Most people get bed bugs from traveling. But the possibility of getting bed bugs while camping isn’t something that occurs to most people, but it can happen in certain situations.
You can’t get bed bugs from camping outdoors, but you may find bed bugs in your camping gear. You can’t get them from outside sources, but you may have brought them with you. Friends and family you camp with may also spread them, but the chances of this happening are slim.
Bed bugs are a nuisance, both when camping and at home. Below we explain what camping gear they might be found in, and how to get rid of bed bugs safely if you were to find them.
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Can You Get Bed Bugs Camping?
You can get bed bugs from camping, although it’s highly unlikely. Bed bugs usually spread where there are lots of people. If you are camping on your own, this rules out the possibility.
If you are camping with lots of other people, the chance of getting them increases. Bed bugs travel with people. That’s how they spread. But bed bugs don’t cross outdoor spaces, so they can’t spread unless you spend time with strangers. Again, this is unlikely.
You could also get bed bugs from friends or family you share your tent with. This is the likeliest scenario. But what you won’t see are bed bug infestations of the size you get in homes.
Can You Catch Bed Bugs from Outside?
If you’re camping out in the wild, you’ll find lots of bugs sharing your space. Some are pests, like ticks or mosquitoes. But you won’t find bed bugs no matter how far off the beaten track you are.
That’s because bed bugs are solely an indoor pest. They don’t come from the wild. Their ancestors are bat bugs, which live in caves with bats. They don’t ever venture out.
Today’s bed bugs live in mattresses and furniture. At no point during their lives will they ever go outside, unless you throw them out somehow. You can’t get bed bugs from being in nature.
But that doesn’t rule out the chance of getting them from camping completely.
Can You Catch Bed Bugs from Other Campers?
There are different ways to camp. If you use your own gear, that’s fine. You might bring them with you, but only if you already have them at home.
But it’s possible to rent a tent, or stay in a caravan or Winnebago. If you do rent somebody else’s belongings, they may have bed bugs. Check with the company you’re renting from before you do.
In particular, ask about their pest control procedures. Most companies will have a cleaning service, but this may not be sufficient. Ideally, you should only use your own gear, and not rent anyone else’s.
If you’re camping in a communal area, it’s possible to get bed bugs that way too. Bed bugs don’t travel across outdoor spaces. But they can be carried. So, if you have a guest, they might bring bed bugs with them.
Can You Get Bed Bugs in Camping Gear?
Bed bugs can infest almost anything. So, if you experience bed bug bites while you’re camping, it’s not because you caught them from the wild. It’s because you or someone you’re with brought them.
If you keep your gear somewhere close to an infestation, it’s possible that bed bugs got inside it. When a female is about to lay eggs, she heads off to find a new home. She may have come across your camping gear while it was packed away.
It’s also possible that there are some inside from the last time you used your tent. Bed bugs have a long life span: up to a year without feeding. They could have waited since last time you went camping.
This is especially the case if you put your camping gear in storage, as many people do. Storage spaces are frequently infested with bed bugs. People store old mattresses and furniture. They then hide around the storage unit and can infest other peoples’ belongings when they’re put in there.
Can You Get Bed Bugs in Sleeping Bags?
The best place for a bed bug is somewhere that’s close to you while you sleep. If that place has lots of hidden folds for the bug to hide in, even better. Sleeping bags fit that description perfectly.
Another reason why bed bugs might like sleeping bags is that they smell like you. Bed bugs are attracted to anything that smells like people. According to Scientific Reports, this is easily proven, as bed bugs are attracted to dirty clothes over clean clothes.
The only issue is that sleeping bags are difficult for them to get in. Most sleeping bag cases are completely smooth, with no folds to hide under. They usually have a toggle at the opening to keep the bag packed in tight.
This works both ways, though. If there were bed bugs inside from your last trip, they wouldn’t have gotten out. If the female was laying eggs at the time, she might have laid eggs inside too.
Can You Get Bed Bugs in Inflatable Mattresses?
Bed bugs prefer mattresses over any other living space. That’s because the mattress is as close as they can get to you while you sleep. Bed bugs can’t live on you. They need to live somewhere where they are guaranteed to find you easily.
An inflatable mattress is partly suitable. It is close to you while you sleep. It offers a dark underside where they can hide without you finding them. They also have lots of folds and sometimes buttons for them to hide under.
However, there is one significant drawback. Inflatable mattresses are moved around much more than regular mattresses. This means they aren’t suitable for bed bugs.
To be clear, you may still find some underneath your inflatable mattress. But they are as likely to be there as in a sleeping bag, or elsewhere in your tent.
Can You Get Bed Bugs in Camping Tent?
It is possible that bed bugs can live in your belongings. At home, they live in furniture. But they can also live in clothing, bags and more. Anywhere that’s safe, dark and unlikely to be disturbed is fine.
This applies to your tent. You may use it once, pack it away, and not use it for months or years. It’s typically kept somewhere quiet that isn’t frequently disturbed. That’s what bed bugs like.
Also, many people buy their tent already used. If the person you bought it from had an infestation, then you may have caught it from them.
Can You Get Bed Bugs in a Rucksack?
Your other main piece of gear is your rucksack. A rucksack is a perfect place for a bed bug. Here there are lots of hiding places, lots of dark corners, zips, and pockets.
If you carry anybody else’s belongings in your rucksack, there’s a chance that the bed bugs could get inside. This especially applies to clothes like coats, hats, and scarves.
However, rucksacks aren’t a good long term home. You don’t keep one near to your bed. That means the bed bug can’t feed and lay more eggs there. You also move it around a lot, which bed bugs don’t like.
Can You Get Bed Bugs from Other People While Camping?
The number one way that bed bugs travel is by traveling with people. That’s why most infested places are hotel rooms and hostels. They hide in people’s luggage and travel with them.
Bed bugs spread when a female wants to lay eggs. She will mate with a male before leaving. The way bed bugs mate leads to shell damage of the female. She has to leave for her safety.
She will seek out likely egg-laying areas. According to the Journal of Medical Entomology, they are dark and secluded. If they’re close to a person, even better. Travel belongings seem ‘close to a person’ because they smell like you. That’s how bed bugs would get into rucksacks or travel gear.
So, if you go camping with other people, it’s possible they brought some bugs with them. They can then spread into your tent without your knowledge. There are two ways this can happen:
- If you share your tent with them. Family and friends may have bed bugs you don’t know about. If you share a tent, they may get in your belongings too.
- If you share belongings with them. Camping in communal spaces, it’s not unusual to share things with one another.
But even if you do catch bed bugs this way, it’s unlikely there will be many. When a female heads out to find an egg-laying site, she finds somewhere there are no other bed bugs.
Eventually, there will be more, after the eggs hatch. But there will only be lots of bed bugs in these belongings if you have a very large infestation at home.
How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Sleeping Bag
Packing away your sleeping bag and not thinking about it again is a bad idea. If there are bed bugs or eggs inside, they may wait until your next trip.
The easiest way to kill bed bugs is to launder them. The combination of heat, water, and soap is lethal to 100% of bed bugs, every time. But there’s still a procedure you have to follow:
- After use, put your sleeping bag back in its bag. Then, seal it in a plastic bag or box before getting home.
- Once home, take the bag straight to the laundry. Cut open the plastic bag and put the sleeping bag directly into the washing machine.
- Wash the bag according to the directions on the tag. These directions are likely to be the same as your normal wash.
- Dispose of the plastic bag outside, where any bed bugs that may be inside can’t get back to your home.
Sleeping bags can be laundered, but check the tag for their laundering requirements before doing so. The material of the bag may contain plastics which mean it should only be laundered at a specific temperature.
How to Avoid Getting Bed Bugs from Camping
You can repeat this process for anything that can be laundered. Your clothes are a good starting point. You may also want to launder your rucksack, which may be messy and muddy anyway.
For anything that can’t be laundered, you will have to follow a different procedure. Start with your tent. Before packing it away, turn it inside out and give it a shake. This should get rid of any bed bugs inside, plus any other bugs you picked up accidentally.
You can do the same with your bag before you take it home. But to make sure you don’t get any bed bugs, you have to practice bed bug quarantine.
Bed Bug Quarantine after Camping
Bed bug quarantine is where you prevent anything from coming into the home that you don’t want. You’ll need a box that you can seal. A large plastic tub will be fine.
When you get home, put your belongings into this tub (or tubs, if you have lots of belongings). You can then launder your clothes, and anything else launderable, bit by bit.
For anything that can’t be laundered, your next option is to use bed bug spray. If you spray a small amount inside the box before sealing it, this will kill the bugs over time. They can’t escape it. However, this may take months.
There is no sure-fire way to avoid bringing bed bugs home, but this will prevent most. For any that do get past your quarantine, keep interceptor traps around the feet of your bed. These catch bugs as they try to reach you. You can then kill them any way you like.