Permethrin Pre-treated Camping Tents

Wenzel Insect Armour Tents
Wenzel Insect Armour Tents

The outdoor gear company, Wenzel, has started making family camping tents pre-treated with Permethrin, which repels and kill mosquitos and ticks, including those that carry Lyme Disease. I think this is a fantastic development and hope higher-end backpacking tent manufacturers follow Wenzel’s example and start selling backpacking tents that have been pre-treated with Permethrin. It may in fact inevitable, since pre-treating backpacking tents with Permethrin would be such a competitive feature. Still it’s interesting to see that Wenzel spearheaded this innovation in the highly competitive family camping tent segment of the market.

What is Permethrin?

Permethrin is an insecticide that bonds to the fabric, killing insects that land on it, including ticks and mosquitos. Until now, it’s been mainly used by outdoor clothing manufacturers such as Columbia, Railriders, Ex Officio, Sea-to-Summit, Cabelas, and others (see also Permethrin Clothing) to create insect proof clothing for hikers and hunters.

For example, here’s the pre-treated Permethrin clothing that I normally wear hiking.

Approved by the EPA and FDA, Permethrin is used by the US military to create insect repellent clothing for the armed forces. It’s chief benefit is that it lasts long-term (up to 70 washings on clothing) when applied using a factory process (like Insect Shield), although you can also buy Permethrin at retail stores and apply it to your own clothing (see also Treating Your Clothes with Permethrin)

Permethrin Applied to Tents

Permethrin can be safely applied to synthetic fabrics including mosquito netting (as evidenced by Sea-to-Summit mosquito net shelters and head nets) unlike DEET which literally melts plastic and synthetics, including gore-tex and waterproof laminates. Published research has shown that occupants sleeping in tents sprayed with Permethrin experience 85-95 fewer mosquito bites, lending credibility to the claim that spraying tents with Permethrin can increase camper comfort as well as decrease insect-born diseases like Lyme Disease.


  1. I am curious, does the material in the Wenxel tents stick together? As a retired military guy, we were issued sleeping systems pretreated with permetherin. The bivys had stick residue that would cause the material to stick. I felt that it was only a matter of time before I would tear the material. The longer bivy-tent went between uses the worse this problem became. Thanks for the post.

    • I’d be surprised if the stickiness was caused by Permethrin. I’ll be meeting with the Wenzel folks next month and will ask. Do you know which company manufactured your military bivy?

      • When I first decided to give backpacking a try, I bought a cheap Wenzel.

        It was just over 3lbs and I used it for years. My wife and I did a cross country trip camping every night it. I still have it and even took the time to have Wenzel replace a pole.

        For the $39.99 price, I always thought the tent was innovative and I often found myself complaining about how my current tent (that retails for literally 10xs as much) sacrificed so many basic features to shave ounces.

        I’m happy to see they are still innovating.

      • Likewise, and I think this is a good direction. I sat across from someone last week who has Lyme disease and she has to take 60 pills a day to keep it under control. You don’t want that.

  2. Steve McAllister

    I find it odd that you would post a recommendation for tents made by Wenzel.
    I don’t know if things are different now, but historically Wenzel only made toy and sun tents.

    They used flimsy poles and were not designed to handle extreme weather.

    Everyone I know who owned them regretted buying them after they leaked and/or the tent poles collapsed in wind.

  3. I question the wisdom of applying Permethrin to everything. Don’t get me wrong; I treat my hiking clothes with it. I also know that Lyme disease—whose prevalence is spreading—is truly awful.

    My doubt comes from seeing so many supposedly safe chemicals proven to not be so, or provide diminishing returns on effectiveness as pests adapt. In areas with high bug pressure, it seems simpler to me to spend 3 minutes killing skeeters that sneak inside your fully-enclosed tent with you.

  4. markswalkingblog

    Just back from a camping trip in the Sierra’s. I am from England and was concerned about insects. Treated 3 backpacking tents ( Wikiup 3, Helleberg Soulo & Vaude Power Lizard) and clothing with Sawyers Permethrin. Only one bite the whole trip. Amazing how the insects died when in contact with the treated fabric- well worth it.

  5. Once inside a tent what’s the point to killing bugs that land on the outside?

    • They hover underneath the awning and leap onto your back, sucking the blood out of you, when you get up to pee at night. Preventive extermination.

  6. Steve McAllister

    Permethirin does not discriminate. It kills butterflies, bees and other insects as well.

    • I haven’t had too many butterflies follow me into my tent. If a bee does, it’s risking its safety anyway. Most things that buzz into my tent want to suck my blood, sting me, or stick their dirty feet into something I want to eat. I don’t eat in my tent but it doesn’t keep them from trying. They are not welcome at my nylon cocoon, either on the inside walls where they can do the aforementioned dirty deeds or lurking on the outside walls just waiting for the opportunity.

  7. One potential downside to this is that we (most of us anyway) might tend to think the treatment is forever and forget to re-apply as required. Also – ticks and insects exist all the while we are hiking, and resting too (not just when we’re in our tent, which should be safe from ticks and insects if we are fully zipped – caution tarp users) – and we are on the move far longer than we are making camp, I think.

  8. Treating your clothes is a given. Treating the tent, or a sleeping bag liner, may be helpful for summer sleeping when outer layer of clothes are taken off. You can get a pretreated sleeping bag liner from Sea to Summit and maybe other sources. In my region, just the liner is needed in high summer, a bag is too hot.

  9. Thanks for the tip on Permethrin vs Deet. I had planned on treating my new Eureka Spitfire 1 with Deet before my next AT hike. I’m heading to Walmart for Permethrin. Will probably treat my pants and shirt while I’m at it.

  10. Warren Davidson

    Hi Phil: Just returned from a section hike on the AT with my grandson. Prior to leaving I treated 2 tents with Permethrin and the results were great, we did not experience any bugs. I may retreat sooner than recommended because we experience severe thunderstorms with torrential rain.

  11. Actually, I think I am the lucky guy. Also wanted to share one of the tents we carried, mine, was a Eureka Spitfire 1 and it preformed perfectly even through torrential rains. I am just under 6′ , 230# with a 55″ girth and had plenty of room. One negative vestibule is small

  12. Philip – do you know if Insect Shield will treat a tent if you mail it to them (TT Rainbow)? Or is the only option to spray it yourself?

  13. hi. i was told by another site to treat my mattress and chair and tent with bedlam plus. however, i read on another site that permethrin treated bed tents greatly reduced mosquito infestations. not sure which one to use or which one is more potent and last longer? whats good for bed bugs in treating my tent and i can spray the whole mesh of the tent on the outside if i want to right?

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