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Reviews > Health & Safety > Insect Repellents > Sawyer Permethrin Clothing Repellent > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Sawyer Permethrin Clothing Repellent
By Raymond Estrella
July 07, 2007


NAME: Raymond Estrella
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Huntington Beach California USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or fiancée Jenn.

The Product

Manufacturer: Sawyer Products, Inc.
Web site:
Product: Permethrin Clothing Repellent
Product number: SP647n
Year manufactured: 2005
Volume listed (ingredient only): 6 fl oz (177 ml)

Product Description

Picture courtesy of Sawyer
The Sawyer Permethrin Clothing repellent came in a non-aerosol plastic pump-type bottle, a picture of it courtesy of Sawyer is seen to the right. The bottle contains 6 fl oz (177 ml) of Permethrin, an insect repellent and contact killer used widely in the outdoor flower gardening industry to control ants, beetles and other crawly critters. The dilution of the product sold by Sawyer is a 0.50% solution. Among the warnings on the label the most glaring is to, "not use this product on bare skin". It is not to be used as a repellent after the manner of DEET and the other common repellents, but is to be used to treat clothing that will be worn only after the item has dried completely. While I try to stay away from using manufacturer's hyperbole in my reviews, I believe that this is a case that it would be best to use their words to describe the product, lest I mislead in any way with a potentially dangerous (if mis-used) product. I will comment on it later.

"Permethrin is a contact insecticide. That is, it kills ticks or other insects when it comes in contact with them. It is used on clothing and materials. It uses the same active ingredient used in hair shampoos for head lice. When applied to clothing the Permethrin binds to the fabric eliminating the risk of over-exposure to the skin."

"As a clothing, tent or sleeping bag application, Permethrin is very effective at keeping ticks from attaching to you and at reducing the mosquito population in your camping area."

"Permethrin is also an effective repellent against mosquitoes and flies and can be used in conjunction with a skin based repellent. Permethrin can be used as the primary repellent if the exposed skin area (gaps in the treated clothing) is not too large. By storing the treated clothing in black plastic bags between uses the protection can be extended considerably."

"Developed in cooperation with the U.S. Military, government agencies, universities, and others; this Sawyer Clothing repellent offers superior protection from disease-carrying biting insects. The active ingredient, Permethrin, is a synthetic molecule similar to those found in natural pyrethrum which is taken from the Chrysanthemum flower. Not only does this product repel insect, but will actually kill ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, mites and more than 55 other kinds of insects. Sawyer Permethrin insect repellents are for use with clothing, tents, and other gear. A single application lasts 6 washings. Permethrin is odorless when dry, and during the drying process, it tightly bonds with the fibers of the treated garmet. It will not stain or damage clothing, fabrics, plastics, finished surfaces, or any of your outdoor gear."

Field Conditions

I used the Sawyer Permethrin on two major trips, the first a three-day 51 mile (82 km) backpacking trip in the Sequoia National Forest. Elevations ranged from 2700' to 8000' (820 to 2400 m). Three quarters of the trip was along the Kern River and various creeks. Portions of the trails were so heavily over-grown that one section going to a water fall took me 2 hours 10 minutes to go 5 miles (8 km) downhill. (About 45 minutes slower than normal for me when I am solo.) Ticks, mosquitoes and deer flies were abundant. Temperatures got up to 108 F (42 C) on this trip, although the sections in the trees at the edge of Domeland Wilderness only saw them in the 70s F (24 C), thank the lord…

The next was a six and a half day 90 mile (145 km) trek along the northern John Muir Trail through Yosemite National Park (and others). The weather took a turn for the worse dropping to a low of 17 F (-8 C) but it did nothing to kill the mosquitoes, at least as we got back to warmer areas. The highs on that trip were in the 70s F (24 C). Elevations ranged from 8000' to over 12000' (2400 to 3660 m)

Because of the nature of the product it was used on other hikes, but those mentioned are the reasons for its use.


In March of 2005 I purchased an Ex Officio Buzz Off shirt and was impressed by the way that it worked on ticks. After doing some research into how it was made I decided to try some do-it-yourself stuff for a trip to the lower Sierra Nevada at the heart of bug season, where I knew I would be around water most of the time. I just did a short sleeved tee, a long sleeved tee, and a pair of shorts.

Following the directions to get both sides, and to completely saturate the clothing item I put the clothes on plastic hangers and hung them outside my California apartment. My finger got tired of spraying by the time I had everything soaked. And it used the entire bottle, so I do not know about the claim to do two outfits. Of course I have been getting bigger as middle age slaps me in the face…wait! I am losing weight. Well maybe it would do a couple outfits for my kids.

I let them dry completely before I even brought them in the house. Even then I put them in my bathroom for the next two days. I wanted to make sure there was no harmful fumes that may still be coming off them.

I was pretty impressed by the first use. I am a bug magnet and get bit a lot through my shirts. I could really tell in the evening. I like to wash up every day after hiking. I hate leaving sweat and bug repellent on me and try to jump in a creek, lake or river whenever possible. But as soon as the sun starts going down the mosquitoes get bad! I hate juicing up again before climbing into my sleeping bag. I could tell that the skeeters did not like the long SmartWool shirt I was wearing in the evening. Here is a shot of that shirt at dinner time in the Sierra.

dinner time in the Sierra

Three and a half months later I used a second bottle to do the same shirts again and to spray some Gramicci pants for the Yosemite trip. Again I was impressed by the way that it seemed to keep the mosquitoes off my back. The tick problem is not as bad in the northern Sierra as it is in the southern sections where they still have a lot of cattle in the forests. So I was not as concerned about them. (It was pretty late for ticks to be a major problem anyway.) But the needle-bombers were bad, as always. I brought my Buzz Off shirt also on this trip for layering and with both shirts on I was golden. I only had to use DEET on my hands, neck, and arms when I had the short sleeved tee on (which is a lot of the time as I get so darn hot hiking).

I have noticed that horse flies are not bothered by the treated clothing. They happily bite right through it where it is stretched tight across my shoulders or back. Deer flies though do not seem to like it, which is a good thing as I can't stand those aggressive suckers.

In conclusion I have found that the Sawyer product works excellently against ticks, very well against deer flies and mosquitoes and poorly against horse flies.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Health & Safety > Insect Repellents > Sawyer Permethrin Clothing Repellent > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

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