A recent newspaper comic strip I read depicted a small boy asking his father about the most dangerous animal in the woods. Without a flinch, the father replied that the most dangerous animal is indeed the tiny, inconspicuous wood tick.
I have a friend who has suffered the ill effects of Lyme disease. It’s a long, horrible and draining sickness that I would not wish on an enemy, and since this person’s diagnosis I’ve been doubly conscious of the small dangers in the woods.
In addition to bug spray, long socks and a good bodily inspection after any day outside, I’ve been testing clothing this summer made to ward off insects, including ticks, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, ants and other creepy crawlers. Ex Officio infuses its Buzz Off clothing line with Permethrin, a man-made form of a natural insect repellent found in the Chrysanthemum plant.
The company (www.exofficio.com) sells shorts, shirts, pants, hats, socks, bandanas and kids clothing in its Buzz Off line. Garments retain the chemical that repels insects through 25 washings, according to Ex Officio. Using the clothing either reduces the need to apply insect-repellent creams, lotions and sprays, or it adds another layer of protection when used in addition to the traditional antidotes.
In my tests, the bugs did seem to distain anything with the Buzz Off name attached to it. I tried out the nylon Convertible Pants ($79), the polyester/rayon Crosscheck Long Sleeve shirt ($69), the Super hiker sock ($20) and the Buzz Off Hat ($28). Flies noticeably avoided contact with my head one particularly buggy day in the woods while wearing the hat. My hiking partner was swatting and slowly accumulating bite welts on the back of his neck, but I was left pretty much untouched.
It’s hard to say whether or not the clothes warded off ticks in my tests. But after one particularly long day in the woods I came home, showered and found not a single small, evil fellow on my body.
Beyond its bug-eschewing qualities, the Buzz Off line is comprised of highly-functional, good-quality clothing. The Convertible pants are airy and breathable, for example, and the zip-off legs are a nice extra touch. They dry quick when wet and are durable enough for moderate bushwhacking. The Buzz Off Hat is made of a similar lightweight nylon that breathes well, even on hot and humid days. It has a neck-covering cape that protects from both the sun and the bugs, and it folds up and away when not in use.