How to: Survive Bug Biting Season (and Giveaway)

Spring in the White Mountains is here! After a long snowy winter many climbers and hikers are chomping at the chance to get on some dry rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and trail running. Unfortunately in a couple more weeks many insects will be chomping at the chance to chomp on us! Get your bug defense program up and running before “Black Fly Season” gets underway!

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review
Black flies try to fly away with Tom while rock climbing in the White Mountains. How many can you count?

In this post I’d like to share some time tested strategies to keep the dreaded “bug season” from keeping you from enjoying what it is you do in the mountains. To combat these little buggers we will use a four-pronged approach! Clothing, Repellent, Timing, Location.


Clothing

The first line of defense should be clothing. Everyone knows long-sleeves and pants are preferable for bug protection but they seem so hot when the temperature and humidity is high right? Some long-sleeve options actually feel cooler than going shirtless! Here’s my current favorite tops when dealing with an onslaught of bloodthirsty insects and warm temps!

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hooded Shirt

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody

Detailed Review HERE Buy direct from: Patagonia Backcountry Moosejaw

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody
The author wears his Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody on a summer rock climb of Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket Detailed Review HERE Moosejaw

These two pieces are super breathable and basically come with me on every adventure from April to September! For some lightweight breathable hiking and climbing pants check out the ExOfficio BugsAway Sol Cool Ampario Pants.


Repellant

We will look at two layers of repellant. One for your clothing/gear and one for your skin. Without question the most effective insect repellent is permethrin.

bug protection permethrin
Permethrin for Clothing, Gear, & Tents- buy on Amazon

I’ve used this for over two decades and its effectiveness was proven time and time again from jungle warfare training outside of Iquitos, Peru to the northern jungle of Okinawa, Japan. Some clothes like the ExOfficio BugsAway Ventana Jacket and the Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Traveler Pants come pre-treated with permethrin for convenience. You can also just buy a bottle of it to treat the clothing your already own. I treat a couple pairs of climbing pants every Spring and my approach shoes and haven’t had a tick attach to me in years!


DEET

Between wearing the proper clothing and treating it with Permethrin I rarely need to apply DEET to stay bite free but I do carry it as insurance during the worst feeding frenzies. A small application behind the ears and back of the neck can make leading a rock climb much more bare-able when those alpine gnats come out. Since I use it sparingly I tend to only pack the smallest of bottles like this great .5 ounce one from Sawyer. There are lots of size options for both spray and time-released lotions on Amazon.

Sawyer Heavy Biting DEET
Buy on Moosejaw/Amazon

Timing/Location

Finally timing and location can help avoid the little nasties. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk so you could plan to be inside during those times. If you only have time to climb around dusk you could pick crags with consistent breezes. Some of my favorite destinations during the peak feeding season are Square Ledge in Pinkham Notch, Profile Cliff in Franconia Notch, Table Mountain off of Bear Notch Rd., and higher elevation stuff like Huntington Ravine (beware of those alpine gnats though). Avoid the low lying swampy areas during peak feeding times.

Pawtuckaway State Park, Stonehouse Pond, Longstack, lower Shell Pond, and even the North End of Cathedral Ledge can all be particularly nasty just before dusk during the peak feeding season. If you are walking through fields or tall grass on your hike out just assume you’ll pick up a few ticks and do a quick check at the car. I once skipped a tick check before driving home from a hike in Madison, NH and discovered 7 ticks crawling up my bare legs while driving (I wasn’t wearing my treated hiking shoes that day or wearing any repellent).


Shop Local

You can pick up most of the DEET and Permethrin products I suggested and support local businesses while in the White Mountains at these great shops!

International Mountain Equipment, North Conway

Ragged Mountain Equipment, Bartlett

Eastern Mountain Sports, North Conway

LL Bean, North Conway


Summary & Giveaway

Southern New England is already seeing the tick and mosquitoes appear which means we only have a week or two in the White Mountains before bug biting season starts for us. Now is the time to shore up your insect defense plan! To get your started you can enter to win a 3 oz bottle of Sawyer Premium Maxi DEET Insect Repellant. You can enter multiple ways through this link below!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sawyer Premium Maxi DEET Insect Repellant
Sawyer Premium Maxi DEET Insect Repellant

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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6 thoughts on “How to: Survive Bug Biting Season (and Giveaway)

  1. Great post, Dave!
    If I may put in a plug to “buy local”, Littleton, NH’s Tender Corp is sold under the brand-name Ben’s, http://bens30.com/
    My first line of defense has been Ben’s Natrapel, a picardin-based formula with citronella, it smells good, it’s only marginally effective, but I don’t hesitate (compared to sparingly-applied DEET) to cover lots of bare skin with it; Natrapel has become hard to find in stores, still listed on-line at http://www.walmart.com
    For hungry black flies, Ben’s 100% DEET is priceless: I always carry 2 in my 3-season pack.
    Ben’s also markets a “clothing & gear” Permethrine product, though I haven’t tried it.
    My last line of defense, when the black flies are in a feeding-frenzy, is Ole Time Woodsmans Fly Dope, BUT DO NOT apply it directly to skin, valuable clothing or gear. It works great on a bandana, or the outside of an old baseball cap, that I reserve for hiking in extreme conditions. https://oletimewoodsman.com/ it smells awful… but effective on the worst days.

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    • Thanks for the comment and product suggestions! You reminded me I wanted to mention local shops that stock many of these products so I have updated the post to include this info!

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  2. Yikes nasty bug bites are the worst. I have heard of the natural patches where u can stick on yourself and it will repel them.. also the electronic buzzing device that they don’t like.. hmm many ways.

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  3. When the bugs see me they hollar buffet is open boys, dig in, but no more some of those pesky buggers hurt so now I use bug spray and burn citronella on the patio, also use a bug zapper.

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