Product review: Thermacell

The Thermacell® is a mosquito and insect repellant. It’s not a spray or a candle; rather it is a plastic device containing a small hot plate. It works by using butane fuel to heat up a built-in small metal hot plate, which has a repellant mat placed on it. The mat releases a scent into the air as it’s heated up. This scent is what keeps mosquitos, black flies and other insects away. You can place the device on a table, or with an accessory, it can be configured to hang from a tree. You can also purchase a holster, which I have used to hang the device from a campsite lamppost.

Thermacell® is also available in a lantern and torch style. This review focuses on what the company calls the repeller style. No batteries are required in the repeller!

Does it Work?

Yes. The U.S. Army Special Forces use Thermacells to keep the insects at bay when they’re conducting training in NC and near swamplands in Florida, which are a breeding ground for flying insects. If the Thermacell® works well for the U.S. Army in this environment, it should perform well at your typical state park campsite. Still, I wanted to find out firsthand how well this product keeps the annoying flying insects and mosquitos away.

On a camping trip to southern Indiana in September of this year I conducted my Thermacell® testing. You are most likely familiar with citronella. The Thermacell® works much better then any citronella product I’ve used. Before turning on Thermacell® at the campsite I had a citronella candle burning. With this candle burning, there were still some flying insects bugging us at the campsite. There were also some bees interested in the soft drink can I had open on the picnic table. With the arrival of the bees, it was time to try out Thermacell®.

To start the device you turn the dial to ON. Easy enough. After that, you press the start button 5-6 times quickly to light a small pilot light. This pilot light heats the hot plate that you place the scented mat on. (There is a viewing window on the top of the device so you can verify the pilot light is in fact lit.) It doesn’t take long for the scent to begin releasing into the air. Within five minutes of turning on the Thermacell® the bees were gone, so were any annoying flying insects. I was impressed! Over the course of the weekend I performed my own product ‘tests’. These were nothing more than having the Thermacell® either on or off. Every time it was on, there were no insects bothering us within the Thermacell® advertised zone of protection. This is a 15’ x 15’ square area surrounding the device. The repeller by itself does a fantastic job keeping pests away.

Here is this posts tip: If you use the Thermacell® along with some strategically placed citronella candles burning as I did, you will be enjoying your outdoor time pest-free. You could also place several Thermacell® devices around to achieve the same, or better result. I only had one of them on this trip with me.

If small children will be in the area keep an eye on them around the repeller. I only say this because it does generate heat. The scented mat covers the heat source and there is also a protective grill over the hot plate. As long as you pick up the repeller away from the hot plate it is absolutely safe and cool to the touch. The product is EPA approved.

What’s in the Box?

This is what you get in the box. The Thermacell device, 3 mats, 1 butane fuel cartridge

You will get the plastic Thermacell® device, one butane fuel cartridge and three mats when you purchase the product. Thermacell® runs off butane fuel. The fuel cartridge screws on to the device, and the way the cartridge is designed, there is no fuel mess. This is a definite plus. The fuel cartridges last about 12 hours and it is recommended you replace the mats every four hours. As the mats are being heated they will turn a lighter color. Mats come in different scents; original and earth scent. I was using original scented mats, which did not give off a very strong odor. The repeller is available in several different colors as well as a few camouflage options. For additional fuel and mats refill packs can be purchased.

Shop around for your Thermacell®. I’ve seen prices range from $15.00 to near $30.00. They’re available through online retailers. I’ve also seen them at Cabela’s, Dick’s, Home Depot and Academy Sports and Outdoors.

Some Final Thoughts

My brother was camping on this trip with me while I was trying out the product. He commented on how bad the mosquitos were this year. He entertains guests in his backyard often so he’s outside quite a bit to know. After the camping trip my brother promptly ordered a Thermacell®. He was sold on the product.

Thermacell® is not limited to camping use. You could use them on a hunting trip. You could take one along on a picnic in the park to keep the mosquitos away. It is small, lightweight and travels easily. My neighbor uses one when he’s outside enjoying his porch. He was the first person I knew to have one, and in fact, I borrowed his to ‘try before I buy’ for testing. I now have one of my own. (My neighbor doesn’t camp much, but I’m working on him. He did drive a borrowed motorhome once from KY to Canada and back again, camping along the way. This certainly gives him some camping street cred.)

I was not paid to write this review. When I come across a good product, I simply want to inform others.


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