The Mosquito Battle Plan When Overlanding

Summer has started: great weather, blue skies, sunshine, long evenings before it gets dark. Life is wonderful.

If only those clouds of mosquitoes would stay away.

Over the years we’ve searched for solutions to sleep without our bodies being drained of blood. If you have a car with properly closing doors and windows and have aircon, this article probably isn’t for you. For others, here is our Mosquito Battle Plan.

Equip the Vehicle with Mosquito Netting.

On the sides in the rear, we have camping-car windows with integrated mosquito screens. They work perfectly.

In the rear doors are also camping-car windows, but an integrated system is not possible there for lack of space on the bodywork. I made mosquito netting with an elastic band around the edges.

Around the front windows, I glued Velcro on the bodywork, and I sewed mosquito nettings with the opposite side of Velcro along the sides.

When it’s extremely hot we may sleep with the rear doors open, so I also glued Velcro around the edges of the doors, and my mother-in-law sewed mosquito screens to fit.

Stock up on Mosquito Repellent.

Our homemade mosquito repellent is easy to make and not harmful to the skin/body.

Make a mixture of half a liter of rubbing alcohol and 100 grams of whole cloves. Let it sit for four days, stirring the mixture a couple of times each day. Filter out the debris, and add about 100 millileters of oil (baby oil, sesame oil, whatever oil you like). The latter is just to make the repellent softer on your skin. There are variations on this recipe—Google is your friend.

This repellent works well but not for a very long time. It’s perfect in case you are in an area with short, intense mosquito onslaughts around sunrise. It does not work long enough to last an entire night. Therefore, in malaria-infested areas, chemical repellents may be a better option. In South America, we used the brand OFF!, which we found pretty much everywhere and it works well. There are cream versions for your skin and spray versions to use on your clothes. Some versions contain DEET, so check the ingredient lists if you want to avoid this.

Since our Land Cruiser can never be completely closed due to the holes in the bodywork and the door rubbers leaving chinks, we keep the cream next to us at night in case some mosquitoes do come in and I don’t succeed in swatting them.

As long as we are outside, we make sure to cover up wearing long pants, long sleeves, socks, and recently we even got a nice Pinewood hat with mosquito netting covering our heads to battle the mosquito onslaughts in Mongolia and Siberia.

Preparations Before Going To Bed.

What if you are outside all evening, leaving the doors and windows open for the truck to cool off? The mosquitoes are inside by the time you go to bed, although you can minimize this by using one or two mosquito coils.

This is what we do, especially in malaria-infested areas:

We put all of the mosquito screens in place and close the windows and doors.

One of us goes inside, holds his/her breath and sprays the inside with mosquito spray as fast as possible and jumps outside. Breathe again.

Wait 10 minutes for the spray to kill the malicious buggers.

Open the windows, leaving the screens in place, and stay outside for a while longer for the chemical vapors to find their way out and fresh air to blow inside.

This requires time and patience, but does work.

One Last Tip.

Acidic waters are often blissfully free from mosquitoes. In the Amazon region, the black-water rivers are more acidic than the white ones, and camping next to the former will greatly simplify the battle against the little pests.

What are your tricks to have a peaceful, mosquito-free night in your overlanding vehicle?

Freelance writer Karin-Marijke Vis, along with her partner Coen Wubbels, photographer, combine their love for adventure with work they enjoy. Sometimes described as being the ‘slowest overlanders in the world,’ they believe in making connections and staying in a place long enough to do so. In 2003, the couple purchased an antique BJ45 Land Cruiser. Infected by the overland bug, they have continuously traveled in Asia and South America ever since. Since 2017 they alternate their Land Cruiser travels with long-distance hikes. Authors of two books and they’ve been published in car/4x4 and travel magazines around the world.


  • David Jonson

    August 16th, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    I work in mosquito infested Northern Alberta, my sanity saver for my job is something called a Thermacell. It uses a butane cartridge to burn a blue pad. It will clear the mosquito’s away in usually 10 minutes once the pad starts to smoke. It’s a 4.5 meter radius around the device and best of all you don’t need to apply any bug spray.

  • Eric Williams

    August 17th, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    I frequent the Sierra Nevada
    and treat my clothing and gear with Permethrin. Effective against mosquitoes, ticks and other annoying insects.

  • Eddie

    August 20th, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    ^^^ This!
    We used the above mentioned products on our extended Overland in Botswana and were very happy with the results…