On May 29th we left our beautiful campground near Lost Horse Creek Rd. in Montana. We drove north to just short of the Canadian border inside of Montana on highway 93 (we wanted to enter Canada in the morning). It was late and we were tired so I found a Forest Service Rd and we headed up it.
The road I had planned to take was gated, it turns out it had been converted to a winter skiing trail. But it had a very large parking lot as a trail-head and it was very close to Highway 93. Thinking it might have internet I tried out my Verizon MIFI device and yes, I had 3 bars of 4G. The legality of camping at trail-heads is debatable so we headed down the same road in the opposite direction and found a decent campsite. I jumped out to look around and was immediately surrounded by hordes of mosquitoes! It too had internet, but no way were we going to camp there. The trail-head had almost no mosquitoes and better internet; that was a deal that was too good to pass up! Besides, it was completely out of sight of the main road and we felt secluded enough to risk spending the night there, so we settled in rather than look for a more “legal” campsite. In fact we liked it so much we ended up spending a second day there as a rest day.
I’m not going to bother giving you a report on the campsite so instead I want to talk about the single biggest issue facing anyone driving into the North Country: mosquitoes! The further north you go, the worse they get! I guess that’s because of the long, snowy winters and the short cool summers. In the spring the snow melts and runoff totally saturates the earth and then takes a very long to dry out. That gives the mosquitoes an abundance of standing water to breed in and there is an abundance of game (and humans) to provide blood for baby food! And the far north is the worst because much of it has permafrost which never thaws and so the water can’t go anywhere so it just stands on the surface all summer—the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.
If you are going to live with the mosquitoes you need two things: 1) Mosquito netting on your windows 2) Bug repellant. In this post we are going to talk about those two things:
Since I’ve been a vandweller, I’ve seen a large variety of different ways to keep netting on your windows, but I think Judy’s is the simplest and best of all. Here’s how she did it:
- Buy the netting and cut it to the size to fit around your windows. Making a pattern out of cardboard helps with that.
- Fold a strip of good quality duct tape over the outward perimeter of the pre-cut netting to prevent it from unraveling or cutting you.
- Buy some high-power (rare earth) magnets to stick it on with.
To put the up you just hold it up over the window, put a magnet on the corner and start and then placing them every 8 inches or so until there are no gaps. You’ll have to straighten out the netting as you go. Very, very simple and effective!
There are two ways to repel mosquitoes 1) Apply the repellent to your skin directly 2) Apply it to your clothes. There isn’t much I can tell you about topical repellent that you don’t already know. Anything with DEET works extremely well (the higher the percentage, the better it works) but it is nasty stuff! I hate the feel and smell of it and I think we are all a little bit afraid of what it is doing to our health. I carry some with me and I fully expect to end up using some of it no matter how much I hate it. We all have some more natural alternative we’ve tried and some of us like them. I’ve used repellents with Eucalyptus and others with picadirn. And they work okay if the mosquitoes aren’t too unbearable. But when they are just horribly thick, they aren’t good enough. Then I’ll use DEET. If you are looking for natural mosquito repellents, here is a page of them on Amazon.com:
Natural Mosquito Repellents on Amazon.com
Treating Your Clothes With Permethrin:
But there is a second choice, and that is to treat your clothes with permithrin. Its a powerful insecticide that the military uses to treat all the uniforms for our troops who are stationed in areas where Malaria is common. It works very well, once your clothes are treated, the mosquito or ticks won’t land on it or if they do, they will quickly fly away. All the studies have shown it to be safe for treating clothes and you can buy clothes that have already been treated with it. It’s still an insecticide and so you need to be aware it is a poison that you are applying to your clothes. For me, it’s as simple as knowing it greatly reduces my need for DEET and that is good enough for me. When I lived in Alaska I had been doing it for the last few years I lived there after I learned about it. It works!
The problem with it is, it wears out of your clothes and loses its effectiveness. I bought the Sawyer brand of Permethrin and it says it will last through 6 washings or 42 days, whichever comes first—and that’s typical of all of the brands I’ve heard of. Buy it here from Amazon:
SaverPak 2 Pack – Includes 2 Sawyer Clothing Insect Repellent 24 oz Bottles of Trigger Spray
I bought my Permethrin off of Amazon, but I was in a Wal-Mart recently and they had it in their sporting goods section with the other repellents. If your local store doesn’t have it, you might can get it online and shipped to your local store. Many sporting goods stores will sell it as well. None of my clothes had any color shift at all.
NEVER, EVER apply Permethrin directly to your skin!! Treat clothes only and let them totally dry before wearing or putting away.
Choose which clothes you will treat. He bottle I bought was supposed to treat 4 outfits of shirts, pants, socks. But I must have applied it too heavily because I only did two. To me, the most important thing is shirts, socks and a hat—that’s where the bugs are most annoying. I wear jeans and they are thick enough that I rarely get bit through them. However, I did treat one pair of jeans just in case.I got 2 shirts, 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair of jeans and 2 do-“do-rags” out of one bottle. I must have put it on too thick because they say I should have gotten 4 outfits.
After it’s dried you just wear and wash as normal except bugs won’t land or stay on the clothes. It works just as well for ticks, so if you are in tick country I’d use it for sure! The risk of Lymes disease is much worse than the risk from this stuff!