Flowerpot rock - Hopewell Rocks - low tide. Ohio National Parks

RVing your way through Ohio’s park systems and across national parks is one of the best ways to see the country. Whether you have a large camper or a small hook-up on your truck, having a traveling haven where you can store your camping gear, sleep on a mattress instead of a sleeping bag, and even grab a relaxing shower is invaluable. And a lot of that comfort comes from having a strict separation between the inside and the outside world: nature, with all of its craggy mountains, beautiful trails, and cool springs, also has bugs, dirt, and critters. Here’s how to keep them out.

Keep Your Cabinets Prepared to Ward Bugs Away

Stopping any infestation before it starts is much easier than removing any established invasions; it also means you won’t ever see the creeping sight of ants bustling around in your food cabinets. Make sure insects and spiders aren’t interested in your home by organizing your kitchen with these steps:

Put dryer sheets in the corner of your cabinets.

Adding dryer sheets to a daily routine was first popularized as a gardening hack so people could weed and water in peace. When scientists investigated the trend, they discovered that gnats, in particular, are warded away by dryer sheets. Common chemicals in the sheets, such as linalool and beta-citronellol, are either toxic to bugs or actively repel them. If you can keep the mosquitoes at bay without having to keep a candle lit or reapply bug spray, your haven becomes that much more relaxing.

Keep all your food stored in airtight containers and eat outside the RV.

This is both for peace of mind and for safety. Pests love the smell of food, and once they sense that you might be a good source they’ll stick around. Bugs can work their way under saran wrap and foil, and mice can gnaw through plastic containers if they have a reason. Invest in glass containers where you can and sealed Tupperwareย for the rest. Not only will bugs not pick up on the smell and can’t get in even if they try, your food will stay fresh for longer. If you’re in bear country, it’s especially important to keep your food sealed and make sure bears don’t have a reason to come near your RV. Store your food well, prepare and eat it well away from your RV, and ask park rangers for tips on how to deal with local bears.

Ward off ants with talcum powder and borax.

Ants can easily become a permanent problem; once they’re in, it’s almost impossible to get rid of all of them. So take an active stance and make sure the pests can’t step a single foot in or even on your RV. Circle any of your exterior parts that touch the ground with talcum powder, chalk, or borax; this includes your tires, any storage containers, a grill, and your landing gear. Ants can crawl up any of these surfaces and then find their way into the small crevices of your RV’s exterior. Instead of trying to protect the whole surface of your vehicle, protect the access points. If you just want to keep the ants away from you, use talcum powder as the mild but effective deterrent; if you’re on your own or a friend’s land, use borax to start killing off the colony.

"Couple trying to have a camping picnic, but the bugs are too bad - Deep Creek Lakealypse 2010"

How should you deal with snakes?

Some snakes are protected, and most state and federal parks have rules about how to deal with snakes you find. One of the best ways to keep snakes at bay is to give them no reason to be around you: snakes congregate near their food sources of insects and rodents, so if you’re successfully keeping your RV pest-free your lot is already a less attractive home for snakes.

But sometimes snakes have a wide radius of territory that they wander through, and that means you need to keep a wary eye out for them. Keep the grass short and the trees back from high-traffic areas, and make sure there aren’t a lot of shady hiding spots for them. Whenever you’re reaching into storage containers, make sure you can see both your hand and whatever you’re reaching for, and, if it’s a storage container no one has rifled through recently, disturb the contents with a long stick first to roust out any snakes.

Also, modify your behavior around snakes’ habits when you can. Snakes like sunning themselves early in the morning on hot summer days because they can’t self-regulate their body temperature. Avoid ponds and hiking through uncleared brush during these hours because the snakes are most likely to be active. Wear close-toed shoes instead of sandals, especially when you’re near the water. As relaxing as running your toes through the water can be, snakes have longer hours of activity near the water’s edge.

What should you do with excess firewood?

Whenever you’re at a new campground, it’s almost always better to buy or bring in more firewood than you need so you don’t get caught short. But that can leave you with far too much wood at the end of your trip at a specific campground. While you might have just been able to cover it with a tarp and take it with you to your next campground, now that might not be an option.

Ask your parks about their firewood policy.

Many parks are being increasingly vigilant about the spread of invasive species. Bringing in seemingly local wood from a campground even fifty miles away can cause the spread of spores, beetles, and burrowing pests that the forest is unprepared for. Always ask the park center about any wood regulations. Some say you have to buy wood directly from them, while others offer a list of local hunting and camping stores that sell vetted wood. Still, others recommend artificial wood and fire materials from big box stores, and an increasing number restrict you from using wood you find on-site.

Full-time RVers may have an extra advantage. Try calling your next destination, telling them where you are, and asking if your wood is appropriate for use. If you’re moving to a park close enough to your current spot, they may approve it. If they don’t, your best option is to leave it at your current campground. Either sell it informally to some of your recently arrived (or ill-prepared) neighbors or consider leaving it as a gift to the next camper at your site with a quick note so they know it’s okay to use. Even though the regulations on firewood might occasionally be frustrating, they help keep the parks safer and longer-lasting, so spreading the goodwill and knowledge helps everyone; it also keeps those invasive species out of your RV as much as possible.

Once pests and critters find an easy route into your home, it can be incredibly difficult to get them out, especially since most can either find their way through small cracks and openings, and other might create their own entrance-way through the bottom of the RV. But by proactively organizing your RV so bugs are warded away and the smell of food is minimal, you can keep everything from ants and mosquitoes, to rodents out. Knowing how to deal with pests outside your RV, such as in exterior storage and around your campgrounds, is just as important as keeping your travels enjoyable and bite-free.

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