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Reviews > Health & Safety > Insect Repellents > Natrapel Insect Repellant > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld

Natrapel Insect Repellent
Owner Review By Bob Dorenfeld
August 10, 2014

Tester Bio
Name: Bob Dorenfeld


I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier, and backpacker.  Home base is the Southern Colorado Rockies, where I'll hike from 7000 ft (2100 m) to alpine tundra, with desert trips at lower altitudes.  Six to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) daily is my norm, with elevation gains up to 4000 ft (1200 m).  Many of my backpack trips are two or three nights, other trips are longer, and I usually carry about 30 lb (14 kg).  My style is lightweight but not obsessively so - extras like binoculars, camera, and notebook make my trips more enjoyable.

Email: geartest(at)sageandspruce(dot)net
Age: 56
Location: Salida, Colorado, USA
Gender: M
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)

Product Overview

Manufacturer:   Tender Corporation
MSRP:   US$5.99
Quantity:  3.4 fl oz (101 ml)
Dispenser:  pump bottle
Active Ingredient:  Picaridin (20% by volume)
Stated Effective Protection:  8 hours
Measured Protection:  at least 4 hours

 Pump Bottle

Natrapel is a DEET-free insect repellent that can be applied directly onto skin to provide protection against flying and crawling insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.  Its active ingredient, picaridin, is used worldwide as an effective replacement for the older chemical DEET.  And, unlike DEET, picaridin will not melt nylon or other plastics (according to a paper published by Duke University).  My own tests at home and in the field have also confirmed that picaridin is inert on plastics.  The US Environmental Protection Agency has found that in recommended dosages picaridin does not pose any significant health effects for adult persons.  It is not recommended for dogs or other pets.  Besides the 3.4 fl oz (101 ml) pump bottle reviewed here, Tender Corporation also makes Natrapel available in a 1 oz (30 ml) pump bottle, 6 oz (177 ml) continuous spray bottle, and as a box of wipes.

For 35 years I've relied on insect repellents using DEET for my primary shield against mosquitoes and flies while outside camping in the wilderness.  What finally motivated me to look for alternatives was a lingering suspicion that DEET might not be safe on my skin and, most recently, a leaky container that spilled DEET onto a nylon bag, melting its corner and creating a sticky mess to clean up.  OK, time to look for another product!  I found Natrapel at an outdoor products store, and after a bit of research decided to give it a try this summer in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico. 

Field Performance    

It has been a wet summer since early July in the mountains, so I've had a good test environment.  I normally use repellents in the afternoons and early evenings when the bugs are most bothersome, and before ducking into the tent I've had it on my skin for two to four hours.  I've not yet had a chance to test the full stated effective time of eight hours, however.  Usually I apply Natrapel using the backs of my hands (to avoid getting it on my fingers) and rub it on my forehead and neck, then a bit onto my lower arms (if exposed).  That's it for me - I use as little as I can get away with, both to conserve the repellent and to avoid unnecessary overexposure to the active ingredient.  The clear liquid is slightly more viscous than water, and easy to spread on skin without having it slide off first.

Picaridin itself is odorless, but Natrapel has other inert ingredients (not named on the package) that impart a strong "perfumy" scent that's not unpleasant (perhaps like lemon), but definitely quite noticeable.  I would have preferred a more subtle smell; but like most odors, after a while I get used to it and don't notice it much, if at all.

small bottleBut does it work?  Yes!  Natrapel is at least as effective as DEET for me against mosquitoes and flies.  As for ticks, where I hike and backpack (mostly in Colorado's Rocky Mountains) I rarely see them so I can't attest to Natrapel's effectiveness against those little critters.  But I notice that mosquitoes would fly right up to my face, buzz around for a moment, then back away.  Go find another host!  Same for the flies - they definitely didn't like my skin when treated.

Although the original pump-spray container works well, it's larger than I want to carry in a backpack, and the clear plastic cover for the pump top would be either too easy to lose or might pop off in storage.  So I've transferred the liquid to a small plastic container with a folding lid that seals well with no spills so far (see photo).  For a two-night trip I might use about 10-20 drops of Natrapel.  I still have plenty of the original container that I purchased, and expect it to last the rest of the summer bug season.

Concluding Thoughts    

I'm happy to have found an insect repellent that seems to be a good or better substitute for that old standby DEET.  Natrapel and its active ingredient picaridin work well for me.  I'm always cautious about applying chemicals to my skin, and I'm conservative with the amount I use over a season - just enough to repel most of the bugs, and only when they are at their worst.  The small amounts of Natrapel that I use do the job.


  - non-DEET based (does not melt plastics)
  - does not leak out of other (non-original package) sealable containers
  - easy to apply

  - strong lemony odor at first application

 Reviewed By
Bob Dorenfeld
Southern Colorado Mountains

Read more reviews of Tender Corporation gear
Read more gear reviews by Bob Dorenfeld

Reviews > Health & Safety > Insect Repellents > Natrapel Insect Repellant > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld

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