Insect protection

There’s been a bit of comment on the TGO Challenge message board that this year’s Challenge might be plagued with midges and ticks. The mild winter has led to an early appearance of midges and ticks. Indeed, I’ve even noticed here, down south, there are a lot of midges about, fortunately the non-biting kind. I’m doing a low level route with a number of pitches near lochs. Glen Etive and Glen Coe have a reputation for midges, so it seemed like a good idea to look into some ways to combat the insect menace.

I had bought some “normal” bug repellent, but some inquiries and research suggested that extra special measures are required against the Scottish midge. Reputedly, Smidge is the most effective deterrent, so a can was ordered. Delivery was amazingly quick. I ordered in the afternoon and it was with me the next morning. I tested a small amount on the back of my hand to ensure I wasn’t allergic. The aroma is a not unpleasant citrus smell. It comes out of the can as a light cream which is easy to spread. The metal can makes it a bit heavy at 106g, but I’m not sure that I can decant it to anything else. There’s easily enough for two weeks.

As I can’t spread the Smidge onto clothing, I’ve bought some PreVent natural pyrethrum. I intend to spray some on to the top of my boots and around the bottom of my trousers, more to ward off ticks than midges. I’ve also bought some cotton stretch bands that I can impregnate and use around use around my ankles or wrists. PreVent weighs 41g. Possibly I could use this instead of Smidge, but Smidge might be more effective.

For inside the tent, I pondered whether to take some mosquito coils but there is some debate over their effectiveness and toxicity. Instead, I’m taking the Lifesystems portable mosquito killer. This is a battery powered unit that disperses Transfluthrin, which is harmless to humans but fatal to insects. It is very lightweight at 76g (without two AA batteries). The repellent cartridge lasts for about seven nights so should easily be enough for one crossing. It is completely silent and seems to me to be quite a neat way of killing unwanted insects in a tent with no health or fire risk. Mine cost £10, but you can get them a bit cheaper.

Last, but not least I bought some After Bite in case I do get bitten. I shall also be taking some antihistamines, which I will need for allergies anyway. Last but not least, I have some tick twister tick removers in case I pick one up, as well as a mirror for tick inspections. Total weight for all this is c.250g, which is a bit more than I’d like. I’ll share the batteries with my shaver for the Lifesystems unit. I’m also talking to Sean about a simple bug bivvy, very lightweight for lunch stops.


30 thoughts on “Insect protection”

  1. I remember when on a motorcycle tour up in the Highlands about eight years ago I met a German biker who told me that many of the Islanders recommened VO5 hair spray to keep them away! I wondered if they were just trying to make a few quid or did it genuinely work? I used to use this gel called Bushman when in Australia. It has deet in it and I noticed my clothing decomposing when using it in Thailand!

    Or you could do what the native Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia do and chuck some of the termite mine onto the fire!

  2. Thanks for this, you’ve reminded me to get some pyrethrum and afterbite. We’ve used smidge before and found it not so effective, glencoe in may. Their iphone app is pretty handy tho! good luck with the prep

  3. I’ve never needed insect repellent on the Challenge and I’m not planning on taking any this year. The weather is turning colder with snow forecast today. Those early midges may not appear! Later in the season (usually late June onwards) I use Mosiguard repellent (non-DEET), which I find effective, and burn mosquito coils in the tent porch.

    1. I’ve never been to Scotland when there are midges about so I’m erring on the side of caution 🙂 I’m also taking a low route where they might be more of a problem. Shame the Smidge isn’t available in a smaller size.

  4. Robin some good info here. I will store away for when midge season really starts up. Actually a heck of a lot of them on my trip last week to Wild Boar Fell, but as Chris says hopefully the cold weather will keep them at bay for awhile. When I was up in Skye last summer I saw midge suits. Has anyone experience of them? Might be quite good for lunch stops/evenings etc and not that expensive.

    1. I’ve seen the midge jackets but if you’ve got a decent wind proof you can supplement it with a headnet. You can also get net gloves, so a suit seems a bit superfluous.

  5. There have been plenty of the non-biting midges about here for the past couple of weeks of non-seasonal warm weather, but as Chris said, the snow has returned. Hopefully this will kill them off. I usually use Avon Skin So Soft as a midge deterrent and find it ok. I still get some bites, but that may be where I missed bits of skin or rubbed it. But it’s better than nothing and I’m not prepared to cover myself with a DEET product unless it’s somewhere where malaria-carrying mosquitoes are present.

    At the moment I’m more concerned about ticks. As I mentioned in my blog post, I’ve already removed 4 this year that had started feeding on me. Ticks in March! I’ve bought and used Mosi-guard as that is recommenced as being effective at repelling ticks. I bought the 100ml spray bottle for use at home (I’ve picked up ticks in the local woods) and a 60ml roll on bottle to carry in my backpack.

    1. Thanks. I won’t use DEET either. PreVent and Smidge are supposed to be effective against ticks.

      Let’s hope the cold weather and snow does indeed kill off the midges 🙂

  6. Hi Robin,
    I have never found Skin So Soft works at all. I think it’s a bit of a misnomer.
    I have tried all the usual sprays etc but i couldn’t tell you if one was better than the other. I have brought one back with me from New Zealand called Goodbye Sandfly (Works on Mozzies too allegedly. We will see this summer).
    When we did the Rob Roy way we were inundated with biting midge and nothing stopped them biting. My midge net and clothes were covered and then when you get in the tent you obviously have a tent full. It will be very interesting to see how your battery operated mozzy killer works for instances like this. Is there a killing distance given in the bumf.

  7. If it works i think that’s a good bit of kit. I will keep an eye on that.
    I have tried the mozzy coils in the porch, like Chris. i must say that i wasn’t too impressed with the fume. Gave me a right headache. It would be interesting to hear Chris’s view on them.
    I have to have something though, anything! I get bit to death when others don’t seem to get bothered. Must be the Holts bitter they like.
    I’ve never tried Skitostop before.

    1. I’ve never had a headache from mozzy coils. I probably wouldn’t use them if I had. They can make the porch rather muggy but they do keep the midges out.

      I’ve found Skitostop works well too.

  8. Well the mozzy coils are cheep so i might just take some out with me this summer and give them another go.
    Thanks for the info on the Skitostop. Next nice day we get i will do the tent inners.

  9. Mosiguard for us, seems to work best of the non-DEET ones we’ve tried. The Skitostop looks interesting, might btry that.
    We’ve never bothered with any repellent inside the tent (inside the inner I mean), hardly any of them make it inside and we splat those.
    By the way: link to TGO board – no worky.

  10. Hi Robin, just found your blog as you mentioned smidge. Our active ingredient is called Saltidin which scientifically proven to be effective against midges and ticks as you mentioned. The tick effectiveness is given as up to 6 hours but ticks are a bit more sneaky in reality and it doesn’t mean a rogue one wont latch its self on – this includes for any repellent active. Also if you are in prime tick country the abrasion on the repellent covered skin will remove it far quicker than normal.

    Let us know how you get on!

  11. Hi Robin, just found your blog. Smidge contains the repellent active Saltidin which is effective as you mentioned on midges and ticks. The data is from several scientific trials and the 8 hour protection holds up well against midges (I have spent a few nights in the woods of Lochaber comparing it to a few of the other products mentioned by others). We have not verified it against ticks ourselves (I am very thankful of this as they scare me) but several customers have done leg comparisons for us to great success. However the 6 hours it is effective against ticks in the very controlled studies for legal purposes may not count on the craftiness of ticks who will find bits you missed. Also in prime tick territory the abrasion on your legs from the flora will make any repellent wear off quicker than anticipated.

    Let us know how you get on!

    1. Thanks. It’s a shame you don’t do it in a smaller and lighter size as it’s quite heavy for a lightweight backpacker. It may not make the cut!

      1. At the moment we are just going into our 3rd year – so order quantities are still relatively small (even though we have already sold as much this year as the whole of 2011) so have to stick to one size. Normally we get asked for larger family sized options but I will take note and there is scope for a smaller volume in a plastic bottle in the manufacturing options. In year one the metal bottle was a screw cap and smidge could be decanted – however a few people complained that the cap had came loose and contents leaked out so we went for the sealed option. Thanks for the feedback!

      2. I understand that people like me are in a minority! The ability to decant small quantities would be great.

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