Gear Review: ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellant

 

By: Linda K. Burch

Okay, so I’m from Minnesota, where the mosquitoes are legendary. They are the fodder of prose and song and the curse of campers and hunters. Souvenir hats and shirts are embroidered with giant mosquitoes and the words “Bite Me.” Minnesota mosquitoes are likened to Kamikaze planes, and they are kiddingly called the State Bird. They are voraciously blood thirsty and they are everywhere. I’m one of those lucky people who mosquitoes don’t like the taste of for whatever reason. I can be standing next to someone who has hoards of the pesky insects all over them, and the critters mostly ignore me. It’s almost comical.

That is, until I hunted Mississippi this year, November 2006. While in Minnesota, mosquitoes are like sharks, big and nasty – in Mississippi when there is a wet year, their mosquitoes are like piranhas, smaller but ten times as many of them and they actually like my Yankee blood. I had forgotten to bring DEET on my recent Mississippi hunt with my girlfriends at Tara Wildlife outside Vicksburg Mississippi. Even the deer at Tara were running scared or swarming mosquitoes. But lo and behold, professional photographer and outdoor writer, Tes Randle Jolly, had gotten ThermaCELL units for all us ladies. I had never used the ThermaCELL for insect repellent, and I was skeptical.

Now, I do have experience with the ThermaCELL however. Two years ago, I tried the ThermaCELL for deer attractant disbursement and had remarkable results. I was then hunting with the Metro Bow Hunters Resource Base, or MBRB, a group that culls the Minneapolis/St. Paul area deer herds with managed archery hunts. I was assigned to a 40-acre patch of woods with one other hunter, smack in the middle of hoity-toity suburbia. My orders were, kill does, and make my shots true so the animals did not run and die in someone’s back yard. I was certified as a sharpshooter that year, but needed to coax deer to specific areas so that they could run no further than 80-yards once shot, thus sparing the neighboring homes any deer carnage scenes. I used attractant scents on the wick of a ThermaCELL placed on the ground twenty yards from my stand tree.

I arrowed three deer on that hunt, and was sold on the ThermaCELL for deer hunting. But I had never used it for insect repellent, fearing that the odor would scare deer or bear away. Little did I know.

The first day of my ladies hunt in Mississippi, I resisted using the ThermaCELL, thinking the bugs would not bite me (they never bite me after all, right?) or that I could use DEET. Mississippi bugs DO bite me and in fact chased me faster than I could outrun them. I’m sure my swatting mosquitoes away probably scared deer away too. I left my stand after the morning hunt to rendezvous with fellow hunter, Julie Schuster on my way out.

As I came down the ridge, I could see Julie sitting on a log, back lit by the morning sun. Amazingly, as I approached her, she was enveloped in a cloud of mosquitoes, with the sun making them reflect with a prismatic effect all around her. However, directly around her there was not a single bug. It was as if she was in a protective bubble, and the sun backlighting her made it look almost surreal. Sure enough, there was her ThermaCELL right next to her. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it! That was all it took for me. I rushed to get in her protected air space and we walked out as the mosquito hoard followed us, but they did not bite us.

Needless to say, I pounced on my ThermaCELL when we got back to the lodge, and got it ready for the evening hunt. Surprisingly, I could detect no odor at all using the ThermaCELL, and it worked for me exactly as it had worked for Julie that morning. All the other ladies reported the same performance by their ThermaCELLs. Our hunts would have been miserable if not impossible if we had not had the ThermaCELL units. I could have used DEET spray I suppose, but the strong odor of bug spray rather defeats my efforts to stay scent free.

No matter what the circumstances, ThermaCELL has a unit that is easy to use and will keep they swarms of biting bugs at bay so you can enjoy your time outdoors.

In short, I have had excellent results with the ThermaCELL, both for disbursing deer scent and now for repelling mosquitoes. The ThermaCELL comes in flat green or camo, but I prefer camo for hunting. However, I can see that the ThermaCELL will be very handy for fishing, picnics or any other outdoor activity where insects are a nuisance.

I was concerned that the size of the ThermaCELL would prove cumbersome in my pack or to carry, but in practical application, the streamlined design is such that the unit slips easily and securely into the pockets of my pack or my jacket. I just need to make sure the unit is off for several minutes so it cools down and is safe to place in a pocket.

I get many products every year to use and to field Test. Quite honestly, I write about very few because very few are truly ‘must have’ products for me. I am very particular about carrying too much “stuff” in my pack when I hunt. I like only the necessities because I don’t want to feel like a pack mule when I hunt. I now have a new “must have” addition to my hunting gear. Two thumbs up for ThermaCELL. It is one functionally amazing product.

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