Cragghoppers Mosquito Repellent (Nosilife) Clothing
When I were a lad, Mam used to make us drink a spoonful of Syrup of Figs every day in the winter. When we grumbled, she said it was to keep the elephants away. It must of worked, ‘cos we never saw any and sat cockily on the milk float, radiating anti-elephant auras and running pint bottles to doorsteps for a ha’penny a day. That were good money then and, as well, we could shovel up Dobbin’s poo for Mam’s roses.
Anyway, time moves on and, about seventy years later I suppose we’ve done a fair bit of travelling to most parts of the world, usually on a shoestring and often choosing places that not many want to get to. 2013. Where to this time? Ethiopia drew the short straw. We like Ethiopia, and wanted to push our boundaries a bit and get to some pretty remote parts. We did the usual bit of digging and it was clear that not a lot has changed since the first visit, down the Omo River in 1982. Tsetse flies, blister bugs, blackflies – oh, and mosquitoes. We knew a lot about mosquitoes. Who doesn’t who has travelled to, well, you name it. That high-pitched whine in the silence of the night that suddenly ceases as though something’s been disconnected: wide awake. Where? A frenzied slap at where it might have landed. A score of times. And in the morning, some bloody squidges where a few had paid a high price for their drink. You know, don’t you? But you sort of accept it as a price for going to places you’ve chosen to go to, a gung-ho approach. Malaria? Pah. Rare. Doesn’t happen very often. I’ve built up a resistance to it.
No, you haven’t. About twenty years ago a good friend was visiting, just after returning from a holiday in Thailand. Suddenly, very suddenly, she became ill, sweating, sky-high temperature, shivering. She grew rapidly worse, hallucinating, and delirious. We got her to hospital and after a long time she got better. It was malaria. We all had thought she was going to die. And she has recurring attacks, often every year.
There’s more: in 1998 Anne and I were in Laos. We hitched a lift on a trading barge travelling oh-so-slowly up the Mekong. Night came. Pitch black. We nosed into the bank and figures pulled and pushed us up a slippery muddy bank. It was a monastery, dimly lit by oil lamps guttering and flaring. Friendliness, hospitality. Simple food and beds for the night, rough straw mattresses in curtained bamboo cubicles. No nets. The mosquitoes fed greedily all night long and we were a mess of itching sores by daylight.
Three days later Anne was stricken. By then we were in southern Thailand, in Trang, waiting for the night train to Bangkok. She too became delirious and I begged ice from stallholders to pack around her. We got to Bangkok and she was barely alive. We were taken to the Christian Hospital within minutes and that saved her life. They had the experience to immediately diagnose cerebral malaria, the most deadly strain, and knew what steps to take to save her. It was touch-and-go. (Fortunately, although it is the most deadly, it is also non-recurring; but then, it usually ends in death.)
So, we take malaria pretty seriously, conscious of the fact that our immune systems are probably not as bouncy as they once were. Prophylactics? Tick. What else was to be done? (This is where the Review Proper begins .)
‘Craghoppers make a range of mosquito-and-other-bugs-repellent clothing.’ ‘Right?’
‘Yes, and no matter how often you wash them, they keep their repellence.’ ‘Yeah, and Syrup of Figs keeps elephants away.’
But OK, we could do with a few smarter clothes; our travel wardrobes were a tad dilapidated. We can always write a nice review saying how smart they were, how well-made. And a generous parcel arrived. They were indeed well-made. Really excellent quality with fine attention to detail, very obviously designed by people who have travelled and know what is (and, perhaps equally important, what is not) required. The designs are practical. Plenty of useful pockets; not in the style of those gung-ho waistcoats beloved of some safari outfitters that would work well as a spice rack. But pockets within pockets within pockets, reminiscent of Russian dolls, deterrent to the most determined searching fingers. Muted, serviceable colours, quietly stating that the wearer is aware of style but knows that style should not scream ‘Look at me, I’m Somebody Important and I’m Dressed for Action’.
It’s too early to talk of long-term serviceability; we only wore them, pretty much non-stop, for a month. But during that month they regularly became very dirty; at one time, after walking through newly-burnt scrub we were black from head to toe with soot and charcoal, scratched by thorn and generally pretty filthy. I am told by Anne that a soak, a rub with travel soap, rinse in a muddy pool, dried by wringing tightly inside a towel and spread on a thorn bush to dry – in minutes – they looked as good as new. I was certainly impressed. Everything is good for everyday wearing back in the UK. There just aren’t any down-sides to whinnick about.
But what about the repellence bit? The witchcrafty side of things? Not a lot to say. It seems to work. Sure, there were mosquitoes, and, yes, we were bitten. Usually around the ankles at dusk because we’d either chosen not, or forgotten, to wear the repellent socks. But boy, we weren’t bitten anything like the people we came across. We were normally under nets at night (having taken our own for when places were too basic to provide them), but during the evenings, when attacks are usually at their most intense, we seemed to lead a charmed life. We could see no actual proof that it worked, no sort of crackle as they zapped into a force field, it’s just that we didn’t get bitten, hardly at all. Form your own opinion. We’ve formed ours, and score everything we used as ten out of ten.
Thank you, Craghoppers, now we await the arrival of the Welsh midges. Watch this space.
Here are some pics from the trip.
Ah, one afterthought: for those of you not keen on Syrup of Figs, we didn’t see a single elephant the whole time we were away. Got to be worth mentioning...
The material is called Nosilife. Here are a few words from the Craghoppers website (there is plenty more information here).
What is NosiLife world exclusive permanent clothing?
NosiLife is the world's first and only clothing with permanent insect-repellent properties, proven up to 90% protection from mosquitoes and other biting insects, that lasts a lifetime of wear.
How does it work on clothing?
NosiLife is completely safe to mammals but toxic to all insects. As soon as they touch the fabric insects will be repelled or risk being killed by the treatment. It is equally effective on all insects from the Mosquito & Sand Fly to the Midge.
How long does it last?
NosiLife is permanent.
Is it safe?
Yes. The active ingredients used are non-toxic and are classed as non-irritants. The system was originally developed for use against dust mites and is used world-wide in hospitals and bedding products.
What are the active ingredients?
The insect-repellent is a type of Permethrin. This is a synthetic pyrethroid. The antimicrobial effect comes from a biocide often used in hand wash and other skin care products.
And here's a video: