The Bug Battle Begins

Natrapel offers DEET-free armor in the summer war on winged, biting things.


With bug season upon us, a new product we unearthed during our medical kit test seemed worthy of a closer look. Natrapel 8 Hour, from Tender Corp. (parent company of Adventure Medical Kits), promises DEET-free protection from mosquitoes, ticks, no-see-ums, biting flies, and other nasties. While DEET, an EPA-registered pesticide, is the most common active ingredient in bug sprays, Natrapel uses Picaridin, a chemical that has been used in Europe for 20 years and made its way into the U.S. this decade. The Centers for Disease Control recommends both DEET and Natrapel as effective insect repellents. Both also are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which includes oil of lemon eucalyptus and oil of citronella on its list of active ingredients for repelling insects.

Past reports and studies have shown that DEET can melt fishing line and can damage synthetic clothing. These, along with growing concern over the health side effects of using DEET-none of which have been proven in clinical tests-leave many looking for an alternative to DEET-based repellents.

While Natrapel is not the first Picaridin product to hit the market, it claims to have the highest percentage of the repellent available in the U.S.: 20 percent. Natrapel claims eight hours of protection, comparable to DEET products.

Practical Sailor testers put the Natrapel to use on a few excursions in the woods and waterways of Central Florida, pitting it against Repel 100, which claims 98.11-percent DEET content. Both kept the bugs away. The Natrapel was less greasy and less sticky than the Repel, but it smelled like flowers. The Repel smelled like-well, bug spray.

If youre looking for a DEET alternative, the Natrapel works-but be sure to sniff before you buy.

Natrapel costs about $6 for 4-ounces and is available on the companys website and from most L.L. Bean and Cabelas stores.

We invite reader suggestions for bug battling as we launch a summer-long project in the Florida swamps. Send your suggestions to

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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