Bug repellent innovations banish DEET in favor of safer alternatives

Bug spray is a must-have when spending any amount of time outdoors (a safer travel recourse many consumers are opting for lately) because pesky mosquito bites can lead to more than just an inconvenient itch. Mosquitos spread dangerous diseases such as Zika virus, West Nile virus, dengue, and malaria, but traditional bug sprays contain something scary too: DEET. With studies showing that DEET is potentially harmful, brands are innovating new repellent solutions, sans this questionable chemical, until more conclusive research is conducted.


A new insect repellent has been approved for consumer use, and while it’s bad news for mosquitoes, its grapefruit scent is a boon for users. The naturally-occurring ingredient is called nootkatone and it repels and kills mosquitoes and ticks, is found in Alaska yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin, and was traditionally used to formulate perfumes and colognes due to its delicious, fruity scent. Nootkatone is the first EPA-approved insect repellent chemical since 2009, and now that it’s got the green light brands can begin developing new bug sprays for market release around 2022.


Ranger Ready Repellent sets itself apart from other bug spray brands with Picaridin 20%, an alternative to DEET that was developed in Germany in the 1990s. This active ingredient is now recommended by the CDC, and all Ranger Ready products containing Picaridin 20% are approved by the EPA. Ready Ranger also mitigates the intense and off-putting smell of traditional bug spray by offering four product scents, including Ranger Orange, Amber, Night Sky, and an unscented option called Scent Zero.


For those who love spending time outdoors, the Cokit LED Camping Lantern & Bug Zapper is a solid alternative to chemical bug sprays. This 2-in-1 lantern and mosquito zapper is battery-operated, and not only do its LEDs serve as a light source for nighttime activities, but it zaps any pesky insects after luring them close with UV lights. Travel and Leisure dubbed this lantern “Best for Camping,” and its affordable price makes it even more appealing.