Travel Health

The: Don’t Bug Me! Patch

Somewhere buried in the Road Junky editorial desk clutter of threatening complaints, creditor threats, and photos of extreme nude backpackers was a packet containing samples of the Don’t Bug Me! patch.

It was just what we needed for our trip to tropical Belize and Guatemala to ward off the throng of malaria/dengue infested mosquitoes we were bound to encounter. Somewhere buried in the Road Junky editorial desk clutter of threatening complaints, creditor threats, and photos of extreme nude backpackers was a packet containing samples of the Don’t Bug Me! patch. Claiming to be an all natural insect repellent, the product allows a combination of vitamin B1 and aloe to slowly enter your bloodstream for up to 36 hours via a transdermal patch worn on your arm just like the nicotine surrogates for smokers.

Apparently the taste of aloe and B1 together is something mighty foul to the mozzies as they’re mothers never forced them to eat their vitamins and greens growing up.

Hastily throwing things in my rucksack I didn’t forget to include the Don’t Bug Me patch, and since I’m such a skeptic I included a good ‘ol fashioned plastic bottle of DEET spray for good measure.

You see, I understand mosquitoes. I almost plunged 30 feet on a lead rock climb in Switzerland as I was thrown off balance swatting away the pests. The Swiss suckers relished the taste of the repellent – they’d come in, hover woozily over my calves for a while, and then zoom in for a bite.

Brazil was worse. One morning I counted 68 bites on a small exposed part of my elbow that had been accessible from under my mosquito net. The dozen caipirinhas I had imbibed before going to sleep must have inspired a booze-fueled mosquito feast.

Traveling through el Peten in Guatemala years ago, I was so worried about mosquito-carried diseases that I loaded myself up on mind altering anti-malarial pills. One night I had a dream Jesus floated down off the cross to talk with me. He took my hand and led me over to a piano, and when I peered inside I saw the black void of God. I stopped taking the pills the next day.

I am still obsessed with avoiding dengue/malaria while traveling – and the Don’t Bug Me! patch seemed like the ultimate alternative to all that nasty carcinogenic DEET. So upon arrival in Guatemala for our recent trip the first thing my girlfriend and I did was open our packs, give away half of our clothes (overpacked) to the lady running the posada, and then for good measure slip on the patches. No bites – so far, so good. But we were in the highlands around Antigua where there aren’t so many mosquitoes. The real test would come up a couple of weeks later near Tikal in the tropical rain forest.

At this point we were dirty and sweaty from the heat and rain and must have been like walking hamburgers for the mozzies. You can run all the fans and keep doors promptly closed to keep bugs outside but you can’t hide forever. The key moment came during an engrossing game of Uno. The girl and I had both applied fresh patches on our shoulders earlier in the day. The uno cards (skip you!) were flying and we didn’t notice the mosquitoes biting the hell out of our calves and feet.

Before going to sleep I wished I had applied an extra patch or two lower on my body, as I prayed the fevers of malaria wouldn’t set in.

So here is the final assessment: the patch works in mild conditions, but does not ward off all bites. To be fair, even DEET could not keep everything away where we were. Road Junky recommends the Don’t Bug Me! patch since they sent us free samples. The Don’t Bug Me Patch is available for $7.99 for 10 patches through the dontbugmepatchstore.com..

Jim Klee

Jim Klee – sports a mangled passport and a well-worn rucksack. He believes travel to be a form of therapy against modern civilization’s madness. In 2002 Jim embarked on a journey starting with a one-way ticket no return to Mexico City. Some months later he discovered Tom Thumb sleeping in the shade besides his tent on a beach in Costa Rica. After surviving rip currents in Mexico, nearly freezing to death trekking solo in Patagonia, and getting knocked unconscious by submerged rocks while surfing in Australia, Jim decided to clear his head by beelining his way (mostly overland) to the Himalaya. There a regimen of Sufi poetry, yoga up in the mountains, and cheap gel pens resulted in a stack of notebooks containing an unpublishable travel novel. He re-emerged in New York City in late 2004 and Road Junky was born soon after.