Thursday, July 12, 2012

Natural Insect Protection

Natural options for dealing with biting insects: Natrapel & the Bugs Away clothing collection from ExOfficio.

Summer & fall are the times we are most likely exposed to insects: mosquitoes, ticks, horseflies, gnats, chiggers and everything else that bites.  I'm hypersensitive to insect stings and look like someone with hives after a simple mosquito attack.  I remember especially vicious biting flies during my vacations in Sag Harbor, which was once a bustling whaling port.  We'd be sitting on the rocky beach looking out  into Gardiners Bay when they hit.  These HUGE black flies would dive bomb us from the air so we had to run for it and stay submerged in the water.  They were terrible.

Our Cabin Home in Turkey Swamp
Outdoor Life Can Bug You
Needless to say, many outdoor excursions can be ruined by insects intending on making a meal of you.  Trust me, you don't have to be the main course.  We have actually camped in a swamp for an entire week so I know what works (and what doesn't).  Forget the garlic.  Totally useless as is ingesting large amounts brewers yeast and other nutritional supplements. Avon's Skin So Soft is a bit chancy too.

Spray On Insect Repellents
Products which contain a high amount of DEET such as Off Deep Woods with 25% of the active ingredient are often recommended.  We used it but it didn't really last so we ended up reapplying and reapplying. We've since tried a more natural insect repellent that lasts.  Natrapel by Adventure Medical is said to offer 8+ hr protection.  We've used it for some time and have to say that it was MORE effective and longer lasting than the Off Deep Woods. Here is a quote from the Adventure Medical Kits website regarding Natrapel:

"...CDC-recommended 20% Picaridin formula. Unlike ineffective DEET alternatives, Picaridin is the only formula that consistently shows equal or better performance than DEET in independent, clinical tests. Even better, Natrapel 8-hour is completely safe on gear and will not melt jackets, fishing line, and other synthetic materials."

Natrapel also comes in individual wipe towelettes and go in all of our medical/first-aid kits.  This way you don't have to tote a 6oz can if you are concerned about pack weight.  We especially like the 6 oz continuous spray which lasts quite a long time as it doesn't have to be reapplied every five minutes. One thorough spray in the morning and I'm usually good for the day.  

Sea to Summit Box Net Shelter - Insect Shield® Treated
Don't miss any spots though.  This product is good but any un-sprayed areas are up for grabs (and bites).  I did accidentally over-spray my sun dress one time but the excess washed out and did not leave a stain.  Whew!  
Another option for sleeping and camping outdoors is this Sea to Summit Box Net Shelter.  You can order it treated with Insect Shield® for extra repelling action. This netting really works well and can be used over a lounge chair.

Bugs Away Insect-Shield Clothing Collection by ExOfficio

ExOfficio's Breez'r Hat: vented panels and built-in insect repellent. Campista 3/4 Sleeve Shirt by ExOfficio

While using natural, DEET-free sprays is good start, wearing clothing that offers some insect protection also has its place.  This is especially true when you are involved in swimming or water sports.  Once you get out the water, most of your spray insect repellent has washed off.

Bugs Away Halo Shirt by ExOfficio
What if you can have insect protection built into your clothing?  I've worn ExOfficio's Bugs Away collection for a few years and the current pieces are now lighter and even more comfortable.  Their current Halo Shirt, (pictured in the lead photo) is an example of the new trend towards airiness. Made of high tech, wicking synthetics and as an added plus, these pieces have built in 30+ UPF protection to safeguard from harmful sun damage.

Ziwi Convertible Pants change to shorts with a quick zip!
What I like about the Bugs Away Collection is not only the superior insect protection, but the versatility and fresh styling.  The Halo Shirt has two zippered security pockets, mesh vented panels and sleeves that can be cinched up to a 3/4 design.

Insect Shield
Permethrin, the active ingredient in Insect Shield®, is invisible, odorless, and tightly bonded to the fabric fibers, and lasts the expected lifetime of the garment (70 washes). It repels mosquitoes (including those carrying West Nile virus and malaria), ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges (no-see-ums).

Hanging out at the cabin: Quick drying Bugs Away shirts and Storm Logic Jacket by ExOfficio

I've found that mosquitoes, flies and any other type of insect won't even light on this material.  However if the sleeves are rolled up, any exposed skin is fair game.  The best case scenario in a highly infested insect zone is to spray yourself  with Natrapel and then don the Bugs Away pieces. The New Ziwa Convertible Pants with Insect Shield®, for example have zippered ankles and zippers at the knees to turn them into shorts!  It's hot in the summertime so you may naturally want to roll up your sleeves and pants, which these pieces allow you to do.  Still the safest route is to keep all skin covered if possible.

Got a bug bite anyway?  Ssssting Stop, Adventure Medical Kit's AfterBite and Cortisone Cream are tried & true itch soothers!


  1. Excellent! I'm an insect magnet but can't stay inside long. I'll try the Natrapel. Sounds great.

    Keep doing the stuff!

    Survival Sherpa

  2. Hi Survival Sherpa,

    We must be related then! Mosquitoes have always loved me too and I'm outdoors a lot. Either cover up like a bee-keeper or try some thing natural that actually beats DEET.

    Thanks for including this article on your blog roll too.

    Warmest wishes,

    Dr. M