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

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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