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Insect Repellents

Friday, 01 June 2012 22:08

Everyone knows that insect repellent can make a big difference while at a cookout, camping, or conducting an outdoors event. This would be even truer during a survival situation. I recently conducted a two day survival training event in Virginia, miles away from civilization. To say there were a lot of insects and other wildlife would be an understatement. The training location was a large primitive hunting property, and prior to the event the property owner repeatedly expressed the need for insect repellent. Following his words of wisdom I began conducting research to find the best products. 


Insect repellents were created to repel insects. Simple right? There are several different types of insect repellents on the market. Some are effective at repelling insects, while some will kill them. We all agree that most insects are a nuisance, but some actually carry viruses that can make you sick and in extreme cases can kill you. In a survival situation, or for any outdoors event, you should treat your skin and hair, but also treat your clothing. I apply DEET based formulas to my hair and skin, and use Permethrin to treat my clothes. 

Your Body

To treat your body, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using insect repellents which have DEET or Picaridin as the main active ingredient. For applying insect repellent to your body, you have two choices: spray or lotion. I have always been a fan of spray repellent. It is simple to use, and usually does not leave an oily residue. For children, I like the lotion based formulas, which are easy to apply especially if the child will not stay still or cannot close their eyes. 

If I had to choose between spray and lotion for a Survival Bag, I would go with a spray repellent. In addition to applying repellent to your skin, the spray method will also allow you to spray your clothing, shoes, and hair. Try doing that with a lotion based repellent. While spraying skin specific repellent on clothing is not a long term effective solution, you can use it for an emergency. Most insect repellents that are applied to the skin last between 1 and 5 hours. The general rule is to put more on if insects start biting you.

Your Clothing and Gear

There are many myths concerning if children can use DEET based formulas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), no definitive studies exist in the scientific literature about what concentration of DEET is safe for children (Source: CDC). No serious illness has been linked to the use of DEET in children when used according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “insect repellents containing with a concentration of 10% appear to be as safe as products with a concentration of 30% when used according to the directions on the product labels. (Source: CDC).” I recommend to follow manufacture guidelines, and do not use insect repellents on children under two months of age. 

Permethrin products, such a Sawyer’s Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent, can make a huge difference when in the wild. Most Permethrin products are non-toxic to humans and are odorless. Permethrin is a synthetic molecule similar to those found in natural pyrethrum, which is taken from the chrysanthemum flower. You can use Permethrin to treat clothing, tents, shoes, and other fabrics, without the fear of damaging these materials. Unlike skin applied insect repellents, Permethrin treatments are generally water resistant and can remain on fabrics for several weeks. Permethrin is easy to apply. I use Permethrin to treat all of the clothing in my survival bag, my tent, and my actual survival bag. 

So how effective is Permethrin? During the survival training exercise, we came into immediate contact with ticks. While setting up our tents several of us noticed large ticks climbing the tents. None of our tents were treated with Permethrin. In contrast, I watched a tick climb up my untreated boot, and then onto my pants which was treated with Permethrin. After climbing about an inch on my pants leg, the tick immediately turned around, climbed off my boot, and back onto the dirt. It appears my Permethrin protection worked. I have since treated all my survival related fabrics (clothing, shoes, tent, and tarp) with Permethrin. 

Recommended Products

    1. Sawyer Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent
    2. Sawyer Premium MAXI-DEET Insect Repellent Pump Spray
    3. Repel 100 1 oz DEET (For Survival Bag)



I heavily recommend using insect repellents, but you should use a combination of skin and fabric based repellents. I heavily recommend Sawyer brand products, but I am sure others will suffice. Closely read manufacture guidelines, and re-apply if you fill they are being ineffective. Be Prepared. Get Connected. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 18:05
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