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Build a Suit of Bug-Proof Armor

23 May 2013


By Bill Miller

Don’t let anyone try to fool you. If you’re headed to Quebec for a bear hunt this spring or an inland fishing adventure during June, July, August, and a good chunk of September you need to come prepared to deal with biting insects. The most immediately annoying are mosquitos and black flies. Less conspicuous, but with greater potentially unhealthful long term effects are various ticks you’ll encounter in southern regions of the province.

These insects shouldn’t put you off your trip. They are no worse in Quebec than they are in many other locations where the best hunting and fishing adventures await. Simply plan and prepare, and bring what’s needed to ward off the bloodthirsty horde. Properly girded you’ll barely notice the bugs.



We’re blessed to be among the generation hunting and fishing this earth with the option to choose a Thermacell ( unit as a companion in the field. For many of us, the Thermacell makes spring and summer activity in the woods not only bearable, but possible at all.

If you aren’t familiar with the Thermacell (if that’s possible by now), it’s a little-bigger-than-a-smart-phone unit that creates a tiny butane fueled flame that heats a repellant impregnated pad. The heat releases the repellant into the air which (almost miraculously) clears an area of flying, biting insects within approximately a 7-foot radius. It’s not as effective in the breeze, but then the bugs aren’t nearly as bad if you’re situated in a breeze.

Thermacells come in a couple of models. There’s the basic field unit that even comes in camouflage if you feel that’s important. I’ve also seen prototypes of the field model that will incorporate a flashlight, too. There’s also a larger model that is built around a battery-powered lantern. The latter is perfect for use around the campfire. One under each camper’s stool will keep all singers, storytellers, and marshmallow-toasters comfortable.

Some will try to warn you that a Thermacell will scare away wary spring bears and early season moose or deer in September. That’s not been my experience. If you’re hunting with the wind in your favor, like you should be, then the game won’t be able to smell the Thermacell … or you. My view is it’s much more important to be able to sit still so you won’t be spotted, and the Thermacell definitely makes that easier. Additionally, Thermacell offers “earth scent” repellant pads if you want an extra degree of prevention against alerting wary game.

If for some reason, you want to go “old school” in repelling mosquitos and other insects, select a rub on or spray on insect repellent with as high a DEET content as you can find. Creams or rub-on repellants allow you to control more precisely where you apply the protection and reduce waste. I use the old gun cleaning trick of putting the repellant on one small cloth each time, then sealing that rag up on a glass jar after each use. (You can’t use a sandwich bag like you do for your gun oil cloth because the DEET will eat right through it!)

And remember, avoid DEET on the palms of your hands or anywhere that’s likely to touch any kind of plastic or varnished finish (rod and reel handles, gun stocks, bow grips, etc.) because the DEET will react with finish and ultimately soften and disfigure it.) It’s sort of a weak version of furniture refinishing solution. With that thought in mind, I try to avoid putting repellants directly on my skin any more. I prefer to spray my clothing with the repellant, or forego it all together and just use the Thermacell for flying, biting insects.

While DEET repellants may help with ticks, products containing the chemical Permethrin are a more secure choice and the treatment lasts longer. Warning! Permethrin repellants are not meant for direct application to human skin. These should be applied only to clothing with a brief drying period before putting them on. Heavy up on your socks, pants cuffs and shirt sleeves – the places where ticks are mostly likely to begin their crawl.


Clothing & Barriers

While Thermacells and repellant applications will box out about any mosquito, eliminating the annoyance of black flies sometimes requires additional steps – namely a bug suit and head net. I remember one trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota in the days BT (before Thermacell) when we lived in our head nets and long sleeve shirts. To eat a sandwich you quickly lifted your net, took a bite, put the net back down, then spent a minute pinching the bugs that had snuck in, then repeat …

Any fine-mesh bug suit works well, and they are made large enough to slip over any clothes you want to wear underneath. Look for a suit with a head net built right into the hood; the less openings, the less chances there are for flying or crawling bugs to find their way inside. Elastic cuffs are good, but when the bugs are especially bad, it’s a good idea to secure cuffs at the wrists and the ankles with duct tape. (Don’t worry. No one is judging a fashion contest out in the woods!)

The next generation in tick deterring clothing is ElimiTick from Gamehide. (  They have developed a process that bonds repellant (a man made version of the natural repellant found in chrysanthemum flowers) to fabric fibers. The active ingredient is so tightly bonded repellency effectiveness is retained throughout the expected life of the garment – that’s through at least 70 washings. The repellent in ElimiTick is odorless and invisible. It is the first ever U.S. EPA-registered insect repellant clothing. Insect Shield repellent products have been rated category IV, which is the most favorable rating. It’s been deemed appropriate for use by infants and children of all ages.

Team up a Thermacell, a headnet, an ElimiTick suit, and a roll of duct tape, and you’ve crafted a nearly impenetrable suit of armor when it comes to mosquitos, black flies and ticks. But don’t forget the vigilance. A nightly tick-check back in camp is a smart idea anyway … just to be sure.

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