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There’s a joke in Alaska: do you know what the state bird is? No, it’s not the ptarmigan (but good job for knowing how to spell it!) – it’s the mosquito! (Additionally, the mosquito is not the state insect; that would be the four-spotted skimmer dragonfly.)
You see, at some times of the year, the mosquitos in Alaska are almost as big as ptarmigan – and way more prevalent. The mosquito is such an important part of Alaska culture that Native Alaskans even carved some into totem poles and tell stories about them.
If you ask for individual advice, you’ll hear every possible range of stories, from whole trips without a single mosquito spotted to the horror of being chased back into your car by a swarm of them. I’ve experienced both, but the absolute worst mosquitos I’ve ever encountered were out on my river rafting trip in August 2022; those buggers were out in the rain and kept getting inside our clothes and head nets!
If you’re planning an Alaska trip and want to be prepared in case the mosquitos are bad during your visit, here are some of the most recommended mosquito repellants for Alaska, as recommended in my Alaska travel tips Facebook community.
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of many Alaska Native groups, including the Aleut, Athabascan, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, and Yuit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Choosing Mosquito Repellants for Alaska
Before jumping into my list of the mosquito repellants people most recommend for Alaska (including some I’ve tried personally), I want to spend a moment talking about what good bug sprays do:
- They repel insects (meaning they don’t even try to land)
- They deter insects from feeding (meaning if they do land, they don’t bite)
The best mosquito repellants will do both, so if you’re looking at a product – one on this list, or elsewhere – make sure it says that it both repels and deters. Those are the two important words.
Alaskan mosquitos are known to be particularly voracious and populous, so many people find that the average bug spray that works in the Lower 48 just doesn’t cut it when they get up north. For that reason, you may need to buy a special product or use a higher level of the repellant chemical than you’re used to. In all cases, I recommend reading the instructions carefully to ensure you use the product safely.
With that caveat behind us, ready to see which products I recommend for keeping mosquitos away in Alaska?
Ben’s 100 Insect Repellent
If you ask the most hardy and hardened Alaskans, there’s only one way to deal with mosquitos when they’re at their worst: 100% DEET. (Okay, technically 98.11% DEET, 1.89% other ingredients which mosquitos don’t care about because they hate DEET so much.)
As you likely know, DEET is not exactly good for humans (and especially bad on plastic, which it melts), so it’s really important to learn how to properly use DEET before buying something like Ben’s 100 for your Alaska trip.
Ben’s 100 is hands down the most recommended mosquito repellant for Alaska based on the questions my group has received; their bottles have 100% DEET and come in 100ml size so they will fit in your carry-on bag if you pack light for your Alaska trip.
Best of all, it’s pretty affordable so you can bring it as a backup option in the event some of the less intense options further down this list don’t work to stave them off.
Repel 100 Insect Repellent
For an alternative to Ben’s, Repel 100 is another option with heavy-duty DEET; it’s 98.11% too, so you should still exercise caution when using this product and not apply it directly to skin.
That said, it’s definitely highly recommended by both travelers and Alaskan locals who’ve done battle with the mosquitos.
Bottles of Repel 100 come in 4oz sizes, so you’ll need to check it in your luggage when visiting Alaska, but they’re a bit more budget-friendly than Ben’s.
Sawyer 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent
The other ingredient a lot of people recommended for repelling mosquitos in Alaska is Picaridin, which is a lot better for humans than DEET – but still requires a few extra steps to ensure you’re using it safely.
In short, Picaridin works like DEET to repel mosquitos and discourage them from biting if they do land. It has been ruled safer but equally effective to DEET products, which is why more people are starting to use and recommend it as a mosquito repellant for Alaska.
In any case, the most-recommended brand of Picaridin product is Sawyers, so that’s what I’m including on this list. Their 20% Picaridin insect repellant is available in both lotion and spray forms, and is really reasonably priced compared to DEET products – it also doesn’t have the same corrosive effect on plastic products, which is good if you accidentally spray your sunglasses!
OFF! Deep Woods
If you’re looking for a traditional bug spray rather than the big guns, OFF! Deep Woods is the top-recommended “standard” mosquito repellant people recommend for Alaska trips; it’s what I bought for my most recent trip – though it admittedly didn’t hold up against the swarm out in the backcountry!
That said, it’s probably enough to handle your standard Alaskan mosquito encounter, and with 25% DEET, it does a decent job of repelling mosquitos without the same risks that the almost-100% DEET products have.
I particularly like the “Dry” version (pictured) because it doesn’t leave the same greasy feeling that many bug sprays have.
Greenerways Organic Bug Repellent
If this list has given you the heebie-jeebies with all the chemicals you’ll be putting on your skin just to avoid the inconvenience of mosquitos, you obviously have never met an Alaskan mosquito – those suckers are no minor inconvenience!
But I don’t judge you for not wanting to put these things on your skin (or your children’s skin!), so I made sure to review all of the suggestions people made in my group for an organic option.
The most commonly recommended one was Greenerways Organic Bug Repellant. It combines natural oils like citronella, cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, and thyme for a naturally-repelling product that can be applied directly on your skin to form a barrier against bites.
I can’t speak for how effective this product is; I tried something similar on my rafting trip and it did exactly nothing to keep the mosquitos away. Sometimes they are just too persistent (hungry!) for anything less than the heavy-duty chemicals.
I hope this list of mosquito repellants for Alaska helps you choose a product or two you can pack for your trip; I haven’t tried all of them, but I did rely on the experience and expertise of my group members to help supplement my own knowledge of which products and chemicals are tough enough to keep Alaska’s “state bird” away!
Have any questions about which mosquito repellants to pack for Alaska? Let me know in the comments!
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