Mosquitoes are everywhere. But in some popular trekking areas, such as in northern Scandinavia, there are quite a number of them. We have experienced the following: if it is not very dry, there can be thousands and thousands of mosquitoes. So truly a lot! But if you have the right mosquito protection, you can somehow get along with the small animals. With the following tips we got along well with the mosquitoes during our tours on the Kungsleden or the Nordkalottleden.
The number of mosquitoes varies from season to season
What helps is to hike at the very beginning or rather at the end of the season. Then the mosquitoes are not yet or no longer around or there are fewer mosquitoes on the trail. Once the first night frosts begin, you will notice that there are fewer mosquitoes each day.
What makes us attractive to mosquitoes?
However, in Lapland you usually do not want to be without mosquito protection. There are a number of products that promise help. Mosquitoes can perceive and track us over long distances through our body scent and the carbon dioxide from the air we breathe out. In particular, the fatty acids and ammonia compounds contained in our body scent as well as lactic acids on our skin play a role. At close range, they also detect our body heat in addition to visual sensations. So-called repellents do not cover up our body odour, but they scare off the mosquitoes so that they no longer bite. To do this, you smear or spray the repellent on your skin and clothes and you will have a couple of hours of peace afterwards.
Mosquito protection products with repellents work best
In general, there are mosquito repellents with different active ingredients. The classics are Diethyltoluamide (DEET) and Icaridin. DEET is used in different concentrations between 5% and 90% in repellents. The substance can cause skin irritation and numerous other side effects, but is generally well tolerated. However, pregnant women and infants should not use DEET if possible. If mosquito repellents contain DEET, you should be careful with plastic, as DEET can dissolve it. So be careful, e.g. with glasses frames! Another side effect is the greasy effect of DEET. I find this especially impractical on trekking tours, if you cannot wash yourself thoroughly on a regular basis or if you smear the repellent on your clothes. DEET is for example contained in the Swedish mosquito repellents Mygga or Djungelolja in a concentration of 10% to 20%. You can buy it for about 6 EUR (60 SEK) in the supermarket.
The second top seller among mosquito repellents is Icaridin. It is said to be better tolerated than DEET and is non-greasy. In addition, it is odorless – at least for us humans. Mosquitoes are reliably deterred by the smell of Icaridin. The concentration of Icaridin is also decisive for its effect. Products contain between 10% and 30% of the substance. We have not yet tested any products with Icaridin. This is also due to the fact that we have not yet been able to buy a suitable product in Sweden. The effect of Autan, which is known in Germany, is based on Icaridin. However, we have met some distressed German hikers in Lapland, whose Autan they brought along did not show any effect. But I cannot say whether this is due to the active substance.
Are there any plant-based alternatives for mosquito protection?
In addition to chemical substances, there are also plant-based alternatives that work more or less well. We tried p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) on our last holiday. PMD is a plant-based product obtained from distillation residues of lemon eucalyptus, but it is not a direct component of the essential oil of lemon eucalyptus. The product we used is considerably more expensive (approx. 13 EUR / 130 SEK) than the usual DEET-based products. It smells of eucalyptus and lemon when applied. For us, this smell was more pleasant than that of the DEET-based products and the spray does not leave a sticky feeling on the skin. The downside: in our experience it does not help for such a long period. Therefore you have to apply it more often. All in all, the PMD-based Mygg + Fästing product we used has done a good job along the Nordkalottleden.
Which mosquito repellent really helps against mosquitoes?
So what is the best method to help? We can say this much: what definitely does not help is, according to our experience, mosquito repellents brought from Germany. Save the money and buy products locally. The people up here in Lapland but also in other countries know what helps and the products are available practically everywhere. If necessary even in the shops of the huts along Kungsleden.
How to apply the products?
When applying the mosquito repellent, it is important to use it generously and, above all, over the entire surface. Even though the package warns not to use the product on the face, we have always applied it on the face. However, make sure that nothing gets into your eyes or mouth. In our experience, mosquitoes exploit every weak point in your protective barrier, no matter how small. Especially easily missed: When you sit down, your hiking pants can be pulled up a little at the ankle. Since most hiking socks are not mosquito-proof, this is exactly the place where the mosquitoes attack. Another weak point is the neck and shoulder in the area of the backpack straps. You easily forget to protect yourself there.
Real protection is therefore only offered by mosquito-proof fabrics or the widespread use of repellents in all areas that are unprotected. We therefore apply our mosquito protection generously to socks, pants, T-shirt, face and hair.
What else can you do against the little teases?
Besides the mosquito protection with sprays and co. you can follow some simple tips to be spared from itchy bites. First tip: wear bite resistant clothing! Fabrics that do not let the mosquito’s trunk penetrate are the bulletproof vests of trekking enthusiasts. So make sure at least for your trousers that the fabric has this extra. Thin T-shirts often don’t have this feature, but you often have a jacket over your upper body anyway, especially during breaks. There are of course also lots of clothes for the upper part of the body to keep the mosquitoes off.
Also important: always make sure that nothing slips during breaks when sitting and leaves you unprotected. This guarantees that you will not offer the mosquitoes any bare skin! If you want to be looked at in a funny way even in the fjäll, you can also try a mosquito net over your head. I for my part am not a fan of it. With the combination of mosquito-proof clothes and repellents I am pretty well equipped.
And if nothing helps?
If you want to have a few minutes break from the mosquitoes, then I recommend you to strategically plan your breaks and overnight stays. Above the tree line, in dry, windy and sunny places, you will encounter significantly fewer mosquitoes. So look at the map and try to find a good place with less mosquitoes. And even if you don’t really need rain on trekking tours: it reliably keeps away all mosquitoes! So always look on the positive side of the situation!
Our conclusion on mosquito protection
Mosquito-proof clothing, the right holiday season and strategic places for breaks are important components in the protection against mosquitoes. But we have often enough experienced that the mosquitoes buzzing around drive us crazy. So it helps enormously to quickly grab the repellent and get some mental peace.
We have tried out various mosquito protection products. In summary, the following can be stated: Buy a local mosquito repellent. We repeatedly met people who used products they had brought with them (from Germany) and were surrounded by completely unimpressed mosquitoes.
In the supermarket in Sweden the products cost between about 6 EUR (60 SEK, products with DEET) and 13 EUR (130 SEK, products with PMD). At the STF huts the prices are about the same, but the assortment is smaller. In 2019 we got only the more expensive product without DEET in the STF hut Unna Allakas. We tested Mygga, Djungelolja – both based on DEET – and Mygg & Fästing with PMD as active ingredient. All three worked well.