Our family found the best insect repellent for kids… and it’s DEET-free

Kid friendly insect repellents that can be used on skin and fabric?

As parents who regularly camp, road trip, and explore the outdoors with our two children, finding the best insect repellent for us and our kids has been as challenging as slapping away hordes of mosquitoes during an Oregon July.

Bugs love our family, but we don’t love most bug sprays. Over our 10 years as traveling parents who cringe when mosquito and tick season arrives, we’ve tried and tried to find the best insect repellent for kids.

And we finally have. Ranger Ready’s DEET-free 20% picaridin insect repellent smells nice and feels good on our exposed skin. Their second formula, with permethrin as the active ingredient, adds pest-repelling protection to fabrics, like our clothes.

Even the kids like to wear it.

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Seeking a bug repellent spray we can use in the outdoors and around the world

Whether camping, kayaking, or hiking, a good insect repellent is a family outdoor recreation essential.

Our search to find the best insect repellent for kids began in 2012, when our son, Connor, was a baby. During a camping trip, so many mosquitos bit Connor, he looked like he had chicken pox. Since then, we’ve been camping and recreating with our kids throughout the American West’s Great Outdoors for over a decade. Connor, now 10, has been our bellwether not only of how bad the bugs are, but how effective and kid-approved our mosquito repellent is.

Figuring out the right pest repellent for our family was a push and pull of two big considerations that were hard to square: We want to keep the bugs away, but we also want to feel okay using the repellent on our skin… and especially our children’s skin.

Balancing those two factors was really hard for our family. Of the different bug sprays we’ve tried, some felt greasy and gross. Other products have been ineffective—or required constant reapplication.

Nowadays we’re not only camping, hiking, kayaking, and road tripping, we are also about to embark on long-term travels around the world. During 2021 and 2022, we’ve been trying out Ranger Ready’s picaridin sprays for skin and permethrin sprays for fabric, seeing if it could be a bug spray we can rely on for both outdoor recreation and global travels.

Now, when mosquitos have come around our camp site, Connor has been bite-free. When we’ve gone romping through fields on warm days when ticks can be active, we’ve come back without any disease-spreading hitchhikers.

Plus, the picaridin sprays come in 3.38-oz. bottles—just small enough to pack in our carryon luggage when we fly.

An effective kids bug spray the whole family likes to use

In our recent family field tests, we used Ranger Ready in a variety of different outdoor environments, while we were camping, for 6 weeks in California. While we saw (and avoided bites from) the occasional mosquito, our biggest two concerns were:

  1. Ticks (which can be active year-round in above-freezing temperatures), and
  2. Whether or not both parents and kids could stand wearing Ranger Ready spray repellents for multiple days at a time while camping.

And the end result?

No bug bites.

More importantly? We liked applying Ranger Ready. Ranger Ready was also effective against kid pushback about putting on their bug spray.

The sprays had a good smell, and they didn’t feel greasy or heavy on the skin. (We joked that it was almost like cologne or perfume.) We even felt okay letting the our seven-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son practice spraying Ranger Ready onto their legs (under parental supervision, of course).

Along with applying picaridin Ranger Ready sprays to our skin, Ranger Ready’s permethrin-based gear and clothing formula added pest protection to our camp chairs, clothing, and even the canvas surrounding our camper door. We’d spray some on during the evening, so the spray could set in overnight. In the morning, our clothes and gear had neither stench nor stiffness, but we had the assurance that our fabrics had pest protection that would last for days.

Ranger Ready kept the bugs away. It was also the first bug spray we both liked using on ourselves, and felt good about putting on our kids.

Check the label before spraying: Picaridin for skin, permethrin for fabrics

Ranger Ready is easy to apply, and it can be effective for up to 14 hours. The small picaridin spray bottles easily slip into a daypack or fanny pack for touchup later. The trigger-style permethrin bottles can be applied from any angle, even upside down. That’s been really helpful when spraying down our camp chairs.

The formulas are not interchangeable though. We always check the label to make sure we’re spraying picaridin on us, and permethrin on our fabrics.

A sweet spot of formula and effectiveness

Picaridin, the effective ingredient in Ranger Ready, has been approved for use in the US since 2005. However, it’s been used around the world since the 1980s. As far as we’re concerned, there’s enough safety research, in-the-field usage, and global track record for us to feel good about using these repellents on us and our kids.

If you’re a parent who wants pest repellent peace of mind, we recommend you try Ranger Ready.

The feel and scent of the formulas has made it easy to apply, not only for us but for our kids. They’ve hated other sprays we’ve used—but they actually like Ranger Ready.

Our family finds Ranger Ready to be the best insect repellent for kids

Ranger Ready has changed our family’s bug spray game. It’s the first effective insect repellent we’ve actually liked using. And when it comes to getting kids into the outdoors, any time you can make something easier, that’s one more way the rest of your activities and adventures can go well.

A special offer from our family to yours

Ranger Ready has been right for our family, and we think it could be right for your family too. You can try out Ranger Ready and save: During checkout at RangerReady.com, enter code “LEARNERSANDMAKERS” for 10% off your order.

Find the best insect repellent for your family today

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.