Mosquito Repelling Gear: It Works

The last thing you want to bring home from your safari? Malaria. And if you’re a bug attractor like me, it’s not just the anti-malarials you’ll want to pack. You’ll also want a good sized helping of DEET infused goo. And some stuff made from fabrics that have mozzie repelling properties.

Once you’ve caved in to the fact that you’re going to be a khaki covered dork, your life will get a lot easier. Start with the BugsAway shirt from ExOfficio. In addition to UV protection, it’s made with Insect Shield, a fabric infused with permethrin, a bug repellent, that holds through 70 washings.

I liked this shirt a lot. I liked the side vents that let air in along the back, I liked the securely zippered pockets, I liked the cut. It comes in a couple of colors, not just khaki. It’s wrinkle resistant, so I could stuff it in my day pack and just shake it back out into shape. I wore my BugsAway shirt almost every evening in camp and in the buggier beach towns. The result? None of those nasty through the shirt mozzie bites. This is a great travel shirt, a fine addition to a tropical travel wardrobe. The shirt is 88.00 from ExOfficio — you might want to check out their complete BugsAway line.

I also wore an Cocoon Insect Shield sarong on a number of occasions. I wore it to the beach, I while hanging out on tour bus, in the tropics I used it as an extra layer over the paper thin sheets provided at my hotels. I wore it as a scarf on the safari rig and used it as a beach towel. Mine was a preview model — they’re not yet out on the US market, but keep an eye on the Cocoon site if you want one.

I always pack a wrap of some kind, it’s the most versatile and useful item. The bug proof features of this one meant that the I had a skirt/scarf/wrap that also kept the biters at bay. I got a minimal number of bites during my travels to mosquito choked places, and none of them were on the areas covered by the sarong or my bug proof shirt.

The rest of my clothing I sprayed down with Ultrathon insect repellent. Good for six weeks or six washings, it worked well and didn’t leave any detectable chemical smell in my clothing. I far preferred the treated clothing options to slathering myself with bug repellent; that stuff smells, gets sticky, and I was relieved to have to use it just on my exposed extremities.In addition to packing mosquito-proofed clothing, I included a sleeping bag liner/sleep sheet. Mine was cotton and also came from Cocoon. I was pleased that I’d decided to bring it along. Not only did it keep me from using the perfectly disgusting hotel sheets in Nairobi, it also provided just the right weight of coverage for those hot nights in camp. The liners are 36.00 and come in three colors.

The mosquitoes liked my sleep sheet no more than they liked my bug proof clothing, which is to say not at all. During my two week trip, I received the most bites the night I went tromping through the grass in the darkness without applying repellent to my sock-less feet and ankles. It was my own fault.

“Don’t get bit,” is one of the primary pieces of advice the doctor at my local travel clinic pushes on travelers bound to areas with mosquito or other bug-borne illnesses. It costs a little bit more to add bug repelling attire to your travel kit, but it’s worth it. This stuff works.