Top Insect Shield Products For 2016

Mozzies? Well if you travel internationally in the tropics, you hear that word a lot—a slang term for mosquitoes—often accompanied by some kind of swear word.

Whether you’re camping in a national park, on safari in Africa, or backpacking around Southeast Asia, the common denominator nuisance is probably going to be mosquitoes. In some places they’ll just leave itchy welts and annoy the crap out of you at dusk.

In some parts of the world, however, they can turn your vacation into your first experience with malaria or dengue fever. Not fun.

It’s like a war on terror though trying to prevent these bites, with multiple levels of defense and no margin of error. One good weapon to have in that arsenal is treated clothing that repels mozzies.

Here are a few worthy picks.

NosiLife Berko Shirt From Craghoppers

Craghoppers Men's NosiLife Berko Long Sleeve Shirt
3 Reviews
Craghoppers Men's NosiLife Berko Long Sleeve Shirt

  • 86% Polyester / 14% Elastane.
  • Imported.
  • NosiLife technology.
  • Stretch item.
  • SolarShield.

Want a travel shirt that moves when you do but looks fitted when you hit the pub at the end of the day? One that will keep the mosquitoes at bay when you’re setting up a tent or chilling out in the courtyard of that tropical guesthouse?

This Craghoppers Berko shirt treated with NosiLife is a great all-around traveler that does it all—if you’ve got a slim build. There’s a long-sleeve version and a short-sleeve one.

This is a stretchy shirt that is fitted rather than billowy, meant to have plenty of give when you’re hiking the trail or commuting on a bike. It’s also ready for summer in the backcountry, with its NosiLife insect repellent treatment.

The various built-in repellent clothing we’ve tried that uses competing InsectShield is supposed to be good for 70 washings or so—more than most people are going to get to—but NosiLife is woven into the fibers and is supposed to stay effective indefinitely. This is a tough thing to test without a laboratory, so I’ll take their word for it until I hear otherwise.

Like most good travel shirts, the long-sleeve version of this one has a way to turn it into a short-sleeve one. There’s a fabric tab with a snap built into the inside of the sleeve, then a loop on the outside for hooking it.

So I’d go with the long-sleeve version if you’re going to be in, say, Belize during rainy season, because then you can let the sleeves down when the bugs come out at dusk. The shirt is cool and wicks well, plus it dries quickly after washing.

There are a lot of handy features built into this Berko shirt and one I’ve been especially enjoying is the microfiber lens cleaner sewn into the hem at the bottom front. This is great for a quick camera lens wipe or cleaning your sunglasses without having to dig around in your pack for a cloth.

There’s also microfiber on the collar to make that more comfortable and two snap tabs on the inside for hanging the shirt to dry on a clothesline or small branch. The collar has another loop. A flat seam zipper pocket on the front is big enough for most smart phones or sunglasses.

I really like this shirt, but as I hinted at the beginning, it is sized for skinny guys. Not “fit” or “in shape” guys—skinny guys. The kind who are telling you in a British accent why they first became a vegan back in ’05.

So go up one size for sure if you’re muscular and maybe skip this one altogether if you’ve got a gut. I normally wear a medium with ease but the first time I put this over my not-so-pumped 38-inch chest, my wife said, “Nice shirt, but is that a small?” No, just European.

Get the Craghoppers Berko in the long-sleeve version at Moosejaw or Amazon for $95 or less, or the short-sleeve version for $85 at retail stores that carry the brand or direct from Craghoppers. If you’re in Europe, it’s more widely available.

Outdoor Research Sentinel Travel Pants

Outdoor Research Men's Travel Pants
165 Reviews
Outdoor Research Men's Travel Pants

  • Zippered pocket on thigh.
  • Abrasion and wind-resistant nylon/spandex stretch-woven ripstop.
  • Button and zipper fly.
  • Two front slash pockets; two zippered back pockets.
  • Low profile waist band for smooth fit under harness.

Even if you’re not backpacking around the world, these Sentinel travel pants from Outdoor Research are great for any vacation where space or weight is an issue.

Since they’re also treated to repel mosquitoes, they’re ideal for an African safari or a trip through the tropics. Or even a summer picnic or camping trip near home.

Quick-drying nylon travel pants have been out for a while, but the designs and features keep getting better. One major development has been a recognition that not every woman wants to look like a blocky tomboy just because she’s in travel mode.

These Outdoor Research ones are cut to be shapely. If you’ve worked hard indoors and out to keep in shape, these pants won’t hide it. (This means you may have to go up a size though).

These pants have all the features that are now expected: UPF50 sun protection, wicking properties, quick drying after a sink washing, and lots of secure pockets. Three are protected by straps to keep grubby fingers from getting in and swiping your cash. And of course the fabric is super-strong: you’re not likely to rip these on a broken bus handrail.

The Insect Shield treatment is a big bonus worth paying for though. I’ve tried lots of products treated with this stuff and they’ve done a good job of keeping away mozzies, gnats, and no-see-ums.

I can’t vouch for the chiggers as they seem to crawl up shoes, but if you spray there the pants should keep those at bay also. I’ve only managed to hit the 70 washes this stuff is rated to stay effective for and that was with a t-shirt I traveled with for a long time. It was looking pretty sad by then anyway, so 70 washings for most people really will be the life of the product.

My travel tester partner liked the look of these, but also the features. She really appreciated the roll-up cuffs that turn these into capri pants when it’s hot out—handy in the 100-degree heat we were hitting in Cambodia and Vietnam. She also liked the built-in lightweight belt that is partially covered and the crossed belt loops on two sides.

Overall, these OR Sentinel pants are on par with those from other brands and are flattering as well. They list for $85, but are discounted at some online retailers.

There’s also a men’s version available that’s obviously not as curvy.

Insect Blocker Shirts From Columbia Sportswear

Columbia Sportswear Men's Insect Blocker Shirt
14 Reviews
Columbia Sportswear Men's Insect Blocker Shirt

  • 57% polyester/43% nylon.
  • Imported.
  • Insect Blocker.
  • Omni-Wick moisture management.
  • Omni-Shade UPF 30 sun protection.

You can buy a can of what you need to spray on whatever clothing you have, but I’m a big fan of travel clothing that has the stuff baked in already, like this Bug Shield shirt from Columbia with Insect Blocker.

Insect Blocker is something the mosquitoes can smell and they don’t like it one bit. (For good measure, it also keeps away gnats, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers, and midges.) For us humans, however, the shirt just smells like a shirt. Or like smelly you after a few days in it.

This feels, smells, and wears just like your standard hi-tech travel shirt, but with added protection when you need it. It’s got the wicking nylon that dries quickly, a bit a stretch so you can move around easily, and UPF 40 sunblock protection.

It’s got that feature that can be useful during the day when there’s no mosquito threat: sleeves that roll up and button. There’s a mesh panel behind the shoulder and some venting under each arm to let the air circulate. The Velcro pocket has another secret zipper pocket inside where you can covertly stash some cash.

But won’t the treatment wear out? Well, as with other insect-blocking items we’ve reviewed here, it will eventually. But we’re talking 70 washings before that happens. So unless you’re a tour guide naturalist or you make it a habit to go hiking at dusk each day, there’s a good chance you’ll never get to that point.

Like I said, this is a weapon, not a total solution, so remember the whole system: cover your skin (especially ankles), avoid black, use a net or coils when needed, and—the most important thing—use good insect repellent. Here’s Pam’s review of the Ultrathon version.

There’s nothing really groundbreaking or unusual about this Columbia Bug Shield shirt—it’s a follower rather than a leader. But it comes in five sizes and six colors. They also make a women’s version, a crew version, toddler crew, and pants.

ExOfficio Halo Shirt Keeps the Mozzies Away

ExOfficio Men's Insect Shield Halo Check Shirt
37 Reviews
ExOfficio Men's Insect Shield Halo Check Shirt

  • 100% Nylon.
  • Snap-front shirt featuring insect shield technology to repel mosquitoes, ants, flies and midges.
  • Breathable ventilated mesh-vented panel at back.
  • Hidden button-down collar, long sleeves with roll tabs.
  • Two chest pockets, right features hidden security zip.

This Halo Check shirt with Insect Shield takes ExOfficio’s usual double-duty usefulness to a higher level, hitting all the right points for active travelers and keeping the bugs away as well.

This fabric treatment is a no-brainer really once you get past the cost: there’s no odor, no harm to your skin, and no change to the feel of the fabric. Yet it holds up for 70 washings or so. I don’t know about you, but there are very few items of travel clothing I own that have been washed that many times.

The shirt itself has most of the attributes I love from ExOfficio. It’s lightweight nylon that doesn’t wrinkle, it dries quickly after a sink washing, it’s ventilated, and there’s a 30+ SPF sun protection. Provided you’re not in a place that’s super hot and humid, it’ll wick away the sweat. With the color I tried out—the khaki checked one—it doesn’t show sweaty areas too badly either.

As usual, there are lots of nice thoughtful extra features built in as well. It has snaps instead of buttons, which I really like. A mesh liner extends much of the way down the inside.

There’s a fabric hook on the back for hanging it up and a flap and snap system to hold the sleeves up when you roll them up. (Rolled up during the day when the mosquitoes aren’t around, down at night to protect the arms.) Each breast pocket has a regular pocket and a handy zippered hidden pocket for stashing some cash or a credit card.

This is a great all-around, double-duty travel shirt that should keep looking good for years and keep the mosquitoes away for however long it takes you to wear it enough to need to wash it 70 times. It lists for $90, but prices will vary depending on who is selling it and what colors aren’t moving. As I wrote this, some colors were selling for around $50, so shop around.

There’s a version for women and a version for men, some in solid colors, others in checked patterns.

Insect Shield Altyn Pants from ExOfficio

ExOfficio Men's BugsAway Travel Pant Pant
46 Reviews
ExOfficio Men's BugsAway Travel Pant Pant

  • Stain- and water-resistant convertible pant featuring zip-off legs and elastic insets at waistband.
  • Single zippered back pocket.
  • Drop-in cell pocket at leg.
  • Odorless Insect Shield apparel repels biting and potentially disease-carrying insects.
  • Sun guard 30+ protection.

This pair of ExOfficio Altyn Insect Shield Pants is going with me to the coast of Mexico and the jungle of Belize this summer. They’re great travel pants on their own, but the kicker is built-in Insect Shield repellent that stays active for 70—yes 70—washings. I don’t think I have many pants that have been washed that many times, so let’s just say “effective as long as they still fit.”

I’ve used lots of ExOfficio BuzzOff items over the years and they’ve been quite useful. The Insect Shield line is just a step up from that, the repellent staying active longer. I gave these pants a test run when I was out working in the yard and they came through well: not one of the mosquitoes buzzing around ever landed on the pants. There’s no smell, no sign that the stuff is there, but it works.

Besides all that, these are easy to pack. They’re incredibly lightweight, as in less than your average cotton t-shirt. You get a partial elastic waistband, a zippered security pocket, and and the great benefit of quick-dry action when you wash them in the sink. Wrinkle-resistant too, so you keep looking presentable.

They come in khaki or gray, in multiple sizes and lengths, and don’t have that swish-swish synthetic feel that some cheaper travel pants do. There’s also a Convertible Pants option if you want to go double-duty and have some shorts at the ready too. (That one also comes in a women’s version).