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.

Gadling gear review: ExOfficio Sol Cool shirt

ExOfficio is a company that has earned a reputation for designing excellent clothing for travel and outdoor adventure. Their comfortable, stylish, and high quality apparel is just as popular with travelers visiting the Louvre as it is with those exploring the Serengeti. The ExOfficio catalog includes clothing to keep you warm and dry in unexpected rainstorms and cool and comfortable in the warmest of climes. They even have gear designed to keep pesky bugs away – something that can come in handy in certain destinations.

One of the newest additions to the ExOfficio gear closet is the Sol Cool collection of shirts. Designed to provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, these quick drying tops also reflect heat and wick moisture, while still remaining highly breathable. In theory, all of that should help keep us more comfortable on our warm weather adventures, although upon review, similar gear hasn’t always lived up to the hype in the past.

Living in Austin, Texas, I have the perfect environment to put the Sol Cool to the test. So far this year, we’ve had nearly 90 days of triple-digit heat, and anything that helps you stay cool and comfortable while outside is greatly appreciated. Fortunately, the Sol Cool more than lived up to its billing and soon became one of my “go to” articles of clothing when I knew I was going to be spending time out in the sun. The soft smooth fabrics not only make this shirt comfortable to wear, their wicking properties were much appreciated as well. Staying cool and dry allowed me to be more active in the hot weather, and enjoy time outdoors, even when the mercury was routinely climbing above 100ºF/38ºC.

True to their ExOfficio legacy, these shirts are also perfect for travel. Lightweight and packable, the Sol Cool is wrinkle free and comes out of your pack looking the same way that it did when went in. Its cut and fit are designed to not restrict motion while hiking, climbing, or paddling, and yet still looks good while kicking around town as well. The shirt has also been treated with an odor resistant finish, which comes in handy on longer trips when you may be wearing your clothing on multiple occasions.

Available in a variety of colors and in both long and short sleeve designs, the Sol Cool is an excellent addition to your travel wardrobe. Perfect for active, warm weather pursuits, it is never the less, just as useful in town as it is in the mountains.

Traveling Pants from Ex Officio

I get that folks think they’re practical or that they take up less space in the bag, but whenever I see someone wearing those pants with the zip off legs so they convert into shorts, I think, “Really? Are you so tight with space that you can’t find room for pants AND shorts?”

This is not the fault of Ex Officio, it’s just that my not very high bar for fashion rests at the convertible pants/shorts combination. I’m not down with the look. And I confess, I felt a little bit dorky while wearing a pair of Ex Officio super light weight travel Nomad Roll-up Pants during a recent journey. At least they’re not the kind with the zip off legs, right?

The pair I wore is also sort of convertible; they roll up and have keeper straps for those beach-combing days or when you wish you’d worn shorts. The fabric is super light and soft — they roll up to a tiny size and take up very limited luggage space. That soft fabric is also somewhat water resistant, if the weather goes bad on you you’ll stay a little drier, a little longer. There are deep side pockets and additional zip pockets on the side, but they lie flat, they’re not lumpy like your typical cargo pants. The waist band is lined so there are no itchy bits against your skin, and there’s a wide tabbed closure at the waist. Unlike a lot of outdoor attire, Ex Officio seems to run true to size and I’d venture that they’re cut just a little bit generous, but not excessively so.Since I don’t do the full convertible thing, I got a pair of Ex Officio shorts too. They have they same deep pockets at the waist and zippered pockets on the legs, but they’ve also got that funny little pocket for your bus money or lip balm and an additional one, maybe for your cell phone? The waist has the same lining as the pants, but the shorts have a button closure, and there’s a webbing belt that’s sewn into place — it’s full adjustable but you can’t lose it.

Both of these items beg to be paired with a safari vest and perhaps some giant binoculars as an accessory, and then, to be promptly rushed on a birding expedition. I can’t help it, there’s something about the khaki tones and extremely practical design that makes me vaguely snarky. (Okay, perhaps not so vague.) That’s not to say I didn’t immediately put this gear into rotation as part of my “go do something outdoorsy” travel kit. With long underwear, those pants could tackle a broad range of conditions and shorts, well, hiking shorts are hiking shorts.

And really, you should pack both. You don’t need the zip off legs really, do you?

The Nomad pants are $65.00, the Nio Amphi shorts are normally 60.00 but they’re on sale right now (June, 2011) for about half price. Ex Officio makes non-convertible pants for guys, too, check them out on the Ex Officio website. And get outside.

Summer travel: how not to sizzle your skin

The good folks at CNN have released a helpful guide and accompanying photo gallery horror show of solar ray-blasted epidermis. In “5 ways to avoid getting deep-fried,” you’ll find dermatologist’s tips to protect your sun from UVA/UVB damage, skin cancer detection links, and entertaining anecdotes of CNN reporters’ worst sunburns/precursors to melanoma.

I love the sun as much as most holiday-makers, but years of basting myself in baby oil, combined with the onset of crow’s feet in my early twenties and my mother’s own ongoing struggle with basal and squamous cell carcinomas have turned me into the Queen of Sunscreen. While my friends still mock me, and a former farmers market employer once remarked, “I can always tell when you’ve been hugging my dog, because he smells like sunscreen!” I feel vindicated because at 41, I look a good ten years younger, and have yet to develop my first pre-cancerous lesion. I get an annual screening at my dermatologist, and religiously apply a minimum of SPF 30 UVA/UVB sunblock over all exposed body parts (please remember the back of your neck, hands, ears, and knees, and tops of your feet).

Gadling has a more detailed explanation of what the heck all this SPF stuff means, and a guide to choosing sunglasses that do more than just look hip. I also wear, and heartily endorse (unpaid, of course) the sun protective clothing by ExOfficio, and sun protective hats by Outdoor Research. Sounds wacky, but these items are constructed with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) textiles that, while not a substitute for sunblock, provide a great dual-defense system. They’re also attractive, and incredibly versatile and travel-friendly. Don’t hide from the sun this holiday weekend; just take precautions, have fun, and think of all the money you’ll save by not requiring reconstructive surgery and Botox.

(Image credit: Flickr/Saspotato)

Gadling Gear Extravaganza: The Ultimate Travel Clothes

I’m all for fancy gizmos and high tech electronics. It’s my bread and butter. But what really makes the difference when traveling, a lot of the time, are the simple essentials that you deal with every day.

Clothes, for example. The right clothes can lighten your pack, keep you dryer, warmer, cooler, and happier. Believe me.

Today’s Mega Gadling Gear Extravaganza is going to cover all of the clothes I own, which are actually so few that they fit in a single Aloksak plastic bag.

… Okay, I just got a tux made here in Bangkok too (who can resist?), but I’m having it shipped back, so it doesn’t count.

All of this gear has been tested personally by me on a crazy around the world trip that I’m five months into, and most of it was being pre-tested in Austin, Texas before I left.
Icebreaker Superfine Wool Shirts

I was initially going to write this article only about these shirts. They’re good enough that if I thought people would read it, I would write a three part series about them.

Serously, I love these things.

I started out with just one, but after two months of traveling I threw my other shirts away (capilene and another brand’s wool shirt) and bought more Icebreaker. That means that for the past five countries in four months, I have worn only three Icebreaker shirts.

Wool is an amazing material, and icebreaker uses ultra high quality wool. The best of the best.

First of all, wool is very odor resistant. On many occasions I’ve worn a shirt to work out in the Panama heat, let it air out while taking a shower, and after getting out of the shower realized that even upon very close olfactory inspection, it didn’t smell at all.


I get some of the lightest weight shirts (the 150 series), which are perfectly fine for hot climates. They’ve withstood the rigors of Thailand and Panama summers. In the cold they offer a little more warmth than a cotton t-shirt, but nothing to write home about. If you’re going somewhere cold, they have much heavier shirts you can wear.

Perhaps the best property of the shirts is the way they handle water. They dry VERY quickly. On the island of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, we twice got stuck in flash storms while running to Karaoke at night. After an hour or two of singing I was almost perfectly dry. My friends with cotton shirts were freezing and cold.

Speaking of which, did you know that, like a wetsuit, wool keeps you warm even when it’s wet? It’s eerie.

Last, but certainly important if these are the only shirts in your wardrobe, icebreaker has very fashionable styles of shirts. I found that other brands are either too scrubby looking or too athletic looking. Icebreaker shirts are cool enough that I’ve been able to wear them to fairly fashionable clubs without any problems.

They are hard to find because they’re so in demand. Try Amazon, or your local outdoor gear store.

Cloudveil Cool Convertible Pants

I love these pants almost as much as I love my shirts.

They’re made of brushed nylon, which is a great material for pants. These pants are super rugged, my one pair clocking in with nine months of daily use and not a single scratch, rip, or stain.

I’ve worn them exploring the jungle, on planes, to dinner, and even swimming. The key feature is that the pant legs zip off near the knees, converting them instantly into shorts. I love this feature to death. Start hiking in the morning when it’s cold, and then as it gets warmer you just zip off the legs. Perfect.

I picked these particular pants because the fabric doesn’t have that sheen and swishing noise that nylon pants usually have. In fact, they look a lot like cotton. They’re also relatively slim fitting, which is good. Most convertible pants I tried on looked like Hammer pants.

As a little bonus, the velcro pockets on the thighs are the perfect size to hold a passport. I’ll mention this because I’m a stickler for things like this – the pockets aren’t cargo pockets like most brands put in, so they are nice and flat.

Get them at Amazon.

Ex-Officio Give-N-Go Underwear

For months now the most common question we’ve received here at Gadling is, “Can you PLEASE share the details of Tynan’s underwear situation?”

The wait is over – I’m ready to reveal all.

I’m pretty into underwear. Not to the level that girls are into underwear, but enough that I once had an “underwear shootout” which involved me ordering five different kinds online and then testing them for a couple weeks before buying many pairs of the winning pair.

When I was faced with the prospect of getting travel underwear, I was concerned that I may not be able to find a pair that could stack up with the shootout winners.

Ex-Officio pulled through for me.

They have a few different styles. I went with the below the belt sport briefs. Normally I go for the boxer brief, but I’m nuts about light packing and so I opted for less fabric. Also, their version of a brief was so huge that it could probably double as a tent in a pinch.

The draw of the Ex Officios is that they dry fast. Really fast. So fast that when I demonstrated them to a couple of strippers in an all night diner before leaving for my trip, even they were impressed. Strippers are really into underwear, so I consider their approval to be a strong selling point.

Get them at Amazon.

And that’s it!

That’s all the clothing (besides outerwear) that I pack. I got rid of my shoes in favor of some that don’t require socks, but the best socks are SmartWool socks. I love them so much that I shipped mine home from Taiwan instead of throwing them out.

When you get the right gear you can get by comfortable with very little. And you can join me in mocking the backpackers that carry backpacks so big that they can actually be seen from space.