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’.