A Guide to Avoid Ticks When Hiking And Camping

Last Updated on February 13, 2024

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tickKey Takeaways:

  • Ticks are active in warmer months, typically from April to September, and are commonly found in grassy or wooded areas.
  • Certain species of ticks are prevalent in specific regions of the United States and can transmit various diseases.
  • To prevent tick bites, treat clothing and gear with permethrin, use EPA-approved insect repellents, and be meticulous in checking for ticks after outdoor activities.
  • When returning indoors, thoroughly check clothing and pets for ticks, and take a shower to remove any attached ticks.
  • Promptly seek medical attention if you suspect a tick bite or experience redness or irritation at the site of a tick bite.
  • Near wooded areas, consider using pesticides to reduce the tick population in your yard, but ensure compliance with regulations and follow proper application procedures for effective tick control.

Camping is fun if you love the Great Outdoors. What you need to remember about frolicking in nature is that it can be fun and fulfilling, but you should keep an eye out for things that can cause you harm.

One of the things campers should always be aware of is insects, particularly those that can make you sick like ticks. Ticks may be small but they can have a huge impact on your health if you get bitten by a certain kind.

Whether you love getting down on the ground with your tent or you go in your comfy and homey recreational vehicle (RV), you need to be ready for ticks. Not sure how to avoid ticks and their nasty bites while camping? Keep reading.

Facts About Ticks

Ticks typically live in nature, so it is common for hikers o encounter them during camping trips. The United States is home to several species of ticks, but the good news is that only a few of them bite humans and transmit certain diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Certain areas in California and Washington are known to have tick populations on the West Coast. On the East Coast, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New Hampshire have significant sizes of tick presence.

Meanwhile, there are a few spots in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana also have them. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and that other types of ticks may be found in other places in the United States.

Ticks in the United States are known to transmit diseases to humans such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Borrelia mayonni, Borrelia miyamotoi, bourbon virus, Colorado tick fever, ehrlichiosis, heartland virus, Lyme disease, Powassan disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF), Tularemia, and 364D rickettsiosis.

While all of these diseases are caused by tick bites, remember that not all types of ticks transmit the same diseases. This is why you should be aware of places where disease-causing ticks are located and how to avoid them.

If you think those who camp out with tents are more prone and you are safe because you are in your motorhome, then you are in for a surprise.

Anytime you go out into nature in locations where any of these human-biting ticks are found, you are at risk of being bitten by these insects.

Ticks won’t jump on you

Contrary to popular belief, ticks don’t jump or fly. Ticks find you by detecting your body odors, heat, and CO2. They may also be able to detect trails and go towards the grass and shrub that is along them. They wait up on the top of the tip of the grass and will climb on you when you pass by. This is called “questing”. You have to brush onto the grass in order for them to climb on you. Some ticks will want to attach quickly, some will try to find a place where the skin is thinner.

Don’t think that you will notice it! Ticks secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so you may not feel anything and they will go unnoticed.

After they are done feeding which can take days, they fall off and go to the next stage of their lives. If they are infected with a disease, they will transfer it to you. This is not a joke, more than 50% of ticks are infected with the disease. You need to be really careful.


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Types of Ticks You Can Find in the Wild

As mentioned, there are disease-carrying species of ticks that can cause severe health problems to human victims. Below is a list of species, along with the kind of diseases they carry and the locations where they are found.

  • Dermacentor variabilis also called American dog tick

The American dog tick can be found in some spots on the Pacific Coast, especially during summer and spring. If you ask around if this type of tick is located in the area, you should also look out for reports of wood ticks, which is what it is sometimes referred to.

Adult females have higher tendencies to bite humans. These ticks can cause Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

  • Ixodes scapularis also known as Blacklegged tick

These ticks are characterized by the color of their black legs while their body has a brown color. They are typically found in different places across the eastern part of the country, especially during spring, summer, and fall.

However, keep in mind that adults can look for human hosts during the winter. These tick species carry diseases like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, B. miyamotoi disease, Ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and Powassan virus disease.

  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus also known as the brown dog tick

Found in different parts of the world, the Brown dog tick is known to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the southwestern part of the United States and along the country’s border, it shares with Mexico.

It is important to remember that these ticks usually use dogs as a host, no matter how young or mature they are. However, it may also sink its teeth in other mammals like humans.

  • Amblyomma maculatum also known as Gulf Coast tick

These ticks are usually found along the coasts of the United States, specifically along the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

Adult ticks are known to attach to wildlife such as deer, while younger ones go for birds and rodents. When it bites humans, it tends to transmit Rickettsia parkeri rIckettsiosis.

  • Amblyomma Americanum also known as Lone star tick

These ticks are present in different parts of the United States, particularly in the southeastern and eastern areas. It is characterized by the females’ white dot, giving it the name.

It is known to be very hostile as it bites humans causing redness and irritation in the affected area. Younger ticks and adult females are the common culprits when it comes to transmitting diseases namely Bourbon virus, ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, tularemia, and STARI.

  • Dermacentor Anderson is also known as Rocky Mountain wood tick

As the name suggests, this tick species can be found in the Rocky Mountains, as well as in southwestern Canada. They are often present at elevated levels, from 4,000 to 10,500 feet.

Adult ticks are known to bite humans and transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and tularemia.

  • Ixodes pacificus is also known as the Western black-legged tick

Lastly, Western black-legged ticks can be found along the Pacific, especially around northern California. Young ticks and adult females bite humans and transmit anaplasmosis and Lyme disease.

Compelling Reasons to Avoid Tick Bites

Now that you know where you can encounter ticks that transmit diseases, you need to make sure that you avoid getting bitten by them. In fact, even if you are going to places not mentioned above, you should take precautions to avoid getting bitten by ticks and other insects that may carry diseases.

Because of this, you want to make sure that you are doing every precaution to minimize the chances of these insects biting you. Here’s what you can do.

Find the Right Timing

Ticks are usually active around warm months, around April to September. This is the time when most people are on vacation and using their RV for camping trips. Keep in mind that some species may tolerate months that are not so warm, but they are generally more present during Spring and Summer.

So, if you are planning to take your RV, camp and hike, then you should keep this in mind. Of course, it may be no fun to camp out outside of these months, so you should take measures to minimize the possibility of getting bitten by disease-carrying ticks.

Study the Area

As mentioned in the list given above, these ticks are common in different areas of the United States and the world at large. So, you want to make sure that you find out if your target location is home to these species, which can cause different diseases.

Luckily, this is easier to do because the CDC has data sets that can help you determine what to expect in terms of preventing tick bites.

When it comes to the more general natural features of the outdoors, you should watch out for ticks in grassy or woody areas because this is where ticks tend to hang around. They can also attach themselves to animals.

Use Permethrin

The best way to avoid getting bitten by a tick is to treat your gear and clothing with permethrin. What you need to do is to purchase a spray product containing 0.5% permethrin, making it easy to apply to your clothes.

Lay out your garments on a flat surface and proceed to spray. Don’t forget to treat your pants, shirt, boots, and socks for maximum protection. If this seems like more work, then you can purchase pre-treated clothing and gear.

Use Recommended Repellants

So, you have your clothes treated. This means that you are fully protected, right? Well, only partially. You can prevent ticks from attaching themselves to your clothes, but in case these insects get past this, your best bet is to have your skin protected, as well.

The good news is that you can purchase insect repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency designed to keep ticks away. It contains ingredients that repel disease-carrying ticks including DEET, picaridin, PMD, and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Those who are thinking of bringing children along during one of their hiking or camping trips should avoid applying these repellants on children under three. PMD and oil of lemon eucalyptus are not recommended for children under this age.

Be Meticulous After Coming Indoors

Now, just because you have come back to your RV does not mean you are completely safe. Remember, these things can attach themselves to fabric and skin. This is why it is best to be meticulous after coming home from the outdoors.

The first thing you should do is check your garments for any ticks. In case you find them, you need to promptly remove them and kill them. You should also wash clothes in warm water to make sure that they are dead.

If you come with pets, then you should also take the time to check under their fur, particularly around the ears, tail, and eyelids. These insects can also go under dogs’ collars, front legs, back legs, and between the toes.

After doing these, you should take a shower to make sure that you do not have any remaining ticks on your body. Be sure to check under your arms, around your ears, back of the knees, inside the belly button, in the hair, and between the legs, just to name a few.

Act Promptly

Aside from checking yourself if you have ticks attached to your body, you should also look for tick bites, so you could easily act accordingly. If you feel redness or irritation, you should have it checked by a doctor

Bonus Tip

If you live near the woods, you should know that ticks can also settle in a residential backyard. You can use pesticides to kill these insects, so you can minimize the tick population in the area. However, you should not depend on spraying just to make your yard safe.

The goal should be to eliminate the entire tick presence in your backyard, so you would not have to spray again. To maximize the beneficial effects of spraying, make sure to pick the right type of pesticide, choose the right time of day, and comply with regulations.

The Bottom Line

Tick bites can have a huge impact on your life, especially if it transmits a life-threatening disease. Because of this, you should do everything you can to avoid getting bitten, so you can go ahead and enjoy your nature trips in your RV.

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