The Original Bugshirt Company is a Canadian-based cottage industry company that makes insect proof clothing, including their unique stirrup style bug gaiters, for people who live where the bugs are as big as baseballs, like Northern Ontario and Alaska. Given the Lyme disease epidemic this year along the Atlantic coast, you might find some of their unique clothing suitable for hiking, backpacking and other forms of outdoor recreation like gardening.
While I’m no stranger to Permethrin (an insecticide sprayed on clothing to kill Lyme Disease carrying ticks), there’s something to be said for wearing insect-proof clothing instead of insect-repellent clothing that’s been treated with chemicals. All of the Original Bugshirt Company’s clothing is made using densely woven cotton or polyester that’s tick and mosquito proof, but not guaranteed against bees or wasps.
While the Original Bugshirt Clothing mainly sells insect proof shirt and pants, their insect proof Bug Gaiters caught my eye as a valuable addition to tick defenses for off-trail hiking, also known as bushwhacking. Designed to prevent bugs from crawling up your pant legs or biting your ankles, these bug gaiters have stirrups!
The stirrups are worn over your socks inside your shoe to hold them in place. They run up to just below your knee and pull tight with a cord lock above the calf, so they won’t fall down. There’s an elastic band built into the gaiter at the ankle which prevents bugs from crawling up your legs and under your pants, with a little skirt of fabric below the elastic that protects your upper foot.
I’ve worn the Bug Gaiters over long pants when I bushwhack, effectively doubling the amount of fabric worn over my calfs. Unfortunately my calves sweat a lot when I hike, even in winter, and the bug gaiters have proven too hot for me to really wear. In addition, the little skirt of fabric below the ankle elastic doesn’t stay in my shoes when I bushwhack vigorously. It’s short enough that it doesn’t interfere with walking but I almost wish it was a bit longer or would wrap around the bottom of my heel to stay inside the back of my shoe so ticks couldn’t get into my socks.
I’ve tried using the Bug Gaiters with low boots (mids) and there the skirts do stay put. But I’m not willing to wear boots for warm weather bushwhacking or hiking and plan to keep using the Insect Shield (Permethrin-treated) socks and pants that I normally wear in warmer weather because they’re cooler and just as effective, so far, at least.
While I haven’t tried them, I suspect that the Original Bug Company’s Pull On Style Bug Pants (also with stirrups) would probably a better solution for my needs than their gaiters, since there’s no doubling of the fabric around my calves. The Bug Gaiters are really designed for people unwilling to give up their existing pants.
I do think that the Original Bugshirt Company’s Bug Gaiters are still a good solution for less active recreational pursuits like gardening, where you’re generating less body heat than hiking and where wearing two layers of clothing over your lower legs would be less uncomfortable. Lyme Disease cases are surprisingly high amongst the gardening population and a real concern.
Disclosure: The Original Bug Shirt Company provided the author with a pair of bug gaiters for this review.
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