Bug-Free Camping: 1 Easy Solution

Forest 1 by Carlos Alvarez

How to Camp Bug Free!

Mosquitoes, flies, no-see-ums, and bees can all greatly affect the camping experience. Camping long term, especially, can mean dealing with several generations and varieties of bugs in and around your tent.

There are many (MANY) solutions people talk about to get rid of the pesky insects that like to eat you, or just your food. Today I’m going to focus on one that most people don’t think to use:

Cedar Chips

Cedar chips, also called cedar shavings, are normally used in rabbit enclosures and the like. However, these little bits of wood have proven themselves time and again to be great at cutting down the amount and variety of bugs that hang around your campsite and try to get into your tent.

For the same reason closets and mothballs and hope chests are made of cedar – insects don’t like the smell – you can ward off the pests throughout your trip.

After (AFTER) your tent is set up and you’ve got your fire going, spread cedar chips around your tent, and a little more underneath and in front of your tent entrance(s).

Spread them around any supply tents and screen porches you have, and around a vehicle if you have one.

What happens, naturally, is that the bugs don’t like the scent. As enticing as you or your food, or your kids, smell to the pesky fliers, the cedar covers it and leaves a not-nice smell for the bugs. Luckily for us, most humans don’t mind the smell of cedar – some of us even like it!

Add new cedar every week or so, and after every heavy rain. It will keep the barrier up and greatly decrease the horde of insects you will have to deal with.

Now, the downside: spiders don’t really care about cedar. Sorry, they just don’t. Some types might stay away from you a little, and certain spiders might take advantage of the new additions and move into a fresh cedar pile. However, one way or the other, you’re going to have spiders around if you’re in any habitat where they might live (plus any you brought with you in the first place). Also, with fewer insects to eat, if you are staying for a couple months or more, the spiders might move further away from your campsite to increase their chances of catching regular meals.

Another perk, especially for those of you who like to “go green” while camping: cedar is a lot healthier and safer than the sprays many people buy and fill the air with. While most types of cedar chips have some sort of chemical in their mix, it’s certainly not to the extent of any spray. Even natural sprays have some odd ingredients sometimes, plus leave that sticky feeling on your skin.

Cedar also lasts longer, and you don’t have to worry about cleaning it up since it’s already wood!

Now, some of you may already use cedar in your dresser or your car, and may try to just fill a small baggie to bring with. However, the more you spread around, the more effective it is.

Therefore, for any trips longer than a weekend I suggest starting with a size like this:

A large size is still fairly simple to transport (just pack it on top of everything else) and leaves you with the only garbage from it being the plastic bag itself – if you don’t find another use for it in the meantime (carrying wet clothes, washing said clothes, lugging kids’ toys etc). Any you don’t use can be brought back home just as easily, or left with a new neighbor-friend you’ve made during your adventure.

If you find that you’ve used the whole thing on the first day, either you’re trying to camp in a very¬†bug-ridden area (in which case you probably want to move your site – sometimes even ten feet can make all the difference) or you’ve used too much.

As an example: when my family sets up a campsite where we’ll be there for at least a month, with good trees over us, we’ll use an over tarp and cover the tent and screen porch. We’ll set everything up and then spread the cedar around the ground, generally matching up to the edges of the tarp above us. That way we have a mostly-solid line of protection around the area where our stuff will live. We’ll use a little more in front of any entrances to the tent and screening. All that will take maybe one-fifth of a bag such as the one shown above. Maybe. If it’s a particularly wet or buggy day. Maybe.

If we happen to have a vehicle with us, which we then probably won’t move for a while, we’ll put some under the doors we might open and along the back if we’ve stored anything there.

Even then, maybe a fifth of the bag will be used.

Of course, if you’re camping with a large group and there are several areas and/or tents to cover, you will naturally use more than a fifth. In such cases, ask a few of your fellow campers if they can also bring a bag with them to share the load, and help ensure several eyes casually watch for ‘gaps in the perimeter’ of the barriers.

Why do I keep saying “after set up”?

It’s quite simple really: you don’t want the cedar chips cutting holes in your tent or screen porch or tarp.

Although they can be soft, cedar chips have sharp edges and corners. This can cause havoc if any get under your fabrics, which is easy to do with something as light and easy to catch on shoes and clothes as cedar chips. By setting everything up first, you are less likely to have any mishaps.

When you go in or out of your tent, make sure you leave any cedar bits outside. Don’t let the kids throw it around or carry a handful¬†into the tent just to shove down the back of their siblings’ shirts.


So, have I convinced you of how great cedar chips can be while camping? Do you want to try them? Is there anything in particular you use while camping to keep the bugs away?

Leave a comment below!

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I'm (now) an Affiliate, who blogs about the materials, gear and supplies needed for living in a tent and long term camping: http://longtermcamping.siterubix.com I also enjoy reading and sci-fi in all its many forms.


  1. This post was great. I love personally love camping. I love the nature and the feeling of adventure that comes with it. Seeing cool insects can be fun when hiking and searching for cool new things. but sleeping with them, or having them in your food is definitely a mood breaker.

    I never heard of cedar Chips, and this sounds like something I would look into for my next camping trip, whenever that may be.

    Thanks, fo this.
    Shlomo J

    • Hello Shlomo,

      Exactly! Bugs out on the trail are almost always interesting, but not when they crawl on you in the night.

      I’ve noticed most people have never heard of using cedar, so I decided to start discussing the bug paradox with my favorite (and easiest) solution.

      Do you have a particular style of camping, or place, you prefer? Are they a bug haven?


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