Mosquitoes are one of the most annoying things about living in a camper. Coming from Arizona – which has a severe lack of insects – we didn’t even consider the prospect of these nightly visitors until it was too late.
You’ll never be able to get rid of all of the mosquitoes, but these tips can help keep the mosquitoes out of the camper van or RV and make the summer nights much more bearable.
Take advantage of the motorhome that you live in and move it somewhere with less bugs. There’s no point in camping on the banks of boundary waters Minnesota all summer if you’re going to be miserable the whole time.
Mosquitoes love water. Try to avoid parking near a stagnant lake or dense forest of trees. Aim for flowing rivers or lands that don’t have as much undergrowth. Deserts are the perfect place to avoid insect life.
Alternatively, travel to high altitudes. Not only will thin air and mountainous terrain keep you cooler at night, but mosquitos are less likely to be found.
Pro-tip: mosquitoes also fly slower at high altitude so you’ll be more likely to kill the little blood-suckers before they get you!
Seal Up Cracks And Gaps
It should go without saying, but keeping your doors and windows closed when inside the vehicle is the most practical way to keep mosquitoes out. Unfortunately, in the summertime when mosquitoes are most often around, a van can get brutally hot at night. That’s where bug nets come in handy.
Because of the high cost, most people choose to make their own bug screens with magnetic insect netting.
Keep in mind that mosquitoes are tiny so even a little bit of gap between the netting and your windows can lead to a lot of bugs.
If you have the budget, some companies produce mosquito nets fitted specifically for vans. These can seal all the way around and open door leaving you with plenty of fresh air for the night. Unfortunately, they can be very difficult to find for your specific camper. Here are some links to get you started:
Be aware that open doors and windows may not be your only access from the outside. Our van is quite old and we noticed that there was still a gap at the base of our side doors when they are fully closed.
During the summer months we close a wash cloth between the doors to cover this up. We also replaced the rubber trim surrounding our doors that had gotten cracked and began falling apart over time.
Utilizing Proper Airflow
No matter how hard we try, some mosquitoes still seem to find a way inside the van. We noticed that running a 12v vent fan throughout the night keeps them from annoying us too much.
Mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 that our bodies produce. With proper ventilation, we’re able to let out some of that CO2 so it’s not as concentrated in one area (that’s my personal non-scientific theory). At the very least, the drone of a fan will counteract some of that irritating buzzing.
Build A Campfire Nearby
What did people do before they had fancy Sprinter vans and Ford transits with custom mosquito netted doors? How did they camp with all of these bugs? The answer is with fire! Mosquitoes hate campfire smoke.
Building a campfire is a good way to stay outside late into the night and avoid bugs at the same time. This is probably one of the more fun solutions to the endless summer pest problem. Grab yourself an axe and go chop some wood!
Mosquito Net Awning
If there’s one thing that saved us in that hot, Minnesota summer it was our anti-bug room.
We bought a mosquito net enclosure on a whim to go with our awning and it has been a complete lifesaver on more than one occasion.
Not only can we sit out in the buggiest conditions any time of day, but in direct sunlight the awning helps reinforce shading even more.
Our bug net goes around all four sides of our awning as well as the top. Unfortunately, we’re not able to get into the side doors of our van with this setup, but it does do an excellent job of keeping our skin from getting itchy.
Getting into the more conventional wisdom, having bug spray around cannot be understated. Unfortunately in the confines of a van, covering your body in DEET is going to make you want to immediately take a shower. We try to stick with more natural bug sprays, but you can’t argue with the superiority of DEET insect repellant!
Wearing extra layers is our current solution to mitigate the mosquito problem. Even light layers can be a good deterrent and make you feel more comfortable. Some fabrics even have mosquito prevention built-in.
In desperate attempts to relieve ourselves of bugs, we’ve turned to giant citronella candles and other scented solutions. Although I’d like to say it works, when living out of a van there is simply too much area to cover.
We can light up all the candles we want inside the vehicle, but if a bunch of bugs storm in the second we open the doors it will be all for nothing. We’ve also tried setting candles up outside of the vehicle, and it’s simply impossible to drive mosquitoes out of their natural habitat.
That said, I do love the smell of citronella so we continue to live on the hope that this solution is doing something.
Late one night we were camped on the banks of a Louisiana swamp. The couple camping next to us took out a strange blower and started swishing thick smoke throughout the air. They covered their entire campsite with dense clouds. “What is this crazy couple doing?” we thought.
After talking with them, we learned they were using a mosquito fogger. These foggers fill the area with a dense mixture of water and ingredients like peppermint oil and clove extract. The fog can last for up to 72 hours and reduces mosquitos up to 90%.
While we can say this method was effective, the downside is that the machine itself is bulky and expensive. Overall, it looks like you’re sitting in an area that’s very bad for your health (even though supposedly it’s not). And you’re probably going to get some weird looks from the neighbors.
Not the best scenario for van life in our opinion.
Avoid Mosquito Friendly Foods
Finally if you’re desperate for some relief, one last step you can take is to try and avoid eating foods that attract mosquitos. Hopefully these tips will leave you with less of a bug problem than us.
Food and drinks that attract mosquitoes:
- Potassium (bananas, avocados, potatoes, spinach)
- Salty snacks
- Sweets (cakes, pies and sugar candy)
- High cholesterol foods
- Limburger cheese
- Pickled vegetables
- Dairy products
So what can you eat? Unfortunately that list doesn’t leave you with much. Healthy vegetables are going to be your best bet. Just try to keep the sweets locked up in a fridge or somewhere a little more smell-proof and less enticing.
Bugs are everywhere, and unfortunately we live in their environment. Part of living in a camper van is dealing with insects. Taking proper precautions like covering your body, closing up your van and ventilating the inside is going to give you the most comfortable experience.
Life would get boring if we didn’t have something like flying insects to keep things interesting.