How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Tent: 16 Helpful Tips

how to keep bugs out of tent

One of the biggest downsides to camping outdoors is all of the insects and creatures you have to share the space with. Mosquitoes, flies, spiders, and other bugs are lurking everywhere, and they’ll find their way into your tent if you’re not careful.

If waking up to a spider crawling on your back or a fly buzzing around your tent is not what you want, then you should read this article. Our team of experts goes over all of the tips we’ve learned over the years to keep bugs and other wild animals out of your tent.

Quick Answer

While the list below will dive into all the specifics you need to keep your tent bug free, they can be narrowed down to a few key points for easy reading. If you want to repel insects from your tent, you should do the following:

  • Seal up your tent from the outside

  • Choose the right camping location

  • Stay away from any obvious bug sources

  • Keep your tent clean and food-free

1. Keep Your Tent Completely Sealed

When you’re camping, an open tent is an invitation for the bugs to come inside. That’s why you should seal it up completely.

Keep the tent completely zipped up at all times, whether you’re inside or outside. If you’re camping outdoors, make sure that your tent doesn’t have any natural openings that could let bugs get through.

Instead, look for tents that are covered completely by fabric or mesh ventilation. This will ensure that your tent remains breathable while keeping the bugs out.

closed tent

2. Patch Up Any Holes Or Damaged Spots

Even a small hole in your tent fabric or mesh is enough for most bugs to get through. Before you go camping, take a look around your tent and note any damaged spots.

If you see any, you should patch your tent up using some repair tape or sew it together, depending on where the hole is.

3. Enter and Exit Your Tent as Little as Possible

As most of you probably know when stepping outside of your house, it only takes a second for a bug to fly inside after opening your door.

While it’s sometimes impossible to stop this, you can limit it by quickly entering and exiting your tent when you need to. You also shouldn’t go in and out for no reason, especially if your tent is surrounded by bugs.

person exiting tent

4. Minimize Artificial Light Sources

If you’ve ever seen a bright lamp on a warm summer night, you’ll know that bugs are very attracted to artificial light sources.

When choosing where to pitch your tent, try to stay away from any other shelters or buildings that have bright lights on them.

You should also avoid using light sources like flashlights or even your phones when you’re inside or near your tent. At night, even a small amount of light will attract bugs from all around you.

5. Choose a Breezy Area

Bugs such as flies and mosquitos don’t handle wind very well, so you should choose a windy spot to place your tent if you can. This will stop them from being able to fly around and land on your tent.

Ideally, somewhere out in an open field would be the best place to set up your tent for the wind. When pitching it, make sure to face your door either sideways or away from the wind. If it’s facing in the same direction, it might blow bugs directly inside of your tent.

6. Don’t Camp Near Stagnant Water

Stagnant water sources such as lakes, swamps, and ponds are a hotbed for all different kinds of bugs, especially mosquitoes. The moisture makes it a perfect breeding ground for them, which is why you should stay away.

Even some small puddles are enough to attract insects, so try to avoid water where you can. Choosing a spot with a relatively higher elevation is an excellent way to help with this.

tent near water

7. Avoid the Middle of the Woods

Camping in a dense forest or somewhere with lots of vegetation is a mistake for multiple reasons. First of all, all of the trees and plants around you will block the wind, which makes it easier for bugs to linger around your tent.

Second, much like stagnant water, insects tend to hang around and breed in these areas. Trees could have bee or wasp nests inside them that you’ll have to watch out for, while ground shrubs are often full of ticks and other small critters.

tent in thick forest

8. Keep Food Out of Your Tent

Bugs can sniff out food from a mile away, so ideally you keep it all outside of your tent. This is especially important for when you’re eating, as even a few crumbs on the ground can attract an army of ants to your door.

Besides, it’s no fun eating alone inside your tent anyways. Grab a blanket or picnic table instead and enjoy the nice weather.

If you want to take things a bit further, we’d also suggest packing most of your food up in a large cooler that you keep outside your tent. That way, it stays cool, is all sealed up, and won’t bring any insects near your campsite.

9. Camp in a Clean Location

In our experience, many popular campsites are unfortunately riddled with litter, which in high enough quantities will attract flies and other insects to feed on it.

This is why you should choose a clean location to pitch your tent. If you’re camping somewhere in nature, this should be easy.

If you’re at a popular campground, we’d suggest keeping some distance between you and the other campers and to stay far away from the trash bins.

clean campsite

10. Light a Campfire or Other Smoke Source

If you’re spending time outside, a smoke source acts as an excellent deterrent for flying pests. The most traditional way to keep them away is to start a campfire. In addition to acting as an insect repellent, they’re a nice place to gather around with your fellow campers.

If you’d rather not have a campfire, plenty of other options will work just as well. You could surround your tent with tiki torches or candles, which will create a strong perimeter.

Another option is citronella candles or coils that emit metofluthrin. While they produce less smoke, bugs hate the smell that comes out when you burn them. A few of these placed around your tent will also be a highly effective bug repellent.

11. Use Bug Spray

While we know it can be uncomfortable for some people, insect repellent is an effective option to repel bugs from your tent. Spray it directly on yourself or your clothes (if you have sensitive skin) for the best effects.

Also, do not spray traditional bug spray on your tent fabric. While we know it might be tempting to avoid getting it on your skin, the chemicals will damage your tent over time, shortening its lifespan. There are other natural options you can apply to the outside of your tent instead.

insect repellent

12. Try Other Natural Insect Repellents

If traditional DEET-based bug spray isn’t for you, plenty of natural bug repellents also exist. While we haven’t used any personally, here are a few that other campers we know swear by:

  • Rub vinegar or apple cider vinegar directly onto your tent fabric or your skin.

  • Create a natural bug spray using a mix of 50% water, 50% natural witch hazel, and a splash of rubbing alcohol and essential oils (such as eucalyptus, lemongrass, or mint). Spray on to your clothes or tent.

  • Burn herbs such as rosemary, mint, and sage in your campfire as an added insect repellent.

13. Keep Your Tent Cool

Bugs thrive in hot and humid conditions, which is why you should keep your tent cool to drive them away. Make sure you have adequate ventilation, and if it’s a hot night you should bring a fan along with you.

During the day, camping in the shade or setting a tarp shield up above your tent will also help cool it down.

14. Use the Bathroom Far Away From Your Tent

The scent of urine acts as a magnet for both bugs and other wild animals. If you’re camping somewhere without a dedicated bathroom, then you should urinate at least 50 feet or so away from your tent, preferably even further.

If you’ve brought your pets along with you, make sure they also do the same. This advice is doubly important when looking at wild animals. You don’t want to wake up to a bear outside your tent in the middle of the night.

dog peeing

15. Clean Your Tent Frequently

As we’ve mentioned above, garbage, food, and even dirt will attract bugs to your tent. If you eat inside your tent, you should be cleaning it after every meal, especially if some food has dropped on the floor.

If you’re camping for multiple days, it’s also a good idea to clean your tent floor every morning or afternoon. No matter how hard you try, you’ll always track in at least a little dirt from outside. Cleaning it will help repel the bugs.

16. Stay Away From Ticks

If you see a tick warning sign somewhere around your campsite, you should stay far away from that area. Ticks carry lots of nasty diseases like Lyme disease and are easy to track into your tent if you’re not careful.

If you’re camping anywhere with a thick brush nearby, also check your body whenever you enter your tent to make sure no ticks have latched onto you.

tick warning


If you use even a few of the above tips, you should have no trouble keeping bugs out of your tent. Follow all of them and you might not even see a bug for your entire camping trip.

If you have any other tips for how to keep bugs out of your tent, definitely let us know in the comments. Happy camping!

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