We were very kindly supported this year by Pyramid Travel Products, who provided us with very well-needed mosquito protection. We wish we'd gotten in touch with them earlier! We were using their mosquito-net shirts and compact sleeping mosquito nets, and they were so effective that we barely saw any mosquitoes! ...well, we saw some, but it was just so cold this year that there weren't actually many of them about for us to test the gear on.
Mosquito net shirts
Despite the lack of mosquitoes, we thought that the mosquito-net shirts were pretty awesome – full long-sleeved upper-body mosquito protection with a hood to keep them away from the head. And pull-cords to make sure that none of the wee beesties could fly through loose bits of clothing. And although we sort of looked like commando bee-keepers, it was actually a pretty cool outfit (though you can judge that for yourselves)!
To test them we found the most mosquito-ridden bit of swamp we could to do some berry and mushroom foraging, making sure to move around at a nice slow pace so the swarms could catch up with us. And it was great – not a single painful bite! A few times they went for our hands (the shirt protects up to the wrists), but as we were picking berries they didn't have time to land. And when we were just standing still, we found that there's a really neat little net-protected pocket in the front that you can put your hands in to keep them hands bite-free so that you don't have to stand there waving your arms around like a lunatic.
Despite the shirt being a net with holes in (very small holes), we found that it also actually provided a reasonable amount of warmth. This was great in our situation where most days we're lucky to be wearing less than three layers, but things might get a bit sweaty if you were trekking through a jungle. But then I guess you'd be sweaty in that situation anyway...
We want to test them further on a really mosquitoey year, but so far we'd have to give them a 5/5 rating. We wish we'd had these from day 1 of the expedition!
Compact mosquito sleeping nets
Sadly we weren't quite so impressed with the compact mosquito sleeping nets. They're amazingly lightweight with a really fine mesh, and they certainly don't tear easily - there's a lot of wood splinters around so they do get caught on things and as yet there's been no damage.
However, there were two issues we had. The first was that they didn't come with anything to hang them up with - there was a loop at the top, but no string through it to attach to overhead objects. For us that wasn't a huge problem, as we've got string coming out of every pocket, pouch and orifice (seriously, it can be troubling sometimes). But string alone isn't as good as a hook or some other sort of convenient attachment. And for someone less inclined to a spot of DIY this could be a real problem, as without it you just have to lay the net across your head and try to get into a position where the net isn't touching your skin (we reckon the mosquitoes will bite through it if they can reach your skin). From our experience, finding a good way of hanging a sleeping net is one of the most troublesome bits of readying yourself for bed. And unfortunately on this front the Pyramid net didn't make things any easier.
The other problem was the size of the net – it wasn't large enough for us to be able to tuck around our sleeping bags and under our mats. This meant that if we moved in the night, the net could bunch up in places and leave gaps that were vulnerable to insect invasion. The size issue may have arisen mainly due to the difficulties with hanging the net, since the further it was from our faces the smaller the area of floor it covered.
For a final score we'd have to give the sleeping nets a 2/5 rating. For a heavy mosquito year we'd take them over nothing, but they're not the best mosquito nets we've used. And in fact this year it was so cold at night that we found it better just to sleep without them, as the mosquitoes weren't so active.
Overall, we're incredibly grateful that Pyramid helped support the trip. We'll definitely be giving the mosquito-net shirts many more years of use, and we're going to make a hanging attachment for the sleeping nets and give them a try again next year. In 2017 we expect more mosquitoes so that'll be the true test!