Question: What do you recommend for insect protection?
I have heard from folks that the bugs are back! Now seems as good a time as any to discuss insect protection.
Confession: for a long time I avoided the outdoors during black fly season.
But the more I got into whitewater canoeing, the more I wanted to paddle earlier in the season. Which means managing black flies.
Mosquitoes, horseflies, and deer flies don’t necessarily bother me so I’m usually okay as the season progresses. I know that’s not true for everyone. (My partner’s bug bites swell up to the size of a toonie. That’s only one of many reasons he’s not an outdoorsperson.)
Also with the prevalence of ticks on the rise, we all could use a little extra insect protection.
So let’s break it down.
Features You May Be Looking For:
Are you all about the insect sprays/lotions or do you dress to repel bugs? Or do you have a different, secret weapon?
Dressing to repel bugs:
- My go-to for paddling during black fly season is a Buff® under my whitewater helmet. I cover my ears and my hairline as much as possible and bring it as far up my neck as it will go. Paddling with a head net seems unnecessarily risky.
- But give me that head net in camp after I’m off the water if the bugs are bad. Mine’s essentially a simple bug jacket. Not THE Original Bug Shirt®, which I know many people swear by.
- I burn easily so you’ll typically find me in light-colored long sleeves and pants while on trip, which also happen to be great bug protection. To take it one step further, tucking your pant legs into your socks can help discourage ticks from crawling in.
Insect sprays and lotions:
- I do carry OFF! Deep Woods® with me on trip just in case, but I tend to avoid using it if at all possible. I don’t love the chemicals on my skin and I’ve accidentally ruined pairs of sunglasses and clothing while spraying it on. There are many products out there with varying degrees of DEET in them (Muskol, Ben’s, Great Outdoors, etc.). You may need to “trial-and-error” some of them to see what works best for you.
- For products without DEET, I know folks who swear by this one, this one, and this one.
- And for anyone looking for the scholarly research on DEET versus non-DEET, there seems to be a lot out there. How about this one to start.
Other tips and tricks:
- Check for ticks at the end of every day. They’re small and love nooks and crannies, so be thorough. I keep a tick remover in my first aid kit. A pair of tweezers, used properly, can also work.
- I also keep some form of after-bite, pain and allergy medicine in my first aid kit to help manage symptoms after a bite or sting.
- Depending on your camping style, you may want to consider a bug shelter to get some extra outdoor time in. (Hint: if you’re crafty, you can easily make one of these yourselves rather than having to buy one.)
Some of our Favorite Articles on Insect Protection:
In no particular order…
- How to Choose Insect Repellents from REI
- How to Choose Bug Spray and Bug Nets from MEC
- Is DEET Safe? from Outside Magazine
- The Best Gear for Bug-Free Summer Hiking from Backpacker Magazine
Now that we’re all thoroughly itchy from thinking about this… Do you have more questions about insect protection or do you have a secret weapon against bugs? E-mail us!
If you love falling asleep to the call of loons even during bug season, book a trip with us.
We look forward to slowing down with you.