Keeping Midges At Bay. What’s Your Strategy?

Before I left for Scotland quite a lot of my posts referred to the dreaded midge, that almost microscopic little creature that can cause such havoc. But during the trip we coped well with midges, though we utilised some of the latest products on the market, including the ‘Highland Midge Patch’, which works a little like a nicotine patch.

All in all our midge repelling strategy worked. pretty well. What do you use?

I go on about midges so much because they seem to love me. And the same goes for mosquitos. Often, midges will leave my asking companions alone and make a clear beeline for me! I’m not the only one who has this problem. Colin Ibbotson once told me about spending the night on a Mediterranean island, in a cottage with the windows left open for ventilation. The local bugs flew right over his mate — who was sitting by the window — and on to Colin, who was bitten to pieces.

I’m never really sure why the midges prefer some people to others. I’ve heard it said that some blood groups are more popular than others, and I’ve also been told that people who produce more carbon dioxide are likely to be more popular with the midge. But whatever the reason, I know the little blighters love me.

On this trip I took two kinds of midge repellant. The first was a roll-on stick of a DEET free substance. The second was a DEET-based spray which I bought from Cotswold — they do sell an even stronger spray but I was recommended to ignore it as it would have ‘eaten’ my plastic watch strap! (It makes you wonder what it would do to your skin).

Carl was trying yet another technique. For several days before the trip, he began taking Vitamin B1 tablets, also known as Thiamine. These taste, and smell, like yeast and on taking them you can instantly see why some people claim that those who eat Marmite regularly and seldom bothered. But Carl also had with him some Midge patches which work rather like Nicotine.patches, secreting Thiamine into the blood stream.

The Highland Midge Company, based in Inverness, reckon that research in Australia and Canada show that people who eat quantities of Thiamine in their diet are much less likely to be bitten. The company’s patches contain “huge amounts” of thiamine and they reckon that even just a few hours of wearing a patch will keep the little monsters at bay. But did they work?

The midges were certainly around during our trip, although as the weather turned they became less of a problem. However, there were some places where we were plagued with them, most notably at Glen Affric Car park.

I wore my patch on Saturday during a climb up to Beinn Liath Mhor. We wild camped that night on the top of a bealach in the hope that we would catch the kind of breeze that midges cannot fly in. On Sunday we walked along water-logged glens for a couple of hours before climbing another hill and then taking a long, low-level, walk back to the car. Sunday found ourselves in a Travelodge in Inverness and when I checked myself for bites I was pleasantly surprised at how few there were. Normally,I would have expected far more bites, so maybe the patch had worked well over a couple of days.

My own system for dealing with the midges didn’t rely on patched, or Thiamine, but seemed to be just as effective.

The DEET spray was kept purely for use within the inner tent. On Sunday morning while the wind was keeping the midges down they were able to take some refuge under the fly sheets of the tents.

The roll-on repellant was in many ways the most useful. This was also produced by the Highland Midge Company and was a year or so old. I kept the roll-on tube in a side pocket of my pack and applied it liberally to my arms and to my face, including ears and nose. It seemed to work as Carl told me that my face was covered with dad midges, and very few of them had managed to bite me.

I like the roll-on product. It smells of lemons — citronella I guess — and is easy to apply. But you have to remember to keep topping it up and it can be washed away by sweat. You also have to be careful about exposing other areas of flesh. The one place I got bitten badly on was my legs, a result of walking with open trouser vents. On day 2 I made sure to apply the roll-on around the vent area on my legs.

The sprays and patches were, of course, supplemented by midge nets that we wore around our heads. I’m a little suspicious of these are the damn things seem to have breached them on a regular basis in the past, but they were certainly needed while we were packing in the morning. Incidentally, Carl wore his net more often than I did but I didn’t seem to have more bites. I think the Midge roll-on protection was very effective.

Nothing, of course, will protect you when the midges are really swarming, but I was pretty pleased with the results last week.

What are your strategies for midge protection?

The Highland Midge Company — natural roll-ons protection and Midge ‘Patches’.


  1. I’ve heard loads of tales about how to repel the midge and luckily for me I seem to be one that they pass by. Either that or I’m not as bothered by them, that might have something to do with working on a few farms as youngster and being subject to all sorts of flying devils. However I’m not fool hard enough not implement some sort of protection which consists of Smidge and garlic, eating plenty of garlic, which suits me as I like garlicky food 🙂

  2. chris yapp says:

    about two years ago i brought some sprat from tescos and it works ok but saying that i seem to be one of the luky ones who never get bothered by the litle so and so,s

  3. I flap my arms about like crazy…………….

  4. Sadly, my diet precludes Marmite, so my advice would be to not go to Scotland between June and September – it’s too hot and sweaty then anyway!

    • This year it would appear that if the midges don’t get you the rain will!

      Am going back end of September!

  5. Mike fae Dundee says:

    I never bother with any bug sprays. A head-net and long sleeves does me.
    Mind you, although they can annoy like hell, i’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t seem to get bitten much.

    It must be all the Vitamin B in the Guinness i drink. 🙂

  6. Shewie says:

    Wilmas Nordic Summer is the only stuff that works for me.

    I’ve tried most of the off the shelf options and have always been let down at some point. 100% deet seems to do the trick but I’ve seen what it can do to plastic steering wheels, not good.

    If you’ve never tried Nordic Summer Andy give it a go sometime, the wife says it smells like smokey bacon crisps but to me it reminds me of wood smoke from a camp fire.

    • Thanks Shewie, I’ll search that out. It’s probably cheaper than the Guiness option 🙂

  7. Gordon says:

    My weapon of choice is a SUL flame-thrower.

  8. I’m one of those people who comes up in great white lumps when bitten, so chemical warfare is the only answer. Jungle Formula does everything it says on the bottle. The other thing I’ve heard recommended is Avon Skin So Soft. I once bumped into some chaps on An Teallach who swore by it. Apparently, Radio 4 did a feature on its insect-repellent qualities some time back. It makes you smell nice too.

  9. Gordon says:


    Can’t do the clicky thing, but here is my answer to the b*sta*d flying vampires!


    Of course it can only really be used in a tarp – preferably a Trailstar.

    It would be silly to try to use it in the confined space of a tent!

  10. It’s all in the mind!
    Hill walking, or even backpacking, is a very popular sport North of the Border.
    A simple internet search will give you some figures.
    There is no secret solution to an attack by midges. They are a part of nature. You either live with them or you bitch about them. Too many people bitch about them. The vocal minority.
    If you prefer to walk in Scotland in a midge free environment, then the solution is simple. Avoid the midge season.
    Some fannies tell you to avoid hill walking in Scotland except in month A or month B. They are not hill walker, they are tourists. The benefits of walking in days with so much daylight, reasonable temperatures, easy underfoot conditions and relatively lightweight packs (no cold weather gear required) easily outweigh the problems of the midge.
    Easy for me to say, I prefer to play golf in the summer but I can’t wait for the first snows to come so that i can get back into the hills in winter condition.
    But that has nothing to do with the midges, I simply prefer winter hill walking.

  11. Shewie says:

    I’ve got a spare tin of the Nordic Summer Andy if you want to try it, let me know

  12. Thanks for providing such a great article,Thank you for sharing the information.I like it very is of vital importance for me.

  13. Easy. Don’t go to Scotland in Summer 😉

  14. Andy, was up in Scotland recently for 10 days with family on holiday. When I was out walking the hills long sleeved clothing with a midge net ( at times) and spraying DEET on my hands kept them at bay. Oh and never stopping when you out walking, the little blighters don’t seem to be able to keep up with a walking pace. Just means you have to eat your sarnies on the hoof !!

    I saw a midge suit covering the top half in an outdoor shop in Skye for £35, which I saw the gardeners wearing in Inverewe Gardens.

    • Mark, I’m told that gardeners have a very hard time out on the NW. On the one hand they have the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream to help their crops. On the other hand they have to get bitten to bits even when they go and do the most basic of weeding tasks! I heard recently of an Outdoor Leader on Skye who’s wife is a keen gardener and is keen to move somewhere else so that she can enjoy gardening again!

      I guess there is a place for those odd midge suits!

  15. I agree with Eddie that you have to learn to live with the wee critters.

    When lying around in camp in Norway this summer I found a wind-shirt, rain pants tucked into my waterproof socks and an MLD headnet kept the bugs at bay pretty good. That just left my hands which I just kept moving while cooking and slipped into my pockets the rest of the time. I also had a small dropper bottle of weapons grade DEET in my pack but I thankfully didn’t have to resort to.

    For those with a hippy bent you can try karma. If you don’t kill them then they’ll leave you alone is the theory. But I found myself swatting a fair number when they breached my defences, leaving a bloody smear.

    Failing that isn’t gin supposed to be full of something that repels the buggers?

  16. Shewie says:

    A Beatons midge jacket is a good investment if they’re out in swarms

  17. chris yaoo says:

    looks like i spoke to soon the little sods got me at the bottom of pen y fan on monday all over my legs

  18. nick crisp says:

    I used Avon Skin-So-Soft on the recommendations of locals around Loch Leven last summer. I was actually on a motorcycling/camping holiday and stayed at a site right on the West Highland Way. The people coming in off the trail were complaining bitterly about the midges, but with the Avon, I had no problems. My trip included a fair bit of wandering around in Glen Etive, which I’ve heard can be a particularly bad spot for the little darlings, but again, no problems. I know I’m not one of those who just don’t get bitten because a few years ago I did a similar trip and got eaten alive at a campsite at the head of Loch Lomond. It brought a smirk to my face at first, picturing queues of hardened Jocks lining up in Boots asking for it…!

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