The best mosquito repellent brands for each of the recommended active ingredients.
We have discussed the pros and cons of synthetic mosquito repellents on numerous occasions. We have always come to the same conclusion; the best mosquito repellents contain one of several active ingredients. Either DEET, Picaridin (Icaridin), IR3535, PMD (OLE), or 2-undecanone. It is these five ingredients, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that we have tested in the field, and found the best brand containing each active ingredient.
Editors note: We review the mosquito repellents personally, and give our honest and independent assessments. The repellents are tested on expeditions in North and South America, and various African countries. The reviews contain links to a reputable supplier, where you can purchase the reviewed mosquito repellent brand. In most cases Amazon LLC. We DO NOT receive any affiliate income from these links. S.M.
The Field Trials
We have carefully reviewed the best mosquito repellent brands for each of the active ingredients. This was achieved by using a selection of the top repellents (available in the U.S & U.K) in field trials. We then gave our feedback on the most effective. The field tests were varied and specific to the repellent. The criteria for the tests was quite simply how effective they were at the job of repelling mosquitoes. We also made notes on the quality of the odour and texture.
The Best Mosquito Repellent Brands by Ingredient – The Winners
DEET – Ben’s® 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent.
Bottle tested: 3.4-ounce pump spray (100ml) with 30% DEET
Ben’s® 30% DEET mosquito repellent is one of the best repellents on the market. The repellent is produced by the Tender Corporation, who are based in the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Tender Corp have been producing the Ben’s® brand since the 1970’s, and we can assure you they have mastered the craft.
The repellent itself has the usual chemical DEET odor, and feels somewhat oily. The company state Ben’s repellent range has a “unique water based formula” which is slower to evaporate, and less absorbed into the skin. They also give an 8+ hour protection time.
When we field tested Ben’s we were very impressed. The first test was a 12 hour hike near the Colombian Atlantic coast. With one application in the morning we were protected for the full 12 hours without a single bite. Others in the group were bitten multiple times using different repellents. In two subsequent trials, we needed reapplication at 6-1/2 and 8 hours, in humid conditions.
Editors note: I am always sceptical regarding the protection times supplied by the manufacturer. Independent hand in box trials always present significantly lower figures. However, Ben’s really lived up to its claim of 8+ hours in our field test. A well worthy winner for the best DEET based repellent. S.M.
You can purchase Ben’s 30% DEET repellent here at amazon.com
OLE – Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent
Bottle tested: 4-ounce pump spray (118ml) with 30% Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)
Repel is an world famous manufacturer of insect repellents, and offer a comprehensive range of products.
The Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent has a very strong odor, and maybe not be suitable for those sensitive to smells. Very oily texture when applied. It feels like a cool peppermint on the skin. Repel claim up to 6 hours of protection time.
In our field test we used Repel Lemon around our local area in Risaralda, Colombia. We wore the repellent outside at dusk, where we experienced high levels of mosquito activity. On one occasion mosquitoes started to land on our skin within 30 minutes, and required reapplication. On our most successful excursion we lasted 3 hours before getting bitten, and requiring further reapplication.
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus does not compete with DEET or Picaridin for protection levels but it is effective in its own right. The conditions need to be monitored more closely, and reapplied regularly. Still a good option for those who prefer a more natural option.
Editors note: I do not recommend this repellent in a malaria zone, as it maybe ineffective. For normal day to day use, it is a perfectly capable repellent if applied correctly; just dont expect DEET style protection. This is certainly the best of the OLE repellents I have tested, and great value. S.M.
You can purchase Repel OLE Repellent here at amazon.com
Picaridin – Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent
Bottle tested: 4-ounce lotion (118ml) with 20% Picaridin
Sawyer Products is a Florida based manufacturer of insect repellents, sunscreens, water filtration and medical equipment.
The repellent contains 20% picaridin. There is no oily residue when applied. For a repellent the odor is relatively weak. Sawyers claim a 14 hour protection window.
In the field test we had some interesting results. On a trip to Ecuador we had serious exposure to biters at dusk and dawn. On a long trek we were required to reapply every 2.5-3 hours, as mosquitoes were starting to land or bite around this time. A second all-day excursion, to a national park with high humidity, we found we were protected for 8 hours without reapplication. A companion who was using a low % DEET was bitten 12 times during those 8 hours. In Colombia an early morning urban walk wearing this repellent, yielded several bites after 30 minutes. So as you can see a very mixed bag of results. It goes to show a repellent is one thing, but of course there are many other physical and chemical factors at work which can affect your chances of being bitten.
Editors note: This repellent is up there with DEET for protection levels, plus it is safer and not harmful to expensive clothes and equipment. The field tests were inconsistent, but I think this was due to outside environmental factors. I have used Sawyers many times in the past, and in harsher conditions without issue. S.M.
You can purchase Sawyer 20% Picaridin Repellent here at amazon.com
IR3535 – Coleman SkinSmart Pump Spray Insect Repellent
Bottle tested: 5-ounce pump spray (147ml)
The Coleman® Company headquartered in Wichita, Kansas is a producer of various outdoor products, related to camping and recreation equipment.
The repellent has a chemical odor, and an oily/spirit like feel on the skin. the Coleman® company say this repellent can give protection for up to 8 hours.
We visited PANACA (Parque Nacional De La Cultura Agropecuaria) in Qundido, Colombia. Which is an agricultural theme park (what exciting lives we lead). From 9am to 5pm we were protected for the full 8 hours, with only one person in our group receiving bites towards the end of the day. On subsequent tests (hiking trips) the repellent was less successful and achieved between 1-2 hours protection before reapplication required.
This is the best IR3535® we have tested so far. Again, It does not have the protection levels of DEET of Picaridin, but with careful monitoring and reapplication is a great alternative.
Editors note: I was pretty disappointed with the IR3535® category. I have used IR3535® as a family repellent for many years, and I love its safety record and effectiveness for everyday use. I use a few particular brands specific to Latin America which are not widely available, so unsuitable for this trial. The international market for IR3535® seems to be dominated by the Avon skin-so-soft range. The issue we have here is that Avon combines its repellents with sunscreens and moisturizers. Mixing protection has been scientifically proven to reduce the efficacy of insect repellents. Unfortunately Avon SOS did not perform well in field tests, so did not top our list. The rest of the IR3535® market is limited (a gap in the market?) This is probably due to the fact it has lower protection levels than DEET or picaridin. However, I rate IR3535® as an active ingredient, especially for children. I will continue to keep an eye out for developments in the IR3535® category. S.M.
You can purchase Colemans IR3535® repellent here at amazon.com
2-undecanone – ?
Bottle tested: No suitable repellent found
2-undecanone (methyl nonyl ketone) is on the list of recommended repellents by the CDC.
We have yet to find, or test a decent repellent for humans that contains 2-undecanone as its primary ingredient.
If you have any suggestions for the best repellent containing 2-undecanone, please let us know in the comments section below. We would love to hear your ideas and give them a field test for our list.
The search continues.
Thanks for taking the time to read our article. We hope you enjoyed it, and found it useful.
As always, if you have any suggestions or feedback, lets us know in the comments section below.
We wish you a bite free existence.