You do have to be careful with DEET, however, since it will dissolve plastics. For example, it can damage watch faces and poly-based gun stock finishes. If you use a spray, make sure you do it where overspray won't hit plastics, including those on vehicles. Further, some people may be sensitive to it and it is toxic if ingested.
Permethrin treatments for clothing are also very useful but you should not use them directly on your skin.
I've had positive results by using Granpa's Pine Tar soap before heading out to the woods. Pine tar has long been used in insect repellents. In his classic tome from 1884, Woodcraft and Camping, Nessmuk described his formula for bug dope as:
- 3 ounces of pine tar
- 2 ounces of castor oil
- 1 ounce of pennyroyal oil
His directions were to mix them together over a low fire and bottle for use. Pennyroyal oil can have some nasty side effects, so use with care.
More recently, Lars at Survival Russia posted this video:
Lars' formula is:
- 3 parts of beeswax
- 1 part of pine tar
- A little cooking oil, e.g., olive oil or canola oil (to make it more spreadable)
Last week, I decided to give Lars' recipe a try. I melted the ingredients together in a Pyrex measuring cup on a hot plate, and poured the resulting mixture into Sho-Ka-Kola tins.
(While I had the hot plate out, I decided to finish pan lubing my last batch of .44-40 bullets.)
I'm interested to see how well the pine tar-based bug dope works. By the smell, it should repel people just fine. Pew!
It can also be used as a leather dressing, making it multi-use. I have a camping trip coming up and plan to test out this bug dope. I'll post a report afterwards.