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343 Hiking Skills - Missing Essentials - Repellents 2011-02-07


Missing Essentials are the items that you probably need on most trips, even though they might not be considered as one of the prime essentials. Insect repellent is obviously missing from the essentials list. Perhaps they omitted the juices because they are only used in certain seasons and in certain areas. We don't like the little pests so we just treat the repellents as an essential and keep some form of insect deterrents in out packs at all times.

A few weeks ago we went to see "The Way Back" at the movies. A group of men during World War ll escaped from a Siberian prison camp and then walked 4,500 miles to India. Okay, it was a movie, based on a book and I have never read the book so I do not know how true the movie is; but I could easily relate to one scene. It was about mosquitoes.

After escaping from the prison camp, living through the Russian winter, practically starving to death, walking miles on end, and moving secretively to avoid capture, the escapees were attacked by swarms of mosquitoes. The torment was endless and finally one of the men with a ransom on his head, gave up his secretive position, and ran to a passing group of village workers to ask for their help from the insects. He returned with a remedy and all was good. To these men depicted in the movie, the mosquitoes were so bad that they were willing to risk their hard earned freedom for relieve.

Watching the movie I felt for the escapees. I have been in similar situations when it was just miserable to be alive. No matter what you did, the mosquitoes still attacked relentlessly. Normally it is when things are not going well, that the insects really bother you. The weather's hot, you are climbing an endless hill with sweat induced effort, your pack is too heavy and it's still miles before camp, and then they attack. The misery can be epic.

After vowing never to be lunch for a bunch of mosquitoes again, I began to pack repellent. I just include repellents in my emergency kit and never take it out of the pack. I always have a handy deterrent.

A few repellent tips ...

  • If possible, plan your trips around the pests. There seems to be peak times in even notoriously infested areas when insects are worse than other times. Pick a time with the least chance of encountering swarms.
  • Remember, mosquitoes and ticks may carry diseases.
  • My first line of defense is covering all exposed skin. Sometimes it is just too hot for this method to work; but if successful, you do not have to use any of the smelly ointments.
  • You have to use repellents to avoid ticks. Covering up, does not help.
  • The head screens work while in camp. I sweat to much to use them on a trail.
  • Lotions that make my skin soft, might work well at giving me soft skin; but don't seem to protect me from bites and have no effect on ticks.
  • The natural lotions, citronella and/or eucalyptus, are better than nothing. We also use these on the dog, Jake. He too has trouble with insects.
  • Then, there is the DEET stuff. I have not found that one brand works any better than another, but I like to use the lower percentages of DEET.
  • I have never used the treated clothing. I always figured if you put the lotion on your clothing, it would be the same as buying the impregnated clothing.
  • Non-aerosol spray bottles work best with dogs.
  • I prefer a small bottle of repellent lotion. Double bagging the container helps to contain leaks or spills.
  • In my emergency kit, I carry a couple of insect repellent wipes, year round.
  • Running around camp yelling does not deter insects; but if the camp is isolated, the release might make you feel better!

Happy bug-less trails.


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