7 Tips for Dealing with Insects While Orienteering: Expert Strategies for Outdoor Comfort

June 28, 2024 7 min read

Embarking on an orienteering adventure can be a refreshing outdoor experience, offering a unique blend of navigation skills and physical exercise. Amidst the thrill of navigating through diverse terrains, an often underestimated challenge emerges—dealing with insects.

An orienteer navigates through a forest, carefully avoiding insects. They use bug spray, wear long sleeves, and stay on clear paths to minimize encounters

How can you most effectively manage this natural obstacle and ensure a smooth and enjoyable orienteering experience? Discover practical and actionable advice as you explore the 7 essential tips designed to help you cope with insects during your orienteering journey.

1) Use Insect Repellent

In orienteering, applying insect repellent is essential to prevent bites. Choose a repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. These ingredients are effective against a variety of insects.

Before heading out, generously apply the repellent to all exposed skin. Don't forget to reapply it as instructed on the product label, especially if you're sweating or in wet conditions.

Pay extra attention to areas like your neck, wrists, and ankles. Insects often target these spots. Wearing long sleeves and pants in addition to using repellent provides an added layer of protection.

Ensure that you also spray your gear, such as hats and backpacks, for comprehensive coverage. This can prevent insects from crawling onto your skin from your equipment.

2) Wear long sleeves and pants

Person wears long sleeves and pants, walking through forest. Insects hover around, but person remains unaffected

Wearing long sleeves and pants can provide a physical barrier against insect bites. It reduces the amount of exposed skin, making it harder for insects to reach you. Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics to maintain comfort during your orienteering activities.

Opt for clothing with tight cuffs to prevent insects from getting inside your sleeves or pants. Elastic cuffs or bands around your wrists and ankles can be particularly effective. Light-colored clothing can also help, as it makes it easier to spot any insects that may land on you.

Additionally, consider tucking your pants into your socks or boots. This method can create an extra layer of protection by closing off potential entry points for insects. Lightweight gaiters are another accessory to consider for added security.

Selecting appropriate clothing is a simple yet effective strategy. By minimizing skin exposure, you can focus more on your navigation and enjoy the experience.

3) Choose Bright Colors

Bright colors depict insects in nature. Green leaves, orange butterflies, and yellow flowers surround a orienteer. Blue sky and vibrant grass complete the scene

When selecting your orienteering outfit, opt for bright colors. Bright shades like yellow, orange, and red make you easily visible in the wilderness. This can be especially helpful in dense forests or dim lighting conditions.

Bright colors are less attractive to insects compared to darker shades. They tend to be more drawn to dark colors like black or navy. Choosing bright clothing can reduce the likelihood of insect attacks.

Additionally, bright colors help fellow orienteers and rescue teams spot you from a distance. This adds an extra layer of safety. Staying visible minimizes the chances of getting lost or separated.

In summary, bright colors offer both insect repellent benefits and increased visibility. By focusing on clothing that is both functional and safe, you enhance your orienteering experience.

4) Apply Permethrin to Clothing

Permethrin is an effective insect repellent that you can apply directly to your clothing. This treatment provides extended protection against ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects.

Make sure to treat your socks, pants, shirts, and hats with permethrin. These areas are most likely to come into contact with insects.

When applying permethrin, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Ensure you do this in a well-ventilated area for safety.

Allow the treated clothing to dry completely before wearing it. This usually takes a few hours.

Permethrin-treated clothing remains effective through several washes. Check the product's specifications to know how many wash cycles it can withstand.

5) Avoid Scented Products

A sign with "Avoid scented products" surrounded by insects and orienteering equipment

Insects are highly attracted to strong scents. When orienteering, it's crucial to avoid using scented products. This includes perfumes, lotions, and even some deodorants. Strong fragrances can draw insects to you, making your journey uncomfortable and potentially hazardous.

Opt for unscented or low-scent alternatives. These products leave a minimal scent trail that insects can follow. Many companies now offer fragrance-free or natural, scent-free versions of toiletries. Checking labels before you buy can help you choose wisely.

Even laundry detergent and fabric softeners can have strong odors. It's best to switch to unscented versions of these as well. By doing so, your clothing won't carry enticing scents that can attract insects.

Consider your food and drink choices too. Avoiding sugary snacks or beverages with strong aromas can decrease your chances of encountering bugs. Carry water in a well-sealed bottle and choose snacks with low scent profiles.

Lastly, remember to apply any insect repellent after other products. This avoids layering fragrances that might confuse or deter the repellent's effectiveness. Properly managing scents can significantly reduce unwanted insect attention.

6) Set up camp away from stagnant water

Campsite: Clear ground, surrounded by trees. No stagnant water nearby. Insects kept at bay with repellent and proper clothing

Setting up camp away from stagnant water is crucial when orienteering. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects.

You should choose a campsite that is at least 200 feet away from ponds, marshes, and slow-moving streams. This distance helps reduce the number of insects around your tent.

Look for higher ground when selecting your camp spot. Elevation can further decrease the insect population, as many bugs prefer the moist environments close to stagnant water.

Be mindful of vegetation around your campsite. Thick foliage near stagnant water can harbor many bugs. Opt for a more open area with less dense vegetation to minimize insect encounters.

7) Check for ticks regularly

A person checks their clothing for ticks while orienteering in the woods. They carefully inspect their gear for any signs of insects

Ticks can pose health risks such as Lyme disease, so it's crucial to check for them often.

After spending time in grassy or wooded areas, inspect your body thoroughly. Pay special attention to warm, moist places like armpits, behind the knees, and around the waistline.

Use a mirror to check hard-to-see places or ask someone to help. Don't forget to check your scalp by parting your hair.

It's beneficial to wear light-colored clothing. This makes it easier to spot ticks. Tucking your pants into your socks can also help prevent ticks from getting onto your skin.

If you find a tick, remove it promptly with tweezers. Grasp it close to the skin and pull steadily without twisting.

Dispose of the tick by placing it in alcohol, sealing it in a bag, or flushing it down the toilet. Clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water.

Keep an eye on the bite site for signs of infection, such as redness or swelling. If you experience any symptoms like fever or rash, seek medical advice.

Understanding Common Insects

In a forest clearing, insects swarm around a compass and map. A hiker swats at mosquitoes while studying a guidebook

Orienteering often brings you into close contact with various insects. Knowing how to identify these insects and understand their behaviors can ease your experience in nature.

Identifying Different Species

In outdoor environments, you may encounter several common insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, bees, and ants. Familiarizing yourself with these species helps in taking appropriate precautions.

Mosquitoes are small, winged insects with long legs. They are often active during dusk and dawn. Ticks are tiny, spider-like creatures often found in grassy or wooded areas, and they latch onto skin to feed on blood. Bees are usually yellow and black, and they are crucial for pollination. Ants are social insects known for their colonies and varied sizes, often seen scavenging for food.

Behavior and Habitats

Insects exhibit distinct behaviors and are often found in specific habitats. Mosquitoes thrive in stagnant water and humid areas. They are attracted by carbon dioxide and warmth, making them drawn to human activity.

Ticks prefer areas with dense vegetation and damp environments. They wait on grass blades and latch onto passing hosts. Bees favor flower-rich areas for foraging nectar and pollen and are less likely to sting unless provoked.

Ants are mostly ground dwellers, building intricate colonies in the soil or under debris. They are often seen around food sources which they transport back to their nests. Being mindful of their habitats can help you avoid contact with these insects.

Preventing Insect Encounters

A hiker sprays insect repellent on their clothing and gear before heading into the forest. They also wear long sleeves and pants to minimize skin exposure

Proper preparation and the use of reliable repellents are crucial. By selecting the right gear and applying effective repellents, you can significantly reduce the chances of insect encounters while orienteering.

Choosing the Right Gear

Wearing appropriate clothing can make a big difference. Long sleeves and pants made from lightweight, breathable fabrics can protect your skin from insect bites. Avoid wearing bright colors and perfumes, as these can attract insects.

Consider using clothing treated with permethrin, an insect-repellent chemical. This treatment can be applied to your gear or purchased pre-treated. Hats with mesh nets offer added protection for your face and neck.

Boots should also cover your ankles to prevent ticks from attaching. Tucking your pants into your socks provides an additional barrier. Using these gear choices strategically can help minimize insect encounters effectively.

Using Effective Repellents

Repellents are another essential tool. Products containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus are highly effective. Apply them to exposed skin and clothing following the manufacturer's instructions.

Reapply repellent as needed, especially if you sweat heavily or stay out for extended periods. Avoid applying repellent to broken skin or near your eyes and mouth.

Consider natural alternatives like citronella or lavender oil if you prefer chemical-free options. While not always as potent, they can be useful in less insect-dense areas. Test any repellent on a small skin patch to check for reactions before full application.

First Aid for Insect Bites

When orienteering, insect bites are often unavoidable.

Immediate Actions

  1. Wash the area: Use soap and water to clean the bitten area.
  2. Apply a cold pack: Reduce swelling and pain by placing a cold pack on the site.
  3. Avoid scratching: This minimizes the risk of infection.

Treatment Options

  • Topical creams: Use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.
  • Oral antihistamines: Consider taking an antihistamine like Benadryl for itching.
  • Pain relievers: Use over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen.

Signs of Allergic Reaction

Monitor for signs like:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of face or throat
  • Rash or hives

If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.

Preventing Infections

  • Keep the bite area clean and dry.
  • Cover with a bandage if necessary.
  • Reapply topical treatments as needed.

Additional Tips

In your first aid kit, include:

  • Tweezers for removing stingers or ticks
  • Alcohol wipes for cleaning the skin
  • Spare bandages and gauze

Being prepared can significantly improve your orienteering experience by mitigating the discomfort of insect bites.