How to Keep Ticks Out of Your Tent

Nymph and adult ticks are too large to fit through the mesh on tent doors and windows.  However, there are still many ways that ticks can get into your tent, such as hitching a ride on your clothes.

The last thing you want is a tick in your tent where it will be able to bite you and feed uninterrupted through the night.  Luckily, there are many things you can do to keep ticks from getting into your tent.


1. Choose an Enclosed Tent

In tick territory, you can forget about sleeping in a tarp shelter or sleeping under the stars.  You’ll need a tent which can be completely closed off.   Doors and windows should have no-see-um mesh on them.


2. Keep the Tent Zipped

Make sure you establish a rule that the tent stays zipped up at all times (this can be difficult when camping with children!).  This rule will help keep ticks as well as spiders, mosquitoes, flies and other bugs out.


3. Use a Large Groundsheet

If you must pitch your tent on tall grass or leaf litter, then use a large groundsheet. The groundsheet should cover the ground in front of your tent door.  Use this area for dressing/undressing so ticks are less likely to get on you when you enter or exit the tent.


4. Check the Ground for Tick “Nests” before Pitching Your Tent

Ticks don’t actually make nests but ticks do have a tendency to form clusters when waiting for a host. If you pitch your tent over one of these tick clusters, you could end up with dozens or even hundreds of ticks in your tent..

To avoid this – especially if you have to pitch your tent on grass or other vegetation — consider checking the ground for ticks first.  You can do this by rolling up a sleeve and slowly moving your forearm over the areas where you want to pitch your tent.  If you spot a tick on your arm, choose a different spot for pitching (obviously remove the tick on your arm).  You’d be surprised how one area can have lots of ticks but an area just a dozen feet away doesn’t have any.


5. Treat Tent and Sleeping Bag with Permethrin

One of the best things you can do to prevent ticks is treat your gear with permethrin.  Ticks die when they come in contact with permethrin yet it is safe for humans.  You’ll also want to treat your clothing, shoes and socks to keep ticks away.  Read more about how to apply permethrin here.


6. Keep Sleeping Bags Inside the Tent

Cold while camping? Resist the urge to snuggle in your sleeping bag while outside the tent.  You risk getting ticks on your sleeping bag and bringing them inside the tent.  Instead, stay warm by putting on an extra layer of clothes, lighting a campfire or staying active.


7. Keep Dirty Clothes in Sealed Bags

Ticks sometimes hang out on your clothes for days before they actually bite you.  To prevent any ticks on your clothing from escaping into the tent, keep dirty clothes in sealed bags.  Wash and dry the clothes immediately when you get back from camping.


8. Check for Ticks before Getting into the Tent

Check before you turn in for the night so ticks don’t end up inside the tent.  Ideally, you would strip down naked and check your entire body.  Obviously, that’s a bit tricky to do in a public campground.  Consider doing the tick check in the campground showers or hang a privacy curtain in front of your tent.  And always have your tick tool handy so you can properly remove ticks you find.


9. Try Not to Mix Outside and Inside Gear

Decide which gear needs to stay in the tent (clean clothes, pajamas, sleeping bags…) and which things can remain outside (dirty clothes, day packs…). Try not to bring any gear which was outside into the tent. There could be ticks on the gear that then get into the tent.  And definitely don’t hang out in the tent in clothes which are potentially tick-infested.


10. Don’t Let Your Dog Sleep in the Tent

Ticks can easily get on your dog and then end up in the tent.  If you really must sleep with your dog, then make sure to apply tick repellent on your dog before the trip.


11. Bring Duct Tape

I keep some duct tape strips wrapped around my lighter.  It is great for patching rips or tears in your tent where ticks and insects could get in (duct tape is also usedful for a zillion other things when camping).  I’ve also used medical tape from my first aid kit to patch a small hole in my tent.


What other things can you do to keep ticks out of the tent? Let us know in the comments section.

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Image credit: “FIRST NIGHT IN BEACON WOODS” (CC BY 2.0) by summonedbyfells

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