The Basics of Camping: Dealing With Pests

The Basics of Camping: Dealing With Pests


Camping, either with friends and family or alone, can be a  fun outing full of new adventures and activities. However, depending on where you go for your camping trip, you may experience a few inconveniences from pests. To ensure that you do not sacrifice fun at the expense of dealing with inconveniences, it is important that your backpack have the necessary pest repellants.

When talking about pests, the word “pest” is not restricted to flies or mosquitoes but rather to any animal (usually small) that could become an inconvenience. As such, there are a couple that most campers commonly face.

Scorpions and Snakes: Beware! As warmer temperatures approach these pests become more active. While not all of them are poisonous, it is important to avoid all of them when outdoors. There are many classes and resources to help you learn the identifying traits of poisonous snakes and scorpions and first aid treatment of bites while waiting for paramedics.  

Ticks: Besides the fact that they are a general nuisance, certain types of ticks carry the Lyme disease. When going outdoors, it is best to prevent rather than treat. In the case of ticks, cover your head with camping hats, minimize the amount of exposed skin, and use repellants like Deet on your clothing, but be careful to avoid contact with your skin. When hiking, avoid walking through thick areas of grass or brush and carry out routine checks for ticks. If any are found, remove and kill them immediately.  

Mosquitoes and Flies: These are the most common pests and while small, can be quite irritating. While dealing with their bites, buzzing and general discomfort is relatively easy, it is best to prevent them from getting onto the campsite. Packing some citronella candles will help keep them at bay from the general area, but for maximum protection you should also use bug repellent. This can be in the form of a spray to your skin or a small container that gets clipped onto your clothing.

Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Nettles: These plants can be quite dangerous, especially for people with allergic reactions. The best way to handle them is to learn how to identify them and avoid all contact. You don’t have to memorize all there is to know about them as there are many books and manuals you can buy and keep in your backpack for reference. Should you touch any of the plants, do no scratch the area. Wash in cold water as soon as possible and if a rash develops, apply a topical lotion.

Chipmunks, Skunks and Racoons: These creatures usually prowl around at night, will steal your food, and can cause mayhem at your campsite. While they may be cute upon first sight, especially chipmunks, do not forget that they are wild animals. Keep your distance from them and don’t leave food in easy to reach places.

Birds, Crows, Ravens and Gulls: Use the same precautions as when dealing with small animals.

With proper knowledge and the right tools in your backpack, any camping trip can be enjoyable without having to deal with the problems associated with pests. 

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5 thoughts on “The Basics of Camping: Dealing With Pests”

  1. I am not a representative or salesman for SC Johnson. But, I will endorse Deep Woods Off as the only mosquito repellent that worked in Central America. The old Army “Bug Juice” (in a bottle) did not work at all. The new stuff, Lindaine (?) (in a tube) was much better.

  2. Depending on where you live / camp, don’t forget Bears. Bring a rope and a bag to suspend your food/cooler up HIGH in a tree, if you are in bear-country, or even close.

    An old buddy has ummmm.. “interesting” scars because, at 11 years old, he fell asleep on a picnic table in Yellowstone Park with a chocolate candy bar in his back jeans-pocket.

    NOT a good idea.

  3. Wyzyrd, you remind me of a similar event, although not nearly as dangerous, from early in my military career. While I was sleeping in my “hooch” on a mortar range at Fort Pickett, VA, a friend of mine yelled “He’s in your pocket”! I looked down and saw a 2 foot raccoon trying to take a pack of Ritz crackers out of my right cargo pocket of my BDU trousers. I made a fist and hammered down on his nose. The animal squealed and backed off a few steps. I then grabbed my “Rambo” knife and slashed at him. But he was out of range. He did not give up right away. I had to sit up, crawl out from under my poncho tent. As I was fumbling through my rucksack to get my Wrist Rocket slingshot, my buddy came over and chased the raccoon away. This was my first experience with these little bandits. I would grow to respect these creatures as a formidable opponent. I won’t bore everyone with descriptions of our many encounters. I will say that a friend of mine took a different approach to the US Army versus raccoon bandits. He would give them food deliberately. He just covered it with hot sauce before turning it over. That made for some rather humorous conclusions.

  4. lol, Iish-7,

    Racoons are accomplished thieves, for sure. One of the best.

    For sheer “ninja-Houdini-ability”, I vote for squirrels as #1. I was annoyed, but highly impressed when one (or more?) one night opened a wood storage box with a hinged lid, got out a large jar of peanut butter, carefully chewed off the rim of the plastic cap and ate every bit of the contents. Trying to keep bird-feeders safe from their raiding abilities is pretty much a lost cause.

    Hot sauce WILL deter a lot of raiders. Crushed Thai Bird chilis will even keep deer away from plantings, and the CIA and KGB both discovered that Tabasco sauce would deter cats and other scavengers from disturbing dead rats and other critters used as dead drops, back during the Cold War days.


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