Remember a few weeks ago, when I ran off to the middle of the woods for America’s birthday?
The area we visited is in the northern Adirondack mountains, within spitting distance of the Canadian wilderness. Our family friend has what’s referred to as a “camp”; a small house with a couple of outbuildings plopped in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by maple trees and a beautiful river. It’s gorgeous, and in the spring it’s an actual, working maple sugar farm.
It was a lovely weekend, full of family and good food and laughter and beers. Oh, and bugs. SO. MANY. BUGS.
We expect the bugs, based on this kind of setting, but this year seemed extra buggy. Everyone was speculating about the reason, like an extra wet spring, or an increase in the number of people at camp (there were 19 people, and three dogs… I think it was a record), but the reason was irrelevant. The bottom line was that it sucked.
I tried to be prepared this year and brought extra bug spray. The other families brought bug spray. There was communal bug spray at the cabin. We used almost all of it because there were 19 people reapplying it every half hour, all day long, for three solid days. We all still ended up as buffets for bugs, but some of them worked better than others.
Pro: Smells good. I appreciate that it’s combined with sunscreen so we didn’t have to do multiple steps. The spray wasn’t too aggressive. Kept the black flies and gnats at bay. Reasonably priced.
Con: The mosquitoes had zero fucks to give about us wearing this. They stayed off for about five minutes before continuing to chow down on our tasty blood.
Pro: Also smells good and isn’t insanely expensive. This had a little more staying power than the above, especially on our clothes. This also kept away the gnats and black flies.
Con: While this did keep the mosquitoes away for longer than the last spray, I still found myself reapplying about every 20 minutes, especially in the evenings. This is also supposed to be washed off at the end of the day. Part of me is on board with that, because ew sleeping in bug spray, but sometimes I’m just too lazy. Also, mosquitoes get inside, and I don’t want to spend the entire night being gnawed on.
Pro: This is made by a small, family-owned company in Iowa and it’s natural, so I felt like I was doing a good thing by purchasing it. It smells really good and doesn’t feel greasy or heavy.
Con: I had multiple people try this over the course of the weekend, and the bugs gave zero fucks about it. It didn’t keep shit away, and the nozzle leaked to boot. I was so disappointed.
Pro: It’s relatively cheap and easily acquired.
Con: Literally everything else; it smells bad. It feels sticky and makes me want to scrub my skin off. DEET isn’t good for anyone. And even after all that, the bugs chowed through it on my skin and my clothes. What’s the point of buying and using something that claims to be MAX FORMULA FOR MEN IN THE WILDERNESS if it doesn’t actually do the job?
Pro: Smells ok. Feels light on my skin instead of greasy or sticky. Supposedly leaves out the hazardous chemicals in favor of healthier ingredients.
Con: At the point that I tried this one my feet and ankles were already swollen from dozens of bug bites, so I’m not actually sure whether it worked or not. I didn’t get many extra bites on the top half of my body when I used it, so maybe it’s ok.
So all in all, nothing kept those little bastards away from my feet and ankles. The entire weekend was unusually hot so putting on real shoes or pants was not an option. When given the choice between being hot as balls and being a snack for bugs, I chose the latter. Of all of the sprays though, I’d say the winner is the Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin. I bought another bottle and plan to use it again on some slightly less intense bugs.
Honorable mention: Walgreens Wal-Dryl Itch Relief Spray
Have you ever been so itchy that it’s driving you literally insane, and it’s the only thing you can think about? Yeah, that was me by the time I got home from camp. I bought one of these and used the entire thing. It’s amazing.