Field Evaluation: ThermaCELL Insect Repellent

Article by Keith Dunlap – May 31, 2009
Edited by Stanley Holtsclaw – April 3, 2017


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In this evaluation, we’ll review a popular product from The Schawbel Corporation called the ThermaCELL. If you hate flies and mosquitoes as much as I do, you’ll want to take time to read on.

ThermaCELL uses patented technology to disperse a small amount of repellent into the air over a long period of time. ThermaCELL is powered by a butane cartridge which provides the cordless, portable heat necessary to operate the device (batteries are not needed). It directs the heat to a metal grill. A blue pad saturated with Allethrin, a copy of a naturally occurring insecticide found in chrysanthemum flowers, is placed on top of the metal grill. The heat generated by the butane cartridge vaporizes the repellent allowing it to rise into the air, creating a 15 x 15 ft (225 sq ft) “Mosquito-Free-Zone” in minutes. The repellent is very unpleasant to mosquitoes, but when used outdoors, will not harm humans or pets.

ThermaCELL provides a 15′ x 15′ “bug-free zone”.

– Initial Inspection –

Upon initial inspection out of the package, I found no visible defects in workmanship or finish. The package included the Woodlands camo ThermaCELL appliance; one butane fuel cartridge; and three repellent mats. The instructions included on the package were adequate to explain setup and usage.

Preparing to use the ThermaCELL was a breeze. I read the directions completely, but it was simply a matter of installing the butane cartridge into the bottom of the appliance, and sliding a blue pad saturated with Allethrin onto the metal grill that heats up to disperse the repellent into the air.
I did some research on Allethrin, and determined the following: Allethrins are synthetic compounds used in insecticides. They are synthetic pyrethroids, a synthetic form of a chemical found naturally in the chrysanthemum flower. The compounds have low toxicity for humans and birds, and are used in many household insecticides such as RAID as well as mosquito coils. Insects subject to its exposure become paralyzed (nervous system effect) before dying. They are also used as an ultra low volume (ULV) spray for outdoor mosquito control. Allethrin is also sprayed on crops.

When you are ready to use the appliance, you simply turn it on, and ignite the grill using a button igniter similar to those found on your propane grill. You can verify that the ThermaCELL has been lit if the view lens on the top of the appliance glows orange, plus you can feel the heat from the grill. The makers of ThermaCELL recommend allowing 10-15 minutes after igniting the appliance to allow the repellent to become effective over a 15′ x 15′ area. Next, we head out for spring gobbler season using the ThermaCELL.

Shown here with convenient optionalholster which can be strapped to a nearby tree.

– Testing –

I proceeded to test the ThermaCELL while hunting the spring gobbler season in PA with my oldest son, no better test than this for a bug-repellent system. The weather was warm, and rains had just drenched the area the prior week, so the bugs would be out in full force the week of our turkey hunting. I was anxious for results because my son has made comments in years past that the flies and mosquitoes ruined his spring gobbler hunting experience. Kids can be less patient with nature than those of us who have learned to cope with the elements, including bugs. My son and I headed to one of our favorite spring spots to try to bag a Tom.

As we set up about 100 yards from three birds we roosted the night before, I ignited the ThermaCELL and set it on the ground beside me. It is safe from causing a fire because the heating element is fully enclosed in the appliance. As the forest began to awake (my favorite part of the hunt), we heard some gobbling from the roost not far from our setup. We had plenty of early morning action as the woods lit up with the sound of hot gobblers! Just as quickly, however, it seemed to quiet down and we never got a shot at an old Tom that first morning of our hunt. I had almost forgotten about the ThermaCELL next to me when it dawned on me that it was mid-morning and 70+ degrees, and I had not seen a fly or mosquito near our setup. I was eager to see if this was a fluke caused by a lack of bugs that morning, or if it was truly working as advertised, so I turned the appliance off and waited. It was about 15 minutes later when the first mosquito landed on my wrist, followed by what seemed to be a thousand of his friends and relatives! That was enough proof for me. We used the ThermaCELL for the remainder of the hunt, and did not have any problems with flies or mosquitoes.

During my evaluation, each butane cartridge lasted approximately 10 hours, and each repellent mat lasted about 4 hours. When the mat turns from blue to white, you know it’s spent and time to replace. The optional holster made it very convenient to us the ThermaCELL, as it holds an extra butane cartridge and several extra mats.

Specifications as Tested:

  • Repels up to 98% of mosquitoes.
  • Also repels black flies, no-see ums and sand flies.
  • Provides a 15 x 15 ft “Bug-Free-Zone”
  • Compact, Cordless and Portable
  • No batteries required to operate
  • No Deet
  • Odor free – undetectable to animals.
  • Effective alternative to smelly lotions and sprays which must be applied to the skin.
  • Tested and approved by the U.S. Army.
  • Currently used in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
  • EPA approved
  • Retail Price: $23.99 – $29.99 for ThermaCELL, butane and mats, depending on the model. Click here to check current prices on Amazon

Essential spring turkey hunting equipment.

– Conclusion –

This product was one that was easy to evaluate, it either works as advertised or it doesn’t, and the results are telling. In this case, the ThermaCELL produced results by keeping my son and me bug-free throughout our turkey hunting this spring. I would recommend this product to any of my friends or family. The ThermaCELL is now a welcomed addition to my essential equipment for spring or early fall hunts, and while bass fishing on our boat.

Pros: Effective, NO BUGS, affordable
Cons: None

Shop ThermaCell on Amazon for latest pricing, additional reviews and more information or go to thermacell.com.