I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with insect repellents that contain DEET. On the one hand the stuff works and on the other hand the chemical composition of DEET is just plain disturbing. DEET was developed by the U.S. Army during WWII and was released to the public in 1957. Before being used as a human insect repellent, DEET was used as a experimental pesticide. N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, abbreviated DEET is a member of the toluene chemical family, which is a solvent used in plastic cements and paint removers. If you have experienced melted leaders, fly lines, and rod finish that has come in contact with DEET, then the solvent makeup will come as no surprise. DEET is not supposed to come in contact with skin because it is easily absorbed and enters the bloodstream where the effects are still not clearly known. The only real upside to products that contain DEET is that they WORK!
Lately I have been looking for an insect repellent that both work and do not contain DEET. On a recommendation from a friend I decided to give the good folks at Eco-Blends a call and they agreed to send me a bottle of their DEET free insect repellent to review. To be perfectly honest I was more than a bit skeptical. After all Eco-Blends repellent is made entirely from essential oils including Rosemary, Thyme, Lemongrass, Geranium, Peppermint, Maine Soybean, Wheat germ, and Vitamin E. No laboratory manufactured chemicals at all.
I decided to give the Eco-Blends repellent a trial by fire by testing it out on my favorite trout stream on a warm and humid day in early June. On a normal day the mosquitoes can be so bad that I have the river to myself. My normal defense is a small bottle of 95% DEET spray or coating myself in Deep Woods Off. The first thing I noticed about the Eco-Blend repellent is the scent. It actually smells like the woods. No harsh chemical smell! After lining up my rod I stepped from the woods to the water and the mosquitoes, true to form, were all over. The Eco-Blend did a pretty good job keeping them at bay. Its an oil so I applied it directly to my skin and on the covered sections I experienced excellent protection! I was still being bit through the back of my shirt but my arms, neck, ears, and face did not receive a single bite. After half a day fishing I re-applied the Eco-Blend repellent, in part because I was sweating so much, and the second application worked as good as the first. Eco-Blend does make a spray repellent for horses called “protect 22″ which might be nice for applying to clothing. In Sum: Is Eco-Blends insect repellent as good as Deep Woods Off? No, when I use Deep Woods Off there is a three foot “no fly zone” around me that even the most suicidal mosquito’s obey. With the Eco-Blends repellent I did not receive a single bite on the covered areas, but the mosquito’s were not forced back in the same way. With some DEET based products I have fished for 8+ hours without the need to reapply and with the Eco-Blends repellent it lasted between 3-5 hours. Honestly, the Eco-Blend repellent really surprised me. Personally I have no problem with having to re-apply my insect repellent during an 8 hour day if that means I don’t have to subject my body to chemical DEET.