Best Insect Repellent for Field Professionals

When you work outdoors, insects are part of the job description – especially if you are a field professional. Depending on the location of the job, the insects you encounter can range from mildly annoying to potentially dangerous.

Choosing the right insect repellent is a necessity.

Whether you choose a natural remedy, synthetic repellent, or good old-fashioned DEET bath, here are some products and factors to keep in mind.

Finding Reliable Insect Protection

While most insects may be nothing more than a mild nuisance, they can become a hindrance to your work and some insects could be dangerous.

Mischievous Mosquito

When it comes to insect repellents, there are a number of options to choose from and their efficacy depends on the active ingredients used in the product. Generally speaking, products made with DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, and picaridin are the most effective and safe for skin, clothing, and gear when used appropriately.

Once you find a product containing one of these three ingredients, you also need to pay attention to the concentration. Products containing 15% to 30% DEET offer long-lasting protection against biting insects and picaridin sprays containing at least 20% of the active ingredient are most effective. Lemon eucalyptus oil works best in 30% concentrations or higher.

Permethrin is another chemical that can be used to repel insects, but it is most effective when used on clothing and gear because it does not absorb well into the skin.

Recommended Insect Repellents

If you are looking for a high-quality insect repellent to protect yourself on the job, we recommend the following products:

  • Sprayon Insect Repellent II
    This insect repellent comes in a 6-ounce aerosol can and contains a combination of active ingredients designed to protect against biting insects for up to four hours. The formula contains 23.75% DEET along with other active ingredients to repel mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, black flies, fleas, and more. It is safe for application directly to the skin or it can be used on clothing, gear, and anywhere else insects are a problem. It does not require repeated applications or high saturation to be effective.
  • Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent
    Available as both a spray and lotion, Sawyer's picaridin insect repellent formula contains 20% of the active ingredient to offer long-lasting protection against biting insects. It comes in a 3-ounce spray bottle and a single application lasts for up to 12 hours against ticks and mosquitoes, or up to 8 hours against chiggers, biting flies, and gnats. It is virtually odorless, though it does have a mild citrus scent upon application that evaporates as it dries.
  • Sawyer Permethrin Clothing & Gear Insect Repellent
    Designed specifically for use on clothing and gear, this permethrin insect repellent spray is available in both a 6-ounce aerosol and a 24-ounce trigger spray. Made with permethrin as the active ingredient, it is safe for use around dogs and can be used to protect clothing, tents, and other gear against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, mites, and other biting insects. A single application lasts for up to 6 washings, is odorless when dry, and will not stain or cause damage.
  • Sawyer Products MAXI-DEET® 100% DEET
    Available in a 3-ounce spray, this 100% DEET insect repellent can be applied on skin, clothing, and other gear to repel mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, ticks, and gnats. It contains 100% DEET as the active ingredient and comes in a low-odor formula. It offers powerful and long-lasting protection in areas of high bug density.

In addition to taking the time to choose the right insect repellent to meet your needs, you also need to know how to use it effectively. Repellent sprays should be applied only to exposed skin or clothing in a light layer sufficient to cover the area. Never apply insect repellents over open wounds or irritated skin and always wash the excess product off with warm water and soap at the end of the day.

Natural Insect Repellents to Consider

While the products reviewed above offer powerful and reliable insect protection, they do contain chemicals. If you prefer to go with a more natural approach, there are a number of things you can try.

  1. Garlic – Try chewing garlic cloves or cook them into your food to repel mosquitos (and colleagues!), aiming for a total of one head per week. You can also steep minced garlic in mineral oil for 24 hours then mix in 2 cups of water and a teaspoon of lemon juice to make a mosquito repellent spray.
  2. Herbal Bug Spray – Steep generous amounts of dried peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, lavender, and spearmint in ˝ cup of distilled water with ˝ cup of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, then pour into a spray bottle and use as needed.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar – Try drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar once a day, or mix 2 cups of cider vinegar with a tablespoon each of dried rosemary, lavender, thyme, and mint then pour into a spray bottle and use as required.
  4. Eucalyptus Oil – Mix one part lemon eucalyptus essential oil with ten parts witch hazel. Rub the mixture into your skin to repel insects or add it to a spray bottle and apply as necessary.
  5. Sulfur – To repel chiggers and other biting insects, mix sulfur powder with water to make a spray. You can also add small amounts of sulfur powder to your daily diet to naturally repel insects, though it may take up to two weeks of daily ingestion for it to become effective.

Regardless of whether you go the traditional or natural route, repelling insects as a field professional comes with the territory. Keep that repellent (and garlic) handy!

When you work outdoors, insects are part of the job description. Choosing the right insect repellent is a necessity. Whether you go with a natural remedy, synthetic repellent, or good old-fashioned DEET bath, here are some products and important factors t