Two Cool Products to Beat Mosquitoes

mosquito awareness week
Nobody likes mosquitoes – that’s why we have Mosquito Awareness Week.

If you’ve had enough of mosquitoes and you’re not gonna take ‘em anymore, you’re not alone: The United States is square in the middle of Mosquito Control Week.

For my part, I rarely worry about mosquitoes since I live in the Phoenix area. But even a dry climate isn’t complete protection – our numerous artificial lakes provide some hotspots for getting stung. And every sting increases your odds of being among the 2,469 cases of West Nile virus reported to the Center for Disease Control last year. And that doesn’t include the latest threat – chikungunya, a mosquito-born illness that originated in the Caribbean. Its effects include severe joint pain that can make walking or even just shaking hands painful. Chikungunya can also cause numbness in the tongue when you attempt to say it aloud.

My problem is that I hate applying bug sprays. So what’s a guy like me to do? Well, I can think of at least two products that give you a non-smelly solution to mosquitoes that won’t make you feel gross.

mosquito awareness week
The Mosquitno Bands are a new and natural weapon against mosquitos.

The Anti-Mosquito Wristband

The latest is Mosquitno Bands bracelet. Think of it as one of those charity bracelets, but with the power to keep mozzies, as the Australians call them, far away. They’re non-toxic, and citronella is the ingredient that keeps the pests away. You can get one in a variety of colors for $3.99. Each one should provide six days of protection.

I haven’t had the chance to test it. But at that price? It’s worth rolling the dice without me telling you that it works. Grab a bunch for your next trip to the tropics -- or the Chicago suburbs, for that matter. If anyone asks what charity it supports, tell them the Mosquito Control Week Awareness League. (In all seriousness, Mosquitno supports UNICEF to help kids worldwide who are affected by mosquito-born illnesses.) They’re also available in a sticker form called Mosquitno Spotz.)

mosquito awareness week
Checking out the Insect Shield clothing – plus a pair of soon-to-be-broken-in boots!

Here’s something else that I really like: You can return your used Mosquitno Bands to the company for recycling. They’ll send you two new Mosquitno Bands for every 10 used bands your return.

Mosquito-Repellent Clothes

Before my trip to Vietnam, Insect Shield got a hold of me for a product review. They sent some socks, a shirt, a hat and a bandanna my way. I figured Vietnam would be a good test for anti-pest clothes.

I saved the socks in particular for a three-day hiking trip in the highlands near the Chinese border. Three days of romping around in rice paddies in a damp climate – and not a single mosquito bite. Oddly enough, though, Vietnam wasn’t as swarming-with-bitey-things as I expected. Also important is that the Insect Shield socks are a legit pair of hiking socks that felt nearly as good as my Darn Tough socks.

Insect Shield makes just about every possible type of clothing, far more than I would’ve guesses. Its insect-repellent properties are designed to last the life of the clothing.

So there you have it – the best Mosquito Awareness Week news you can get is that you no longer need to coat yourself in DEET. They might be just as effective as living in the desert, minus the 115-degree summer heat!

Six Things to Know About Curitiba, Brazil

The World Cup put Curitiba on the rest of the world’s radar. Many of us just think of Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo – for better or worse. I went into Curitiba with few expectations – I didn’t really have enough information to form any. And the blogosphere let me down. It seems even travel bloggers hadn’t probed Curitiba.

So consider me your probe -- as awkward as that sounds. And let me share some things to know about Curitiba.

First of all, you’re probably pronouncing it wrong.

The letter "t" in Curitaba (and in many other places, like the word quality) is pronounced like a "ch." So, say "Coo Dee Cheeba." A Brazilian friend mentioned a guy named "Peach." It took me a second to realize she meant our mutual acquaintance "Pete." Yeah, someone got a new nickname out of that.

Things to Know About Curitiba
A visit to Club do Malte in Curitiba is a must.

You will have no shortage of wood-fired pizza and gelato.

You won’t be stuck eating anything exotic if you don’t want to. I’m in a hotel on a street called Dom Pedro II, and there are at least four wood-fired pizza joints on the street. And I found gelato in walking distance.

Speaking of tasty things, craft beer is alive and well in Brazil.

You can find high-end beers in Curitiba. Club Do Malte has a smoked porter and an IPA (called Chicago Blues and Underground, respectively) as their house draft beers. Also, they have an excellent brownie, in addition to top-flight bottled beers from Scotland, Norway and the US.

Most importantly, the staff knows their beers. They can recommend some Brazilian stuff that will hit your tastebuds nicely. My favorite might’ve been the Way Beer Cream Porter, which is brewed in Curitiba. Eu guste moito!

Things to Know About Curitiba
Inside the Club do Malte

Even if you drink all the beer, you’ll be parched most of the time.

Everyone says the tap water is safe to drink, but nobody drinks it. You don’t get a glass of water at restaurants. This confounds desert people like me, and drives us into a state of permanent near-dehydration.

I’ve taken advantage of a water cooler in the fitness center, filling my Vapor collapsible bottle as often as possible.

Sustainability fans will like all the recycling.

Curitiba is all about recycling. The presence of bins for an array of disposables surprised me. Some people asked me about the city’s rapid transit. Honestly, I haven’t experience it, so that’s a wash. But it at least tries.

It’s also virtually litter-free – and not just near the stadium.

Dining out in Curitiba.

Rather than leaving groups of friends to puzzle over the bill, some restaurants and bars give each visitor a numbered or named card. The server uses it to keep track of what you had. You take it to the cashier at the end and pay up for what you have.

Why American businesses freak out about separate checks when they could just do this is beyond me. Good thinking, Brazil!

Speaking of cool, it gets downright cold here.

I spent some days wearing my super-handy First Ascent PrimaLoft jacket. I carried my Marmot Mica jacket the entire day just in case the rain started to pour. This ain’t the perma-warm climate of Rio – one of the things to know about Curitiba is that you shouldn’t roll in here expecting a climate that allows you to spend your holiday wearing a Borat thong. Pack accordingly.


Great Camping Gear – 3 Items to Check Out ASAP

great camping gear
The ESEE-4 knife is a piece of great camping gear.

Great camping gear can make all the difference in whether I’m motivated to go camping or not. And I admit I’m even more motivated to actual go camping when I, A) have a good place to camp that isn’t on a campground with numbered slots and, B) can find everything I need without turning my house inside-out.

I still don’t of any company that makes a self-loading backpack, so the organization part is my burden to bear. But for all the other stuff I need for a camping trip, where is some great camping gear I used on my latest camping trip to the Arizona Rim Country.

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Self-Inflating Mattress
I never considered using a self-inflating mattress until I got the paperwork for attending the Aboriginal Living Skill School class called The Provident Primitive. It turns out an inflatable mattress is not just for cushioning your carcass against the ground – it also creates a barrier between you and the cold ground. The school staff recommended a Therm-a-Rest, so I went to REI to grill the staff about which one. As usual, the REI staff members were helpful -- and they had a 25-percent of sale on Therm-a-Rest gear. The sales dude recommended the Therm-a-Rest ProLite. Done!

But how did it work? I was skeptical when I first deployed it. Will this skinny ProLite thing really be worth the trouble? After a night of the best sleep I ever had in a tent, the answer is -- this is a great camping gear. I should’ve bought one years ago. It turns out this is my second piece of Therm-a-Rest gear – I’d been using a Therm-a-Rest pillow on my travels and camping trips for years. It’s another one of those items that seems way too flimsy to be effective, yet somehow works way beyond its weight and bulk. I had a bit of sticker shock when I learned that the Therm-a-Rest ProLite sells for about $125. After just one night sleeping on it, I get it. Worth the clams, or bones, or whatever you call them.

great camping gear
The Therm-a-Rest ProLite blew my expectations away. Great camping gear, no arguments. That little black roll is another ProLite all rolled up.

ESEE-4 Camping Knife
A little more than a year ago, my brother came to visit with his two kids in tow. Well, my then-8-year-old nephew took one glimpse at my old Schrade camping knife. With its handle cut from an antler and old-school looks, he decided it was the coolest thing ever. Since my brother – his dad – gave me the knife, I had no choice: I coughed it up for the nephew to use during his Boy Scout adventures.

Which left me a knife short: I set out researching knives, and stumbled upon ESEE Knives. American made, decently priced -- but impossible to find in Phoenix (That, my friends, is Phoenix in a nutshell: You can find all sorts of big-box crap here, but just try walking into a store and finding something like an ESEE knife.). I ordered an ESEE-4 (with a 4-inch fixed blade) online, hoping for the best. What I got is one helluva solid chunk of metal with textured grips. This knife has heft. It can chop, it can whittle, it can slice. I used it to chop a nearly forearm-thick branch in record time with no discernible effect on its edge. I didn’t need to gut or skin anything this time around, or build a hut from  … but I feel assured that it would be up to the task

I guess I owe the nephew one for forcing me to get a new camping knife. Or better yet, I’ll have to talk to his dad about getting him an ESEE-4 for an upcoming birthday. It seriously whoops that old Schrade knife in all sorts of ways, and I think a Scout winding his way up the ranks would dig it. Great camping gear, no doubt about it. I’ve seen them starting at $75.

After using the ESEE-4 for awhile, I started using a great technique called batoning to split larger chunks of wood. The blade on my knife, which is a clip-point blade, is not as good for batoning because the back edge isn’t all flat. If you plan to baton, be sure to choose the Plain Edge version.

great camping gear
The Swedish FireSteel 2.0 lights up your life.

Swedish FireSteel 2.0 magnesium fire starter
Well, when I head to the Aboriginal Living Skills School, the Swedish FireSteel 2.0 will have to stay home: The school staff considers it contraband for the Provident Primitive class. As well they should. This crazy, compact little fire starter makes it almost too easy to get a blaze going.

Since campfires are off-limits in most of Arizona at the moment, I only used it to crank up our MSR WhisperLite camp stove. That’s OK – I love eating freeze-dried food while camping, for some reason. And it leaves a way better taste in my mouth than the possibility of torching millions of acres of forest. Anyway -- the Swedish FireSteel 2.0 is great camping gear that should be in everyone’s pack. It provides a big spark with every strike. It’s about $20. If you think that’s overpriced for such a small gizmo -- well, saving money won’t keep you warm when you’re trying to light a fire with wet matches, cheapskate.

I’ve since used the Swedish FireSteel to start many fires, from campfires to lighting up a charcoal grill. You’ll need some good tinder with some fine stuff on top to get it going. I’d also advise scraping a few shavings of your FireSteel on top of the tinder.

Other Stuff
I also swear by my The North Face sleeping bag and tent (The Cat’s Meow and Rock 22, respectively). But I’ve been using them a good long time, while these other items are much newer to me. Still, check them out if you need other great camping gear.

Dysentery Dangers and Poop Puns A-plenty

dysentery dangerts
Find out about dysentery dangers – what causes a wicked case of the squirts, how to avoid the risks, and how “high risk” you are when and where you

According to the Dysentery Dangers infographic, I should’ve had explosive diarrhea on at least two continents. I should’ve had the squirts in South Korea. A colon blow in Costa Rica. A bowel bomb in Belize. A -- well, I can’t think of any sort of euphemism for a power dump that starts with a J for Japan. If you have one, let me know.

I’m ordinarily not an infographic-publishing sort of guy. Few of them really say much to me, much less make me laugh out loud. So give this the hairy eyeball and get a few tips about how you can dodge dysentery when you travel.

I feel pretty lucky – I’ve managed to avoid much gastro-intestinal upset in my travels. I ate from every roadside stand in Costa Rica. My only problem came in San Jose when we hit a fancy Chinese restaurant. In Belize, I had one close call on the way to the ATM Cave. Oddly enough, the food wasn’t spicy or exotic.

And then there’s Asia. All through Vietnam, Japan and South Korea, I swallowed local cuisine like a whale chugging down the plankton. And nary a worry from my stomach. I’m not sure why, especially considering how much meat hangs outside in the markets.

Honestly, I’m pretty high-risk. The list is full of my violations:
#1 – Fruit from the market. Yeah, just you try to resist those delicious mandarins that are for sale every damn place in Vietnam and South Korea.
#2 – I can’t confirm that I ate anything spoiled, per se. But some of the stuff was sitting out in the markets at some point.
#4 – Raw and undercooked meats. Yep, another reason I should be in trouble.
#6 – Street vendors. You have two choices: Eat food from street vendors when you travel, or be – as my friend Stace likes to say – a pantywuss.
#11 – This doesn’t appear on the list, but it should: Eating shark that has fermented underground for a few months and therefore smells like cat pee. Hey, if it’s good enough for a bunch of desperate Icelandic Vikings, it’s good enough for me.

I will say that #7 is extremely legit when you see the locals drinking bottled water.

So, does anyone out there have some good stories about venting plasma from your warp core while on vacation? (Hey, I’ll bet that’s the first time you’ve ever encountered a Star Trek-themed pooping euphemism --)

My thanks to for creating the first infographic I’ve ever loved.