Mosquitoes: Avoiding Alaska's Winged Plague

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

In the Arctic, the biomass of mosquitoes (the combined mass of all of them together) is greater than the biomass of caribou. Here’s how to avoid the little bloodsuckers:

Bring bug lotion. Pack more than you think you’ll need. Apply it regularly to exposed skin, and put some a few inches up your sleeves and down your neckline to keep mosquitoes from crawling under clothing. Tuck in your shirt. Bring a mesh head net.

Wear long sleeves and long pants. Thin, tightly woven clothing keeps you cool and is tough to bite through. Socks should be thick. Clothing with tight elastic cuffs is ideal.

Look for bug-free terrain. Choose hiking routes and camps that avoid wet areas and keep you on windy ridges, gravel bars, or near snowfields.

Plan your day. Mosquitoes are most active just after rain storms and when there’s low light and no wind. They are least active when it’s windy and during the day’s hottest hours.

Don’t feed the bugs. Heat attracts mosquitoes, so when you cook, use a mesh cook “tent” or tarp and keep pots covered.

Keep a good attitude. Mosquitoes are a major link in the Arctic ecological chain, serving as food for the immense flocks of migrating birds and as an important factor in the migration patterns of caribou. Consider them wildlife, and they won’t seem so bad.

-J. Rennicke