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Gear Guy

Is bug repellent in clothing a marketing gimmick?

What's the deal with Ex Officio's Buzz Off shirt and pants? They claim to ward off skeeters. Does this really work? Does the protection wear off after repeated washings? Mark Chantilly, Virginia

A: The deal is this: The Ex Officio folks figured out a way to embed bug repellent within the fabric used in its new line of Buzz Off clothing. The ingredient used is permethrin, a synthetic version of a natural bug repellent called pyrethrin, found in some flowers. Permethrin is odorless, safe for humans, and extremely effective. A bonus when used in clothing is that you're not dousing yourself in the stuff.

Buzz Off Lite Long Sleeve

Does it work? Yes, it does. And quite well, at least on late-season Pacific Northwest mosquitoes (admittedly not the most vicious denizens of the insect world). It works best on the areas it covers, of course—ending that annoying problem of bugs that bite through shirts. But it gives off enough of an aura that unclothed areas get some protection, too. Add a little deet-based repellent to bare skin, and you'll be the bane of bugs everywhere.

Alas, in time it does wash off. Ex Officio says in 25 washings, which isn't bad. You'll also want to wash Buzz Off clothing separately from regular clothes. And, no dry-cleaning.

Buzz Off does add some to the cost of a garment, but not too much. Ex Officio's Buzz Off-equipped Lite Long Sleeve Shirt, for instance, sells for $79—about $10 more than similar travel-type shirts that lack the repellent feature.

If you spend a lot of time in buggy country, and don't like liquid repellents, Buzz Off is definitely worth a try.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Ex Officio