Outsmarting Mosquitoes and the Tricks They Use Find You

Pesky, annoying, and always trying to ruin your good time. No, I’m not talking about your little siblings when you were growing up. I’m talking about my biggest enemy on the trail. Mosquitoes. Whether you’re a mosquito magnet or not, it can seem impossible to keep these little buggers at bay. Learning about how mosquitoes find you goes a long way in helping you avoid mosquitoes and become invisible to them. Sooo… how do they find you?

how to avoid mosquitoes header image of mosquitoes

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How Mosquitoes Find You

Mosquitoes have three tricks up their tiny little sleeves. 

First, they are able to detect the carbon dioxide in your breath up to 150 feet away. This means you can attract them when they can’t even see you!

Second, they use scent to detect the lactic acid and moisture, aka sweat, on your skin. 

Lastly, they have a thermal sensory capability that allows them to detect heat sources. So all that hiking that’s warming you up, is also making you a target. 

To hide from mosquitoes, you have to make it harder for them to find you, and avoid the areas where they congregate.  But, how do you do that?


Wearing light colored clothing helps to reflect heat away from you. Khaki and white are best, but any light color will work to some degree.  

When trying to avoid mosquitoes, the material your clothing is made of also plays a role in protecting yourself. Polyester or woven nylon in combination with wool make it hard for mosquitoes to penetrate to bite you. As an added bonus, they are moisture wicking which makes for a drier hike and further reduces body heat. 

Wearing long sleeves and pants in mosquito prone areas helps to hide and absorb mosquito attracting moisture off your body. 

What you’re looking for: Long sleeve/pants made from polyester or woven nylon in light colors. 

Locations Mosquitoes Congregate

You’re looking for a place to set up camp and your eyes fall on what looks like a great place near the lake. You’re going to have an awesome view! You’ve just  set up camp and plopped down to gaze at the sun setting over the lake when you hear it. The high pitched sound of a mosquito buzzing past your ear. Your perfect camp spot is quickly becoming a nightmare. 

Avoid mosquitoes and the places they love by staying clear of still water

 Setting up camp away from puddles, ponds, lakes, and moisture retaining vegetation will help ensure you won’t be on the menu for a cloud of hungry mosquitoes. 

When choosing your rest or break area, avoid mosquitoes favorite places such as near standing water. Mosquitoes use these still waters as a nesting ground for their eggs and larvae and you want to be a good distance away from them. 

If mosquitoes are especially bad in the area, you can also look for a spot that’s either in the sun, or in lighter shade. 

Repelling Mosquitoes

Last but not least, using a repellent gives added protection against bites. 

Choose a repellent with DEET or Picaridin. A 30% concentration of DEET is where maximum protection starts and it only needs reapplied about every 6 hours. Picaridin will provide maximum protection at 20%, and lasts for up to 12 hours. 

For an effective and  natural alternative to these, the CDC recommends oil of lemon eucalyptus as an active ingredient. It’s necessary to reapply this type more often, usually every couple hours. It’s a great option for someone who is allergic or sensitive to DEET or Picaridin. 

*Important note- DEET can damage plastics like trekking pole grips and sunglasses. Use it carefully to avoid damaging your gear. It can also damage clothing over time, so I recommend treating your gear and clothing the following way. 

Treating Gear and Clothing

You can treat your gear and clothing with Permethrin .5%. You’ll need to allow the items to fully dry before using or wearing them. 
Permethrin doesn’t damage plastics and clothing the way DEET does, so I recommend a Permethrin spray such as Sawyer’s.

Well loved in the hiking and outdoors community, you can use Sawyer’s Insect Repellent on your gear, clothing, and tents.

Sawyer’s also repels ticks, which is a huge plus!

Avoiding Ticks While Hiking