Insect repellent clothing: Keep bugs away without sprays or lotions

by Health

Keep mosquitoes, ticks, flies, chiggers and more from biting without dousing your skin with chemicals. How? With insect repellent clothing infused with permethrin, a chemical approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There is no odor, you don’t have to worry about reapplying chemicals or their potential hazards, and the insect repellency lasts at least 70 launderings, which is the life expectancy of such treated garments per manufacturers.

Insect repellent clothing -- A fabulous Insect Shield hoody and an Insect Shield bandana left mosquitos with no where to go but far away from me.

A fabulous Insect Shield hoody and an Insect Shield bandana left mosquitoes with nowhere to go but far away from me.

The fabric technology used by most clothing companies, even those with their own fancy names such as BugsAway and NosiLife, is actually called Insect Shield. The technology embeds 0.52 percent permethrin into the fabric fibers, ensuring bug protection anywhere your skin is covered by the fabric.

If there is any downside to the technology, it is that you have to launder garments containing Insect Shield separately from other clothing. Indeed, that can be a bit of a pain, but a small price to pay, in our opinion, for insect protection that is far more effective and safer than applying chemicals directly to your skin. Another benefit: Insect Shield fabrics are approved for wear by adults and children.

Insect repellent clothing in real-world testing

I recently tested some clothing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska where the mosquitoes can be so thick they block out the sun … well, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but really only slight.

Happily wearing my insect repellent clothing -- ExOfficio Lumen Hoody and Cragghoppers pants

Happily wearing my insect repellent clothing — the ExOfficio BugsAway Lumos Hoody and Craghoppers NosiLife Pro Lite pants in the midst of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge mosquito hordes.

If your travels take you where there is a threat of suffering insect bites that are at best irritating and at worse a serious health risk – think malaria, Lyme disease, typhus, yellow fever, etc. – you would do well to outfit yourself with at least a long-sleeve shirt and long pants made with Insect Shield. Bandanas are a great item too.

My current overall favorite piece of Insect Shield clothing is the ExOfficio BugsAway Lumos Hoody ($65; also available is the women’s BugsAway Lumen Hoody, $60). This phenomenal piece of insect repellent clothing is made with a lightweight cotton/polyester mesh that helped me stay cool, even when wearing the shirt under a hot, intense Arctic sun. Thumb loops keep the sleeves down over the hands, minimizing skin exposed to biting creatures or sun. But perhaps most impressive was what I experienced when the hood was deployed, so to speak. While others on the trip were resorting to head nets (think mosquito netting over your head like a bag, which doesn’t look good, hinders eating and drinking, and is a pain to wear) I simply pulled up the loose, generous hood. It covered the sides of my face sufficiently so I never had to rely on a head net and yet, the mosquitoes stayed away from the exposed skin. Impressive to say the least.

Insect repellent pants and shirts do their job

For pants, I opted for the Craghoppers NosiLife Pro Lite Pants ($70). They proved very lightweight, durable and comfy, yet nice enough to even wear on the plane and in town. With three zip pockets, items such as wallet, keys and money never were at risk of slipping out inadvertently. In addition to the insect-repelling protection of Insect Shield, the pants also feature SolarShield, providing 40+ UPF sun protection.

When I was not wearing the hoody, on came the Craghoppers NosiLife Pro Lite Long Sleeve Shirt ($70). As with the pants, the insect-repelling shirt is comfy and durable, yet still nice enough to wear around town, plus has sun protection. But, alas, no hood, so either a head bug net was required or chemical insect repellent to neck, face and scalp to keep mosquitoes away.

But wait, there are more insect repellent products

Other Insect Shield products to consider packing along depending on where your adventures and travels take you:

Blankets and throws can serve well for urban or less outback travels. Throw them under you, over you, or around you.

Insect Shield Islander Blanket

Insect Shield Islander Blanket

  • Islander Insect Shield Blanket from ENO ($70). Made from feather light, easy-to-wash parachute nylon the Islander packs away in its stuff sack for easy storage. Perfect for picnics and the beach or other warm weather getaways.
  • The Insect Shield Outdoor Blanket ($34.95) is a lightweight throw (18 ounces, 56 inches by 74 inches) that also works well for picnics or even on the deck or tossed over your legs (or you and another!). Made of polyester, it will still offer lightweight protection but also a bit of warmth.
  • Want something smaller? The Insect Shield Mini Blanket ($16) is perfect as a quick throw or as a personal sitting blanket at 28 inches by 36 inches.

If you don’t have a hoody, you’ll need additional insect protection for your neck and head:

  • You can’t get much more versatile, compact or lightweight than with the Buff UV Insect Shield Headband ($36). Moisture-wicking comfort with sun and insect protection too. Buffs also work great as armbands, neckbands, scarf hats, even bandeau tops.
  • How about a shawl that presto change does a whole lot more? The ExOfficio BugsAway Lumen Wrap ($35) can envelop your entire upper body in soft, insect-repelling snuggliness (Just ask Therese). But at 32 inches by 76 inches, the polyester-cotton wrap is large enough to wrap around your legs or even use as a small sitting throw.
  • Don’t forget about Fido either. Protect your pet from bites with the Insect Shield Insect Repellent Dog Blanket ($40). At approximately 4 feet by 5 feet, your pet might even be willing to share its space with you.



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Michael Hodgson

Co-Conspirator at HI Travel Tales
Winner of a 2018 Silver Medal from the North American Travel Journalists Association for travel writing excellence, Michael has authored more than 16 books and penned many hundreds of feature articles over the years. His bylines have appeared in Backpacker, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Outside, The San Jose Mercury News, Portland Oregonian and more. His travels have taken him to all seven continents. He is a member in good standing of the North American Travel Journalists Association and the Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
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