Phantom ticks have to be the worst. It’s when you’re lying cozy in your sleeping bag and, after having pulled so many ticks off your body throughout the day, you begin imagining them crawling all over you while you sleep.

Nova Scotia had a good crop of wood ticks (and a few black-legged ticks, carriers of Lyme disease) when I paddled the province’s Shelburne River last week. It was a record high, locals said. After every portage, I’d pull up my pant-leg or feel under my armpit and discover one or two. Thankfully I only discovered one black-legged tick, and he hadn’t burrowed into my skin yet.

Mosquitoes and black flies were out in full-force on the Shelburne as well. It’s been a wet spring, making for the perfect storm.

Bug repellent was out best friend on trip; and we made sure it had DEET (Diethyltoluamide). This chemical is mostly effective in keeping blackflies, mosquitoes, no-see-ums and ticks away from your exposed skin. I prefer Ben’s. It’s water-based, not alcohol-based. This means it doesn’t absorb into your skin as easily, you don’t have as much of a nasty bug spray odour and less of the DEET will evaporate. Plus, it doesn’t hurt like hell when you get some in your eyes. (It’s not flammable, though, so don’t use it as a backup fire-starter.)

Repellents not containing DEET are gentler to the skin and some are almost as effective. They usually don’t last as long though. My choice is Natrapel—a plant based Citriodiol, derived from lemon eucalyptus trees. It lasts longer than most other botanic-based formulas (approximately six hours).

I also packed Ben’s bug hat. This is awesome: lightweight, compact and a good price. Whatever bug hat you purchase, just make sure it’s not a “mosquito” mesh. It must be made of no-see-um mesh. Blackflies and those nasty “punkies” will get in a mosquito net. Make sure it’s black mesh as well—you can see out it better. If it’s not, colour the portion in front of your eyes with a black marker. None of them are really comfortable to wear and I usually avoid them if I can.

Kevin CallanKevin Callan

My all-time favourite weaponry against bugs is my Eureka NoBugZone. The bug shelter is a regular rain tarp with a fine mesh attached to the four walls. The whole outfit weights about two kilograms. It also uses no-see-um netting, which makes it far more effective against “punkies.” The netting is attached to a tarp and provides shelter from bugs and rain. It’s an absolute lifesaver!

I packed some Benadryl and a good supply of After Bite to help calm my body’s reaction from the bug bites. If you are bitten enough, your glands will swell and you’ll become overwhelmed with nausea and fatigue.

Check out the video of what I packed for the Shelburne trip—and stay tuned for my video series on the trip as well.

Watch the Video Here:

Get the Best Camping Gear!

Join our exclusive club: