This summer, I have found the bugs in the woods to be much worse than I can remember them ever being. I truly dislike using bug spray, especially the ones that work; the ones with a high percentage of DEET. In the past, I have simply hiked with the attitude that bugs don't bother me, and they wouldn't. I know that sounds weird, but it worked for me.
This year, the mosquitos especially, have enjoyed a good laugh over my positive thinking bug deterrent. There have been times when I felt like a Gulliver with the bugs as Lilliputians dive bombing my head in Sopwith Camels. And I swear I could hear them laughing at me. So I started wearing bug dope. I have used several Off! products over the course of the summer. Here is a review of each one I tried.
The first one I tried was Off Smooth and Dry. This is an aerosol, making it impractical for extended backwoods travel, though it is fine for day hikes. This spray is almost a powder. Though this is 15% DEET, there was no DEET burn at all, except when I sprayed my hands and rubbed it on my sweaty face. It was very effective against the bugs. I did have to reapply it over the hike as sweat diluted it, but that is the case with all bug repellents. The only downside to this product is that it stains clothes white, though the stains come out in the wash and I have the attitude that if I am not dirty on a hike, I am doing something wrong. I found this product to be effective against mosquitos, deer flies and ticks.
The next product I used was Off Active. This non-aerosol spray contains 25% DEET and claims to be sweat resistant. I did not have to reapply this product over the hike, so as far as I am concerned this product is sweat resistant. However, there was a pretty good burn with this spray, especially on my face, but I could feel it on my arms as well. On the plus side, it was effective at keeping the bugs away.
Next up was Off Botanicals. This product was in the form of a moist towelette. It is a "plant-based" repellant and contains no DEET. I was walking through tall grass the day I tried this repellent, and put in on after I had started. Before I put it on, I had removed three ticks that had bit me enough so that two of the spots bled when I removed them. I rubbed the towelette right over those spots when I applied it. There was no burn of any kind. Though the packaging appears to suggest that it is a mosquito repellent, as opposed to a bug repellent, I found it to be effective against ticks and deer flies as well. I might consider this product, but I am not a fan of the moist towelette application method.
Finally, I tried Deep Woods Off. This pump spray repellent contains 25% DEET like the Off Active. I am not really sure why, but I felt no burn with this product, even on my face. I have had this bottle for a while so I thought maybe it had expired, but I can't find any thing on the packaging to suggest it ever expires. This product was effective against the spectrum of bugs in the Maine woods, I was not bothered, though I did have to reapply it over the course of my hike.
I still don't like bug spray, and would prefer not to wear it. I carry a small bottle of Ben's 100 in my backpack that I may have had since I was no Outward Bound in the seventies. That will stay there. My day pack, however, has had the Off Active in it. That will be replaced with the Deep Woods Off, because in spite of needing to be reapplied, it provided both comfort and effectiveness.