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Reviews > Health & Safety > Insect Repellents > Adventure Medical Kit Natrapel Repellent > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Adventure Medical Natrapel Insect Repellent

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - May 10, 2008

Field Report - September 16, 2008

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 54
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 220 lb (100 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Backpacking background: mostly in Minnesota - have hiked all of the Superior Hiking Trail, starting on the Border Route.  Preferred/typical  backpack trip is one week.  Dayhiking in Utah, Colorado and Oregon.  Mostly Spring/Fall seasons.  Comfort-weight hiker: I try to carry as few items as possible, but do not go to extremes to reduce weight of items carried.  I try to do most of my hiking in seasons where I avoid the worst of the bug problems and minimize use of insect repellent, but living in Minnesota mosquitoes are a part of life.

Initial Report

Product Information

Manufacturer: Adventure Medical Kits
Year of manufacture: 2008
Expiration date:
Not labeled
Manufacturer website: http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com
Listed volume (net contents): 3.5 fl oz (104 ml)
Weight as received: 4.8 oz (134 g) 4.7 oz (131 g) [2 packages]
Package dimensions (measured):
6.4 x 2.1 x 1.1 inches (16.2 x 5.2 x 2.7 cm)
MSRP: $5.99 US per package

Product Description

NatrapelNatrapel is packaged in a tall slender pump spray bottle with a removable cap that protects the pump from inadvertent dispensing.  The active ingredient is Picaridin, which the product labelling claims is "proven as effective as DEET" for eight hours of protection.  According to the Wikipedia page on Icaridin (apparently the chemical manufacturers name for Picaridin) the World Health Organization also claims it "demonstrates excellent repellent properties comparable to, and often superior to, those of the standard DEET".  The article also claims Icaridin as opposed to DEET has less irritation and does not dissolve plastics, both features I would greatly appreciate if true.

The article claims Icaridin is both colorless and odorless, though a test spray on the back of my wrist indicated a fresh smell that does linger. The product label indicates that the contents are 80% inert ingredients but does not state what those ingredients are.

The labelling claims eight hours of effectiveness and recommends against more than two applications per day, which should cover a full hiking day.  If I do not achieve eight hours of protection, I will have to decide whether or not to push the application limit.

Initial Impressions

Packaging: weighing in at almost 5 oz (140 g) this is more heft for bug dope than I would ordinarily carry.  The bottle fits comfortably in my hand, and the shape is conducive to use of the pump spray.  I was able to use the pump without any finger contortions or excessive force.  The cap presents quite a bit of resistance to remove - there are mating ridges on the bottle and cap that keep the cap from falling off, but also require a fair bit of force to overcome.  Replacing the cap is a bit easier, it easily pops back on.  I find the packaging colors to be pleasant.  The bottle is quite large, and would not fit in many pack hipbelt pockets, nor would I find it comfortable to carry in pants or shirt pockets.

The "directions for use" on the back of the bottle are somewhat hard to read.  As can be seen from the picture above a very small typeface is used.  I can hardly read the text even with my reading glasses on.  The section headings of the directions are all set in a light green color that has very poor contrast against the white bottle, making it almost impossible to read these lines.

Pump spray action: the pump required three presses to prime.  Each finger press produces a nice fine mist with good dispersion which traveled about 18 inches (46 cm) in quiet air.  I found that by holding the spray head about 4 inches (10 cm) from my hand [bottle labelling recommends 4-6 inches (10-15 cm)] I could get coverage of an area of about the same diameter as the distance.  Unscrewing the pump head from the bottle revealed a feed tube that extends to the bottom of the bottle, so I should be able to utilize the spray for the entire contents as long as the bottle is held in an upright position.

Fragrance: as mentioned previously Natrapel has what I would term a "fresh" scent, reminiscent of eucalyptus.  The scent does not disperse quickly.

Skin feel: after application to the back of my wrist and allowing for time to dry I could notice a sheen to my skin when held up to a light.  Rubbing a finger over the applied area gave a very faint sticky/oily sensation.  I noticed after doing this that my test fingers also had a bit of a sticky feel, so apparently there is some dry transfer of the substance.

Unfortunately from the time the Natrapel arrived to the time of writing of this initial report the mosquito season had not yet begun, so I was unable to do any preliminary effectiveness testing.

Test Plan

I have plans for a week-long May trek through the Boundary Waters (Border Route Trail) and a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail (about 120 miles).   I will attempt to assess:
  • Usability: how easy is it to pack the Natrapel bottle on my person or pack?  How easy is it to remove the cap and use the pump in the bush?  How easily can I transfer Natrapel sprayed into my hand onto my face and ears?
  • Reliability & robustness: does the pump clog?  Does the spray mechanism continue to work while dispensing the entire contents?
  • Functionality: how effective is Natrapel at repelling mosquitoes and possibly ticks?  Hopefully this trip will precede the notorious black fly season and I will not have the chance to test its use against them, though the Adventure Medical website claims black fly effectiveness.  Does it really work for eight hours?
  • Aesthetics: how do I like the odor after a week of use?  Does it start to become objectionable?  Does the odor wash off from my clothing and sleeping bag after my trip?
  • Quantity/sizing: how much of the bottle do I consume on a one-week trip?  Do I run out?
  • Adverse effects: is there any irritation from repeated use?  Any burning of the eyes, nose or mouth?  Any noticeable degradation of any of my plastic-based (polyester, nylon, etc.) clothing?
This concludes my Initial Report on Adventure Medical Natrapel.

Field Report

During the report period I used the Adventure Medical Natrapel during my May Boundary Waters trip and also during a month-long Oregon camping/backpacking journey. Boundary Waters trek: 8-day hike in Minnesota from the end of the Gunflint Trail, Magnetic Rock trailhead, along the Border Route to Grand Portage, then down along the Sawtooth Mountains near the Lake Superior shoreline on the Superior Hiking Trail to Grand Marais.  The final use was on a 1-week backpacking trip to Isle Royale, Michigan.

Test conditions: several of the days were quite warm, 75 F (24 C), and several days were quite cold with a low of 23 F (-5 C).  Altitude ranged from sea level along the Oregon Coast to just under 5000 ft (1500 m) on the slopes of Mount Hood.  The terrain varied widely, from Minnesota and Michigan lakeshores, Cascade ridgelines, to the Columbia River gorge.

One of the notable Natrapel uses on this trek was at this location near the end of the Border Route:
BRT
I stopped at this spot to rest and eat lunch, and it was the first real insect attack on the trip: pesky flies.  I sprayed my face, neck and hands with Natrapel, and it really did keep them away while I was eating lunch and resting.  On the downside, I had some on my hands and it managed to get on my tortillas: Natrapel really tastes awful

During the month-long camping excursion to Oregon in July, most uses were during car camping or 1-night backpacking trips, though I did use them on some multi-day backpacking trips to the Wallowa Mountains and to Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  This included several days in the Columbia River Gorge, 2 days on the Pacific Crest Trail sections near the Gorge, several days in the Coastal Range just west of Portland, and several days on the western slopes of Mount Hood.  Temperatures ranged from a low in the mid-30's F (2 C) in the mountains where I camped in the snow, to highs in the mid 90's F (35 C) in Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  Since July is peak time for mosquitoes in Oregon, I had plenty of opportunity to test its effectiveness against them, and it was up to the task.

Little Todd HarborDuring the week-long trip to Isle Royale Natrapel was effective at keeping the mosquitoes from biting in some of the low-lying/swampy areas found on the island.  My hiking partner used it as well and found it effective and appreciated its pleasant fragrance. At Little Todd Harbor (picture to the left), the biting flies were quite bad along and near the beach.  The Natrapel had no effect on the flies - they bit just as much after as before application.  Odd that it was effective against the flies in the Boundary Waters, but not those on the beach in Isle Royale.


It was my experience that the Natrapel would keep mosquitoes from biting, but did not really keep them completely away from me.  They still buzzed around, and sometimes lit briefly on my skin, but not long enough to bite.  When I applied the product around lunchtime, I found I had to re-apply it at dinnertime to be effective, though it should be noted that I sweat heavily during this test period during the day, and any repellent might well have been diluted by my sweat levels.

I applied the Natrapel several evenings at dinnertime, and went to bed with quite a bit still on my arms, neck, face and ankles.  I am a hammock camper, and during warmer weather I use my sleeping bag as a quilt and lie directly on the silnylon hammock.  I detected no deterioration of the nylon in the areas where my skin contacted the fabric, nor any residual effects to my nylon hiking pants.

During my Natrapel testing I always applied it using the supplied spray bottle.  I had no problems with the pump spray mechanism, no clogs.  I did notice that as I used up the fluid I had to make sure I was holding the bottle reasonably upright so the supply tube was submerged during pumping.  This is not a problem when applying to the arms and facial areas, but can be a bit of a challenge with the ankles.  My typical solution was to spray the repellent into my palms and then apply it indirectly with my hand to my exposed ankles.

Summary:

Likes:
  1. Effective against mosquitoes and some types of flies
  2. Pump spray was easy to use and reliable, no clogging
  3. Reasonably subtle but pleasant scent - I know I have it on, but barely
  4. Unobtrusive skin feel: does not feel oily
  5. Does not damage plastic camping equipment or clothing
  6. A little goes a long way - I do not need to bring a large bottle with you on a hike
Areas for improvement:
  1. Fairly large bottle, much more than I would need on a typical backpacking trip.  I could have re-packaged the repellent into smaller containers, but chose not to
  2. Eight hour protection claimed might be optimistic
Many thanks to Adventure Medical Kits and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of Adventure Medical Kits gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Health & Safety > Insect Repellents > Adventure Medical Kit Natrapel Repellent > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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