So you’ve hiked for 8 hours into the wilderness, found an awesome campsite next to a lake that wasn’t on the map, set up your tent, and made a campfire. You’re sipping on your well deserved cup of tea and suddenly there it is… the telltale high pitched buzz of a mosquito’s wings right next to your ear. You flail impotently at the descending swarm, squealing like a little girl, running for your tent. Miserable inside your tent as you watch your campfire flickering merrily without you, you suddenly watch as a mosquito lands on your hand and almost casually begins to suck your precious lifeblood out of your veins without so much as a by your leave. “How did it get in here?” you wonder as you crush the life from the horrid creature for its audacity. Here are the most effective tools for preventing or at least mitigating the devastating impact this can have on your otherwise delightful trip.

Make a Horrible Smoky Fire 

This is not a fun option, but it works great. Throw wet wood and green things on your fire to create a lot of horrible smoke. Then sit right in the plume of nastiness while protecting your eyes as much as you can. After a couple of minutes of this the smell of burning horror will get into your skin and clothes, masking the smell of lactic acid and CO2 that attracted the bugs in the first place. You might still be bitten, but the difference is very significant. If you want to go all out, and you aren’t trying to impress anyone with your stunning good looks, you can rub ash into your skin to make this even more potent. Besides keeping mosquitoes off of you this will also protect your skin from the sun on account of it being opaque. This is majorly useful if you forgot the sunscreen and don’t like pus drooling from the infected blisters of your partially cooked skin.

DEET

Everyone knows about this one, but it bears mentioning. If you use it correctly DEET will serve you well. You have to put it literally all over you in order to keep the bugs off! If you miss a spot they will simply fly to it and bite you there. If you wonder why DEET works so well, simply apply it, let it dry, and touch the tip of your tongue to the area. Actually don’t, you shouldn’t eat that stuff. It’s really really bitter. Bitter enough to make you scrunch up your face and shudder, possibly even going so far as to lightly convulse in disgust. I like to imagine that the mosquitoes feel the same in their nasty evil little mosquito minds.

Nets

If chemicals are not for you and standing in a plume of smoke or rubbing ash on your body sounds like it will ruin your trail glamour shots you can always bring a small, portable net. This has a few drawbacks in that you shouldn’t put it near your fire since it’ll burn, and if you get any holes in it you’re out of luck. However there are a few good portable nets out there a mere Google search away and if nothing else they can protect you while you sleep.

Time your Ventures

If you are someone who literally couldn’t hurt a fly, even a tiny blood sucking demon, you always have the option of carefully timing your adventures. Mosquitoes are most ubiquitous a few weeks after the snow melts. That doesn’t mean you have to pitch your tent on the snow, but if you get there when night temperatures still take the occasional dip below freezing you will find yourself largely unmolested. The problem with this is that you’ll be grounded all summer while you wait for fall to hit in the mountains or temperatures to rise to tolerable levels in the spring. There is, however, a window for prime backpacking that occurs twice a year, and backpackers should definitely take advantage of the opportunity.

We can never be free of the menace of mosquitoes, and eventually they will certainly cause the downfall of civilization, or inspire us to invent light-speed travel in hopes of reaching a mosquito free planet, one or the other.

Guy Pierson is a writer and globetrotter, currently working as a content creator for the EHIC travel support team at applyehic.org. Guy’s hobbies include learning new languages, eating bizarre food, and glider flying.