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The Latest Dope on Mosquito Dope: DEET vs. Picaridin

Glenn MacGrady

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This is a 2018 meta-analysis in the Journal of Travel Medicine comparing DEET against picaridin for mosquito repellancy:


There was not a consistent difference in performance between DEET and picardin in field studies. In two studies picaridin appeared to outperform DEET, in two studies DEET appeared to outperform picardin, and in four studies these active ingredients performed equally well. It is, however, noteworthy, that in the two studies where DEET appeared to provide enhanced protection, the concentration of active ingredient in the tested DEET product was substantially higher (~1.5 or 8 times) than in the tested picaridin product.

In conclusion we feel that where 50% DEET products are available then it can be argued that the protection time advantage associated with these formulations reasonably can be invoked to consider it as a first choice repellent. Where only 30% DEET or lower concentrations are available, then on current evidence it is reasonable to offer DEET or picaridin as a first choice.

This study does not evaluate or balance the supposed "side effects" of DEET and picaridin. The following 2021 product ranking article seems to give great weight to picaridin because DEET "smells bad, feels oily, and can damage plastic and synthetic fabrics."

 
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DEET also stings like hell if you put it on just after shaving. Can't speak for picaridin. :)
 
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I only use 100% Deet (sparingly).

Smuggled in from the USofA since the max allowed here in the north is 30%.
 
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My go to bug juice is a lower concentration of DEET, usually 25%. While in theory a higher concentration gives longer lasting protection, between water and sweat I'm usually going to wash/rub it off sooner than it would lose effectiveness, so periodic reapplication is necessary anyway. The low grade DEET is less of a solvent for plastics, although I do try to keep it away from the sensitive stuff (tent, lightweight drybags, etc).
 
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My go to bug juice is a lower concentration of DEET, usually 25%. While in theory a higher concentration gives longer lasting protection, between water and sweat I'm usually going to wash/rub it off sooner than it would lose effectiveness, so periodic reapplication is necessary anyway. The low grade DEET is less of a solvent for plastics, although I do try to keep it away from the sensitive stuff (tent, lightweight drybags, etc).
I remember hearing on NPR years back of a study that found that while DEET was the most effective repellent, higher concentrations merely added to the length of time they were effective. I abhor the 100% stuff--the first time I ever used it it melted the bird guide I was carrying. As mosquitoes are a bit pesky in Alaska (especially when crawling around in the duff as a biologist), I used 15-25% solutions and just reapplied as necessary. I'd always keep some in my pocket. I'd rather reapply benign stuff than resort to the toxic sludge of 100%.
 
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Solution to the solvent for plastics problem.. Never apply with the palm or fingers of hand.. Knuckles or back of hand only.. Saves your expensive plastic electronic from dissolving.
 
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My preference for insect repellent has changed from deet to oil of lemon eucalyptus. I no longer require long duration protection and find eucalyptus effective and the least offensive to apply.

I treat my clothing and some of my equipment with Permethrin and wear a hat, long sleeve shirts and long pants so that my face, neck and hands are the only exposed body parts. I apply or reapply repellent to my clothing and skin as required before crossing portages and whenever the insects become bothersome.

I find deet uncomfortable when applied to my skin and have stained and damaged clothing and equipment by mistakenly applying it directly to it. The initial scent of eucalyptus is mildly offensive to me but quickly becomes unnoticeable.

I have yet to find a satisfactory repellent for flies.
 
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Do any of you use netting instead of repellent?

Yes of course, a GOOD head net is my primary defence, that combined with a lightweight hoodie.

The other most frequent bug issue is black flies attacking the wrist area, it's hard to find good paddling gloves that have an extended cuff so there is frequently a gap between the gloves and paddling splash jacket, the BF's get into any crack and then proceed to work their way around biting as they go.

This year I am going to try an arm sleeve like this........The fabric is thin, mosquitoes can penetrate but they have difficulty doing so and are discouraged. Mosquitoes don't bother me so much, my main concern is black flies, unlike mosquitoes black flies actually bite chunks of flesh but they are blocked completely by any type of skin covering.

1648927360942.png

Now if only I could find a similar thing for my exposed flesh when "taking care of business" (that is when I use the most Deet). Do you think there is a market for "ass sleeves"?
 
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Do any of you use netting instead of repellent?
We used to have these net jackets that were made of cotton. Loose netting, like 1/8 - 1/4" - a mosquito or black fly could easily make it through. But you stuck them in a Ziplock and "charged" them with a couple of good squirts of strong DEET. It's easily been 25 year since I last saw one, though. It was a nice alternative to spraying one's skin and they were quite effective.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Do any of you use netting instead of repellent?
I use this head net, factory impregnated with permethrin, over a hat in addition to DEET. I usually spray the DEET on my hats, collar, cuffs and socks as well as the exposed surfaces of my hands, arms and neck. The net is very light weight, packs very small, and is also effective as a physical barrier against deer flies and yellow flies.


I've never tried picaridin.
 
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Yes of course, a GOOD head net is my primary defence, that combined with a lightweight hoodie.

The other most frequent bug issue is black flies attacking the wrist area, it's hard to find good paddling gloves that have an extended cuff so there is frequently a gap between the gloves and paddling splash jacket, the BF's get into any crack and then proceed to work their way around biting as they go.

This year I am going to try an arm sleeve like this........The fabric is thin, mosquitoes can penetrate but they have difficulty doing so and are discouraged. Mosquitoes don't bother me so much, my main concern is black flies, unlike mosquitoes black flies actually bite chunks of flesh but they are blocked completely by any type of skin covering.

View attachment 130183

Now if only I could find a similar thing for my exposed flesh when "taking care of business" (that is when I use the most Deet). Do you think there is a market for "ass sleeves"?
Along those lines, I’m seeing more thumb-hole long sleeve quick dry shirts geared towards paddling. Still expose the thumb, but should get excellent overlap with gloves. From years ago I have a pair of Pearl Izumi winter cycling gloves with a very long cuff, so that it overlaps the jacket cuff when stretched out on a bike.
 
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I quit deet about 15 years ago because of the smell and potential damage to fly fishing rigs. I wear long sleeves and pants both treated with Insect Shield along with a wide brim hat. I have an Original Bug Shirt but I pretty much stay here in PA during North Woods bug season. Insect shield is based from permethrin. I’ve never used Picaridin that I’m aware.
 
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I use a fishing hoodie and a bug jacket. But when you are eating even with a bug jacket the insects invade your face.
Long sleeve fishing shirts( not the button down but rather a pullover) often have a thumb hole as they cover your hands. They are very common in Florida.
Original Bug Shirt https://www.bugshirt.com/products/original/
 
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I tried a Bug Shirt on a northern Canada trip and hated it. It was especially horrible while portaging the canoe--yoke constantly pulled the hood where I didn't want it. My permethrin-soaked clothes and a headnet sufficed admirably. I used very little bug juice (50% DEET), mostly on my hands while portaging the canoe.
 
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I tried a Bug Shirt on a northern Canada trip and hated it. It was especially horrible while portaging the canoe--yoke constantly pulled the hood where I didn't want it. My permethrin-soaked clothes and a headnet sufficed admirably. I used very little bug juice (50% DEET), mostly on my hands while portaging the canoe.
I’ve never had to wear the bug shirt but it definitely seems like it would be hot.
 
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I’ve never had to wear the bug shirt but it definitely seems like it would be hot.
Yes the bug shirt is very uncomfortable unless you are in a stationary resting location. I find that when I am constatly moving, I am not so much botheed by bugs, especially when. am alone. And the bug shirt tends to be so loose that it gets caught on everything when bushwhacking off trail.
 
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picaridinI quit deet about 15 years ago because of the smell and potential damage to fly fishing rigs. I wear long sleeves and pants both treated with Insect Shield along with a wide brim hat. I have an Original Bug Shirt but I pretty much stay here in PA during North Woods bug season. Insect shield is based from permethrin. I’ve never used Picaridin that I’m aware.
Big fan of Insect Shield clothing; lasts for years, no reapplying every 7-8 washings.
As far as DEET/Picaridin goes, I've always followed Consumer Reports results. They seem to lean towards DEET as being more consistently effective but there is variation among specific products. Surprising to me is that many of the top recommendations are only 25-30% DEET; top rated Ben's products are all 30%. They also have had excellent test results with lemon/eucalyptus; so I tend to carry both with me.
 
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