The 8 Best Tick Repellents for the Whole Family (Including Fido)
Have you ever been mid-hike, when you noticed a few tiny bugs crawling on your shoes...only to realize, OMG they’re ticks? Yeah, it’s the sort of thing that you need to be prepared for, since a tick bite can ruin not only your afternoon in the wilderness, but it can possibly lead to bigger health issues (such as Lyme Disease, Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever). And while it’s usually easier to spot and remove larger ticks before they transmit diseases, it’s the younger and smaller ones that can sometimes be nearly impossible to spot, that you need to be concerned about.
So, if you’re heading into wooded areas where there’s plenty of shade, low brush and piles of leaves—especially between the months of March and October—you’ll want to prepare yourself and your family against these pests. From the protective clothing you can wear to sprays that are safe to use on babies and dogs (including organic formulas that actually work), here are the eight best tick repellent options to buy this summer. Just don’t forget to do a thorough tick check after every hike, walk or playtime in grassy areas and, per the CDC, throw your clothes in the dryer for up to ten minutes to zap any lingering bugs.
1. L.L. Bean Cresta Wool No Fly Zone Lightweight Hiking Socks
Best Insect Repellent Socks
Your first defense against tick bites is keeping your skin covered. So, while it might not be the most stylish (or summer-friendly) look, you should prepare to wear long pants that you can tuck into socks when heading into a grassy area. These L.L. Bean socks will definitely do the trick—and not because they’re made from wool. “Our No Fly Zone collection is treated with permethrin, a synthetic form of a naturally occurring bug repellent, so you can be free of biting insects—including ticks, black flies and mosquitoes,” the brand notes. If you’d rather go with a shorter sock, the trusty brand has got you covered as well.
2. ExOfficio BugsAway Della Jogger Pants
Best Insect Repellent Pants
If you don’t trust your Lululemons to protect you against ticks, try a pair of tick repellent pants. The lightweight and quick-drying material of this ExOfficios style is coated with a Bug-Blocking Insect Shield treatment made with permethrin that will last up to 70 washes. Plus, the tapered elastic hems make these super easy to tuck into your socks.
3. Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent for Clothing, Gear & Tents
Best Treatment for Clothes & Gear
Most insect-repelling clothing is treated with permethrin, an insecticide that’s toxic to bugs but won’t affect humans. The good news is that you can treat any item you want—including camping gear—at home, with this Sawyer spray that’s just as powerful as DEET, without all the gross chemicals (more on that below). This natural formula is derived from the chrysanthemum flower and one application lasts up to six weeks (aka, six washes). Keep in mind that this won’t be effective when used directly on skin, so you’ll want to double up with an additional spray on any part of your skin that’s exposed to the elements.
4. Yaya Tick Ban All-Natural Tick Repellent (Two Pack)
Best Organic Formula
This plant-based formula is safe enough to use on you and your dog, so you can hit the trails today without having to worry about finding a tick on Fido tomorrow. The formula includes a surprisingly fragrant mix of cedarwood, peppermint, rosemary, geranium, lemongrass and thyme that is quite effective at keeping the creepy crawlies away. One reviewer writes: “Here in Maine we have a severe tick problem. I also have very sensitive skin and cannot use any insect repellent that has deet or any other chemicals. This does a great job and has a pleasant odor as well as having all natural ingredients. A win, win situation!”
5. EarthKind Stay Away Mosquitoes
Best Travel Spray
When you’re heading out on a hike, you’re probably worried about more than just tick bites. Tuck this small travel-sized spray into your pocket or backpack and spritz it on throughout the day to keep mosquitos, gnats, biting flies and chiggers away—up to fourteen hours for mosquitoes and ticks, and eight hours for the other insects. Plus, the DEET-free formula is unscented and skin-friendly; it’s also safe enough for pregnant women and children over two.
6. Repel Insect Repellent Mosquito Wipes
Best Travel Wipes
These wipes contain the relatively controversial DEET. So, while they might be really effective at repelling mosquitos, chiggers, biting flies, gnats, fleas and, yes, ticks (by basically making you invisible to them), there have been questions about the safety of this chemical. While the formula hasn’t been directly linked to cancer and incidents of serious poisoning are very low, DEET isn’t recommended for use by small children or pregnant women. Just be sure to apply these wipes exactly how the instructions specify, and you should be good to hike for hours—even in areas that are heavily infested with bugs.
7. Australian Gold SPF 30 Insect Repellent Continuous Spray
Best Repellent With SPF
Kill two, er, bugs with one spray. This Australian Gold continuous spray bottle combines your daily dose of SPF 30 with some no-nonsense bug-repelling powers—sans any DEET. It’s both water-resistant and will never feel sticky after application, but the protection will last up to eight hours. Reviewers also note that it smells really good, quite the opposite of the scent you usually associate with bug spray.
8. California Baby Natural Bug Blend Bug Repellent Spray
Best for Babies and Kids
Strap the little ones into your backpack and get ready for the family hike: This California Baby bug spray can be safely spritzed on your kiddos, as long as they’re over six months old. It’s made with the pure essential oils of citronella and lemongrass and it’s free of gluten, oat, soy, dairy and nuts (though it does contain coconut oil), so it can even be used on the most sensitive skin. One mom notes, “I really like that I can use California Baby Bug Spray before or after bath time and not worry about my kids falling asleep with it on them.”