Gear Test: The Anti-Bug Sprays

Forget sprays and candles: Several hand-held devices promise to repel mosquitoes and black flies with the flip of a switch. Plus, two other bug spray alternatives.

I'd planned a long, buggy week of testing in my home state of Wisconsin. Summers in the Badger state are typically hot, humid, and the reason screened-in porches were invented. But this summer's weather patterns left my working vacation cool and bug-free--a less-than-desirable testing ground when you're hoping for hordes of winged attackers.

Plus, as I was packing my bags I realized one of the below devices requires a butane cartridge, which I was hesitant to attempt to carry through airport security–especially after the 'Swiss Army knife incident.' So, here are several anti-bug spray options, rigorous testing not applied. I did attempt to use the first two. The last two are on my list for the next time the bugs truly come biting.

OFF! Clip-on Mosquito Repellent

This bright blue device clips onto a belt loop or can be rested on a table; it looks like a large compass or pedometer. When turned on, a fan encased in the device quietly whirs, circulating the refillable repellent for "head-to-toe protection." The amount of repellent used is tiny and I had no problem taking it through airport security. The device is odorless and requires two AA batteries which are included. One repellent cartridge last 12 hours and OFF! claims it only takes several minutes to begin working.

NOTE: The OFF! device, as well as the other below, is intended for stationary, outside activities (read: not intended for hiking or inside a tent; perfect for star gazing and campsite loitering).

PRICE: lists the price at $8.99, although I've seen a variety of prices and a lot of online coupons.


WEIGHT: approx. 5.2 oz (with batteries)

ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent

This device looks like an oversized universal remote control. There are several sold-separately holster options, including camouflage and Army green, although it is not intended to be attached to a person. An included butane cartridge is required. The cartridge screws into the bottom of the device. An insect repellent mat (3 are included with the regular-size model) slips behind a grate on the front of the appliance. Flipping an "On" switch starts the flow of the butane. After 5-10 seconds the device needs to be primed by depressing a "Start" button 3-5 times. You'll see a light through the top of the appliance if it was properly turned on. Once it is on it takes about 10-30 minutes to protect its proclaimed 225 sq. ft. of repellency. The grate will become hot and a vapor is omitted. Again, this device is not intended for active or indoor use, nor is it appropriate around food or in windy conditions. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found the device to be 98% effective, according to ThermaCELL.

PRICE: Varies depending on size (a compact option is available) and color (Olive, grey, and two camo options). Basic olive as seen above retails for $23.99


WEIGHT: approx. 7.3 oz (with butane cartridge)

Beekman 1802 Bug Repellant Bars

I have been waiting, and waiting, for someone to design sunblock in a soap or body wash format–but it seems the bug repellent people were the first to figure it out. The Beekman 1802 Bug Repellent Bars are chemical free, made of goat's milk, and "naturally scented with Citronella, Eucalyptus and other essential oils shown to help keep bugs away," claims their website. You can either shower with the bar for long days on the trail or rub it on your pulse points for quick treks. Beekman does also make an After-the-Sun Bar, so maybe my shower sunblock is right around the corner.

PRICE: $14.75


iPhone Apps

There are several iPhone apps out there that claim to scare away skitters with high-pitch sound waves. Anti Mosquito 2.0 is popular with favorable reviews and costs $0.99. Search the iTunes store for "repellent".

If you've tried any of the above, let us know what you think in the comments!

--Katie Herrell