Long Sleeve Crew
Long Sleeve Crew (courtesy, Ex Officio)
Gear Guy

Does Buzz Off clothing really ward off the skeeters?

I'm going on a weeklong backpacking trip in the Sierras this August. Given this year's extraordinary snowpack, I'm expecting an equally extraordinary year for mosquitoes. I have been eyeing Ex Officio's line of Buzz Off clothing as an alternative to rub-on bug repellents. Is this stuff for real or just marketing hype? Larry Long Beach, California

Long Sleeve Crew

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Indeed, melting snow creates perfect conditions for skeeters—nice, calm little pools in hollows and depressions where mosquitoes can happily hatch their annoying little progeny.

Long Sleeve Crew Long Sleeve Crew

Ex Officio is doing very well with its Buzz Off clothing, which includes items such as the men’s Long Sleeve Crew ($69; www.exofficio.com). Wearing something like that, you have to worry less about slathering repellent all over yourself. Plus, the growing risk of West Nile virus has put mosquitoes into the “truly dangerous” category, versus the “merely annoying” one. And the Buzz Off chemical—permethrin, a synthetic version of the naturally occurring pyrethroids that are extracted from the East African pyrethrum flower—is permanent (at least so far as the life of the shirt, which is advertised as good up to 25 washings). So there’s nothing to apply or re-apply.

Interestingly, a Buzz Off shirt doesn’t repel the mosquitoes. They fly into it, and they die—right there, and often within seconds. That’s important, as it doesn’t take long for a mosquito to get a bead on a juicy part of your anatomy and sink in its proboscis for a nice snack. And the stuff really does work in knocking them dead.

Wearing a shirt and trousers with the Buzz Off material should do a pretty good job of protecting your entire body, because the odds are good a mosquito will fly close enough to the treated clothing to be killed before it reaches your unprotected head or hands. Still, a little light treatment with a DEET-based repellent may be in order on uncovered parts of your skin.

The Buzz Off clothing does have that limited washable life cycle, which you should certainly factor in with the price. Buzz Off clothing is not cheap, although it’s in line with most good casual resort/travel wear. On longer trips where you won’t have access to a wash, you may be stuck with a single smelly shirt unless you want to invest heavily in a wardrobe change or two. But for a backpacking trip, who cares if you smell?

So by all means at least buy a Buzz Off shirt. I think you’ll like the way it works.

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From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: courtesy, Ex Officio