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How to Keep Ants Out of Your Tent (Permanently)

I used to wake up many nights while sleeping in my tent with ants crawling on me. Especially when I would camp in the woods near fallen trees. Those big black ants never bit me, but they sure irritated me while I tried to sleep. But I put a stop to that.

Here is how I keep ants out of my tent:

Choose a dry site for your tent. Remove any rotten wood or debris. Inspect the tent site for ant hills. Treat any ant hills before you set up your tent. Use scents that keep ants away. Wet the entire tent footprint with vinegar using a hand pump sprayer. Let the site dry. Put down a tarp. Put up your tent. Spray peppermint oil inside of your tent.

In this article, we will discuss many natural resources and how to use them to keep ants out of your tent and away from your campsite.

Choose a dry site.

Most folks don’t think about this, but ants need moisture like other animals to survive. Choosing a site that is high and dry can help improve the odds of fewer ant hills and nutrients for ants to forage and eat.

Yes, I know there are ant hills in the desert as well, seen plenty of them, but the fewer ant hills the better. So, look for sites without any noticeable ant hills. Later in this article, I will show you how to take care of the anthills as well.

Remove any rotten debris.

Carpenter ants especially like to feed on wood. So, removing their food source can help remove them as well. Also, ants like to hide under leaves, logs, limbs, and tall grass as well as use the moisture under it as well. Cleaning the area up with a rake will help move the ants along and give you kindling to start your fire as well.

What scents will keep ants away?

There are many scents ants do not like, and we will review many of them. Two scents ants do not like the smell of is vinegar and peppermint. I use vinegar on the outside of the tent. I use a lot of it, about a gallon, which is considerably less inexpensive than peppermint oil. I’ll show you how to use the peppermint oil shortly.

Treat ant hills with pure vinegar.

I use a plastic one-gallon hand pump sprayer that you can pick up from any Walmart or Home Depot for about $10. After you put the vinegar in the sprayer and pumped it up, get to work on spraying the entire tent footprint after you have cleaned the debris. I also spray an extra 2-feet around the footprint. Let it dry for about 30 minutes then give it second spraying. And again 30 more minutes to dry.

Put down a tarp under your tent.

This not only protects the tent from groundwater in the event it rains, but it also reduces the vinegar smell and ants cannot chew through a new tarp. Set up your tent as usual on the tarp and you are on your way to ensuring your tent is ant proof at least from underneath your tent.

Ants do not like the smell of peppermint.

Now that you have a ground barrier created by the vinegar and tarp, it’s time to use the Peppermint. Ants avoid the strong smell of peppermint, but it smells pretty good to us humans.

So, before you put all your camping gear in your tent, spray generous amounts of peppermint on the inside of the tent. I mean really fog it up. Spray the floors, walls, and ceiling of your tent. Let it stand for about an hour, then load in your gear.

It’s also a great idea to spray all your gear after loading it in your tent with peppermint as well.

Ants also do not like baby powder.

If you don't like the smell of peppermint, you can use baby powder (it’s cheaper than peppermint oil) as an option for the inside of your tent. Sprinkle it around the inside next to the bottom of the tent walls is best. Just be careful. It will fog up and get on everything so I hope you like the smell.

Keep your tent zipped up.

As simple and practical as this sounds, keeping your tent zipped up when not in use is one of the best ways to keep insects of all types out. If you have a tear or rip in your tent you can fix it while camping. Read this quick article about it. How to Repair Your Tent While Camping.

Now that we have ant repellent under and inside of your tent, here are a few other things you can use outside your tent to keep ants away.

White Vinegar

Pure white vinegar makes a great ant spray as we discussed. Spray so as to evenly moisten or even saturate areas where you discover a lot of ants and anthills. Vinegar takes about an hour to kill ants.

Epson Salts

If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, you can spread Epson salts around the perimeter of your tent. Then wet it with a light mist of water. This makes the salt stick to the ants which dries out their body killing them.

Coffee Grounds

Don’t throw away your coffee grounds. Ants do not like the strong smell of coffee grounds. You can use them as well to prevent ants from entering your tent. Some folks even lift their tents and use the coffee grounds under their tent just encase you have an anthill you missed. But remember not to step in the grounds if it’s around your tent.


Ants do not like toothpaste. Especially peppermint toothpaste. You can use it by spreading it in just about any place you see ants showing up. It works well around the base of a tree that you are hanging food from. Or the outer edges of the picnic table or around a small hole in your tent.

Table Salt

Regular table salt kills ants much the same way Epson salts do. You can dissolve into water and put it in a hand spray and use it in the tent or clothing or shoes. Just not on metal because it will cause it to tarnish and rust.

Dawn dish soap kills ants.

This is one of my all-time favorite ways to kill ants. You can spray a mixture of Dawn soap and water directly on the walls and sides of your tent. Just do not spray the floor as it will make it pretty slick.

You can spray it on your picnic table, camping chairs, sleeping bags, hats, socks, shoes, and just about any clothes to not only keep ants away but other bugs as well and it has a pleasant smell.

Baking soda kills ant beds.

If you mix baking soda and powdered sugar and put it in a shallow cup near an ant bed, the ants will be attracted to the powdered sugar and take it back to the ant bed. The baking soda will dry on the ants and cause them to die.

Irish Spring Body Wash for men.

Mix 1/3 Irish Spring and water and use it in a squirt bottle, not a spray bottle. You can wet your wooden picnic table with it then spread it evenly over the surface, let it dry and the ants will not come. This solution is also good for keeping raccoons away from your campsite. Check out this article. 9 Ways to Keep Raccoons Away From Your Campsite.

All of the above ways to keep ants out of your tent are human and pet friendly. No worries there. This nest item is a product call ant dust. It comes in a bottle and does work really well. Just don’t use it inside your tent or around food or pets and their food. It’s pretty gnarly so use it sparingly, but it works as well. If you want to read more about it click here.

Keep your camp and tent clean.

Ants are only looking for food for the most part. So, do these things to help keep them out of your tent and away from your campsite.

· Use a bucket of water to wash down tables and cook areas.

· Keep your food in a sealed airtight container.

· Don't leave cereals or bread open or on tables.

· Put small jars under your table legs filled with water.

· Treat waste food like food and keep it sealed up until disposed of.

· After cleaning up food, clean up the ground crumbs and spray with vinegar or Dawn.

· Take care of the ant mounds when you first get on-site as mentioned above.

· Cleanliness is one of the best ways to keep ants away.

· Keep all food jars and food packages close.

Diatomaceous Earth

My final recommendation is a natural rock that's ground into a very fine powder. According to the makers of this material, it is highly absorbent and will kill ants by literally sucking the moisture out of their bodies causing them to become dehydrated and die like salt.

It is non-toxic and safe for humans and pets. Just don’t let your pets or kids eat it, because it will cause dehydration. Don’t forget that….it causes dehydration.

You could use it instead of the vinegar when setting up your tent because it doesn't have as strong of an odor as vinegar. Just spread it over the ground before you put down your tarp and set up your tent. I would also sprinkle a two-foot band as mentioned earlier around the tent footprint.

It needs to stay dry to work. So, pouring it around your tent is perfect. However, if it rains it needs to be reapplied. You can read more about this natural ant repellent by clicking here.

That’s all I got for this article.

And in case your are wondering this is how I choose a camping tent.

Thanks for reading.

Do yourself a favor, take a kid camping!

Alex Anderson


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