Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Head nets - for keeping the bugs at bay
On the Pacific Crest Trail, just when I was being driven crazy by gnats, serendipity struck and I found a head net on the trail. Without taking even a moment to think about whoever had used it, sneezed in it, sniffled in it, etc., I put it on immediately. Having never used one before, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't the immediate relief I experienced. After donning the head net, I was able to enjoy the rest of the day's hike but I felt very sorry for whoever had lost their head net. I came to wonder why it had taken me so long to discover the joys of head nets.
When the bugs fly so thick, no amount of DEET will keep them at bay, it's time to consider a head net. Head nets help you keep your sanity when the bugs would otherwise drive you crazy. Just imagine deer flies getting tangled in your hair, mosquitoes biting at your neck, black flies leaving welts as they chew your skin to lap your blood, and midges, gnats and no-see-ums which not only bite, but fly into your mouth, nose, and eyes in search of the moisture available there.
The type of bugs you expect to encounter and the situations you expect to be in will help you determine what type of head net you need. In some cases, a head net may not be enough and you may want to also consider bug net clothing as well.
Netting comes in at least two different types. Most commonly, there's mosquito netting and no-see-um netting. If you're going to be sitting around when the no-see-ums swarm, you'll want the tighter weave of the no-see-um netting. If no-see-ums aren't a problem, mosquito netting may be sufficient. Mosquito netting has a larger weave that is still small enough to keep mosquitoes out but may not repel no-see-ums while being inactive.
While hiking, I find mosquito netting, with the larger weave, to be a cooler option. I also find that the larger weave is enough to keep the no-see-ums out while I'm moving. When I get to camp, I can set up my tent with its no-see-um netting and take shelter from the smaller insects there if necessary.
Before you buy, think about the activity level you expect to have, the types of insects you expect to encounter, and the time of day you expect to be out. Do research into the location you will be visiting. This information will help you make the most informed decision about the type of netting you need for your outing.
Once you decide what type of netting, then there's a plethora of head net designs. Most are roomy enough to wear a brimmed hat underneath. Many people don't like the netting touching their face and the brim holds it away. Some come with their own flexible metal ring which performs the same function. How they seal around your neck is also a decision you have to make. Some have a drawstring barrier on the bottom or a loose elastic which drapes at the bottom of your neck. Others have enough material to drape over your shoulders, and there are even ones that loop under your arms to hold the edge down.
Think about what you'll be doing with your head net on. If you'll be eating, you're going to want one where you can lift up the bottom edge easily for each mouthful of food.
If you're going to be using a tarp rather than an enclosed tent, you may need to sleep with your head net. In that case, you definitely need to keep the mesh off your face with hat, ring, etc. Bugs can bite through mesh if it rests on your skin. This isn't a big problem while actually hiking on the trail as much as when you're motionless, sleeping.
I've used two different types of bug nets. One was a the mosquito net that I found on the PCT. The other was a no-see-um net. The no-see-um net, with it's finer mesh, was noticeably warmer to wear, especially when hiking or otherwise working hard, than the mosquito net.
I've never used a hat underneath my head nets. The netting on my face was MUCH less a bother (not a bother at all, really) than the mosquitoes, black flies, and gnats - even in hot weather. Plus, it's possible that the closer the netting is to your face, the easier it is to see through it. The angle of the sun and the color of the netting also plays a roll in how easy it is to see through the netting.
My mosquito net is an inexpensive head net with loose elastic neck and a circle of camo cloth (not netting) which does a good job of keeping the deer flies off my pate. Itīs the one I choose to travel with. Even though the neck doesn't "seal" well, Iīve never had problems with bugs getting in under the neck. I also like the loose elastic because I can wear it around my forehead when he bugs arenīt bad. I keep the camo on the top of my head to keep off the deer flies and drape the netting over my eyes to keep the gnats out of my eyes.
In many cases, a tight sealing neck may not be necessary. There may be places where it is necessary. Do your research and be comfortable outdoors.
Last updated, July 12, 2009.
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