Hunting Gear that Repels Insects

Clothing that repels ticks, mosquitoes and other biting insects is gaining ground with all outdoors enthusiasts.

Hunting Gear that Repels Insects

Snugged against a tree silently scanning for wary turkeys, I noticed a mosquito land on my forearm. We had been in the woods for more than an hour and I’d shifted a few times. My left arm was on my left knee, giving me a closer look at the insect.

It crawled around, poking around with its alien-looking proboscis, looking for an opening to pierce my skin. Fortunately, it didn’t pierce the Sitka Equinox Guard hoodie or pants I was wearing; it’s designed with a special Gore-Tex fabric with a tighter weave to prevent proboscis penetration. Thanks to the permethrin repellent bonded to the fabric, mosquitoes, ticks and other insects that crawl around on it long enough likely will eventually die.

All this transpired during a spring turkey hunt with Florida Outdoor Experience in Chiefland. We were lodging on the Suwanee River and hunting Osceola turkeys in the area. Habitat included palmettos, oaks, pines and grassy openings. Florida in spring, or just about anytime, is awash with a plethora of biting insects and animals. What better place to test clothing and gear infused with insect repellent?

Even if your customers aren’t tooling around in the Florida grasslands or palmetto woods, they’re still amid tick and mosquito country. Both carry and spread viral and bacterial diseases, many of which are incredibly debilitating or can cause death. That’s not hyperbole or “fake news.” Ticks are rapidly expanding their ranges; different species found in the Southeast, for example, are now being found further north, and vice versa. Newer species, and their diseases, are being discovered and researched.

It’s sound business to sell products that help you make money. It’s also smart to sell products that can help customers better enjoy their hunting and shooting experiences. Whether your shop caters to hunters, sport and competitive shooters, or both, selling apparel and gear that does this is a good move. With summer here and hunting seasons arriving soon, these items likely will be in high demand.

Photo by Centers for Disease Control
Photo by Centers for Disease Control

Insect Shield Repellent

Sitka’s line of Equinox Guard apparel includes a thin, comfortable hoodie, pant and gloves with its Optifade digital camouflage pattern. It also comes in a non-camo line for those who don’t want or need camo. Sitka is one of more than 75 companies that work with and license from Insect Shield, which has a registered and patented process treatment that repels many biting insects. Among those companies are Orvis, L.L. Bean, Gamehide hunting apparel, Buff, Outdoor Research, Simms, Snow Peak and others. Insect Shield’s treatment is also used by the U.S. Army on its combat uniforms.

The Equinox Guard hoodie has a built-in neck gaiter that doubles as a face mask. It was great to learn it didn’t fog up my glasses in the field. The hoodie is generously cut. I opted for an XXL size because I don’t like tight-fitting clothing; the XL size would’ve been fine, as I felt somewhat like a sultan in flowing robes. Knowing this kind of information about any clothing can help you talk with customers who may prefer or need a regular, trim or athletic fit. Competition shooters, for example, may prefer a tighter, more athletic or regular fit to avoid any excess fabric that could snag, flap or rustle.

Insect Shield’s proprietary technology is registered to repel mosquitoes, ticks, ants, chiggers and midges (no-see-ums). Gear treated with Insect Shield is registered to repel mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and flies. Insect Shield has been registered with the EPA since 2003 for use with all ages. The treatment of permethrin is odorless, doesn’t absorb into skin and doesn’t leave any residue. It is bonded to fabric fibers through another proprietary process, as opposed to being sprayed on.

Whether it’s a with the Gore-Tex fabric used for Sitka’s clothing, or cotton or other fabric used for fishing or everyday togs, or even the pieces of gear, the process somehow bonds the repellent to the fibers. Insect Shield says the repellent lasts up to 70 launderings per recommended washing and drying instructions, and up to 25 cleanings for gear. That’s an important thing to remind customers about, too: recommended washing and drying instructions. Following the recommendations for any clothing helps extend lifespan.

I’ve used Insect Shield products for several years, including some from GameHide and an L.L. Bean base layer. It’s lightweight and one of those things I never think about after putting it on. I always thought it was smart to do as much as possible to prevent being bitten by ticks. That said, I’ve done work in spring and summer for my hunting spots that I didn’t think would take long, and then found ticks on my jeans or arms. It only takes a moment in areas with ticks to get one or two on you. And, in the last 10 or more years, I know I’ve been bitten at least seven times. That may pale compared to others who work outside more frequently or live in the Northeast, but I’d rather have no bites. That’s why as I’m older, and I guess wiser, I’m looking at smarter options including things like Insect Shield, pants tucked in boots, added spray repellent and thorough checks after getting home.

Photo by Centers for Disease Control
Photo by Centers for Disease Control

Tick, Mosquito Diseases

There’s nothing wrong with being smarter about apparel and gear choices when you’re outdoors. You’re going to encounter ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers, no-see-ums, black flies, yellow flies, wasps and more. Snakes, spiders and scorpions also may be in the mix. Using repellents, just like using sunscreen to block harmful UV rays, is smart.

Among the diseases carried by mosquitoes are malaria, West Nile, Zika and dengue fever. Ticks carry commonly known diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, tularemia, spotted fever rickettsiosis, tickborne relapsing fever, Powassan, Heartland and Bourbon virus diseases, and others. Fleas also carry myriad diseases including typhus, plague and possibly tapeworms. Symptoms for all of these can include fatigue, fever, rash, redness, swelling, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and more. The Centers for Disease Control estimates more than 475,000 people contract Lyme disease each year. Officials believe that number may possibly be as high as a half-million more, due to unreported cases and the continued spread of ticks.

Just the main number — an estimated 475,000 Lyme cases annually — should be enough for hunters, shooters and outdoors enthusiasts to seek clothing and repellents that could help them. It’s not just hunters, of course. A few years ago while at the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire, we were reminded of the possibility of ticks and to prepare accordingly. Shooters at ranges, competitions or even in home or private pastures need protective apparel. Mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, flies and other biting insects are always a problem, as well.

Proof, With an Itch

Our final hunt at Florida Outdoor Experience was on a Wednesday evening, with our whole crew successful with tagged Osceolas. I had changed from my Sitka clothing into shorts and a T-shirt to relax, clean my turkey and enjoy the sunset with a cold beverage. The dock on the calm Suwannee River was attached to the seawall, right by lush grass in the yard.

As my hunting pals cleaned their birds, I sat and reclined on the grass, leaning on my left arm. My right hand was occupied by a cold can. We all chatted for 15 minutes or so before I started cleaning my turkey. Afterward I put the meat, tail, beard and legs in the cooler, hung out a bit more and went to bed for a 5 a.m. alarm to head home.

Friday morning, about 36 hours or so after reclining on the grass in my shorts and tee, I woke up with red welts on my hands, forearms, thighs, ankles and shins. I’d been attacked by chiggers or no-see-ums, maybe both. These invisible midges bite, take a bit of blood and leave itchy welts after the enzymes in their saliva react in the body. Without any kind of protection — clothing, spray, anything — they, like other biting insects, take advantage of the situation.

In two days wearing the Equinox Guard hoodie and pants, I didn’t have any bites. No ticks, nothing from mosquitoes – even on my exposed digits with the fingerless gloves. Since then I’ve worn the hoodie while doing work on my hunting property where ticks are a common occurrence. No ticks. I’ll definitely wear it while fishing in the evening, when the blood-sucking mosquitoes come out. And, of course, during early bow and gun season here in the Southeast, when warm temperatures keep all kinds of insects active until the first big frost.

Annual sales of hunting and shooting apparel are in the billions. Don’t miss out this summer on the insect repelling apparel that your customers will want. 


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