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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
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