What Is The Best Midge Repellent? My Honest Opinion

by | Sep 10, 2017 | Reviews, Scotland, Tips and Info | 12 comments

Updated: 1st February 2019

I originally posted this article back in 2017 so I thought I’d give it a brief update before that midge time of year is back upon us! Not a huge amount has changed in terms of what I think is the best midge repellent, I just wanted to make it slightly more thorough.

If you’ve read my article on the midges in Scotland, then you’ll know what these little devils are all about.

You’ll also know that there are ways of reducing how much they bite you. They’ll never be stopped because, well, they just won’t, but it is possible to significantly reduce their torment.

image of insect about to bite skin

As you’re probably aware, repellents are the most popular and convenient way of choking midges and giving you a bite-free day out on the hills.

They are useful in a variety of different situations and environments. You’ll most likely be needing a good midge repellent if you are hiking, fishing or camping.

 

What Is The Best Midge Repellent?


There are literally dozens of different insect repellents out there. The brands are endless and some are even launching ‘all natural‘ products. These contain natural plant oils but, for me, they just aren’t effective in the slightest.

The best physical repellent is actually a barrier stopping these critters from getting to your skin. This comes in the form of a midge net which I look at further in another post. For now, let’s focus on spray repellents.



Picardin is an extremely popular chemical used in repellents and, although it doesn’t do a bad job, it doesn’t compare to the ever-popular DEET.

For me, there are two repellents which stand out.

Smidge and Lifesystems Insect Repellent are the best in their own separate ways. This is what I’ll cover in the following reviews.

These are purely based on my personal opinion, some other repellents may work better on different people but the following recommendations are based on what works for me.

I also know several hikers who swear by both of them. I’ve tried several different midge/mosquito repellents out there and the following have undoubtedly been the best I’ve ever got my hands on.

 

What is DEET?


Diethyltoluamide (DEET) is a chemical which is most commonly used in insect repellents.

There’s a lot of debate out there as to whether DEET is good or bad for you. No solid evidence can prove that it is detrimental to human health when applied correctly.

It should be mentioned that a higher percentage of DEET DOES NOT mean you are better protected, it simply means that you are protected for a longer period of time.

Year after year, without fail, DEET has proved to be the most effective chemical used in insect repellents.

For a much more detailed overview of DEET, check out my exclusive post here.

 

Smidge

Smidge is a relatively new midge repellent which boasts the attractive property of being 100% DEET free. It contains 20% picardin and this is the main chemical present in its ingredients. Smidge is a fantastic repellent if you’re out hiking or doing something which involves exposure for a short period of time.

It was also developed and tested in Scotland so is readily available almost everywhere near the countryside and mountains.

PROS:

  • 100% DEET free.
  • Can be bought literally everywhere in the Highlands of Scotland.
  • Has a somewhat pleasant odour.
  • It doesn’t wash away with sweat or rain.
  • Is available in bottle or pocket-sized cartridge.
  • Can be used by kids from the age of 2+.
  • At £7 for a 75ml bottle, it’s marginally cheaper than Lifesystems Insect Repellent.

 

CONS:

  • In absolute swarms of midges it seems to lose its effectiveness, probably due to having no DEET.
  • Doesn’t last as long as Lifesystems Insect Repellent.
  • I’ve not tried it abroad but have heard that it doesn’t fare so well with mosquitos and bigger flying insects.

 

As you can see, the pros completely outweigh the cons with smidge being a fantastic choice for any kind of outdoor activity in Scotland. The obvious advantage is the fact that it doesn’t contain any DEET, so you don’t need to worry about your clothes losing colour or your watch dissolving!

I would particularly recommend that you get your hands on some Smidge if you are going to be out for shorter periods of time or don’t expect to be exposed to midges in any great force.

 

Lifesystems Insect Repellent

Lifesystems Insect Repellent is the real deal if you want to choke anything to death that might even threaten a bite.

PROS:

  • Unbeatable. Midges won’t even get close to you with this stuff on, no matter how many of them there are.
  • Can get a child-friendly bottle which is 30% DEET and suitable for kids from 2+.
  • The plus (+) versions have pyrethoids which act as ‘bite inhibitors’.
  • Different DEET strengths available – 30%, 50% and 95%.
  • Lifesystems also offers a bite & sting relief spray.
  • Can be tossed in your suitcase to keep you bite-free abroad.
  • Has an ‘endurance’ version which offers all-day protection.

CONS:

  • Has a high percentage of DEET which, although not detrimental in moderate quantities, isn’t an all-natural option.
  • If it comes in contact with gear and clothes then it can dissolve/discolour.
  • Has a strong odour which is not very pleasant.
  • Doesn’t mix well with sweat or water (getting it in your eyes can be a killer).
  • At £6 – £10 it can be slightly more expensive than Smidge but only by a pound or two.

In my personal opinion, this is the best insect repellent I’ve ever used. It works not only with midges but also kept me completely bite-free in the Amazon rainforest. 95% DEET worked miracles for me in the rainforest but 50% seems to do the job against the midges.

SaveSave

 

If you’re going to be out in the wilderness for quite some time, or expect to be in areas where midges are particularly relentless, then get yourself some Lifesystems Insect Repellent.

The main downfall is obviously the fact that it contains DEET. The naturalists will be turning up their noses but DEET has proven to be the best anti-insect chemical for years.

You can research the possible negative effects that DEET imposes on your health if you wish. There are so many conflicting opinions out there that it’s just another one of those “is it or isn’t it bad for you?!” debates.

This article by the Time magazine sums it up quite nicely. As long as you’re not physically ingesting litres of the stuff then you will be absolutely safe applying it as a mixture with repellents.

 

To Conclude


If you were asking the question: “what is the best midge repellent?” then hopefully I have managed to point you in the right direction.

Both of the above products have their positive and negative points but, as far as midge repellents go, I firmly believe that you don’t get much better.

There are obviously other ways to combat midges, such as a head net, but I decided to focus this post on the best repellents.

Before wrapping things up I thought I’d share this short video of how brutal the midges can be! I’ve been in this guy’s situation and believe me, it’s NOT fun.

There are also theories that a build-up of Vitamin B in your system (increased by supplements) fends off the midges because they don’t like the smell or taste. I’ve never tried this (and think it’s a bit of a myth) and will probably stick to my repellents!

As always, thanks a lot for reading and if you have any questions or anything of your own to add then please drop me a comment below. 🙂

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