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The Original Bug Shirt Elite Edition

photo: The Original Bug Shirt Elite Edition long sleeve performance top

Complete protection against biting insects from waist and wrists on up, with zippered access to the face and good ventilation for comfort in warm-ish weather. Worth its weight in DEET!

Pros

  • Bug-proofs entire upper body except hands
  • Generous ventilation for comfort
  • Zip-away face net
  • Cotton and polyester versions
  • Worth its weight in DEET

Cons

  • No Hawaiian shirt version

“I fart in your general direction!” – a well known faux-French taunt in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, may also be directed toward mosquitos when sufficiently protected against them.

There are times when no amount of insect repellent will keep the bugs away. Mosquitos will bite through head hair or a couple layers of fabric, black flies will dive bomb into your mouth, nose, and eyes, no-see-ums will find your ankles and deer flies seem to think DEET is an hors d’oeuvre. Head nets are OK for the neck on up, but may leave exploitable cracks, obscure vision, and get in the way of important functions like, say, eating food. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bug-proof outer layer that is reasonably comfortable, leak-free, and allows access to the pie hole? 

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On a women-only Canadian canoe trip a few years ago, my wife borrowed an Original bug shirt and came away sufficiently impressed that she insisted we each get one for our recent canoe trip in the Norway-Sweden boundary waters. She picked out the Elite Edition, which comes with some extra features for even better bug resistance, and in polyester for lightness and rapid drying, the alternate choice being cotton.

The OBS Elite delivers total protection from the neck and wrists on up. I never had mosquitos bite through the tightly woven fabric even when it was drawn tight over the shoulders.

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Elastic wrist cuffs with drawcords and a drawcord at the waist seal out more determined little buggers.

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The sides of the body and upper arms are vented with a continuous panel of fine mesh netting so the shirt remains reasonably comfortable in warm-ish weather. The rest of the shirt offers some wind protection and will fit over a pile or down jacket.

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The face mesh zips away with a double zipper and can be opened up to expose just the eyes for doing fine work like tying on fishing lures, down to the chin for eating, or tucked into the neck to get it out of the way if the bugs aren’t outrageously bad.

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The generous hood can be worn over a baseball cap to help keep the mesh off the face and has a drawstring on the back to snug it on the head.

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The big kangaroo pocket can be used for snacks and small tools and doubles as a fold-away pouch for transport and storage. The chest pocket can hold a pen and a small notebook or maybe a few fisherman’s tools.

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The bugs weren’t too bad in Sweden but were more active in the evening hours. I wore my bug shirt comfortably around camp and while paddling and portaging in temperatures up into the 20s C /70s F, often with only a t-shirt underneath. It was especially welcome on portages when one or both hands are occupied.

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I could see wearing it with no underlayer and maybe wetting it down in hot but desperately buggy conditions. I often wore it with the hood up but face net open, enough to keep mosquitos from whining in my ears while working around camp.

The Original Bug Shirt Company (OBSC) specializes in bug protection, with a lineup that includes the Original and Elite bug shirts and pants in various colors and camo, a high visibility version in hunter orange with reflective strips, one for kids, a bug hood, bug gaiters, a face mask for those really tiny bugs, and that’s about it. They are headquartered in Ontario and sell by mail order and through various retailers mainly in the US and Canada but not, as far as I can tell, through any of the big chain stores, outdoor or otherwise. Turns out one of the two international sellers listed on the website is in Tromsø, Norway, where my daughter lives, but we had our Vermont friends and canoe companions order and bring ours over to Trondheim.

OBSC bug shirts come in five sizes from S to XXL and in two kids’ sizes.  My size XL polyester weighs 362 g / 13 oz, a trivial burden on a canoe trip and maybe worth its weight in DEET on an extended backpacking trip in bad bug country.

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My buddy Eric by an enormous ant mound -- that's a lot of bugs!

 

Experience

Used on a 9-day canoe trip in Swedish boundary waters, with lots of evening mosquitos and a few no-see-ums and black and deer flies. I have a head net but never really liked it much, preferring to DEET up and swat. In a backcountry lifetime I have battled bugs from northern New England to Alaska, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $90

About the Author

Rick Strimbeck is an American transplanted to Norway where he says he'll "never run out of mountains." He is a veteran backpacker and expert nordic and backcountry skier and in summer runs, hikes, kayaks, and canoes in Norway's mountains and fjords and elsewhere in Europe and the U.S. When he's not outside, he does research on Norway's trees and alpine plants and teaches as a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

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Specs

Price MSRP: $90.00
Reviewers Paid: $90.00
Sizes 7 sizes from XS to 3X
Fabric two choices—100% cotton (natural/off-white colour only) or 100% polyester finished with a soft cottony feel (sandstone or ivy green)
Product Details from The Original Bug Shirt »

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