Gear Guy

Will Buzz Off-treated apparel repel mosquitoes?

I have heard that clothes treated with Buzz Off work well for repelling ticks and other bugs in the U.S. I’m traveling to the African tropics in the wet season and curious if Buzz Off can repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Carmen Washington, D.C.


You bet it works. Buzz Off is a proprietary method of embedding insecticide (Permethrin in this case) into fabrics. Developed and licensed by a North Carolina company of the same name, Buzz Off technology is used by Ex-Officio (which has the most complete line), L.L. Bean, and other outdoors-clothing makers. Fabrics treated with Buzz Off don’t merely repel insects. What really happens is that the bugs get within a short distance of it and simply drop dead. Ok, maybe not, but the stuff works.

Ex Officio Baja Shirt

Ex Officio Baja shirt

In any event, bugs are bugs. So whether you’re in Florida, Costa Rica, or Africa, Buzz Off will do a lot to ensure you don’t get bitten. Given your circumstances, I’d go for pretty complete protection, which might include Ex Officio’s Baja Long Sleeve Shirt ($84; and Convertible Pant ($79) plus a hat, maybe the Buzz Off Tropicwear Sun Hat from L.L. Bean ($24;

You can supplement Buzz Off clothing with topical repellents that use deet or Picaridin, and that may be useful for your hands and head. Picaridin ( is new to many people. It has long been available in Europe and Asia and now can be found in products in the U.S. It’s widely regarded as deet’s equal at repelling bugs, and, as a bonus, it won’t sting if it gets in your eyes or melt nylon clothing. Cutter Advanced has Picaridin, and in Africa you may find a product called Autan, made by S.C. Johnson, which contains it as well.

Not everyone loves Buzz Off. Its active ingredient is a fairly potent synthetic derivative of a natural bug-killer called pyrethrin. So some people think it’s too strong to be worn by children, and that it might cause cancer in adults. But even if there are risks from wearing Buzz Off clothing—and there is no concrete evidence that’s the case—the protection from truly serious diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease well outweighs the risks.

Have a great trip!

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive section of women’s gear, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

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