Alternatives to DEET and Picaridin

July 1, 2009

Alternative Repellents 

DEET and picaridin are synthetic chemicals that are not generally recommended for use on children under the age of 2. Several natural alternatives are available, all of which work—just not for as long as DEET or picaridin before they must be reapplied.

  • Oil of eucalyptus offers the longest-lasting protection (up to two hours), though it has a strong, distinctive odor that can permeate your clothing over time, and should be avoided on children under 3. 
  • Soybean oil provides up to 90 minutes of protection; you can find it in the Bite Blocker line of products. 
  • Citronella oil is one of the oldest repellents, used since the early 1900s, but provides minimal protection (less than 20 minutes).


This column originally appeared in the print edition of AMC Outdoors along with the column “Picaridin vs. DEET: Which is the best insect repellent?”
(Photograph by iStock.)

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.