Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Surviving mosquitoes

What really works to protect against mosquitoes is a physical barrier, lots of layers.

To survive the ferocious Oregon mosquitoes I wore pants and a skirt over them (they bit through my pants alone), a T-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt over it (they bit through the long-sleeved shirt without the T-shirt.) I wore thick socks with my shoes (they bit through my shoes!)

My shirt was buttoned to my collar and the sleeves were buttoned at my wrists. I wore a headnet cinched at my collar with my collar turned up so there would not be a gap (they still bit me at the tiny little triangle exposed at my collar button and where the headnet cinched.) I tucked my shirt in so they would not fly up my shirt and bite my chest (they would do that.)

I held my trekking poles so that the straps flapped over my exposed hands. I sprayed 40% DEET on my hat, my shirt and pants. I put some on the backs of my hands and the heels of my hands (they bit the palms of my hands even when I held trekking poles.) That much DEET made me feel sick sometimes.

When I had to pee I used a urinary device so that I could pee standing up without exposing any skin. I made sure to apply DEET strategically in my tent before getting out of it in the morning to begin my hiking. I wanted to be ready for when I needed to do more than pee. I would dig my cathole away from my pack, hoping my pack would serve as a decoy. I would run back to my pack before using my cathole, then run back, hoping the mosquitoes would be confused for a moment and give me peace. That didn't really work, but DEET did.

I lived that way for a month through Oregon. I saw the whole state through a green haze of mosquito netting and DEET-induced nausea. I'm pretty certain that no matter how safe anybody says it is, DEET is quite toxic. At least I have pictures so I can see what I missed.


  1. I spray or soak my clothes, sun gloves, head net, tent, and backpack with Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent.

    I have been standing next to a hiker with 80 mosquitoes on him and I won't have any on me.

    I ship it in my resupply box and retreat everything every 500-700 miles.

    I never carry deet because it will destroy your gear. It will eat the watchband off your wrist.

    I've recently bought a small spray bottle of stuff called Sawyer GoReady insect repellent with 20 percent picaridin. It is safe to use around nylon. I have read that 20 percent picaridin spray coupled with soaking your clothes in permethrin is very effective.

    Another thing I read was that mosquitoes try to annoy you so you will release a chemical that will attract more mosquitoes, so, it's important that you don't let the mosquitoes get to you.

  2. Permethrin seems to work well. I bought a hat at REI in Seattle that was soaked in it. It really worked. While wearing the hat I spoke to a guy on the trail who was waving and slapping at mosquitoes and not a single one was bothering me.

    All the methods I employed were things I could do with what was on hand on the trail during my time in Oregon.

    I had the skirt in my bounce bucket which I picked up in Crater Lake. I bought the DEET and T-shirt at Shelter Cove Resort. I had planned to buy one of those mosquito coils because I met an old couple who were using one and they said it worked, but by the time I got to a town where I could search for one, it seemed the mosquitoes had waned, thank goodness! I don't think I could have washed my clothes in the permethrin because between Ashland and Government Camp I didn't wash my clothes except in the shower.

    I had no idea the mosquitoes would be like that. I had no idea mosquitoes could be like that!