When I’ve read books about hiking the Appalachian Trail, more often than you would think, the author contracts Lyme disease. A case of this tick borne illness can put a real damper on a person’s hike. In addition, without proper treatment, there can be long term neurological damage. And guess where a real hotspot for this disease is located? That’s right, Vermont, where I’m going to be hiking the Long Trail.
In addition, the sometimes swampy backwoods of the state are a great place for breeding mosquitoes, and this past July was one of the wettest in Vermont’s history.
Sounds like I need to pull out all the stops in preparing for bugs. Clothing is one way to do that. I’ll be trying out some Rail Rider “Eco-Mesh Pants with Insect Shield.” I typically wear zip off pants on the trail. Ones that start out as long pants, but convert to shorts when it gets warm. Bare legs are a tick magnet though. The rail riders have zippers, but they run vertical the length of the pant leg. Unzipped, there is a mesh panel that provides ventilation without giving a tick a direct path in. Remember the pants MC Hammer wore? They’re not that bad. Also, they’re treated with permethrin, a natural insecticide that stays in the fabric to repel and/or kill the little bastards. The factory treatment is supposed to last for dozens of washings.
I also bought a Buff, a tube of material that’s also treated with the same chemical. A buff can be worn over the neck for shade, like a dew rag, Russian Peasant woman, you name it. They even have a video that shows all the ways to wear it. I just want it to keep the ticks off my head.
Beyond the fashion statement I’ll be making, treated clothing sounded like a good idea, so I bought some of the chemical and treated my shirts and socks. Home treatment only lasts for 6 washings or so, but that should be long enough unless I’m walking slow and/or doing laundry pretty often.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m not a fan of either ticks or mosquitoes. So they’ll be more weapons in the arsenal. My sunscreen is a product called Skin so Soft. This is not a poison, but supposedly has a scent that repels insects. Based on my initial testing, I hope it’s a better sunblock than it is a repellant. Otherwise, it’s time for skin cancer. I’ll be carrying a small tube of Picaridin, advertised to be as good as Deet, but won’t destroy your nylon clothes or equipment. And, if that fails, I have some Deet. I’m trying it in solid form, which will help target which part of my body I douse with poison. That’s gotta cover it, right? I’ll let you know who wins this little competition, me or the disease carrying insects.