Ryan Jordan

Gnarly Mosquitoes and Combat Gear

I actually know hikers that refuse to go certain places at certain times because the mosquitoes are "bad". I know, crazy, isn’t it?

The worst I’ve experienced was on the Thorofare River south of Yellowstone Lake, in late July. But the fishing was good. Not going there because of mosquitoes would have been unthinkable.

So why do folks avoid bugs?

Because they will drive you absolutely insane if you don’t know how – or simply don’t want – to deal with them. I can’t help you too much with the latter, other than to say that whatever brings you out into the wilderness needs to be more important than some petty little nuance like dealing with biting insects. But there are some gear bits you can hang on to to help you "how".

  1. Use permithrin. Spray it on every bit of external clothing you have. Hiking pants, socks, shoes, shirt, cap, bandana, gloves, hat, the netting on your tent door, the inside of your tent/tarp/bivy sack, and for goodness sakes, yes, your headnet: anything a mosquito can jam its probiscus through or land on in your proximity. Worried about toxicity: you better stay home then, because there is no substitute.
  2. Use DEET, high roller style: 95% is your only option for serious bugs, but 35% long release is OK for tourist season. Worried about toxicity: you better stay home then, because there is no substitute. Save the Avon and so-called ‘natural’ products for your back porch. They won’t work in Yellowstone or Alaska as the snow is melting.
  3. Long pants. Long sleeve shirt. Neck protection. Maybe gaiters. A good wide brimmed hat covered with a headnet (make your own out of Tulle mesh, you can’t see out of or breathe through anything that costs more than six bucks at an outdoor specialty retailer). Worried about being too hot, because it’s summer? Slather yourself in DEET, then repeat immediately. Frequently.

BuggytentsendDo these things, and use an ultralight bivy sack with a tarp and wear earplugs. Camping in Yellowstone’s worst bogs all of a sudden becomes a reality, any time of year. And your pack stays light without losing your sanity.

Bugylegsend It also seems like everyone from California, Montana, Michigan, or Alberta thinks they have the worst populations of mosquitoes in any backcountry found anywhere. See the photos (right) from Peter Vacco from a bushwalk way up north.

We don’t know what bad mosquitoes are down here.