Hot And Badly Bugged, by J.H.L.

Protection from mosquitoes can be difficult but mosquitoes in hot weather are a particularly difficult problem. Years ago I used to know an old leather-skinned Florida Cattleman that never noticed several mosquitoes biting his bare arms; they didn’t even raise a bump. Most of us aren’t that lucky. I was a little allergic back then, a mosquito bite would often make a sore; this is more often true for children. These sores can easily get infected due to the inching and scratching over a long time period. Mosquitoes can also carry serious diseases like Malaria and Encephalitis which might not be easily cured in the future. Another concern, if you are trying to be still while hunting or being hunted it is difficult to remain undetected while swatting at bugs. Besides it is just plain miserable to be out with mosquitoes if you don’t have proper protection. Of course Insect Repellent should be in every Bug Out Bag but it takes more than that in extreme Mosquito territory! Even if you don’t expect to be out in the heat with the bugs, who knows where you will be or how well you will be equipped when the flag goes up.
As an avid outdoorsman for many years in Florida I have always been amazed, at how little time and attention is devoted to protection from mosquitoes on various survival shows and discussions. I once saw an entire show dedicated to unprepared wilderness survival in the Okefenokee Swamp (in southern Georgia ) in which the only mention of this most important outdoor problem was the suggestion to smear mud on your face and stay in the smoke! Sorry but that is not very useful advice. Much of my outdoor time has been bare bow archery hunting with a stick bow in southern swamps. This put me in the woods during a very hot time of year and required that I get very close to the game.  The need to be close kept me from covering myself with insect repellent; deer will detect and usually avoid the odor of repellent. My experience could be useful, especially if repellent is not available. Here is what I have learned through years of fighting our southern mosquitoes; they are smaller than northern ones but much quicker and much more aggressive so it is hard to defend against them.
If it is cold there is not much of a problem, thick warm clothes can protect all but the face. It is very different when it’s hot. Heat stroke is a serious and real danger, and besides, thick sweat soaked clothes are not comfortable, healthy, or practical. Even so, the right clothes can give good low tech protection. What is needed are clothes made of the thinnest cotton cloth that has an extremely tight weave. The type of material needed is the kind that a very thin dress shirt is made of.  DO NOT use T-shirts or any stretchy knit material. You need to wear two layers of long sleeve shirts and long pants made of this thin tight weave material. A very loose fit or even oversized is best. The reason for not wearing stretchy material and wearing two layers is the same. Mosquitoes don’t bite through the cloth fiber; they stick their snouts between the threads of the material as you might stick your finger through the strings that comprise a Volleyball net.  So a tight weave cloth means the gaps between the cloth threads are smaller and expand less at stress points like elbows, knees, and crotch. The gaps expand a lot on T-shirt material when stretched; that is why it doesn’t work. The reason for two layers is that with the right material, the gaps between the threads do not line up so almost all of the time when the mosquito sticks her snout through a gap in the outer layer she will hit a fiber thread on the under layer and be unable to penetrate to the skin. The reason for using thin cotton is to help stay cool. Less body heat is held under the cloth and more sweat evaporates through it. Synthetic/Cotton blends are more durable and will work but they just don’t cool as well. I’ve found that the best thing to use is loose fitting long sleeve thin cotton dress shirts and loose fitting long leg cotton pajama or lounging pants. About the Pajamas, and the shirts also, if you look around you can find some colors or patterns that blend in well and don’t look so goofy; I’ve even seen both in camouflage!
Okay, you don’t want to be seen running around the woods in your pajamas? I understand. There are alternatives.  You can use one set of the above as the under layer and use some other pants made of tight weave cotton as the outer layer, but the thicker it is the hotter you’ll be! Also you could use something like a “Bug Tamer” as the outer layer. Bug Tamer is a brand name for shirt and pants made of a fine camouflage mesh lined with a string net material. The idea is that the thicker string net will hold the light mesh material off the skin and keep the mosquitoes snout from reaching the skin. Alone it works reasonably well but gives little protection at the elbows and knees when sitting. When sitting the tightly stretched material can lay against the skin. That is why I suggest the additional under layer. While the Bug Tamer outer layer looks sportier I think it is inferior for three reasons.  First it is hotter; it traps more body heat. Second, it is much more likely to snag and tear. Third it is much more expensive than a couple pairs of K-Mart or Wall Mart draw string pajama pants.
Next you need the right head gear. The right hat is one that has a short brim all the way around and it should be covered by a head net. I prefer a military style Boonie hat made of cotton.  Cotton is cooler and is absorbent; sometimes the top of your hat is the only thing dry enough and handy to wipe sweat from your eyes.  The mosquito head net drapes loosely over the hat and brim keeping the net, and therefore the mosquitoes off the face, ears and back of the neck.  A billed baseball type cap will allow the net to lay on the ears and neck and not protect. The best head net has a black mesh area over the eyes; it is much easier to see clearly through black than green or camouflage. I think a head net should be in every Bug Out Bag! By the way, if you are without a net and have repellent it is a real bad idea to put it on your forehead or above the eyes. Sweat will cause it to run into the eyes and incapacitate you! Instead of putting it on your forehead put repellent on the under side of your hat brim. If you haven’t got a hat then a strip of bath towel folded double and tied around the head Indian style is helpful. It can protect the forehead with or without repellant, is a good sweat band, and can be used as a bandage if you need one. It is another good item for a Bug Out Bag.
Next it helps to have a pair of cotton gloves. The type sold for gardening and light yard work. Most Sporting Goods departments sell them in Camouflage. If you find some made of a synthetic material with a fuzzy exterior this will help protect from mosquitoes. The fuzz slows them down. If you are using repellent the gloves will help hold it on your hands so that it is not wiped, rubbed, or sweated off.
There is a more hi tech protection that works very well if you are stationary as when sitting or sleeping. It is a Thermo Cell. There might be other brands of this device but I have not seen them. A Thermo Cell is a device that looks a little like a large hand radio (Walkie Talkie). It contains a tiny heating coil fueled by a small butane cartridge. A repellent impregnated cloth pad fits over a metal plate heated by the coil. The heat releases repellent fumes. Each pad last about four hours and the cartridge about six or eight hours. It requires no batteries. These things protect very well and game does not seem to detect or are not bothered by the repellant. I think one of these should also be in every Bug Out Bag.
There are some plants that are said to be natural mosquito repellents but they are not helpful if they are not around when you need them. I have tried one, a Myrtle bush that is common in wetlands of the Southeastern Gulf States .  Crushing the fresh leaves and rubbing them on the skin worked surprisingly well. I only needed to reapply about once an hour; it did turn my skin green for a while though. Oh, mud doesn’t work because when it dries it cracks and/or falls off. Mosquitoes will bite through the cracks. Smoke only works while you are sitting or standing in it. It burns your eyes and makes you stink! If you are going to hunt the smell of smoke on you can alert game and keep them from coming close.
Wearing two loose layers of thin tightly woven cotton shirts and pants, a Boonie hat with a head net, and a pair of cotton gloves I have been able to spend hours of hunting and photographing wildlife in hot mosquito invested swamps using no insect repellant. Add a Thermo Cell and it’s a Cake Walk!