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Insect repellent - what do you use?
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David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Insect repellent - what do you use? on 06/13/2008 14:57:39 MDT Print View

From my reading, it seems that DEET is the gold standard here, am I wrong? Do you package it in spray or lotion form?

BTW, does DEET really melt synthetic clothing or is this a myth?

Finally, do non-chemical/organic options really work?

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Insect repellent - what do you use? on 06/13/2008 15:08:46 MDT Print View

Hi David. I'm not keen on putting chemicals on my skin. Or my kit! A plant that grows naturally in Scotland is Bog Myrtle.It probably grows in the US too. As it's name suggests, it's found in boggy areas. If you crush a handful of leaves they give off a 'medicinal' kind of smell. Rub the oil over your skin and it seems to deter midges from biting. Some companies have started making repellents from this oil. Look for the plant when out hiking.

victoria maki
(clt1953) - F

Locale: northern minnesota
re:bug stuff on 06/13/2008 15:17:22 MDT Print View

david. i just purchased a product called "crocodial repellent" through it was recommended by a fellow minnesota hiker. you may not know it, but we grow skeeters the size of texas long horns...just kidding, but we do have lots. i have not tried it yet, but plan on hiking on june 25-29, so should be a good test. will post when i come back to let fellow hikers know how it works....vic

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Insect repellent - what do you use? on 06/13/2008 16:29:38 MDT Print View

DEET works but, I really don't like the feel/smell/caustic properties of DEET. Also, they keep saying that, "it's safe, but don't use it on kids." OK, if I'm in the Amazon or Congo, I'd probably use it anyway.

However, I have found that Repel brand "Lemon Eucalyptus" oil works pretty good. Plenty good for most situations.

It smells and feels like cologne. Well, I don't think this will be sold at the Nieman-Marcus perfume counter any time soon. It is plant based, not chemical based and smells just like what you would imagine lemon-eucalyptus would smell like. It is available at most stores that sell a complete line of insect repellents.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Insect repellent - what do you use? on 06/13/2008 17:01:43 MDT Print View

I use the Burt Bee's anti buggie stuff. I despise DEET. Makes me itch like crazy.

Most times I just go without anything as well. The old swatting method seems to work pretty good while hiking. It is usually in camp that I wear anything.

Karl Keating
(KarlKeating) - MLife
Sorry, but only DEET will do on 06/13/2008 18:53:09 MDT Print View

There have been multiple tests of DEET vs. other products. The organics have some effect, but not much. Only DEET works consistently and well. And, no, there is no known side effect to it.

I prefer to use the version formulated as Ultrathon. If I want to use straight "Jungle Juice," I prefer it in a mini-spray bottle so I don't get the stuff on my hands. (The standard version has, to me, an unpleasant smell and feels greasy.)

DEET is for skin only. For clothing and gear, use permethrin. Don't use permethrin on skin because sweat washes it off quickly.

Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Picaridin on 06/13/2008 19:00:33 MDT Print View

Picaridin (KBR 3023) is newer and does not seem to have all of the nastiness of DEET. I believe concentrations above 15% are most effective. Cutter Advanced is one brand that used Picaridin.

Lemon Eucalyptus is equivalent in effectiveness to low concentrations of DEET, but must be re-applied more often. All other organic repellents tested by the CDC have failed to meet CDC standards (take that as you will).

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Insect repellent - what do you use? on 06/13/2008 19:05:52 MDT Print View

I know of one organic option that works: vinegar. When I used to live in south FL, very close to the Everglades, I'd drink a shot of cider vinegar every morning before work. Sometimes two if I knew I'd be outside most of the day. I don't like it, but it does keep the mosquitos from biting. They still fly around, but I rarely ever had a mosquito bite. The only caveat I found is that some of the larger black flies (not sure what kinds, besides EVIL!) don't seem to care. They bit me anyway.

Edited by back2basics on 06/13/2008 19:31:16 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Sorry, but only DEET will do on 06/13/2008 20:11:38 MDT Print View

"And, no, there is no known side effect to it."

Yeah, not. My itching is near hives. I react to many scented items from soap, lotion and most sunblocks cause rashes. You put any form of DEET on me and I start turning pink before the itching sets in.

Of course another big side effect is it eating synthetic items. Nothing like plastic being eaten, pants destroyed, etc.

Yes, it sucks to be bitten like crazy. On the very rare case I wear a bug hood or just get in my tent! As noted I rarely am bothered if moving. And personally? The Burt's Bees stuff works pretty good.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "Insect repellent - what do you use?" on 06/13/2008 20:19:11 MDT Print View

I've used Deet for quite some time but our mosquito problem where we live is downright scary (even wearing Deet I average a dozen bites per day).
For hiking, I've decided to try the Sawyer permethrin stuff that you soak your clothes in, let dry, then wear. It is supposed to handle ticks, too.

Michael Gardner
(ekim765) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Insect repellent - what do you use on 06/13/2008 21:00:54 MDT Print View

I've recently tried the Lemon Eucalyptus stuff and it did seem to keep the mosquitos at bay, but I think the no-see-ums LOVE the stuff. They chewed me up pretty good. Of course I was sweating pretty good, even at rest, as it was a really muggy day. So maybe it doesn't have a good stay time when sweatty? I'm still looking for a decent DEET alternative too.

Edited by ekim765 on 06/13/2008 21:03:02 MDT.

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Re: "Insect repellent - what do you use?" on 06/13/2008 22:36:38 MDT Print View

Read here once that DEET is still the most effective in concentrations of 25-30% and above (higher just makes it last longer). However, I have had WPB coatings (urethane?) get soft and sticky from contact with DEET, so I won't use it backpacking any more.

I now use the Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, and have been very pleased with it for mosquitos. Smells better and dries nicely too. Works as well as DEET, but doesn't last as long.

For tick season I spray my pants with Sawyer Permethrin. It is VERY effective - it actually kills the ticks. They make a wash-in version, but I just use the spray and let dry overnight. A single application works for months and several washings.

Huzefa Siamwala
(huzefa) - M
Insect repellent on 06/13/2008 23:12:52 MDT Print View

You can wear l/s and pants and reduce the amount of DEET to deal with.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
I agree with Karl on 06/14/2008 07:22:14 MDT Print View

I have found over the 47 years I have been backpacking, that DEET is the most effective repellent. Permethrin sprayed onto clothes is also very helpful. The two together protected me in a 2005 (huge snow year) JMT hike while others were wearing headnets. It just works. The research demonstrates that going above a 35% concentration of DEET has little effect on the bugs, though historically I have used 100% because it is so weight effective.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Lemon Ucalyptis (??) on 06/14/2008 12:31:43 MDT Print View

My family switched from Deet to Lemon Ucalyptis last year due to health concerns my wife had (esp for the kids). We gave it a good try (several months) - but didn't have good results.

The lemon ucalyptis worked OK to prevent misquito bites in open, breezy areas (which all seemed to have only small misquito populations) - like the soccer fields, playgrounds, etc. Personally, I only get a 3-4 bites an hour in areas like this, but my wife & kids who use strongly scented shampoos and body washes get bit once every 3-5 minutes with no protection. Seems like a simple solution to me, but they seemed to be hooked on "strawberry extract" soaps. Go figure.

However, the lemon ucalyptis worked "barely passibly" in wooded areas with lots of underbrush - which all seemed to have medium to medium/high misquito populations. ie: Medium means I get 15-20 bites an hour with no protection. With lemon ucalyptis I only get 7-10. If I reapply it every 30 minutes I only get half that, so I think it wears off pretty quickly. Then again, it's very humid in Maryland / Virgina (typcially around 95%) and we are hiking, so the sweat may just wash it off...

The lemon ucalyptis didn't work at all effectively in areas within 20-30 minutes walk from swampy areas near the ocean or bays (ie: Had to re-apply it every 10 minutes, and still got 5-7 bites in the first 10 minutes...) However, without protection I got 2-3 bites per minute.

Now for the bad (worse ?) news. The lemon ucalyptis didn't deter biting deer or horse flies in the slightest. I also concur with the previous poster - knats / no-see-ums LOVE the stuff. They don't bite much, but they are constantly getting stuck in your eyes when you blink, and swallowed if you breathe through your mouth. Without the lemon ucalyptis, the knat problems were only 25-33% as bad.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Re: Insect repellent on 06/14/2008 12:45:40 MDT Print View

Previous post: "You can wear l/s and pants and reduce the amount of DEET to deal with."

Not where I live. Here, any place the fabric touches your skin is a prime target for the misquitos and biting flies. They especially seem to like the upper-back / shoulder-blade area. Maybe it's because we can't swat them there. My wife and daughter also get a lot of bites on the back of their upper legs even through long pants.

So we refresh the repellant on the clothing in those "bite prone" areas each time we apply it to the skin too. We use the pump/spritz style packaging (because it's faster to apply & less messy) from "cutter" or "deep woods off" that had the highest deet concentration in whatever store we were it (except for last year, where we tried to swith to lemon ucalyptis). Even doint that for years, I haven't noticed any huge discolored, of frayed raw areas on our polyester (coolmax) shirts & nylon or polyester running pants.

I used to use liquid (mil surplus) deet before I had kids, but I usually wore cotton blends then too so I can't comment on whether it eats or discolors nylon or not.

Edited by JohnG10 on 06/14/2008 12:47:26 MDT.

Jason Griffin
(JGriffinRN) - F
skin so soft on 06/14/2008 21:11:23 MDT Print View

surprised nobody mentioned this yet. Skin-so-soft, made by Johnson and Johnson I think, is what I use to use. It's just skin lotion in spray form. But this website would suggest that Off! Deep Woods offers the best protection time. At least of those tested.

James D Buch
(rocketman) - F

Locale: Midwest
Polyester (wicking) fabrics and Permethrin (Sawyers, or other) Longevity on 06/30/2008 07:34:59 MDT Print View

I have read that permethrin doesn't adhere equally well to all fibers. For example....
Evaluation of the different types of fabrics indicates that only wool, rayon-cotton, and rayon-polyester showed both good triatomicidal activity and long residuality. Previous studies showed that cotton is a very porous and absorbent material, thus it could pick up more insecticide than synthetic fibers. However, a substantial portion of the insecticide would not be bioavailable, and the water absorbed produces longer drying times after impregnation (27). In contrast, pyrethroids have almost the same polarity as such synthetic fabrics as polyester, so diffusion into the fabric would occur during impregnation with subsequent slow release (28). Consequently, the bioavailability of the insecticide is more dependent on the composition of the fabric, such as rayon-polyester or cotton, than on the target dosage. Therefore, taking into account their long residuality and local availability, wool, rayon-cotton, and rayon-polyester fabrics were chosen for the field trials. [\quote]

I am wondering if backpacker users have observed anything about the effectiveness and lifetime of permethrin treatments to polyester fabrics, especially the wicking type T-shirts?

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Vitamin E on 06/30/2008 13:20:36 MDT Print View

Take extra doses of vitamin E a few days before a trip & all during the trip. This stuff WORKS! It can be used alone if the mosquitos, midges & gnats are not too thick.

It's not like using DEET but it does help keep 'em away - unless we're talking about black flies or sand flies. Then only clothing truly works as a physical barrier.


Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
DEET on 06/30/2008 13:34:39 MDT Print View

Here's an (admittedly dated) article from Annals of Internal Medicine about mosquito repellents, with mostly a lot of information about DEET:

It also explains the caution for use of DEET on kids, based on a grand total of 13 bad reactions.

DEET still rules, and is the only stuff proven to be really effective (for use on skin). Many people swear by eucalyptus or citronella or Skin-So-Soft or whatever, but that is all just empiricism. There have been several studies proving their inferiority.

That said, if they work for you, all the more power to you.

DEET will melt many plastics, though not nylon. I remember an army demonstration before a deployment a while back that involved dissolving a pair of plastic spectacle frames in the stuff. The military is big on DEET and permethrin- I've used them a lot. And it can make you a little twitchy if you use a lot of it- like you just drank a little too much caffeine.

Edited by acrosome on 06/30/2008 13:47:21 MDT.