Hate mosquitoes? Me too. That’s why I jumped at the chance to test a new bug jacket from Columbia Sportswear this month. The Bug Shield jacket is made of mesh and it features Columbia’s Insect Blocker treatment, which is like a permanent bug spray on the jacket’s outer face.
I tested the jacket on a multi-day trek in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area via the Border Route Trail (see our trip report here). The area is widely known for its stunning vistas as well as its stupefying quantities of Minnesota’s nonofficial “state bird,” the blood-sucking mosquito.
I have to admit, I was highly skeptical that the $90 screen garment would work in the buggy BWCA. But versus coating my upper body in Deet, I was willing to give it a try, and so as we stopped for a water break during the trek I slipped into the jacket and waited for the little “state birds” to swarm.
Immediately, mosquitoes emerged from the forest to greet our party. I watched as one by one the bugs landed on my sleeves, hesitated for just a moment and then lifted away to go pester someone else — Columbia’s Insect Blocker treatment, which is an odorless (to humans) synthetic permethrin chemical, worked just as the company claimed.
Columbia cites that the jacket’s treatment remains effective for up to 70 wash cycles. The jacket is intended to be worn as an outer layer in the summer months, and a mesh fabric ostensibly is employed to keep the jacket breathable and light. Even though it’s airy, the jacket is not “cool” when you’re on the move — I overheated with it on when hiking uphill with just one layer underneath on a 70-degree day.
There are two hand pockets on the Bug Shield, a zippered chest pocket, and a cinching cord around the waist. A close-fitting hood helps keep the pests from getting at your head and ears — a thin barrier that might just help you keep your sanity in the buggy woods.
At $90, the Columbia bug jacket is a bit pricey but overall we see it as a nice alternative to DEET or other kinds of bug spray. Beyond mosquitoes, the jacket’s treatment eschews ants, ticks, flies, and other creepers you might encounter camping or on a hike.
—T.C. Worley served as photographer and videographer on the Border Route trek. See his camerawork on GearJunkie’s new “Fast&Light” web channel in a series of episodes to be released this fall.