We Discovered the Ultimate Backpacker’s Insect Repellant

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When space is at a premium but the bugs are at their worst, you won’t find a more effective, lightweight, no-mess solution for keeping biting insects out of your camping zone.

by the OutsideDaily staff

There’s an old backpacker’s maxim that says, “Every ounce saved is a pound not carried.” While that math may seem fuzzy, it’s a stone-cold truth. That is why we were delighted to learn that Thermacell introduced a new mosquito repeller appliance developed specifically for the backpacking set.

The new Thermacell Backpacker minimizes weight and space by taking advantage of an item we all carry in our backpacks…a fuel canister.

We have used the portable Thermacell appliance with great success during our various outdoor adventures, yet always left it home when it was time to hit the long trail. Not that the portable repeller was heavy (it’s actually quite light), but its size took up space we needed for other essentials. Much as we loathe the smell and mess, topical insect repellent has always been our solution on extended wilderness excursions.

Well, no more.

How It Works

When you’re finished cooking for the evening, simply remove your stove and screw the Backpacker onto your fuel canister, insert the chemical mat onto the grill, and turn the unit on. Mosquitoes will “bug out” of your camping zone in minutes.

In case you are new to Thermacell repeller technology, let’s briefly discuss what the concept is all about.

Thermacell repeller appliances feature a small grill that is heated by butane. Onto this grill is placed a mat infused with the synthetic chemical allethrin, which mimics the natural insect repelling chemical found in the chrysanthemum plant. Once the mat heats up, the allethrin is released and disperses to form a roughly 15×15-foot zone of protection that keeps biting bugs out.

As mentioned, the Thermacell portable appliance has always worked great for us, such as when pursuing wild turkey in the spring or settling in for a night of catfishing. We just never thought to stuff it in the backpack due to its size (around 7.5×3 inches), and the fact that it takes its own fuel cartridges. The fuel cartridges aren’t enormous, but it’s still more weight and space to contend with.

And that was the “Ah, ha!” moment that led the folks at Thermacell to come up with the new Backpacker model.

A Lightweight, Efficient Appliance

The Backpacker comes in a lightweight drawstring carry pouch for easy transport and includes three repellent mats to get you started.

Unless you prefer cold meals and trail mix on your backpacking jaunts, you’re likely carrying an ultralight stove and a butane/propane mix canister to run it. The Thermacell Backpacker measures 97Hx50Wx67L millimeters, weighs 4 ounces, and is designed to run on your standard butane/propane mix fuel canister. So, when you’re done heating your water or cooking your meal, simply remove your stove and screw on the Backpacker appliance. Operation is simple: install a repellent pad onto the grill, move the on/off switch to the “on” position, and then lift the ignitor switch. The Piezo ignition is immediate, and in a few minutes the mat is warming up and the surrounding air is becoming saturated with allethrin.

If you’re worried about burning up your cooking fuel just to keep the bugs away, don’t. You can run the Backpacker for 90 hours on a 4-ounce fuel canister (180 hours on an 8-ounce unit). Since you typically have only 3-4 hours of camp time on average (between camp setup and sack time), a 4-ounce can will cover several days of cooking and bug protection. The chemical mats are bit less long-lived (lasting around 4 hours each). Fortunately, they’re small and light, so they won’t eat up precious space and weight.

Field Trial

This dark, wet, and humid canyon offers up some terrific native brook trout fishing, but it’s also a mecca for mosquitoes and gnats. We figured that if the Backpacker repeller worked here, it would work anywhere. It did, and we enjoyed two blissful nights without a single bite.

To give the Backpacker a solid evaluation, we deployed it on our recent brook trout fishing trip. This annual adventure involves a strenuous stream hike up a remote drainage in the Appalachian Mountains. The narrow canyon means this is a total riparian ecosystem—always wet and soggy with a thick forest canopy that rarely lets in the sun. The water quality is perfect, so it’s a proverbial haven for gnats, mosquitos, and all manner of flying insects and no-seeums. Even a smoky campfire has failed us in the past to keep the hordes away.

True to form, our first night in camp had the bugs relentlessly buzzing and dive-bombing us…until we fired up the Thermacell Backpacker. After heating water for our Mountain House meals, we unscrewed the stove, screwed on the Backpacker, and hit the “go” switches. Within a few minutes, the biters were gone, leaving only the occasional May beetle to bang into our headlamps. We never touched bug juice the entire three days we were in the backcountry.

The Day Hiking Option

The new Thermacell MR450 is an improvement over the original repeller appliance. For day hiking or activities where carry space is not a big issue, this is your bug-prevention go-to device.

Although our focus on this review is the new Thermacell Backpacker, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that the company also released a new portable appliance this year called the MR450. It’s the same general size as the original repeller, but with an updated chassis and an LED indicator that signals optimal operating temperature. We’ve tried this new model out as well, and we like it.

If you plan a day hike or activity in a bug-infested area, the MR450 is a good take-along. Since it’s designed to work in a near vertical position, you can clip it to your daypack or belt and protect yourself from bugs as you go. Since the repeller works best when it has a few minutes to saturate the area with released allethrin, the MR450 is perfect for rest breaks or lunch stops.


Depending on where in the country your adventures take you, biting insects can be a non-issue or total trip-wrecker. With the new Backpacker or the MR450, Thermacell has taken bugs off the menu no matter whether you are on a multi-day backpack trip or out for a long day’s hike.





copyright © 2017 OutsideDaily.com; promoted by Thermacell Repellents, Inc.

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