I live in Central Florida where the subtropical environment breeds mosquitoes in numbers that can ruin your outdoor plans. It’s not just the typical early morning and late evening swarm we have to avoid, it’s constant anywhere there’s shade and standing water. It’s now raining for the third straight day thanks to a tropical low that’s just sitting over us and standing water is everywhere. I’m hoping the Thermacell Realtree Xtra Green Mosquito Repeller can give me the relief I’m looking for.
Thermacell Pros and Cons
The county does what it can within budget constraints to spray for mosquito larvae. The fact is they just can’t get to every body of standing water in the area. In my EDC backpack and day pack, you’ll find spray on mosquito repellent full of DEET. It might be great at keeping the bugs away, but my wife and I don’t eat a healthy diet only to spray a different chemical cocktail on us. If Thermacell does what it claims, I should have a 15 foot radius of protection around me – without slathering up in DEET.
The nature of Thermacell makes it an airborne solution rather than topical, similar to the way a citronella candle is. That means there’s still chemical protection, it’s just not applied directly to your skin. The Thermacell Realtree Xtra Green Mosquito Repeller claims to create a 15 x 15 foot barrier, but that’s going to be affected by any wind.
Thermacell takes advantage of allethrin as its active ingredient. There’s more information than I care to get into and some will be more important to you than others. The three most significant points would be that allethrin is an insecticide (it kills, not just repels), should not be put directly in water systems due to its toxicity to fish, and is only toxic to humans in extremely high doses (usually ingested). All that to say that it’s effective and safe for human use, but you should be responsible when using it.
We can’t have a conversation about insect repellent this year without talking about the Zika virus. Whether you’re on the jobsite, hunting, or having a backyard cookout, Thermacell promises to keep the virus-infused vampires away from you.
Thermacell specifically states their formula will repel mosquitoes, black flies, and other flying insects. I wasn’t able to find an exhaustive list of what those other “flying insects” are aside from that the active ingredient is used as an insecticide in many applications. Still, it’s mosquitoes I’m most concerned about.
Given that you carry three mats and a full butane cartridge, you’ll be able to match the duration of common topical repellents. Each mat is good up to 4 hours and the butane cartridge will last up to 12 hours. DEET-based repellents can be good for up to 12 hours, with most in the 8 – 10 hour range. Other non-DEET formulas vary in effective duration, but fall well short. Other vapor style products can get you up to 12 hours while coils are good for about 4 hours. The duration champion here is citronella candles (25 – 50 hours), but their effectiveness is highly questionable.
How Thermacell Works
The general idea behind Thermacell is to take a pad infused with allethrin and heat it with butane to release the chemical into the air. Using a method similar to the Dremel VersaTip, Thermacell repellers ignite and draw heat from butane without an open flame.
Operation of the Thermacell unit is simple. Turn the dial to the on position, wait 5 – 10 seconds, and hit the “Start” button several times in succession. A window in the top allows you to see whether the tip is ignited.
According to Thermacell, it will take anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes for the air around you to fill and eliminate the pests, though several user reviews claim it takes even less time.
Other Notable Features
I decided to go for the Thermacell Realtree Xtra Green Mosquito Repeller specifically for the hunter-friendly coloring. It’s also available in Olive, Garden (white), Black, Woodlands Camo, and Earth Scent (brown) colors. Each comes with the unit, 3 repeller pads, and one butane cartridge.
The repeller unit is really lightweight for its size and certainly stable enough to leave on a flat surface. When it comes to being active, you’ll be looking for ways to carry it. A holster is available for those on the go (Realtree Camo is an option). A tree hanger and even a swivel light are also optional accessories.
So How Did the Thermacell Realtree Xtra Green Mosquito Repeller Actually Work?
Our shop is just 100 yards or so from a creek. The tree line seems to form a boundary where mosquitoes insist we are not welcome, rather forcefully I might add. It was in these woods that I decided to offer myself as an all-you-can-eat buffet of miniature vampire food to sit and wait. If the Thermacell Realtree Xtra Green Mosquito Repeller could work against the number of mosquitoes I’d be up against, it would earn my unqualified approval.
So I walked out. 10 seconds later, I’d verified that the expected attack was underway and kicked the Thermacell into action. Less than 5 minutes later, there was not a mosquito to be found in my bubble. I tried walking around a bit to see how long it would take to recover my protection. It took less than 2 minutes to reestablish my comfort level 50 yards away.
Customer and outdoor journalist reviews have raved over the performance of Thermacell with seemingly few disappointments. It can be difficult to take that much positive reaction without skepticism, but Thermacell is the real deal. Understand the limitations created by wind and I think you’ll have a hard time making the case for a DEET-based topical spray.
Whether you’re trying to keep your zone of the jobsite mosquito-free or simply enjoying the outdoors, Thermacell is an outstanding option that doesn’t require you to marinate in DEET.