ExOfficio BugsAway Baja Long Sleeve Shirt
By Raymond Estrella
July 23, 2006
North Western Minnesota, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
215 lb (97.50 kg)
I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.
|Image courtesy of ExOfficio|
Manufacturer: ExOfficio LLC
Web site: www.exofficio.com
Year manufactured: 2005
MSRP: $99.00 (US)
Size reviewed: Extra Large
Weight: 17.4 oz (493 g)
Color reviewed: Khaki
The ExOfficio BugsAway shirt (hereafter called the BugsAway or shirt) is a long sleeved button-up hiking shirt that like Peter Parker, has a secret identity. No it is not a super-hero, but a super-useful shirt.
The secret is the Insect Shield fabric (supplied by the company of the same name) used in its construction. The 65% polyester / 35% cotton blend fabric has a semi-permanent insect repellent bonded to it. Here is what they say about it, “Insect Shield is the result of a process that binds the insect repellent active ingredient permethrin to the fabric of the garments to repel insects. Permethrin is a human-made version of an insect repellent that occurs naturally in certain chrysanthemums. The insect repellency in the fabric is odorless and colorless, and lasts through 70 machine washings.”
According to the manufacturer it “provides effective and convenient protection against mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges.” It also boast a UPF of 30+ for added protection from UV but as I only use sunblock in winter and/or mountaineering I can’t comment on its effectiveness.
The shirt has two flap-covered pockets on the chest. The pockets are made with side-bellows that allow a lot of stuff to be put in them if I wish. I normally only carry a map inside one of them. Under the flap of the right side pocket is a zipper that when opened reveals a hidden secure pocket. It is formed of material on the inside of the shirt directly behind the outside bellows pocket. I have a picture of them both here.
A ventilation panel under each arm and on the back is made from what the company calls “Airomesh” helps to control the temps. The vents can be somewhat closed with a button. The same Airomesh lines the yoke inside of the shirt to facilitate cooling and moisture transfer. A long “action” pleat runs down the center of the shirt on the back panel. The action pleat will allow the back to stretch about four in (10 cm) wider than it looks. A piece of elastic sewn to it on the inside of the shirt pulls it back into place once the stress of me flexing my massive shoulder muscles is gone. (Right…)
The sleeves have a button about two thirds of the way up the arm that when rolled up will attach to a strap to keep the sleeves from rolling back down. I use this function quite often. A very heavy duty hang loop is sewn to the yoke on the outside of the shirt, centered just under the collar.
The care instructions are wonderful to a single guy like me. They are; “apparel can be machine-washed, with any standard laundry detergent, at any water temperature, and can be machine-dried at any dryer temperature.” Whoo-hoo! But they also warn that, “The EPA registration indicates that BugsAway apparel must be laundered separately from other clothing. The active ingredient is tightly bound to the fibers of the fabric of each piece of BugsAway apparel, but tiny fiber fragments or dye particles that contain the active ingredient might come off during machine-washing.” Of course because I am a guy I completely ignore that and wash it with everything else.
I have used the BugsAway Baja over the past two years mainly in spring or early fall. The warmest temperature encountered was on the Morgan Trail in Cleveland National Forest where it hit 80 F (27 C) at 1,200’ (370 m) elevation this is the lowest it has been worn at. I have worn it a lot in this area.
The highest would be a few 12,000’+ (3,700 m) passes on the John Muir Trail where it also saw the coldest wearing when the temps dropped down to a frigid 17 F (-8 C). (Suddenly bugs were not such a problem.)
I have worn it a lot in the Mount San Jacinto area and a couple times around Mount San Gorgonio. I brought it with me to Minnesota to wear on a couple of boot-break-in day hikes in Buffalo River State Park.
I rarely wear long sleeves or long pants. I carry REI Jungle Juice or Cutter Advanced and use it on my arms and legs to keep myself fairly bug free. My brother-in-law Dave had been buying the BugsAway clothing for himself and his daughters but I never thought that I would be interested. Then in March of 2005 I had my mind changed.
California had an excellent winter and spring with record snow and rainfall. There was water everywhere. And I knew that the bugs would be bad because of it. I packed for a two day trip to Cleveland National Forest to try to hike every mile of trails in an area called the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, including finding the four waterfalls that are there. By around 10:00 AM I noticed that I was getting a lot of ticks on me. I had bug repellent on and it may have been keeping them from biting, but it did not stop them from trying to climb where there was more palatable areas of my body. By 1:00 PM it was getting ridiculous. I stopped counting how many ticks I got off my arms and legs at fifty. After having to get out tweezers to remove one that had braved the bug juice to get a meal I said “I quit”. I felt that surely I had missed a bunch of them as they are hard to feel bite and just knew that they were in my hair, my ears, my neck. I went all the way back to my vehicle which made for a 23 mile day that I had not planned on doing.
On the way home I passed a REI store. I whipped in and walked straight to the BugsAway display and bought the Baja shirt. (Then I went home and looked for ticks.)
The next day I went back to the same area with the shirt on (and some long pants). I did not go as far but spent all of it in the lower areas by the creeks where it has the most brush overgrowing the trails, (where the ticks get on me from.) I walked 16 miles (26 km) that day and did a tick-check every half hour. I got them on me for sure, but they did not like the shirt. I watched some crawl around a bit and actually drop off. (To go climb another grass stem or bush and wait for a non-BugsAway equipped hiker I am sure.)
Because I was wearing the shirt and wanted to make sure that it was worth the high price I paid I did not put any bug spray on. I did have to put my hat on to keep mosquitoes out of my hair, but the shirt did a good job of keeping them from biting through the shirt where it is tight on my shoulders. (OK it is tight sometimes on my stomach also…) I ended the day very impressed with the BugsAway shirt.
I was concerned with its 25 washings life expectancy (original expectancy, now increased to 70). I would try to get a few days use before washing it unless it got real dirty or it had been a very hot day. I think I washed it three or four times that first spring/summer. I noticed no difference in its effectiveness after these early washings
In October of 2005 it proved valuable again. We were doing the upper half of the John Muir Trail. I brought a small bottle of DEET for bug protection which we hoped we would not need. The only reason I had the BugsAway Baja with me was I decided to bring a long sleeve shirt in addition to my t-shirt and only picked it because it was the same color as my pants. During the day-long drive to pick up a permit, drop off a vehicle at the trail end, and then drive to the trail head the constant elevation changes caused the bottle of DEET to loosen and leak. Almost all of it leaked into my pack, (a horror story for another time). I did not find out until the afternoon of our first day when we were being attacked by starving mosquitoes. By October there were not many other hikers around to share their attention. Suddenly having the Baja along made me look like a non-itchy Nostradamus.
It really did work well on that trip. We had very bad bugs for the first two days and the last two. It froze in the middle so the shirt was just a welcome long-sleeved layer at that point.
It has proven to be a very comfortable shirt also. I keep the vents open almost always. I like the buttons on the sleeves that allow me to roll them up and keep them there. It does not bind when being worn under a pack. It dries fairly fast. As I have to buy an Extra Large to fit the length of my arms (I wish it was to fit my large manly shoulders) I have no problem keeping the shirt tucked in. It is plenty long.
In fact in my vodka and Gookinaid influenced daydreams the comely female back-country ranger says to me, “It sure is buggy tonight. Could I borrow your BugsAway shirt to use as a nightie?” Alas, it has not happened yet.
Probably the best example of its usefulness was on the two day-hikes along the Buffalo River in Minnesota. The mosquitoes are notorious there, and for a good reason. There are over two hundred species of them there. And some of them bite through jeans. I watched tens of them hovering above my arms and shoulders. They wanted to land so bad I could hear their high-pitched screams of frustration. (I’m pretty sure that’s what it was.) But no joy for them. “Later, suckers”.
This spring I have had it out on three trips already. It is working just as well as it did last year. The ticks have not been as bad this year. The most I have counted this spring has been twelve in a day. (And only one bite so far.) But I like the reassuring feeling of knowing that they like the BugsAway shirt as little as I like them. And so it stays in use. I figure that I am near one half of the way through its life expectancy.
Pros: Actually keeps bugs off, comfortable, sun blocking
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