Insects can ruin your trip. Nothing spoils the perfect campsite or a beautiful hike like an infestation of bugs. Not only are they annoying and sometimes painful, but some insects can carry disease that can end your trip and severely damage your health. Thankfully there are some very effective rememdies in very lightweight size options that are perfect for combating creepy crawlies on the trail.
The following are the stats and my humble opinions for some of the repellent products I’ve used and liked (or not) on the trail:
Weight: 31.68 g / 1.11 oz
Deet was the answer to fighting insects for a lot of people for a long time. Available in different concentrations for varying situations, Deet can be a very effective combatant against mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, and more, but it does have some drawbacks.
First of all, if you have ever caught some Deet spray in your eyes, nose, or mouth while applying, you know that Deet is a harsh chemical that is very unpleasant to experience in any other way but contained application on your skin.
Second, the chemical in Deet can break down and destroy any waterproof coatings on your gear. You should never spray Deet on or around your tent’s rain fly, your rain jacket, or anything else that has been treated for water repellency. Also, be careful not to apply Deet to your skin and then don your rain gear; Deet will literally eat right through the material.
Weight: 23.82 g / 0.84
Because of the very apparent chemical toxicity (taste, smell, sting) of Deet combined with its unfortunate quality of destroying waterproofing, most folks in the hiking community have switched over to Picaridin. Picaridin is made by Sawyer, the same company that makes Deet (and many other quality outdoor equipment items).
Picaridin doesn’t have a strong smell and applies much smoother, without leaving you feeling greasy or covered in chemicals, though Picaridin is definitely still a chemical. Not only is Picaridin effective against mosquitoes, it is highly effective against gnats, black flies, no-see-ums, chiggers, and ticks as well.
Best of all, Picaridin does not harm waterproof coatings, if it happens to get on your gear! Picaridin comes in many sizes, and in spay, lotion, and aerosol form, but only in one concentration, which is effective for up to 8 hours after a single application.
Weight: N/A (not typically brought on trail)
Permethrin is a great way to treat your clothing, gear, and equipment to repel insects. Before you go on your hike, use Permethrin to saturate any cloth based gear by spraying in a sweeping motiong 6-8 inches away from the item. One treatment with Permethrin will last for seven washings or 42 days, which ever comes first. If your trip is 42 days or less, you will be protected for the entire duration.
I have never had a tick bite, or sting from any insect during a thru hike when I’ve used Permethrin, except when I was deep in the swamps, and then I only got a couple of mosquito bites. This stuff works and is relatively cheap. One bottle should treat around three outfits (socks, shorts, shirt).
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