Here is my Field Test on the Travel Medicine Insect Repellents.
Now that I'm back from Vancouver Island, I'm catching up on the various
things that I need to do. Thanks to Ron Martino for giving me permission to
wait until after my seven weeks of North Dakota/Vancouver Island to write
I would appreciate it if list members would critique this and let me
know. I know that I missed a few things, including a few commas here and
there, but I'm not quite sure where. (Please note: it would be best to let
me know the changes privately, as per the current protocol.)
I also need help identifying the two types of ticks that I found while
in North Dakota. Read down the report for a description, found under the
section entitled 'Ticks.' I'd really like to know the name of the 'big white
nasy ugly white ticks,' and a confirmation description of Wood ticks. Wood
ticks was what everyone at camp called the red ticks, but I'm not totally
Item being tested: Travel Medicine Insect Repellents
Report Number: Field Report (#2)
Name: Jeff Widman
Weight: 164 lbs.
Age: 16 yrs
Area of Residence: Bellingham, WA (two hours north of Seattle.)
E-mail address: jeffwidman@...
(Please see end of report for a short biography of my backpacking exploits.)
Manufacturer: Travel Medicine 1-800-TravMed (1-800-872-8633)
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.fitebite.com,
which redirects you to
their 'true' website: http://www.travmed.com/
Once again, I will be commenting on each of the repellents individually. As
a dedicated tester, I have traveled 1500 miles away, gone overseas, and even
traveled to a foreign country to test these repellents. Please see the
section entitled 'Test Duration/Location/Conditions' for more information.
I personally feel that testing bug repellents in real life, outside of a
laboratory, is a highly subjective matter. I considered attempting to
eliminate as many variables as possible in order to have non-biased tests,
but then decided that it would be more useful to just use the repellents a
lot in normal everyday situations. Please be aware that my results are
probably slightly skewed. Besides, what is a long-term test for anyway?
I will be categorizing this report into three sections; mosquitoes, ticks,
and flies. Within each section I will report on each specific repellent.
Please also read the note near the end entitled 'Permethrin.' In the Long
Term Report, I will be listing each repellent separately, with my
conclusions for each repellent.
I live near several small ponds that abound with mosquitoes. These
mosquitoes are amazingly strong, persistent, determined, and bloodthirsty.
Obviously, I have had a little bit of time to test the repellents against
these killer mosquitoes. However, I have only had a little testing time at
home, because, dedicated tester that I am, I spent five weeks in North
Dakota attempting to repel ticks and flies. Actually, I went as a counselor
to a boy's camp in North Dakota. (I regret to report that none of the
repellents successfully fended off the bloodthirsty campers.) I also learned
that the ubiquitous mosquito really is ubiquitous when I found six new
mosquito bites on me after a particularly sweaty game of capture the flag.
As a dedicated tested, I went overseas to another country to continue my
testing. In other words, I took a two-hour ferry ride to Vancouver Island,
in Canada. It was supposed to be two things: a) a nice family vacation, and
b) a chance to test the repellents against some killer mosquitoes. It was a
wonderful vacation with my family, but the expected mosquitoes never really
materialized. I had expected hordes of bloodsuckers, but found only a few
mosquitoes at one campground where we spent two nights. As much as I lost
out on an expected testing opportunity, I still realized that not everything
always works out properly. Oh, well. (Besides, why should I bewail a lack of
mosquitoes?) While on Vancouver Island, my family and I hiked up Mount
Arrowsmith, the tallest point on the island. I unexpectedly found flies on
that memorable hike (and incidentally I learned that Canadian trailbuilders
seldom use switchbacks; they just build the trails straight up the
The worst mosquitoes I faced were found in North Dakota. According to a
biology teacher back there, dragonflies eat mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are
terrible for about two weeks. After that two-week time period, the
dragonflies hatch, and most of the mosquitoes get eaten up. I probably just
totally mangled his scientific way of explaining it, but it makes sense to
Deet is proven repellent against mosquitoes. Thus it came as no surprise to
me when both Ultrathon and Fite Bite 30 repelled 95% of the mosquitoes. The
main differences between the two repellents became obvious when I applied
them both in the morning, and then tested them in the evening.
Comparatively, both had the same results, but Ultrathon, utilizing a time
release formula, performed better after several hours had elapsed.
Fite Bite 6-Hour did not provide much, if any protection against
mosquitoes. I wore it for several games of capture the flag, but then gave
up on it after sustaining multiple bites to all portions of my anatomy. I am
not sure that I applied it thoroughly enough, so I will try it again against
mosquitoes on several upcoming backpacking trips.
Permethrin worked great. I haven't used Permethrin 13.3% yet, as I'm saving
it for when I go backpacking, but I did use the Fite Bite trigger spray. It
was very handy, especially for spraying right onto mosquitoes, then watching
The only place I found ticks was in North Dakota. There were two types of
ticks, big white ones, and Wood ticks. I don't know the name of the big
white ones, but they were great big, ugly white things. Several were found
on the horses, but no one ever found any on themselves. Unfortunately, (or
fortunately,) I never had a chance to test the repellents against the big
My testing was confined to Wood ticks, which are little red things, about
the size of the end of a pencil eraser. Whenever you walked through grass
and brushed up against the blade of grass they were on, they crawled onto
your leg. Some days I found six or seven ticks, some days I found none. I
found an average of a tick a day. One particular time, I walked a distance
of 300 yards and found seven ticks in a time span of less than five minutes.
None of the repellents worked against these ticks. I surmise that the
ticks' method of falling/climbing right onto whatever disturbed their
resting-place meant that the repellents could not repel a touch based
acquisition method. Overall, the ticks were pretty common. They were a
nuisance, but I had fun with them on the 'Arm of Death' (See the section
entitled Permethrin.) I also learned that the small sharp can-opener blade
of my Swiss Army Tinker made a great tick decapitator.
Vancouver Island, specifically Mount Arrowsmith, was the main place that I
found flies. I did find them in North Dakota, but they only bothered the
horses, not the riders. Since I was only able to test the repellents for one
day, I enlisted my sisters' help.
Both of the Deet based products worked great. Once again, near the end of
the day, Ultrathon's superior longevity became apparent. Also, please note
that both of the Deet products, Ultrathon and Fite Bite 30, could be
eventually sweated off.
I was also able to test Fite Bite 6-Hour against flies on the hike up to
Mount Arrowsmith, and in North Dakota. I had mediocre success against the
flies in North Dakota. Most of the flies weren't the biting kind; they were
interested in the food that was leftover after we ate outside in the
evenings. They were very annoying, but they were not the carnivorous kind.
Overall, no flies bit me when I used the Fite Bite 6-Hour. Neither did I get
bit when I wasn't using Fite Bite 6-Hour, nor did anyone else ever get bit.
(However, I should mention that horseflies accompanied us on every trail
ride. A friend of mine and I competed to see who could get the biggest
splotch of blood from a dead horsefly. You don't want to know how big it
was. The horseflies only bothered the horses, never the riders. Moral of the
story: always bring along a horse whenever you know there will be
horseflies.) Hiking up Mount Arrowsmith, the flies were a bite worse (poor
spelling intended.) We had to keep moving because stopping meant continually
swatting. My sister and I both thoroughly applied Fite Bite 6-Hour. She
received one bite an hour later. Otherwise, it prevented the flies from
landing on us, though not from flying formation in close proximity to us. I
was satisfied with Fite Bite 6-Hour as a fly repellent.
I have not yet used the Permethrin 13.3% bug repellent. I will be applying
it sometime this coming weekend in preparation for four backpacking trips
upcoming. I have used the Fite Bite Trigger Spray, but only slightly. I
sprayed it on a one arm of my synthetic Zip-T. Then I went to a marshy area,
stirred up the mosquitoes, and successfully attempted to let them land on my
one arm, but unsuccessfully attempted to let them land only on my one arm.
While I did get bit several times, I was never bitten through the treated
arm of the Zip-T. Mosquitoes landed, then died a few seconds later. It was a
very emotionally fulfilling experience to watch them die.
I also let several ticks that I pulled off of my leg crawl onto the treated
arm of the Zip-T. They died too. Some campers were watching me do this, and
after that, any ticks that anyone found were put on the 'Arm of Death.' I
re-applied the Permethrin spray halfway through camp, because the ticks were
taking longer and longer to die.
I am satisfied with all of the repellents. They all have their specific
niches, and their problems. Some, like Fite Bite 30, suffer from packaging
problems. Others, like Fite Bite 6-Hour, have a distinct odor to them. Still
others, like Ultrathon and Permethrin, appear to be great for backpacking. I
will be writing up my overall conclusions on each repellent in the Long Term
Report. Until then, may my pain enrich your life.
About the author (me): I have spent around 15 nights actually backpacking.
During those three trips, I have covered close to 100 miles (160 kilometers)
carrying a 35+ pound backpack (15+ kilograms.) However, my parents
(especially my dad,) have been enthralled with the outdoors since long
before I was born. As my three younger siblings and I have grown, we have
day-hiked over 1000 (1600 kilometers) miles as a family. Over the past year
and a half, backpacking has become a natural extension of day-hiking. The
summer of '01 was the first summer that my dad really started taking my
siblings and I backpacking. For this coming summer ('02,) we have already
tentatively planned another 15-20 nights (125+ miles, 200+ kilometers) of
On another note, I am a very analytical person, more commonly known as a
gear freak. I have spent many tens of hours learning about gear on the
Internet. I have also spend many hours testing gear, returning some gear,
keeping other gear, as I continually strive to achieve that perfect balance
of weight-function-durability-cost. My current shelter is an old Sierra
Designs tent, but I have been seriously considering either a hammock or a
modified tarp design (ID Silshelter, HS Tarp Tent, etc.) I live and backpack
mainly in the North Cascades. I have day-hiked in the following National
Parks: Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Yellowstone,
Glacier, North Cascades, and quite a few others that I am forgetting. My
family currently averages between 2-3 mph (3.5 - 5 kph) while both
day-hiking (faster,) and backpacking (slower.)
Our average day-hike is approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) long.
Currently, our favorite backpacking trips are 4-6 nights long, and
approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) long. My current base pack weight is
around 25 pounds (approximately 11 kilograms,) depending on conditions.