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When camping in areas where mosquito-borne diseases are endemic, what options are there in terms of mosquito nets? The mosquito nets I've seen are meant to be hung above a bed and tucked under the mattress, but would any make sense to use in a tent? If not, what are some options for mosquito (or other insect) protection while sleeping?

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There are several types and configurations of mosquito nets that you can use:

  • ones that hang (from a single center point, or from four corners),
  • ones that drape over your bag with one or two poles that go over your head to keep it off your face,
  • full free-standing

Depending on your situation, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Choosing a net:

  • Areas with rampant mosquito-born diseases are likely hot as well, meaning you won't want a sleeping bag, so the "draping" type nets won't do much good
  • A net that is too short will leave your feet or forehead pressed against the wall, inviting bites.
  • Tucking the mosquito net under your bag, sleeping mat, mattress, etc is essential not just for mosquitoes, but for other creepy-crawlies.
  • Free-standing bug nets shaped like a small 1 or 2 person tent you can pitch (inside a larger tent, or inside a hut for example) provide the most convenient and versatile option and tend to be easier to seal off.
  • Remember that mosquitoes are not the only pests. The biggest annoyances are often the "no-see-ums," which although don't carry illness, can make for a miserable nights. Choose a net with the smallest gap between the weave as possible.

Chemicals:

Permethrine: After 2 years of living in the tropical rain forest, and suffering the tenacity of mosquitoes and no-see-ums which manage to find their way through any tiny imperfection in the net, I just started treating my nets with Permethrine

This stuff is highly toxic to fish, and insects, so care should be used when applying it - however I have found it to be highly effective in keeping mosquitoes and no-see-ums away from the net so they don't ever find those imperfections.

DEET: Although highly effective as a repellent, prolonged exposure, to high quantities especially in hot sweaty environments, has been linked in some toxicological reports to some ailments. Regardless, I don't much care for doping up before I sleep - so tend to avoid it, though spraying clothes can be a good added measure of protection.

Mosquito Coils: I am not sure the chemical agent involved, or the safety of prolongued inhalation of the smoke, but mosquito coils burnt around the sleeping area reduces the number of insects visiting.

Citronella: Some people swear by citronella and lemongrass, either as an oil applied to the skin for short-term reduction, or a candle that provides a smoke repellent.

Eucalyptus Oil: Provides a short term repellent, and can provide some relief for itching from those bites that already snuck through.

As a final precaution, setting a (controlled) smoky fire burning in the corner of your hut, or tarp will help reduce the number of mosquitoes hanging around throughout the night.

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Great answer, thanks! –  jrdioko Jan 27 '12 at 1:37
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Typically a tent itself will not let mosquitos in, but if you are in a tent that will, like a canvas army tent, hanging nets does a decent job. In some situations a bivy may do better. Some are primarily made of netting and designed specifically for bugs, and some are even shaped to fit standard military cots.

I have had some luck with fabric treatments. Permethrin sprays are available for clothing and some may work on tents or netting. Follow the instructions on the bottle regarding fabric compatibility.

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