I Camp More Than 30 Days Every Year—Here’s the Mosquito Repellent I’ll Never Forget to Pack

As senior shopping editor and Reader's Digest's in-house camping expert, here's why I'll never camp without a Thermacell again.

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Each weekend from May through October, there’s a better-than-average chance you’ll find me camping. From county campgrounds to National Parks, I’ve camped it all—and I’ve endured some horrifically buggy conditions. No matter the location or the duration of my trip, there’s one camping essential I’ll never leave home without—my Thermacell. Read on for my Thermacell mosquito repellent review.

What is the Thermacell mosquito repellent?

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent on wooden deckMegan Mowery/RD.com

A Thermacell is a mosquito-repelling device. It’s available in either fuel- or battery-powered options, each using heat to activate a repellant-soaked mat and promising coverage areas of at least 15 feet. Both types of Thermacell work continuously and reach maximum power in 15 minutes, but you’ll notice their effects in mere minutes.

My personal favorite Thermacell, the MR300 portable mosquito repeller, is the fuel-powered kind. It’s relatively small in size, only 8 inches long and weighing 6 ounces, making it convenient to travel with. It offers a handle for easy carrying and a clip to attach to a belt loop or backpack. Plus, it comes with a 12-hour fuel cartridge and three four-hour repellent mats.

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Why I love it

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent on backpackMegan Mowery/RD.com

I’ve camped in some truly mosquito-infested locations—including a handful of summer trips to northern Minnesota with lots of standing water, and thus, swarms of mosquitos everywhere the eye can see. Bug sprays are the common choice for keeping pests at bay, but they don’t have a pleasant feeling on the skin and they’re full of chemicals—plus, spraying them when other campers are around is a rude camping habit. Mosquito-repellent clothing is another option, but it’s a pain to purchase a whole new wardrobe just because of bugs.

Since receiving my Thermacell MR300 as a camping gift three years ago, it’s become a permanent part of my must-pack checklist. That’s because it’s completely silent, scent-free and doesn’t disturb me or other campers in the slightest. Once I turn it on, I can trust the swarms of bugs will be completely gone within 15 minutes, and it only takes a few minutes to make a difference. It’s basically a camping hack, because it takes the best part of bug spray—the relief from pests—and eliminates all the annoying side effects.

I’m also a big fan of my Thermacell’s portability. I can easily attach it to my hiking pack for relief when hiking through dense forests and around lakes where mosquitos love to hatch. Since the fuel works for 12 hours, and the repellent lasts for four, I can take it along on long walks without hurrying back to my campsite for a refill or stopping mid-camping activity to re-up on bug spray. And I can turn it on and off, so when mosquitos subside I don’t have to needlessly waste the Thermacell’s power.

Swapping in a new repellent mat or fuel cartridge couldn’t be easier. You’ll know when the mat needs replacing because its vibrant blue color will begin to turn white. When that happens, just slide a new mat under the cage-like grill—it’ll knock the old mat out—flip the switch to “on” and push the Start button a few times. You’ll know the device is working properly when the window at the top shows a glowing orange light. You can monitor fuel cartridge usage from a small window, and swapping the cartridge is as simple as pulling the bottom of the device, twisting out the old cartridge and replacing it with the new one.

Since the mats and replacement cartridges are small in size, they’re convenient to carry for car campers and RV campers alike. With the Thermacell, you’ll never get stuck in a swarm of bugs with an unexpectedly empty bottle of bug spray again.

After three years of using my Thermacell MR300, I wholeheartedly recommend it for beginner campers, seasoned pros and even glampers. It’s been a lifesaver—or at least a trip-saver—on dozens of buggy adventures. In fact, without the Thermacell, I may have given up on camping a long time ago—so thanks, Thermacell, for making my favorite hobby easier, more enjoyable and more accessible for anyone who doesn’t love getting eaten up by mosquitos (but if you do happen to find an errant bite, try the editor-approved Bug Bite Thing for immediate relief).

But don’t take my word for it!

I’m not the only camper who won’t travel without a Thermacell. These fellow camping enthusiasts can attest to Thermacell’s near-magic abilities.

“I have been using this product for six years,” writes Amy G. on Thermacell’s website. “[It’s the first] and only thing that has kept me free of mosquito bites in my 62 years. I hate to say this, but you could charge a lot more.”

“We purchased this and I can now hike in the forest bite-free!” writes River on Thermacell.com. “I am extremely allergic to bites. I hate using DEET because it gets on my clothes and whatever I touch. I can stand outside and visit with neighbors and actually prevent mosquitoes for those closest to me. It seems to deter no-see-ums and deer flies, too.”

“Living near rice fields, and now a swamp, this is the only product that really works,” writes verified Amazon purchaser, Deni Lee. “It is a little largish for carrying, but so much better than being swarmed.”
“I live in northern Maine and our summer flying insects are absolutely ruthless,” writes five-star Amazon reviewer, Victoria. “I took this thing with me and a friend in our 10-foot canoe down a slow-moving river and the bugs were THICK. I put it on the cooler between the two of us and let me tell you… IT WORKS! On the way back out of the river, the pad had burned out and there was a noticeable difference in bugs. It’s good quality, good size and super easy to operate. I swear by these things!”

Where to buy the Thermacell mosquito repellent

Thermacell Mosquito Repellentvia merchant

You can shop the Thermacell MR300 directly on Thermacell’s website for $25, as well as on Amazon (where you can find lots of discounted camping gear), Walmart, Chewy and Scheels. Take it from me—you won’t want to spend another bug-infested minute outdoors until you upgrade to a Thermacell mosquito repellent. Bye-bye, bug bites.

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Megan Mowery
As Senior Shopping Editor, Megan is an expert at helping Reader’s Digest readers find products that will improve their lives. She covers anything from must-buy Amazon products to tried-and-tested product reviews. You can usually find her online shopping, learning a new craft, or caring for her jungle of plants.