Bed bugs are an unfortunate reality for homes and hotels across the world.
But, will those same bugs infect your tent and gear while camping?
We took an investigative look into this question, along with what other bugs you need to look out for and some tips to get rid of bed bugs if the unthinkable does happen.
Can You Get Bed Bugs From Tent Camping?
You can’t get bed bugs from outdoor tent camping. However, it is possible to get bed bugs from others staying in your tent if they unknowingly brought them along, though the chances are slim.
Of course, the more people you have sleeping in your tent, the higher the chances of getting bed bugs are since they tend to travel with people. But bed bugs typically don’t travel outdoors, which means they can only spread if you invite others into your tent.
But, if you can’t get bed bugs from the outdoors, where do bed bugs come from?
Bed bugs come from other areas infested by bed bugs. They commonly travel in luggage, backpacks, used furniture, and other upholstered items. In addition, they can infest and travel between rooms in multi-unit buildings, which is why they are so common in hotel rooms and apartments.
It’s also why you likely won’t get bed bugs in the forest or out in nature as they prefer to live indoors.
So, again, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to bed bugs and tent camping. However, if bed bugs are still a concern, you could use a bed bug sleeping cocoon (aka a sleeping sack) to protect yourself further.
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How Do You Get Rid Of Bed Bugs in a Tent?
In the unlikely event that you do have a bed bug infestation, you’ll want to get rid of them from your tent and camping gear (sleeping bag, etc.) as soon as possible.
Bed bug bites can cause skin irritation, sores, itchiness, or worse, depending on how sensitive you are to their bites.
Bed bugs can live in your tent for an extended time as they can go several months without eating and withstand a wide range of temperatures.
So, you can see it’s important to get rid of these pests, which we can do with the following tips.
Bed Bug Removal Tips
- First, vacuum out the entire inside of the tent, using a hose attachment to get in the tent’s crevices. Empty the vacuum contents into a sealable plastic bag and discard it to avoid infesting other areas.
- Next, we need to clean the tent thoroughly. While cleaning, be sure to use a toothbrush and scrub along all of the seams to get out any eggs that may have laid.
- Once the tent is clean, dry it in the dryer. We typically advise against putting tents in the dryer as it can cause wear and tear and potentially harm the waterproof coating on the tent. But, in this case, your tent should be heat-dried. You can use a lower heat setting if you are worried about damaging your tent.
- Optional: if you have a chest freezer, you can place your packed tent in it for four days to help kill off any remaining bugs or eggs.
- Once you’ve completed the steps above, look for evidence of bed bugs in your tent. If you notice more bugs, repeat the steps.
Important: Don’t forget to follow the same process with your sleeping bags, backpacks, clothes, and other camping gear!
What Bugs Can You Bring Home From Camping?
While bed bugs might not be an issue when tent camping, there are other bugs and insects you should be more concerned about.
A few of these bugs include:
Ticks are most often found in wooded areas and can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, encephalitis, and other serious infections.
When tent camping, be sure to use a bug repellent and check yourself often for ticks. If you have a fellow camper with you, check each other. And don’t forget to check your pets as well!
Fleas are common in most areas of the world and can carry diseases like bubonic plague or typhus. And it’s not just your pets you have to worry about!
So, avoid sleeping in communal spaces when you’re camping. In other words, keep the number of pets and people in your tent or shelter to a minimum. The easiest way to ensure the safety of your pets, and subsequent spreading of fleas, is with a flea collar or medication.
Chiggers are small, microscopic bugs that live in grass and brush. They can be found throughout the United States but are especially common in areas with high humidity like forests or swamps.
Chiggers do not attach themselves to your skin by burrowing into it, as commonly believed. They do, however, inject enzymes into the skin and feed on the decomposed tissue. They usually do this around the ankle area.
To avoid chiggers, set up your tent away from water sources and thick brush. And try to avoid camping when it’s sweltering and humid.
Be sure to check out our guide on how to keep bugs out of a tent for more helpful tips for a bug-free camping trip!