Can You Get Bed Bugs While Camping?
A good rule of thumb when camping is to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures. One thing you often can’t control, however, is whether you bring any hitchhikers home, bundled up in your tent or sleeping bag, or nestled in your gear box. But of all the bugs you might relocate home with you, bed bugs are among the most worrisome.
Wait a minute, you might think. Can you even get bed bugs while camping?
The answer is it depends on what you mean by “camping.”
You might not realize it, but “camping” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Some people prefer state parks and nature preserves, where you can park your car or truck right up against your campsite. Still others like to “rough it,” venturing out into the wilderness far away from civilization. And yet others don’t want to leave all their creature comforts behind, so when they go “camping” they book a cottage. Then, of course, you’ve got kids’ summer camp.
Here is an important bit of relevant trivia: You’ll never encounter a bed bug in the wild. That’s because bed bugs are strictly an indoor pest. Their ancestors were bat bugs, which lived in caves and never ventured out. So that means if just you and your family go camping either in your own yard or out in the wilderness, far away from any other people, your chances of bringing home bed bugs is practically zero.
As you begin to tread from that ideal camping trip toward the other end of the spectrum, you also begin to encounter varying degrees of risk when it comes to bed bugs. If you’re staying at a state park where campsites are crammed right next to each other, it’s possible bed bugs could hop from your neighbors’ site to yours (especially if people have been hopping back and forth).
If you prefer more luxury accommodations and tend to book single-occupancy cabins or cottages, your risk increases a bit more. A cabin isn’t much different from a hotel room, after all, and hotels are one of the more common places people pick up bed bugs. That’s why pest control professionals report more bed bug calls during the summer, when most people take vacations.
Many of the same precautions you should take at a hotel work in camping situations as well. Check any bedding for reddish brown stains or smears as well as live bugs, consider keeping your luggage in a sealed plastic bag and when you get home wash all of your clothes -- including outfits you didn’t wear -- in hot water.
The highest risk of acquiring bed bugs while camping comes from situations that put the most people in the smallest space. In other words, dormitory cabins. If even just one person arrives with bed bugs, left unchecked, those bugs could find their way home with everyone else who slept in that same cabin.
Any time you sleep in a bed that isn’t yours you should check for bed bugs when you arrive (and, as a courtesy, before you leave, just to make sure you aren’t the one bringing the bed bugs).
To learn more about this pest and how to prevent them, visit our Bed Bugs 101 page.