View Full Version : mosquitoes on the AT

11-15-2003, 01:08
this march i plan to start backpacking and will begin section hiking the AT in NJ and PA. i car camp all the time and last summer the mosquitoes were so bad i broke down and bought a screen tent to eat at the picnic table in peace. it is a bit too heavy and bulky to pack on the trail.

my question for you AT experienced hikers is what is your experience with mosquitoes on the trail and how effective are your methods of keeping them away from you. and secondly, do the mosquitoes tend to disappear as you get to hire altitudes? if it is 85 degrees at sea level, what would the temp be at 1500 feet?

i hate crawling in my sleeping bag with repel all over me because it gets into the fabric and smells. permithum is good for clothing to repel tics but not on your skin.

sometimes its to hot to hang out in the tent after a hike and dinner and fires are not always pemitted although they work well to keep the bugs away. i am considering buying a large mosquito net to set up at my campsites so i have a place to relax and have a few shots of JD before turning in to bed in the tent, providing the net doesn't wiegh more than a pound or so.

11-15-2003, 09:26
I suspect that last summer may have been a bonus year for skeeters becasue it was so wet.

I found the skeeters to be heavy only in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Not much of a problem elsewhere.

Like rain, you just deal with it. Skeeters seem to bother some people more than others. I used DEET sometimes. I crawled into my tent early sometimes.

11-15-2003, 09:43
First some observations from my thru-hike this spring/summer. The mosquitoes were not that bad...mabie a week or so when the temps were running high. Some of it had to do with timing...being at the higher elevations when they are hatching below in the swamps.

I used Deet sparingly on these "bad days" on my arms and sometimes on my exposed leg areas. Hence, I used less than a bottle of Ben's 100% the whole hike. I know guys who went through bottle after bottle of this stuff. One guy used too much on his shoulders and developed serious blisters and "raw spots" where the shoulder straps rubbed it into his skin. They say everyone's propensity to attract/repel insects is different but it did work for me.

I also used catnip oil on the brim of my ball cap. I had heard about it on the net and sent away for it...cost something like $45 for an ounce and had a peculiar odor. It seemed to work as I never was bitten on the facial area where I did not apply anything to the skin for the entire hike. Another hiker, Liteshoe, used it and commented that it worked for her. She applied it to half of her exposed body and was not bothered by the pests at all. Warning...it does have a funny odor that often is noticed by others on the Trail. It did help me make friends with a couple of cats along the way.

My mother claimed hanging dryer sheets kept them off when she was outside working in their yard (which is in a rural area with plenty of misquitoes) She later wrote it was not as effective when they were out at "full force." Someone sent me some and another hiker and I used them. We were not bothered but we were not sure it had anything to do with the sheets.

A hiker friend used Avon Skin So Soft...but said it was not as effective when they were really bad and went to Deet. I did not use it.

The few nights when they were really bad my tent was worth its weight in gold. They were so loud outside it sounded like truck tires humming on the Interstate. The tent is a Wanderlust Nomad Lite and is totally enclosed with mesh sides for excellent ventilation. That's why I did not consider going lighter with a tarp. I read in an '02 Trailjournal (Horseradish) where a guy he camped next to in a tarp was literally miserable!!!! He was getting killed. It was one of my biggest concerns before starting the Trail.

We heard how bad the noseeums and black flies were supposed to be up north, but by the time we got there July/August they were not all that bad...hardly any in Maine. But it was mostly cool and wet for me this year.

The absolute worst experience was on June 22nd at the Wallkill National Wildlife Area just before Vernon NJ. The Trail does a rediculous U shaped loop around what was once a sod farm. Before entering this section I did not have any protection on as the pests weren't bad. All of a sudden it was something like out of the Twighlight Zone...I couldn't even stop to apply repellant until I got past it at the next road crossing. I was constantly running my hands up and down my arms and around my neck...it wasn't pretty! One hiker joked that the only wildlife he saw was the mosquitoes...so bad he thought it was "a rare mosquitoe refuge." :)

One other thing...I wore full length gators the entire hike. Yes, they were warmer, but did protect most of the legs from ticks, pests and plants. Hence, only the knee area below the shorts needed deet...and that was rare. (BTW, I got Lymes the previous summer on a 2 week hike on the AT and was not interested in getting it again.)

Like I said, I have read about times when hikers got murdered by mosquitoes...but try not to let the "fear" of the damn pests ruin your hike.

Have a good one!

11-15-2003, 21:44
i had lyme too, a friend of mine has had it for 5 years now and is on disability. he is moving from CT to Maine

11-16-2003, 08:33
I was lucky, I discovered the Lymes when I got the "bullseye" and got to feeling crummy within a week of my 2 week hike last summer. (BTW, it was a 175 mile SOBO section starting at route 30 in PA.) Took the medication for 3 weeks and it disappeared immediately...at least I had no more symptons. Someone said I will now test positive forever...so how am I supposed to know if I ever get it again?

I forgot to mention that I did use the Permethian spray on my clothes and gators for a couple of weeks during the hot summer days. To be honest I don't remember seeing any more ticks once I got out of PA,

You mentioned elevation could be a factor with mosquitoes. I never noticed them at the higher elevations...only the Trail through the woods and swamps.

I know a guy who was so obsessed with going light that he went to a tarp and quit filtering water about half way. He ended up with Lyme Disease, Giardia and Salmonella poisioning. That's right...all 3 and this is not an exageration! He was so committed to finishing that he tried returning to the Trail several times but he had lost so much strength he just couldn't continue after Greylock. On the other hand, I wasn't going to let the "fear" get to me and ruin my hike. It may sound like it, but I was not "obsessed" with worrying about the pests. Like I said in the first post...it didn't seem to be a terrible year looking at the entire hike.

Take care & Hike On!

11-16-2003, 16:37
I wore full length gators the entire hike. Yes, they were warmer, but did protect most of the legs from ticks, pests and plants.If I remember your journal correctly, you had a tick problem that your full length gators did not prevent. :D
One of my favorite entries from the 2-3 journals I followed, was the one in which one of your friends sent you DEET to be "applied to small areas" (If I remember the quote correctly). I laughed outload for a couple of days after reading that one.

11-16-2003, 18:44
Okay Yellow Jacket, glad you got a laugh out of it. I tried to include everything in my journal even if it was little goofy. I was wondering how it went over as my wife never commented on it.