Does a shiver run down your spine just reading the headline? Not everyone finds the idea of having to share a tent with an unwelcome beetle or maybe even a spider or a scorpion tempting – nature lover or not.
And yes, while oddly enough I don’t find spiders quite as terrifying in nature as I do in our home (they make for a great macro photo opportunity, after all), we’ve had the odd encounter with insects that I’m short on recall makes you wince. We now want to talk a little about some of these encounters.
Danger! Trigger warning for insect phobics: the post also contains a few photos ;). Above all, we want to give you a few tips and tricks with which you can keep your tent free of insects, minimize the number of creepy crawlies on your pitch or in the wash house and protect yourself from too many surprises.
There might even be something for the people who normally bravely place spiders on their hands to transport them to a safe place. After all, there should be…
Aren’t spiders and insects bothering you when camping?
When I rave about camping, statements like “Yes, that all sounds great, but don’t the crawling animals and insects bother you?” or “Uh, I couldn’t do that! I hate spiders!”. But I have to say that over time you get used to spiders and bugs in the tent! And after the 100th spider you’ve thrown out of the tent or rooftop tent, it’s not that bad anymore!
Well, and then I remember our tent nights in Australia – the land of the true monster spiders. The rickety washhouse at the Walk-In Campsite in Eungella National Park was covered in cobwebs from top to bottom and around 25 spiders of all different colors, shapes and sizes were sitting around the washbasin.
And we? We brushed our teeth there as calmly as if there were no deadly funnel-web or redback spiders in Australia at all. Well, calm is a bit of an exaggeration, but hey: I thought we were pretty cool!
Maybe camping in nature is suitable for desensitizing insect phobias?
I don’t know if it’s because after four weeks in the wild you just get used to your animal neighbors (after all, at some point you accept the cocky smartass next door) or if we simply become less sensitive away from our sterile society, but somehow it bothers us Insects in the urban jungle much more than in the real jungle. The fact is: if you go camping in nature, you will inevitably get to know our crawling roommates.
Animal encounters seem to be our only problem when camping
We have been camping in almost all conditions by now. Our tent has been with us in the tropics or in the desert, stood in the constant rain, fought bravely against hurricanes and withstood temperatures below freezing. We always had to contend with new challenges. How do we get our clothes and hair completely odor free in Canada so we don’t attract grizzly bears?
You can already see that encounters with animals seem to be our only problem when camping. But of course they are exactly what makes camping with a tent so appealing. That’s exactly what we want – to be one with nature, to feel the weather and the time of day and to hear the sounds around us. Just not lying in a darkened, locked and supposedly safe room where the only noise is the humming of the mobile phone charging cable or the TV in standby mode…
But the smallest representatives of nature are the most common
But as frightening as an unwanted encounter with large animals can be, it is also rare. Of course, the most common and no matter where you travel, you come into contact with the smallest representatives of nature – spiders, beetles, woodlice, cockroaches, worms, ants, snakes, mosquitoes and ticks are just some of the species that you can see quite frequently receives. And funnily enough, these seem to be the animals that give most of us sleepless nights or at least keep some from camping.
Here are the 7 tips against insects and spiders when camping
If you’re one of those people who first thinks of the lurking danger of insects or spiders when thinking about camping, then we can reassure you now. With a good mosquito net and a little caution, your tent will remain absolutely free of insects. In addition, there are a few rules of conduct and tips that will help to reduce contact with crawling animals on your pitch or in the wash house to a minimum. We’ll tell you now!
Be the doorman in front of your tent! Closed to insects!
Always (really always) keep the tent door closed!
This is probably our most important tip in this blog post. Oh okay? Then you can keep scrolling, because that’s really a matter of course now? When we write “always closed”, we really mean “always”! Insects love your warm tent and its interior walls, which may glow in a cozy yellow color, so much that they are just waiting for you to let them in.
Lights off when entering the tent
In fact, mosquitoes are not attracted by light, but are attracted by human body odor. However, this does not apply to other nocturnal insects such as moths. Anyone who walks at night with a headlamp will be amazed at how many flying insects there are and, above all, how numerous and lightning fast they fly towards the lamp – or in this case: onto your forehead… Open the tent door, crawl in, take off your shoes, close the tent door – that costs money Time! If you leave your headlamp on, you risk having a few unwanted roommates. If you can’t do without light, you can use a red filter on the headlamp.
Be careful in camping toilets or in the wash house
Insects and spiders love toilets and washhouses! No wonder, after all, the damp rooms with their moderate temperatures offer the ideal habitat for many species. Spiders are therefore only too happy to hunt here, while cockroaches and silverfish are on the lookout for soap residue or dander. Visiting an outhouse or washhouses on very small campsites can therefore become a real adventure for people with insect phobia.
Lock out insects: close washhouse doors and toilet lid.
Therefore, the same applies here: use the door! Especially when you leave the room. This keeps the number of new arrivals manageable, at least for the visitor after you. The situation is similar with the toilet lid. As rudimentary as a so-called Bush toilet can be, almost every toilet has a lid. Even if many seem to believe that this is more of a superfluous decorative accessory: on outhouses it is not only used to counteract odor nuisance. It is also an extremely useful tool for minimizing the number of insects that like to sit under the toilet seat or in the drainpipe!
Headlamp when visiting the toilet
If you are camping without electricity, it is advisable to take a good headlamp with you. Even during the day, Bush toilets are mostly completely dark. It can be reassuring to get a brief overview beforehand. However, it is advisable to switch off the lamp when going to the toilet. Many insects seek the light, and if the only source is on your forehead… well, you can imagine. Flashlights have not proven useful for us, as there is often no clean place to put them in outhouses.
This is how you avoid insects and spiders in your shoes
Store shoes outside or inside?
“And where are you going with your shoes now?” It’s a bit like choosing between the plague and cholera: dirty or wet shoes in the tent versus creepy crawlies looking for shelter outside. If our shoes are clean, we usually take them into the tent with us – so they don’t serve as an insect hotel and stay dry. But if we were on muddy paths beforehand, we store them outside under the vestibule. Especially on long tours in cold, damp areas, we try to keep the inside of our tent as dry as possible.
When my shoes became the spider hotel…
When we pitched our tent next to a moor in the constant rain. Without thinking too much, I left my hiking boots outside overnight. When I wanted to slip back in in the morning, I knocked them on the floor several times beforehand. However, I hadn’t seriously expected a small subtenant. But what was that? A little thread? Or just a lint? I held the boot close to my nose and peered into the dark toe box. What the hell? It won’t be anything! I bravely reached in (don’t ask me why!?), only to be surprised the next moment by a huge house spider, which shot down my arm like an arrow from its nocturnal hiding place. You can’t imagine how scared I was! The boot definitely flew through the air in a high arc. Yes, I know… house spiders are absolutely harmless, but the fright was still great!
It is better to cover shoes outside in front of the tent
That’s when we figured out a new tactic. We now put our hiking socks over the shafts of our shoes when we leave them outside the tent. In this way, the socks are immediately aired and serve as a barrier for insects and spiders.
Knock out shoes in the morning
A footprint under the apse further minimizes the number of crawling guests. Oh yes: and although house spiders are obviously not impressed by this, beating out your shoes in the morning can help to get rid of one or the other lodger!
This is how you get rid of mosquitoes in the tent!
Midges – small but mean
Anyone who has thought that mosquitoes are an annoying phenomenon on mild summer evenings has to be disappointed. Perhaps the worst of the harmless mosquito species, it lives in more temperate regions. The tiny little midges (also known as sandflies in New Zealand and Australia) appear in such flocks that they can be mistaken for a piece of clothing on bare skin. Their bites often trigger allergic reactions that last a long time and can be very uncomfortable for the individual. Mosquito nets for the head and special repellents are often useful. When traveling to such areas, make sure that your mosquito net on the tent is very tight and intact. Midges are only 2 mm long and slip through every little crack!
The art of not getting stung in the first place
In other countries (e.g. in Africa or Southeast Asia), mosquitoes are carriers of dangerous diseases such as malaria or dengue fever. In addition to malaria prophylaxis, the best remedy is still not to be bitten in the first place. Long, light-colored clothing and mosquito repellent are the best-known solutions. Perfumed shampoos, soaps and shower gels (but unfortunately also body sweat) not only attract grizzly bears, but also mosquitoes. Try washing yourself with mild, fragrance-free soaps after a hard day.
A campfire in summer: relax in front of the tent without mosquitoes
In order to be able to sit relaxed in front of the tent in the evening, a campfire is recommended. The smoke and heat from the fire will drive away mosquitoes and other insects. In addition, you should avoid water accumulations around your camp, as mosquitoes like to lay their eggs there!
And what if the mosquitoes are already in the tent?
It is not always possible to prevent mosquitoes from entering the tent. For example, our rooftop tent was only single-walled – instead of our usual inner tent with mosquito repellent, there were a few large cracks. If you also plan to rent a vehicle with a rooftop tent, or if you already own a rooftop tent, we can recommend that you take an additional mosquito net with you (especially in malaria areas)!
Unfortunately, since we hadn’t thought of that, we had to share the bedroom with the little meanies, willy-nilly. Although we both usually get a good night’s sleep, the constant buzzing of mosquitoes right next to our ears was really annoying. This is where hearing protection can help!
While it’s tempting to crush the uninvited guests against your tent wall, you can use electrical tape to absorb them more efficiently. A good tent camper always has that with them anyway!
Keep an eye on your surroundings
If I had heeded this tip myself earlier, I would not have had to send my health insurance company a long email explaining why a doctor literally had to remove “three ants in the ear”.
Back then, shortly before our three-day hiking tour, I lay down on a bench that was stupidly already occupied by an ant colony. Two minutes later I felt something crawling across my face, brushed it off and whoops – nibbled it in my ear… “It” later turned out to be three (!) ants desperately trying to find a way out of my inner ear and biting my eardrum in panic.
The feeling and especially the sound were incredibly uncomfortable – so much so that I had to see a doctor who rinsed the three little ants out of my ear. “Look at this! Three in one row! Can you see the stitches?” he asked excitedly as they took turns peering into my ear with a lighted magnifying glass.
Better not to reach into dark corners
But so that some doctor doesn’t have to constantly flush some insect out of some part of my body, I now pay a little more attention to my surroundings. An anthill? Not a good pitch for your tent!
The towel hung outside to dry? Better to shake it out again before you use it! Lay on a bench? Are you the only beings with this idea? Reach into holes, pipes or dark corners? Maybe shine it in again for a short time beforehand? Smaller animals can easily get stuck there.
Be careful when dismantling the tent
Anyone who goes camping knows it: somehow all the insects within a mile radius seem to have gathered on the tent, between the walls or on the pegs. A little get-together of the who’s who of crawling animals, so to speak… This is because insects also like to protect themselves from wind and rain and also find the mostly light colors of the tent to be quite chic.
Knocking technique or would you prefer a hand brush?
Maybe you have an intrepid camping partner who will carefully move the animals for you. For everyone else, we recommend closing all tent doors and then tapping the outer tent first before pulling it off and shaking it out. The same goes for the inner tent. Or you gently wipe the little animals with a hand broom.
The choice of tent color can affect its popularity with insects
Incidentally, some die-hard campers claim that beetles prefer to settle on yellow and orange tents. Possibly insect phobics should consider this aspect when choosing the tent color. We’ve used white-red and yellow-green tents before and can’t really confirm that statement, but who knows? Is it maybe worth a try?
Pay attention to hygiene when camping
Not only wild animals such as foxes, raccoons, bears or wolves sneak around your tent at night looking for open food or rubbish. Wasps, fruit flies, cockroaches and ants in particular have scouted out after a few hours that there is “something to get” from you.
Keep your camp clean
So keep your camp as clean as possible. Lock the food and waste either in your car, in the camping kitchen (there are sometimes fridges there too) or in plastic containers. A little tip: when we go on a road trip with the tent, we now use smaller stackable plastic containers to store our groceries in the trunk. So they are neither crushed nor do they roll around uncontrollably. If something leaks, then the dirt is not distributed throughout the trunk.
What to do with the garbage?
Closable, waterproof rubbish bags have proven their worth when trekking or hiking. You can store your rubbish in the vestibules without smelling it or transport it on your backpack. With a small carabiner you can protect it from wild animals on the tent lines or attach it to the outside of your backpack. When trekking, we store groceries in all-purpose bags with zippers.
As annoying as it is: It is best to wash the dishes immediately!
As annoying as it can be sometimes: try to wash your dishes immediately. Dirty dishes attract animals just as much as rubbish. A positive side effect: the food residues do not dry on and can be removed much more easily when fresh.
Leaving groceries, dirty dishes or rubbish in the tent is not a good idea if you a) want to avoid a break-in by large animals or b) don’t want to share the tent with ants, who like to find every little crack in your mosquito net to get some leftover food! The same goes for foul-smelling clothing, which is also best stored in dry sacks.
Conclusion: Our tips against insects and spiders in the tent
Super-tough adventurers will of course roll their eyes in amusement at most of the stories and tips. Surely no one has ever died from having to move a spider… I hope so!
Nevertheless, there may be one or the other who would like to start camping or take the next step in the direction of trekking or forest/bush tours, but are still afraid of possible encounters with spiders and other insects.
I would like to reassure everyone. You will surely see one or the other interesting crawling animal. Insects and moscitos are part of every camping tour, regardless of whether you are traveling with the ground tent, the rooftop tent or the RV… – that’s nature!
But I promise you that with my tips your tent will remain an insect-free place that only belongs to you. Your sleeping mat, your sleeping bag, your four walls – better and maybe cleaner than any hotel room!
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