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The Insect-Repellent Clothing and Gear Every Traveler Should Have

Traveling to a Zika zone? Pack these things to protect yourself.

At best, getting a bug bite is an itchy nuisance for a few days. At worst, it could expose you to a serious or even deadly disease. Common mosquito-borne illnesses include malaria, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus, and Zika virus, while ticks can spread Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other maladies. To protect yourself, consider packing insect-repellent clothing and other gear on hiking trips, tropical vacations, or any other trips where you might be at risk of bug bites.

Insect-Repellent Clothing

exofficio bugsaway shirts

Invest in insect-repellent clothing that’s also travel-friendly. ExOfficio’s BugsAway line has pants, shirts, leggings, and sweatshirts for men and women that are all treated with insect-shield technology to repel mosquitoes and other bugs. Plus, the travel-friendly fabrics are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, and quick-drying.

Another option is White Sierra’s Bug Free line, which lives up to its name with clothes that offer protection from insects for 70 washes.

The Insect Shield clothing line from Craghoppers includes pants, button-down shirts, T-shirts, hoodies, dresses, hats, and more. This bug-repellent clothing has other useful travel features as well, including moisture-wicking technology and sun protection.

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Permethrin Clothing Spray

sawyer permethrin clothing spray

If you don’t want to invest in a whole new wardrobe of insect-repellent clothing, treat what you already have with permethrin spray, a bug repellent designed to be used on clothing and shoes (but not skin!) that lasts through multiple washings. This permethrin spray for clothes is effective against mosquitoes, ticks, mites, and other bugs for six washings or six weeks, and it’s as effective as 100 percent DEET. Odorless after drying, it won’t stain or damage your clothes, so you can wear them again after your trip.

Long-Sleeved Shirts and Pants

columbia silver ridge lite long sleeve shirt

The more covered your skin is, the harder it is for mosquitoes to feast on you. Of course, it’s likely to be warm where the bugs are, which makes wearing long shirts and pants unappealing. Pack lightweight, light-colored clothing like these travel-friendly long-sleeve shirts, which can actually help you stay cooler than short sleeves thanks to their moisture-wicking properties.

Columbia makes a number of high-performance long-sleeved shirts specifically designed to keep you cool even while you’re covered up. Try the Silver Ridge Lite Long Sleeve, which is available for both men and women; it’s got vents, moisture-wicking fabric, and UPF 40 sun protection to keep you cool and shielded from the sun. Pair it with a lightweight, stretchy pair of hiking pants, such as the Women’s Saturday Trail Stretch Pant or the Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant.

Bonus: Shirts and pants made from UPF fabric will also protect you from harmful UV rays. I like these pants from Coolibar, specifically designed to be worn in hot and sunny environments.

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Travel Mosquito Bed Net

emergency zone mosquito bed net

Just because you’re staying in a hotel room doesn’t mean that mosquitos can’t get in—whether it’s via a hole in your window screen or just by flying in alongside you as you enter. That’s why it’s a good idea to pack a mosquito net for your bed if you’re staying in a place at risk for mosquito-borne diseases. Mosquito nets are also useful if you’re camping in an area with lots of bugs.

This one from Emergency Zone is great for travel, as it needs just a single rope to hang from and folds into a small and lightweight nylon bag.

EPA-Registered Insect Repellent

repel 100 insect repellent

Not all bug sprays are created equal. Only some ingredients are scientifically proven to repel bugs. Check to see if your insect spray meets the requirements with this search tool from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

One option is Repel 100, a spray with super concentrated DEET for heavy-duty bug conditions. The one-ounce size is perfect for travel and it protects for up to 10 hours, so you don’t need a ton.

For a more natural solution, look for products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (which is one of the only non-chemical repellents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), such as this option from Repel.

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Mosquito Head Net

sea to summit mosquito head net

You might look at the picture of this mosquito head net and scoff, thinking that you’d never be caught dead wearing one, but you might change your mind if your destination is swarming with bugs. Small and lightweight, this mosquito head net is made from a fine black mesh (which is easy to see through) and comes with its own stuff sack for easy packing.

Insect-Repellent Bands and Wipes

mosquito repellent bracelets

If you are flying carry-on only and don’t want to worry about fitting bug sprays into your 3-1-1 bag, insect repellent bands and wipes are a great alternative. For wipes, this 15-pack of Cutter All Family Mosquito Wipes is affordable and contains DEET, so you’ll be protected without spending a lot of money.

An alternative form of mosquito protection is the Mosquito Repellent Bracelet, which is waterproof and non-toxic, and offers protection for up to 200 hours.

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Caroline Morse loves combining practical fashion and travel. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.

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