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The Best Screened Shelters For Keeping Bugs At Bay

Photo: Jazeel Jaz (Unsplash)

Camping is the ultimate in peaceful tranquility: starry sky, adult beverage in hand, legs propped up on the cooler while watching the toasty fire warmly flicker and spark...

Buzz. Buzzzzzzz. BUZZZZZZZ.

Until that vile swarm of mosquitoes descends upon your wilderness abode, intent on sucking your lifeblood. For instances like this, a bug shelter is a must-have camping item so that you don’t have to run for cover every time a pterodactyl-sized skeeter swoops through camp. I personally tested the following bug rooms over the past year (yay, mosquito hatch!) and promise you this: they can take your blood, but they’ll never take your freedom.

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REI Co-Op Screen House Shelter, $250

REI Co-Op Screen House Shelter, $250
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Sure, the Screen House is on the higher end for price at around $250, but this freestanding structure is livable and easy to pitch. That is a tough combination to beat! Two zippered doors open easily so you can dive inside without inviting a swarm of bugs to join you. An 84-inch peak height means your NBA-playing friend can still stand up straight inside. Bonus: the floorless design means you can pitch the shelter over a picnic table if you want to dine al fresco...but inside the safety of your mesh walls. Tip: If you can afford the cash, splurge on the Screen House Rainfly for added weather protection.

Kelty Cabana, $100

Kelty Cabana, $100
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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If you are looking for a little privacy, the Cabana is the best option for you. Three mesh walls allow for airflow and bug protection while the fourth solid-polyester wall toggles up or down, as you see fit. When it is up, you have privacy and an insect-free space. When it is down, you are exposed to the bugs but can also treat the Cabana as a sun shelter for beach days. The 45-square-foot floor is smaller than the Screen House and you certainly cannot stand up inside the Cabana, but it’s a great budget option.

NEMO Bugout Screen Room Tarp, $200-$250

NEMO Bugout Screen Room Tarp, $200-$250
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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Versatility reigns supreme with the NEMO Bugout Screen Room. It acts like a tarp with a polyester ceiling for shade and four mesh walls that roll up or down. But, pitching this shelter can be tough. Users can tie the roof corners to tree branches (if available) before guying out the rest. If there aren’t any trees to speak of, trekking poles can be used instead. Regardless, pitching the Bugout requires more than one person and an acute attention to balance and detail. That said, you can adjust the height depending on what you need, which is great for mixed-use groups. Plus, the smaller model is cheaper than REI’s shelter, so there is a tradeoff.

Kelty Noah’s Screen 12, $150

Kelty Noah’s Screen 12, $150
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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If Kelty’s Cabana is too small for your preferences, take a look at their Noah’s Screen 12. This shelter is similar to NEMO’s offering, but it does come with steel poles to prop up the high points (in combination with guylines for balance). Still, pitching this was significantly tougher than REI’s freestanding shelter. Plus, we ran into a snag, literally. The steel pole poked right through the wall of the tent after a week of use, creating a golf ball-sized hole for skeeters to find. Well, shoot.


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About the author

Heather Balogh Rochfort

Heather Balogh Rochfort is an outdoor expert and full-time freelance writer and author in the outdoor industry.