Bug Dope
Credit: Kevin Callan

Warning! Bugs are bad this spring. I must have given a couple pints of blood to the blackflies and mosquitoes last week while paddling in Algonquin.

Here is a list of gear that I used to try to deal with them:

Bug Dope

Bug repellent is your best friend; and make sure it has 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. Some recent kudos for Ben’s came from a report on CTV news just this morning:

“Consumer Reports tested 16 insect repellents with a range of active ingredients. They were tested for their effectiveness against the Aedes mosquito that can carry the Zika virus and the Culex mosquito, which can spread the West Nile virus. The lab also tested the repellents against deer ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. The most effective spray that’s available in Canada was Ben’s 30 per cent DEET Tick and Insect Wilderness Formula.”

Repellents not containing DEET are gentler to the skin and 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). 

Bug Hats

If the bug hat is on sale, it probably has mosquito mesh and not no-see-um mesh. Don’t buy it. Blackflies and those nasty “punkies” will get in. 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. My choice is Outdoor Research’s Bug Bucket. It packs down to nothing and is one of the most comfortable to wear. OR’s Spring-Ring Headnet fits good as well and is a bit cheaper.

Bug Shelters

My all-time favourite weaponry against bugs is my Eureka Bug Tarp. The bug shelter (titled “VCS Parawing shelter system”) 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 the four walls by plastic clips, making it possible to detach that section and just pack the tarp along during less buggy conditions. It’s an absolute lifesaver!

Bug Drugs

Make sure to through in some Benadryl and a good supply of After Bite to help calm your 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.