Herbal Armor by All Terrain is a natural insect and mosquito repellent that has been my go to insect repellent choice for the last several years. Over time as I’ve moved from DEET to picaridin to various natural repellents, I’ve had a chance to try many products on the market – and have had the unfortunate experience of being quite disappointed in the efficacy of many natural solutions. Many smell nice, but might as well have been left at home. Returning from backpacking trips with more than a bite or two to scratch on a few occasions using other products, the search for a natural repellent that really worked continued, until I stumbled across All Terrain Herbal Armor.
As a seasonal item on my gear list, mosquito repellent is technically an optional item when packing up but mandatory on any spring or summer trip – when they're out in force, mosquitoes can really make it tough to enjoy any hiking or backpacking excursion. While any combination of products containing DEET, picaridin, permethrin, etc. are very proven in their efficacy of repelling biting insects, I’m personally not a fan of the various possible health concerns involved, LNT considerations, and additionally with DEET, possible damage to my plastics and gear. If I can get similar results from a natural product, I'm the type that will always go that route.
Herbal armor contains a combination of natural oils (soybean, citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, and geranium) and is most popularly offered in a standard pump spray of various sizes, from the compact and lightweight 2 ounce option all the way up to the family sized 8 ounce bottle, and this application method works well enough, but may require that you spray, then rub into your skin by hand. Normal and “Kids” versions are sold, but the formulas appear to be identical. This is potent stuff – you may have to get used to the scent that may even stick around in your clothing after a wash. I’ve found that 100% skin or clothing coverage is not required. Simply by spraying localized zones of your body, sufficient repellency can be achieved. As an example, simply by spraying my hat I can usually achieve good enough repellency for areas above the shoulders for all but the worst summer mountain swarms.
As I prefer to also utilize good anti-mosquito measures like wearing long pants and shirts, I usually apply Herbal Armor to clothing. Beware however that the product can permanently stain some types of clothing especially when using the pump bottle which applies more of a localized and concentrated spray. For me this isn’t an issue however – when I’m using the product I’m wearing after all, my hiking and backpacking clothes.
While it runs about twice the price as the pump bottles, a pressurized continuous spray option is also available. At around $10 for 3 ounces of net product, this isn’t the cheapest option, but in regards to application it’s far superior than the pump bottle. The spray allows for even coverage and can spray upside down for hard to reach areas (and even works great for dogs as well). While it can be hard to tell how much is left with these, they weigh about 4.5 ounces when new (1.5 ounces empty), so with a digital scale at home you can easily calculate just how full one of these bottles really is. From time to time, you can snag a deal on the continuous spray here at Amazon – I’ve seen them go for as low as $4 and change (rarely). $7-10 is more common. I can usually stretch the 3 ounce spray to last 2-3 nights solo during mosquito season, so multiple bottles may be needed for longer and / or for group trips – a larger (and ideally more economical) spray bottle would be a very welcome offering. Other than price and the ability to tell how much is left by sight, the standard pump bottle does have another advantage over the pressurized continuous spray however – if you didn’t pack enough and start to get low, the pump bottle can be refilled with water, shaken, and the contents used for “ok” effectiveness to at least get you home.
While I’ve had excellent success using Herbal Armor against mosquitoes, with good results against other flying biting flies and insects, I’ve only had marginal results with repelling ticks if that’s a concern where you hike – but that’s been par for the course with all repellents I’ve used, synthetics and natural. Clothing applied permethrin is one option, but for ticks I prefer the physical barrier approach combined with Herbal Armor. More here.
As a natural repellent, you will need to reapply Herbal Armor more frequently than DEET – every 2 hours or so on average. However, unlike some other natural repellents that provide only marginal protection, this product works very well (with near 100% repellency on areas freshly applied) and allows us to go hiking and backpacking during bug season without mosquitoes ruining the trip, and all while using a natural product.