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Ticks! The word that sends shivers down people’s spines. Some people hate them so much they refuse to hike on nonpaved trails for fear of them. I don’t blame the concern.
Ticks can carry serious diseases like limes disease or even Alpha-gal syndrome that makes you sick every time you eat red meat. That’s why I want to share with you some of my best tips to avoid ticks while hiking.
How to Avoid Ticks While Hiking
It’s no secret I love hiking. For anyone that ventures outside their front doors, they are at risk. But you shouldn’t live in fear.
They serve as a food source for birds and reptiles, while also helping to control animal populations with the diseases they carry.
Even though they might be important to the ecosystem, I still don’t want them on me or my family.
Natural Ways to Avoid Ticks
Avoid their habitats
Stay out of long grass and wooded areas. Ticks like to hang out in grassy areas and wait for someone to come along. Then they hold out their legs and climb onto the passerby.
If you avoid brushing up against tall grass, you shouldn’t have a problem. Depending on where you like to hike, this may not be an option. And let’s face it, going through the woods is always more fun that a paved trail.
Wear Correct Clothing
Wear long pants. This may seem silly to those in hot summer climates but if you are wearing the correct pants, it won’t be a big deal. Get pants with elastic ankles, or tuck your pants into your socks.
This gives less opportunity for them to make contact with your skin. They will have to climb the entire length of your leg before getting an opportunity to find skin.
Use a Lint Roller
Before heading back into the car, grab a lint roller and go over the outside of your clothing. The tape will grab any that have decided to go for a ride.
The most effective spray I have found is ones with 25% DEET. DEET was developed by the Army in 1946 to protect its soldiers. It’s the smell the repels the insect’s smell receptors.
Getting the right concentration is important to repel ticks as well as the mosquitos. Not all repellents have DEET and some have higher concentrations the others.
OFF Family for example is only good against Mosquitos. They don’t cover ticks so make sure to read the labels. If you are looking to avoid ticks while hiking, look for OFF Deep Woods or REPEL 100 Insects Repellents.
Both have high enough considerations of DEET to repel all of them.
Long Term Application
While these are all great, I hate spraying myself down with chemicals each time I walk out the door. It’s stinky, sticky, and tastes horrible if gets in your mouth.
That why I like to do a permethrin soak of my hiking gear late in the spring time. One soak will usually last the hiking season. Officially, they say 6 washes or 6 weeks.
Permethrin is a chemical that affects the nervous systems of insects causing them paralysis and death.
Its commonly used in products like NIX for head lice, scabies, flea collars, and even spot treatments like Advantix for dogs. In human use, you apply a liquid form to your clothing and let it dry on.
How to Apply Permethrin
You can apply Permethrin to clothing with either a spray or soak method. The most common commercial application is Swayer. It’s pre-diluted for you. 1 bottle will work for one set of clothing.
If you have a lot of gear, I recommend purchasing a higher concentration like Martins Permethrin 10%. To use this, take a 1-gallon jug of water, spill out 6.4 oz. and replace it with the Permethrin concentrate.
Mix up the bottle. Using a gallon zip lock bag, place your clothing in bags.
Add some liquid to each bag and work it into your clothing, ensuring it completely covered. Wait a couple of hours or more to let it soak in.
Using disposable gloves take the clothing out of the bags and let air dry in a shaded area. The sun breaks down the chemical. Once it’s completely dry, you are good to go.
In the right application, the product is completely safe on human skin once dried. I like to do one set of outer layer clothing for each member of the family. The best part is it works on all insects. No need to apply anything else.
This experience was intimidating at first but was actually simple. Backpackers will apply this to all their gear, including tents and other places bugs like to linger.
Watching this in action, my daughter was the most impressed. She was using her hoodie on a trip and we noticed a mosquito that appeared to be dead on her shoulder.
I picked it off her and as soon as it was free, it flew away. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before.
Which method to avoid ticks while hiking works best?
The best method to avoid ticks while hiking is a mix of all three methods. You have to find a balance of coverage over your body, but still not be covered head to toe in the product.
I like to wear long breathable pants, a light jacket, and hiking socks. Everything gets soaked in Permethrin. Once I get on the trail, I may do a little spray on my neck for mosquitos.
While I could soak my buff or wear a bug net that was soaked, I don’t feel comfortable with stuff on my face. When I get home, I strip down and take a shower just to confirm nothing got past the layers.
On all my Hiking Club Miles, so far I haven’t gotten any ticks on me.