Can You Get Bed Bugs from Camping?

camping bed bugs

Bed bugs cannot be found outdoors as they spend their lives mainly in furniture and mattresses. The only way you can find bed bugs while camping is if you or someone else brought them with you.

So, I am going to cover a variety of camping gear and answer whether you can get bed bugs in them, and if so, how they might have managed, and lastly how to get rid of them.

Inflatable Mattresses

Mattresses are a bed bug’s favorite living space. This is because the bugs can’t live on you, so living in a mattress is as close as they can get, and it guarantees access to you.

An inflatable mattress is just as good. It’s a dark space where bed bugs can hide without being found thanks to the many folds and buttons.

The only issue with an inflatable mattress is that they are moved around too often to be ideal for a bed bug. That is why it’s more likely to find them underneath the mattress, rather than inside, or somewhere else in your tent such as your sleep sack.

Sleeping Bags

Can bed bugs be found in a sleeping bag? Yes. Anywhere that is close to you while you sleep and has lots of folds in it for them to hide is perfect for bed bugs.

According to this study by Scientific Reports, it is clear that bed bugs can differentiate something that has your scent on it and something that is clean. During the experiment, it was observed that bed bugs were most likely to be found in or on bags that contained soiled clothes than bags containing clean clothes.

Thankfully though, sleeping bags are usually difficult for them to get into, due to the smooth case with no folds. So, it entirely depends on whether your sleeping bag is tightly packed in its case and if you store it with old furniture and mattresses.

However, if you had bed bugs on your last trip then they will still be there because they wouldn’t be able to get out. Especially if there was a female which laid eggs.


At home, bed bugs live in furniture, mattresses, near pipes, in bags, and in clothing – anywhere that is dark and unlikely to be disturbed. Having said that, when your tent is in storage it is entirely possible that bed bugs find their way into it.

Some campers buy their tents second-hand, and this is another way you could have a bed bug infestation; by ‘catching’ them from someone else.

The most common way of getting a bed bug infestation in your tent, and when camping in general, is by sharing with someone who already has bugs and brought them in.


Rucksacks make great hiding spots for bed bugs due to the many dark corners, pockets, and zips. Despite this, it is unlikely that you leave a rucksack undisturbed for long periods of time.

The main way you could get bed bugs in your rucksack is by carrying someone else’s belongings, especially hats and scarves, who already had bed bugs.


Some campers opt to use a bug tent for a bed when they are sleeping, although this can be a problem if the bed bugs are already in the mattress. It might protect you if you’re sharing a tent with someone who has bed bugs though.

The easiest and best way to get rid of bed bugs is to launder them. This is a combination of heat, water, and soap with is lethal to them. Ideal for sleeping bags, as most can be laundered, but you should still check the tag first because the material may contain some plastics which should be laundered at specific temperatures.

What you need to do is to first put your sleeping bag back in its case and seal it in a plastic bag or box before taking it home. Place it directly into the washing machine from there. Wash the bag according to the directions on the tag, and dispose of the plastic bag or box that you had used to store the sleep sack inside of previously.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you get bed bugs from tent camping?

Only if you or someone else brought the bed bugs from home.

How do you not bring bed bugs home from camp?

If you find bed bugs in your sleeping bag, for example, you should seal it in either a box or plastic bag, take it home to wash it, and discard of the bag or box.

Can you get bed bugs from outside?

No. Bed bugs can only be found in homes, as they spend their lives in furniture, mattresses, and near piping.

What’s the best bug repellent for camping?

The most efficient bug repellent is the 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent by Sawyer Products.

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