Insects may be small, but they can cause some serious issues when backpacking/hiking. Protecting yourself from insect-borne diseases, decreases your chances of developing a life-threatening illness.
Ariane and I try to avoid DEET as much as possible, but sometimes there is just no other choice. Here is our attack plan:
Give a 1-2 punch by using Sawyer Permethrin on hiking clothes, shoes, tent and packs (buy the kind specifically formulated for this, not the industrial strength Permethrin!) It lasts for as long as 6 weeks or up to 6 washes. And it has the power to kill 55+ species of harmful insects including spiders, mites, ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes. It can even kill the Yellow Fever Mosquito, which carries the Zika Virus.
Stay On The Trail
Don’t veer off the trail. When you hike through high grass and brush, you increase the likelihood that ticks will latch onto you. Stick to well-groomed trails where heavy vegetation is at a minimum. Plus, you’ll also stick to Leave No Trace principles when you hike this way.
Another option is to cover up as much as possible. Wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, and a hat with a head net. We wear a head net when we get those swarms of tiny gnats floating around our head and face during a long hike.
Take Breaks In Dry Areas
Like many insects, ticks and mosquitoes are attracted to damp, shaded areas. Try to take breaks in the sun if you can, and always look for a dry spot to catch your breath. Remember that ticks love humidity, so use extra caution when hiking in humid climates.
Another alternative to DEET (we haven’t personally tested these yet, we’ve heard good things about Yellow Bird’s all natural insect repellent, especially as a safe option for young one’s, or you could make your own by adding oil of lemon eucalyptus to unscented lotion and lather up. Besides taking steps to help prevent bites in the first place, always be sure to check your whole body for ticks each day after spending time in the great outdoors.
Remove any embedded ticks with tweezers by pulling them straight out and keep a close eye on the bite area.
Go to a doctor or walk in clinic if you can’t remove the entire tick, or if you have any concerning reactions to the bite, like a rash or ring forming around the bite.