By David Link
Swarming bugs, itchy bites, pesky rashes, and sore sunburns…ah the great outdoors! The places so many love aren’t always as inviting as they could be, but no matter, we still go there anyway without hesitation. From the growth of the camping culture in the early 1900s to the high-tech outdoor gear craze of today, the key to staying comfortable in the outdoors has always been preparation. Of course, a good attitude and the ability to let the mosquitoes swarm around you without losing your mind helps, but you don’t just have to grin and bear it. There are a wealth of products that make your outdoor trips more enjoyable than ever, and many can be added to your gear kit without substantial investment.
A lot of folks just aren’t into bugs, and I think that is something we can all understand. Personally I’ve never had much of an issue with mosquitoes, and even when I worked in Alaska, I seemed to find the never-ending task of swatting giant mosquitoes more amusing than annoying. But that is me, and it has been well documented that certain people are more susceptible to mosquito bites than others. Mosquitoes are just part of the equation. I grew up in the Midwest, and ticks were something to be very cautious of when you were outdoors. Lyme Disease can have potentially devastating effects, and the deer ticks that carry it are very hard to spot until they’ve attached to you. Needless to say, bug repellents are something that most people never forget when they pack their vehicle and head out. Let’s examine some popular brands and what they have to offer.
Thermacell has made it their business to declare war on the mosquitoes, and they make several ingenious devices that create a barrier that prevents mosquitoes, black flies, and biting midges. Thermacell repellents work by burning allethrin, which is a manufactured copy of the natural repellent chemicals found in chrysanthemum flowers. You have to burn the allethrin to get it into the environment surrounding you, and the way Thermacell accomplishes this is with butane cartridges. You simply pop a cartridge into the device, the butane ignites that allethrin and it is emitted out a grate in the device, and a 15ft by 15ft barrier is created around anyone sitting near the device. Allethrin is safe for both humans and dogs and it does not rely on an open flame, so no concerns there either. Thermacell offers allethrin emitting products in both lantern form as well as a hand-held appliance. The lanterns make for an especially appealing solution because you can light your table or campsite and keep pests away at the same time. A distinct advantage to Thermacell’s devices is that they don’t use harsh chemicals like DEET and they don’t require the obtrusive smell / feel of spray on repellents.
ScentBlocker is another brand leading the charge in insect repellents, and their new Bug Blocker sprays for Ticks or Mosquitoes can be of great use to any outdoorsman or woman. Utilizing the spray method of application, Bug Blocker sprays are composed of DEET and other chemicals that repel gnats, biting midges, black flies, spiders and chiggers as well as mosquitoes and ticks. While not as natural as Thermacell’s repellents, the main advantage of Bug Blocker is that it can be sprayed on for hikes and other activities where a hand-held device isn’t practical. As I stated earlier, I’m very cautious of ticks (and I like to avoid a few species of spiders at all costs), so it is nice to have a spray option for those times when you’ll be trudging through thicker vegetation where some undesirable insects reside.
There are plenty of options in the repellent market, and companies like 3M, OFF! and others have been making citronella or DEET based repellents for many years now. The web is full of suggestions for natural repellents too, and some of these chemicals have been proven to be effective without the potential worries that DEET use carries. Citronella coils or candles have long been a popular option for back yards and campsites, and many enjoy the ambiance of a candle over other alternatives. Before you choose the appropriate repellent for you, make sure to read the label and use it correctly, especially when applying it to children. Don’t forget that the good old campfire can keep many bugs away too (as long as you build one in a controlled environment where allowed).
Aside from bug repellents, there’s a whole lot more you can do to stay comfortable while in the outdoors. We’ll skip the sunscreen, since everyone knows the whole deal about proper application by now. Hydration is another common sense one, and although its importance is more apparent in hotter climates, hydration is just as important on colder hikes and activities as well. Layering is an important concept to be familiar with, and even on a casual hike or camping trip, having an extra layer to shed or put on can really make an impact. If you like to wear sandals in the summer, don’t forget the backup pair of shoes either. Here are some other products you might want to consider before your next trip.
Frogg Toggs makes a variety of cooling towels, bandanas, headbands, and other accessories that make staying cool easy. Their flagship product is known as the Chilly Pad, and it uses a hyper-evaporative material to cool you when active or lounging around. The way the Chilly Pad works involves evaporation. You simply wet the Chilly Pad with water (even warm water can work), and place the pad on your body. The material causes the water to evaporate while still being dry to the touch, and it can cool for an extended period of time before it needs to be dipped in water again.
Thermacell doesn’t just make you comfortable in the war against the bugs, they also produce innovative heated insoles that take foot warmers to a whole new level. These insoles are battery powered and slip into your shoe or boot just like normal insoles. There is a wireless remote included with each pair of insoles that allows you to control the temperature from the comfort of your coat or jacket pocket. The challenge of keeping your feet warm has plagued many a hunter, but with these insoles, you’ll be able to stay out in the elements longer without having to replace foot warmer packets. The charge lasts for 5 hours, and if you use them conservatively, you can stretch your outdoor time even further than that.
Although hydration was already identified as a key factor to outdoor comfort, the pressurized hydration packs that Geigerrig makes can really be an asset when you’re outdoors. Aside from a plentiful supply of water on your back, the key advantage that these packs provide is the ability to spray water out of the pack. This means you can spray water on your body or head to cool it down, you can clean off dirt or cuts in a pinch, and you can even share water with your pet. Don’t just get a hydration pack, get one that is pressurized and take advantage of the extra benefits.