Nothing kills the joy of backpacking for me more than having hordes of mosquitoes and black flies as my hiking buddies. DEET works well, but smells bad and is a potentially dangerous chemical that gets absorbed into your body. What other options are out there for serious backcountry use?
I found a few DEET-free alternatives and tested them in Oregon and Washington for a few months from June through early August. This year, the mosquito hatch was delayed by an unseasonably cold spring. I called rangers from the Three Sisters Wilderness to the Olympics for the latest word on their turf, and came up empty. I turned all-out bug chaser, driving and stopping at day-use areas and trailheads for any sign of the winged beast.
Finally, in early July, one flat tire, and hundreds of miles later, I found what I’d been looking for—mosquito swarms blooming at a wildlife refuge, practically in my backyard, just in time for me to catch up with my old hiking buds.