Is it just me, or are we hearing about mosquito & tick borne illnesses more than ever recently? Whatever the reason behind it, when it comes to dangerous diseases like Dengue Fever, the World Health Organization is reporting a 30-fold increase in cases globally. Then there’s Malaria, Zika, Lyme, etc. Are you going to contract any of these on your average ride? Probably not. But if you’re headed to an area with higher risk, it’s worth taking along some bug spray to be safe.
Lots of places for mosquitoes to breed in Bali.Recently, Sawyer sent over a sampling of a number of products both in the insect repellent and water treatment family. The timing was perfect since I was soon headed to Indonesia for the Patrol mountain bike launch. Along with the recommended vaccinations, my doctor prescribed antimalarials as a precaution. However, it turned out that in Bali, Dengue fever is becoming more of a concern than Malaria, and there’s no preventative measures for Dengue other than avoiding mosquitoes entirely. That’s not really an option when you’re planning to go mountain biking on a tropical island – or even just stepping foot on the island. For whatever reason, insects love me and I started seeing mosquitoes almost as soon as I stepped outside (there were also a few in our first hotel room).
Fortunately, thanks to the products from Sawyer I was prepared. Before leaving home, I treated most of my clothing with Permethrin sprays from Sawyer. Available either in an aerosol spray or trigger spray, you basically just hose down your gear with this stuff until it’s damp.
It seems to be safe for most gear, but you may want to test it out on a small area first if it’s a piece you really love. I’ve used Permethrin sprays a few times now, and the only issue I’ve ever had with it was one particular pair of cycling socks where the spray seemed to make the elastic deteriorate. All of a sudden, the socks just wouldn’t stay up. It’s not like they fell apart, but they no longer had any elasticity.
You probably don’t want to be breathing this stuff in, so I took a clothing rack outside and did the spraying and drying out there. Let it completely dry, and you’ll be left with clothing with built-in bug spray that’s good for six weeks or six washings. The spray seems to be odorless and colorless, and I haven’t noticed any effect on breathability, water proofing, or other clothing characteristics.
You’ll still want to cover exposed skin with insect repellent, but the treated clothing was noticeably working in the jungle. Most mosquitoes wouldn’t even come near me, and those that did try to land, immediately took off once touching the treated fabric. For someone that constantly deals with mosquito bites, I was pretty happy with the results.
The real stand out though, was the Sawyer Picaridin insect repellent – specifically the lotion. As an alternative to DEET, Sawyer claims Picaridin is more effective, non-greasy, and won’t damage plastics or synthetic coatings. It’s available in a number of different spray bottles, but the lotion is where it’s at. Anyone who has ever tried to apply bug spray indoors can attest, breathing it in is not a pleasant experience. If you’re trying to give yourself head to toe protection before heading outside, the lotion can be easily applied while you stay inside. Also, the lotion makes it easier to ensure proper coverage – it goes on white and disappears as you rub it in. The lotion also provides an additional 2 hours of protection over the spray with 14h vs. 12h of coverage.
Better still, the lotion is available in highly portable 10mL packets which makes them perfect for multi-day adventures where space is at a premium. I found one packet to be more than enough for full coverage, but I’m also short with minimal surface area.
The one caveat to the Picaridin repellents is that it calls out the fact that it could cause “substantial but temporary eye injury.” To make sure that didn’t happen, I didn’t apply it close to my eyes or above them since I was concerned sweat dripping into my eyes may bring the Picaridin along with it. I’m guessing that Deet or even natural bug spray are also not good to get into your eyes, so just use caution and common sense.
I’m happy to report that the two pronged approach with Permethrin bug spray and Picaridin lotion seemed to work. I returned home without any mosquito borne illnesses. Even though I was given antimalarials, I decided not to take them due to the potential side effects. I made this choice since Dengue Fever appeared to be the real concern anyway, and I had to avoid mosquito bites to prevent it. I tend stay away from insect repellents as much as possible, but when the consequences could be dire, this combination seems to work well – much better than the natural insect repellents and bug spray that I’ve tried.
Micro Squeeze Pocket Sized Water Filter
Shifting gears to water filtration, Sawyer has you covered there as well. The company sells a number of water filters, but it was their Micro Squeeze water filter that caught our attention. Not only is the filter small enough to fit inside of a hydration pack, it’s even small enough to fit inside of a jersey pocket.
The filter itself is about the size of your average multi tool, and weighs in at just 2oz. It includes a collapsible 32oz pouch that can be rolled up to fit in small spaces. To use, just fill the pouch with water from whatever source you’re filtering from, and then screw on the filter. From there, you can either drink straight from the filter, or squeeze it into your bottle or hydration bladder.
The filter is said to last up to 100,000 gallons and includes a cleaning syringe to remove larger particles that build up over time by backwashing. Sawyer recommends doing this procedure after every outing. The hollow fiber membrane is certified to 0.1 micron filtration and claims to remove Bacteria, Protozoa, and Cysts, including E. Coli, giardia, vibrio cholerea, Salmonella typhi, and even microplastics. The kit also includes a cleaning coupling, spare gasket, and a drinking straw.
Priced at $28.99 and extremely compact, the Micro Squeeze filter is a great addition to any backcountry kit to make sure you have clean water on your next ride.