Permethrin vs. Picaridin

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    Sean Passanisi
    BPL Member


    Hello. Newbie bug question: Is Permethrin used for equipment and clothing and Picaridin for the skin?

    I picked up some Sawywer Picaridin as a DEET alternative before reading about Permethrin. Never occurred to me to spray the tent down (I thought the purpose of the net was to keep the bugs out). Is there any downside to coating the tent in Permethrin?

    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    It depends on where you will be, what kind of bugs are there, etc.

    Permethrin seems to work for me, but it is applied to fabrics in advance of the trip. It seems to do a number on the little crawlies.

    I've never found Picaridin to be that effective. DEET seems to be much more effective. However, I would caution you against directly applying it to your skin. Instead, dab it on clothing areas that will feel your body heat. That seems to evaporate the chemical, and the fog of it keeps flying insects away. I tend to put it around the collar and cuffs of my shirt. Avoid sensitive skin areas.

    I've used DEET in one form or another for over forty years, and it has yet to cause any bad problem for me, although it did eat the paint on my car one time.


    Jeremy and Angela
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Correct, Permethrin for clothing and Picaridin for skin (or do as Bob suggests).

    General precautions:
    Keep Deet away from nylon (damages it).
    Keep Permethrin away from fish and cats (kills them).

    Permethrin is a neurotoxin; it will kill ticks and other insects rather than just acting as a deterrent.

    Steven McAllister
    BPL Member


    Locale: Arizona, US

    Be aware that Permethrin is not a bug repellent and in fact I have been be bit by mosquitoes through my treated clothing. The mosquito will eventually die, but not until after it has bitten.

    Permethrin is commonly used to prevent ticks from infecting you. It can take several minutes for a tick to die once exposed to treated clothing(I have tested this.
    Ticks are slow and so even if they do bite before they die, they won't be alive long enough to infect.

    Applying Permethrin to gear does very little. Ticks don't crawl around much and so usually won't show up on your shelter or pack.
    They tend to hang out in grass and brush waiting to attach to a passing animal.

    Permethrin is very effective on clothing.
    Never apply to skin and as stated, keep the liquid away from cats.
    Don't dump left over liquid where it could possibly reach a water source, or even ground water.

    I keep my treated clothing away from my cat.

    Tanner M



    I had sprayed up some clothes with permithrin. While watching bugs use my permithrin coated clothing as a landing spot to wait for feeding space to open up on my skin, I figured I must be in the land of bad ass bugs.

    So, permithrin is a killer rather than a repellant. I will remember that. I am not really looking for retribution as much as relief.

    I have used Skin So Soft. I remember that from years ago… It is still sold in Scotland for midges. I finally decided that it isn't a repellant as much as an unholy mess that traps the midge and suffocates it. I did get fewer bites. Literally covered in midge carcasses, though.

    I hiked over to a B&B and took a room. Looking in the mirror, I saw 3-4 smushed midges on my face and neck. The lady that checked me in didn't comment. I must have been doing it right. Or she has come to expect Americans to look the way I did…

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