children as young as three months.
Moreover, if you're conscious of how your products will affect the environment, this product should have no impact on the natural life or ecosystems you come into contact with. Some users have found that the packaging is somewhat prone to leakage, so store it with care.
This 50% DEET-infused product has a repellent factor of 4, the highest on the scale, and it can last up to 9 hours with just a single spray. Plus, even though it is an aerosol, it claims to be completely ozone-friendly.
Due to the strength, this would be a good choice if you're travelling to areas with a risk of malaria, dengue or other infectious diseases. If you're travelling as a family, bear in mind that it's not suitable for children under 12 due to its strength.
This family-friendly option is suitable for use on little ones from just 6 months old. THEYE have produced a product that is great for humans, just not so much for those pesky biters! It has a pleasing citrusy smell and protects against an array of different bugs.
However, some users have mentioned that the consistency is more like a lotion than a spray, which can make it slightly more difficult to apply.
This completely natural repellent from Shealife is safe and suitable for both adults and children. It contains citronella as the active ingredient but also infuses neem and lavender to leave you smelling sweet.
The downside is that the balm could quite easily melt – particularly in hot temperatures – which would make it a bit messier to apply. Also, the brand doesn't stipulate what percentage of citronella is used, leaving some questioning how effective it really is.
No. 1：Smidge｜Insect Repellent Spray
No. 2：Mosi-Guard｜Natural Insect Repellent Stick
No. 3：Boots｜Repel Maximum Lotion
No. 4：Xpel｜Tropical Formula Repellent Wipes｜Pack of 6
No. 5：Life Systems｜Expedition 100+ DEET Insect Repellent Spray
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