Anyone that knows me knows that I am a big fan of all natural products. I don’t care for chemical based household cleaners, I try to eat organic and free range as much as possible, I avoid plastics and resins that contain BPA. I even go out of the way and try to avoid makeup and hair care products that aren’t 100% natural whenever I can.
Another thing that anyone that knows me well knows is how bad I HATE bugs. There is no better way to cause frustration and general aggravation on a hike, hunt, or weekend camping trip for me than to be constantly pestered by gnats, mosquitoes, flies, or to get eaten up by chiggers.
The challenge I have found though has been trying to find a “natural” product that actually works as advertised. While the thought of drenching myself in DEET is abhorring, the thought of sitting in a blind overlooking a watering hole on an early summer hog hunt while being swarmed by mosquitoes is equally bad, and until recently I really hadn’t found anything other than products with fairly significant doses of either DEET or picaridin in them that was truly effective.
Most DEET alternatives either contain another, equally caustic chemical (for those that don’t know it, DEET actually eats plastic. Rub a little bit of your favorite bug spray that contains DEET on a piece of plastic lamination or on a zip lock bag and leave it for a couple of days, then come back and see what has happened. This is definitely something I do not want to put on my body with any regularity!), or are made up of synthesized plant oils where the synthetization process involves the use of chemicals. Most all natural insect repellants I have tried in the past work OK, but don’t have the same effectiveness as DEET, and generally don’t last nearly as long. They need to be reapplied every couple of hours, where most DEET products I see in the store swill last 6-8 hours or longer.
I think I may have found a solution to my problem though! I recently became aware of a product line called Keystone Backwoods made by Vaughns Nursery Greenhouse (www.vaughnsnurserygreenhouse.com), and have had a chance to try a few of their all natural repellent products out for the past couple of months.
Thankfully my recent hunt in South Africa was in a malaria free zone. Malaria free doesn’t mean insect or mosquito free however. There was an abundance of biting flies, mosquitoes, and other small creepy crawlies everywhere we went for the 10 days we spent in the north east corner of the country near the Botswana border. Having never used the Keystone Backwoods Insect Be-Gone repellent before, and not having any idea if a repellent blended in the US and intended for North American campground agitators would work in a completely different region of the world, I took along a small bottle of insect repellent that contained 25% DEET just in case. Thankfully I can report the DEET never saw any use.
Each morning before we went out hunting I sprayed a pretty liberal amount of Insect Be-Gone repellent on my clothing, hands, and around my head and neck. While I am not sure it was really needed, I usually reapplied a little more around mid day as well just to make certain I had good coverage. Ticks are a major problem in South Africa. Many plains game such as the kudu, gemsbok, impala, and wildebeest that we hunted are covered in ticks, many of which carry an African variety of tick fever, which can cause extreme headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and nausea. While I saw A LOT of ticks on the animals I and other hunters in camp harvested. I found exactly zero ticks on me the entire time I was there. I also experienced zero mosquito bites, and at times when others were getting swarmed by either gnats or flies, never once was I bothered.
Made only of all natural products such as pine, cedar, witch hazel, and jo-joba oil, Insect Be-Gone met my requirement of keeping a chemical based product off my body while also keeping the bugs at bay the entire trip without having to continually apply the product to be effective. Two applications for every 12+ hour hunting day was more than enough to work effectively. To say I am extremely happy with this repellent would be an understatement.
Since returning home a few weeks ago we started using another Keystone Backwoods product. I’ve got three dogs that spend the majority of their days outside in the yard. 2017 has been a bad flea and tick year in Texas. We had a mild winter this past year, and have had a good bit of rain, heat and humidity this spring and summer. Insects are thriving, so we decided to give The Keystone Backwoods Tick/Flea Be-Gone repellent for dogs a try. While its only been a couple of weeks, and I’d like a little more time to make a real determination, so far I have yet to see any one of my favorite hiking buddies scratch, and haven’t found a single flea or tick on any of them this year.
Just a quick spray once per day before we send them outside is all it takes, and I don’t have to expose my furry friends to insecticide infused plastic collars to keep the bugs off of them. I like that.
I’ve got one more Keystone Backwoods product that I really want to try. In addition to hating bugs and loving all natural products. I am also a minimalist when it comes to hunting. I’m not one of those hunters that likes to take 3 of everything to the woods and tote around a 60lb pack everywhere I go. I realize the value in preparedness, but I prefer the comfort of being less burdened with “stuff” and try to make due taking as little as possible to the field when I hunt. I’ve got a bottle of Keystone Backwoods combination Repellent – Cover Scent that I’m anxious to give a try. While I know bugs aren’t too much of a problem during fall and winter hunting seasons in most of the US, it stays warm down here in Texas and the bugs never really totally go away. If I can get away with only carrying one product that will both effectively mask my human scent and also keep insects at bay, AND is an all natural product. I am all in. I cant wait to try it and see how it works. Look for another Keystone Backwoods product review sometime in the late fall or early winter and Ill let you know what I think.