Friday, May 22, 2009

First Kite Day of 2009

Wednesday afternoon was the first time I was able to go kite-flying since the chill of last fall through the thunderstorms of nearly the last three weeks.

With the ground still muddy in spots, I carefully picked my way through the park to select where to place my stakes after launching each kite. I usually like to fly two or three kites at a time, anchoring them with light tent stakes, because they look so much better when flown in small groups, keeping each other company.

The first and third kites are favorite deltas of mine, Flip Flops #33195 and Warm Checkerboard #33123, both by Premier. They were doing well, so I launched my Parafoil 5 Rainbow Tecmo, Premier item #12035, between them for variety. The color-blocked tube tail proved to be too heavy for the existing wind, so I exchanged it after a while for the streamers that came with the kite.

There's something about kites. At the same time, they are both calming and uplifting, their bright colors cheering the soul while the fresh air and sunshine clear away the stresses of modern life.

The parafoil rode low above the horizon as sleds and parafoils usually do, and was easy to watch while the deltas surfed the vagaries of the wind. At times, they soared directly overhead and I felt like I was bending over backwards to view them from under the brim of my hat. When I was too lazy to check overhead, I searched for their shadows flitting along the grass.

After a while, I brought down the parafoil by walking it down with my hand on the line to lower the kite. Replacing it with a ladybug kite I bought last week at Walmart, I launched the ladybug only to have it crash almost immediately.


Launching it again, I kept a suspicious eye on it until it got up to altitude having never flown that type of kite before and having had trouble with a previous kite by that company. The ladybug is a 25" wide modified diamond kite in that the top is a diamond while the lower section is rounded like the shape of a ladybug.

In addition to a center spine with cross spars to be inserted by the customer like a standard diamond kite, the top edges of the LadyBug also have fiberglass rods sewn in. The tail consists of a 3/8" wide length of nylon with nine small ladybugs stitched on at intervals.

After the relaunch, it flew nicely for a while, the loose legs wiggling realistically as if the ladybug was crawling across the sky. Oddly enough, this kite was flying west, directly into the descending sun while my other kites were flying toward the north. While I pondered why this might be, considering the wind was from the southeast, the ladybug headed downward as though it was going to do a gentle loop then accelerated to... CRASH!


Relaunching it made me review how other kites behaved. My deltas, diamonds, birds, and butterflies, usually make loops or simply drift downwards like sleds and parafoils when the wind goes away. I have a seagull kite, Go Fly A Kite item #15200, that consists mostly of outstretched wings that settles to the ground when the wind dies and has been known to relaunch itself when the wind picks up again, if I'm patient and leave it alone.

This ladybug?

There it goes again. CRASH! Now, I'm annoyed. How does X Kites test their kites, anyway? The other kite I had problems with was their SpinBox Spectrum, #82402, that I returned to the store I bought it from when I was in California. I tried that one out at Tecolate Shores in San Diego, and while it looked great while flying and drew compliments, it wasn't long before the fins came off of the cross spars which then popped out of the clips causing the section to collapse and the entire kite to drop out of the sky.

I relaunched the LadyBug, recalling that I haven't had problems with the delta or CloudBuster diamond kites made by X Kites that I own. Maybe it's only their kites with unique construction that have problems. Since too much wind causes kites to spin while too little wind causes kites to drift down tail first, maybe there's something about the wind conditions that this kite, rated for 5-18 MPH/8-29 KPH wind speeds, doesn't like.

I recalled the afternoon in 2007 when I was flying two kites at Mission Bay, San Diego. A family of three arrived and tried to launch a fairy princess kite unsuccessfully many times with frequent looks at mine flying successfully. The father got bored and wandered off to check the water.

Moved with pity, I went over and asked if I might help. The mother agreed, saying they bought the kite from Target, manufacturer unknown, for their daughter's eighth birthday and it was the first time they were trying to fly it.

Well, I tried and had the same crashing results. Turning it over, I found that there was a huge, heavy, sprocket in the center of the fairy's chest that I was sure was the reason the kite wouldn't fly.

Pulling down one of my butterfly kites that was made by New Tech, because the shape was similar to the fairy princess, I showed it to the mother, pointing out the differences in construction between it and their fairy, that there was no good reason for the heavy sprocket, and recommending that they return their daughter's birthday kite and go to a kite store to buy another that was sure to fly in the lighter wind conditions that prevail during the San Diego summers.

CRASH! The LadyBug, X Kites item #80472, came down again, breaking my reverie. No wonder people get discouraged about flying kites; some are really persnickety about the wind conditions in which they fly. The worst part was that I had also purchased the TurTle kite for a relative of mine, X Kites item #80476. Since it's the same as the LadyBug except for being a green turtle instead of a red ladybug, I have no reason to expect it to fly any better and plan to return it rather than subject the intended recipient to its crashing in variable conditions.

I launched a cellular kite, the eo6 Fire by Prism, in the place of the LadyBug and watched it soar, tumble, and dart up again while my deltas continued to dance until it was time for me to leave. Except for the experience with the LadyBug, it was a wonderful few hours spent flying kites on a beautiful spring afternoon.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review: Pelikan Ink Roller


Length capped: 5-1/8 inches
Length uncapped: 4-11/16 inches
Length posted: 5-7/8 inches
Diameter: approx. 3/8 inch on the grip
Weight with short standard international cartridge: 0.305 oz
Weight of short standard international cartridge: .03 oz
Weight of long standard international cartridge: .07 oz.

I ordered this only because the line was supposed to be finer than that laid down by the Kaweco Sport ink roller, discovering that line width for ink rollers is strongly dependent on the ink used. Using the short cartridge that came with one of my Kaweco fountain pens, the line is just as broad as that made by the Kaweco ink roller.

The pen is utilitarian in appearance with a black plastic cap and a translucent dark turquoise barrel (other barrel colors are available). The clip is plastic and feels like it would break if handled carelessly, but makes a nice, clear, sharp, clicking sound that I enjoy when I play with it.

The grip section is ridged which isn't comfortable especially because I have to use more pressure than with the Kaweco. Unfortunately, it often skips if I don't.

The long cartridge supplied is solid, not translucent, so I'm not likely to use it because I like to see my ink levels and I have other empty cartridges I can use when the short cartridge is empty.

All in all, I don't like this pen. The Kaweco Sport ink roller is much better.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Packing List: Clothing

Back when I used to wear suits to work, I received a core wardrobing guide that showed how to make two suits, a two-piece dress, two blouses plus two other pieces into 25 outfits appropriate for the office.

Five colors were used: blue and deep plum as the basic colors, and turquoise, black, and white for the accent colors.

Unlike other core wardrobe guides that focus on essential pieces, such as a trench coat, or advise buying suits, slacks, and skirts in neutral colors; this guide used neutrals only for a solid white cardigan sweater, a pair of solid black slacks, and as the background for a print blouse.

The trick was that every piece went with every other piece, both tops and bottoms, by selecting two colors that work together as the basic colors and using a third color for an accent color as well as two neutrals.

I'm not into suits anymore, but coordinating a few pieces to get what appears to be an entire closet's worth of clothing is a valuable principle to learn for traveling especially now that many airlines are charging for checked luggage that used to fly for free when you paid the price of a ticket.

By coordinating, I can travel with four tops, three bottoms, and two dresses, plus a two-piece swimsuit, and have 25 outfits that cover a variety of occasions from the opera to the beach as well as function as sleepwear. I usually prefer this configuration over the four tops and two bottoms that others use because it eliminates having to add sleepwear that can’t be used for anything else and prepares me for both dressier as well as more casual situations.

How I did it was by selecting a comfortable skirt that I wouldn't mind wearing a lot and building my travel wardrobe around it by pulling other pieces from my closet that use the colors of the skirt's print (blue, purple, green), as well as neutrals. There's also pink in my travel wardrobe although that's only because it's in a plaid with green.

Here's the packing list with what I've packed for trips during spring and summer in brackets to illustrate the principle:


Four tops -

T1 = Long-sleeved big shirt that can be dressy or casual and may be worn alone or as an overshirt. Because of its length and long sleeves, this piece functions as a very light jacket when worn over other tops, using a shawl for more warmth, and as a swimsuit cover-up when you've had enough sun. [Crinkle cotton polyester spandex in emerald green]

T2 = Top that can go dressy or casual. [White silk T-shirt]

T3 = Top. [Purple cotton knit T-shirt]

T4 = Top. [Emerald green polyester tank top]

Three bottoms -

B1 = Skirt or pants including convertible slacks-to-shorts. [Blue, purple, greens, and white print rayon skirt]

B2 = Skirt that can go dressy or casual. [Rayon black skirt, below-the-calf length]

B3 = Elastic-waisted/drawstring long pants or shorts. [Light gray polyester cotton Capris]

Two casual dresses, loose enough to double as nightgowns, eliminate needing a robe:

D1 = Blue and green plaid seersucker cotton dress.

D2 = Green and pink plaid seersucker cotton dress.

Some may prefer more pants and T-shirts instead of one or both of the dresses or use only long T-shirts as sleepshirts, tops, and beach cover-ups. On the principle of one to wear, one to wash, and one for spare, figure on using Top #3 or #4 (T3, T4) and Bottom #3 (B3) as daywear that doubles as sleepwear. However, if you're going away only for the weekend, you may as well scratch the dresses and pack a set of lounging pajamas.

To the above, women should add three sets of underwear including socks, footwear such as flip-flops, comfortable walking shoes, sandals, or boots; dressy sandals or shoes, a packable sun hat, a bandanna, rain gear, a swimsuit, a pareo, a blazer, sweater, or sweater wrap, depending on the destination's climate; and optional dressy shawl and scarves to aid variety.

Having a pareo is great because it can be used as a beach cover-up, a skirt or dress, a casual shawl, a picnic cloth, light blanket, and towel. Usage is limited only by imagination. Mine is a rayon black and white zebra print that goes with my swimsuit as well as Tops #1, 2, 3, and 4 (T1, T2, T3, T4) and Bottoms #2 and 3 (B2, B3), above.

Having a dressy shawl provides an alternate for the T1 overshirt if a little variety is desired for evenings out. Mine is a black burn-out floral print that looks great over white silk.



J1 (optional) = Blazer or suit jacket that's appropriate for casual or dress attire.


T1 = Regular collar, short-sleeved shirt that can be casual or dress attire under the suit jacket.

T2 = Long-sleeved dress shirt unless a different shirt is preferred.

T3 = Casual shirt such as a polo shirt.

T4 = Casual shirt such as a sports shirt.


B1 = Casual slacks.

B2 = Dress slacks or suit trousers.

B3 = Casual slacks, convertible slacks-to-shorts, or shorts.

As with women's clothing, men's clothing can do double duty as sleepwear. Consider using undershirts or colored T-shirts and shorts and swim trunks instead of pajamas and leave the robe at home to conserve packing space.

Then, add three sets of underwear and socks, footwear, a packable sun hat, rain gear, bandanna, and an optional tie or three plus handkerchiefs for the pocket of your suit jacket.

By the way, if you're heading off for a beach vacation, I recommend packing two or three swimsuits instead of only one, so you'll always have a dry swimsuit available.

For both men and women, cold weather changes the list only by requiring a base layer, beefing up the environmental layer with a winter coat or jacket, and using cold weather clothing such as those with long sleeves and a sweater instead of the tops listed above for warm weather. Exchange the sun hat for a knit cap or packable winter hat and add a scarf and gloves, mittens, or convertible mittens.

Instead of T-shirts, shorts, or dresses for sleepwear, both sexes should pack thermal underwear of silk and light wool and have them do double-duty as the base layer and pajamas. I suggest two or three sets of silk thermal long underwear and one set of wool. If it's really cold, wear the wool underwear over the silk.

For decency, in case of fire or room service or if you want to trot down the hall for some ice or use the bathroom, add a robe made of silk or microfiber to wear over your thermal underwear.

A note about fabrics - Of course, you want clothes that are wrinkle-resistant, but it's best to leave jeans and corduroys at home because they're heavy, bulky, awkward to wash in the sink, and take the longest time to dry. Washable silk, washable rayon, woven cotton, washable linen, as well as synthetics and blends, are good, particularly silk and rayon, because they're lightweight, pack smaller, and dry fast. Some look good if wrinkled on purpose while still damp and allowed to dry that way. Cotton knit is more comfortable than woven cotton but dries slowly. In hot weather, I prefer seersucker because it's comfortable, virtually wrinkle-free, and dries reasonably quickly, but go ahead and don your still-damp cotton knit in the morning and let your body heat and the summer sun dry it off because it won't take long. This tip works for other fabrics as well.

Now, let's see how I get 25 outfits from nine pieces by coordinating my clothing coded as T1, T2, T3, T4, B1, B2, B3, D1, and D2 for women:

T1+B1, T1+T2+B1, T1+T3+B1, T1+T4+B1,

T1+B2, T1+T2+B2, T1+T3+B2, T1+T4+B2,

T1+B3, T1+T2+B3, T1+T3+B3, T1+T4+B3,

T2+B1, T2+B2, T2+B3,

T3+B1, T3+B2, T3+B3,

T4+B1, T4+B2, T4+B3,

D1, D2,

T1+D1, T1+D2.

By wearing the bulkiest outfit (T1+T3+B1) and shoes on the plane, I can pack the rest in the main compartment of my carry-on bag (44 linear inches at 21" x 13" x 10" or 53 x 33 x 25 cm) along with my underwear, flip-flops, sandals, laundry kit, and toiletry and make-up kit, with room to spare for additional items.

For men, it's the same concept of mixing and matching to get the maximum potential out of what you take on a trip.

If I pack a swimsuit that has the style of top and bottom that could double as a camisole top (T5) and shorts (B4) or vice versa:

T1+T5+B1, T1+T5+B2, T1+T5+B3, T1+T5+B4,

T5+B1, T5+B2, T5+B3, T5+B4,

T1+B4, T1+T2+B4, T1+T3+B4, T1+T4+B4,

T2+B4, T3+B4, T4+B4.

By changing only the swimsuit (T5, B4) to pieces that do double-duty, the number of my outfits increases from the original 25 to 40 outfits while retaining the same number of pieces I'm packing. Another option is to take a swimsuit that can double as another set of underwear.

Does this challenge you? Think about it.

How long are you planning to be gone? With this list, it doesn't matter because it'll cover you for three to four days without needing to do laundry and if you can go three to four days, you can do laundry and go for two to three weeks. If you can go for two to three weeks, you can be gone for months and not need more clothing until the weather turns cold.

Do you really like having to cope with all that luggage, including lost pieces, that you've been used to taking? How do you rationalize the expense of the larger or additional luggage, the weight of the heavier luggage with contents, and additional fees?

Years ago, a former co-worker brushed off the idea of packing light saying that she doesn't want to have to wash clothes every night. She didn't know that it wasn't like what she was thinking.

All you have to do is pop your things into the sink with washing liquid and let them soak while you shower, then rinse, squeeze, and hang them to dry over the tub, and you're done. Except for coordinating sink and tub times with your travel partner, that really is all there is to it. Doing underwear and socks every night isn't anywhere near the same type of chore as running a load through commercial machines where you have to keep an eye on it for an hour or so, fold everything afterwards, and get it back up to your room.

If you buy quick-drying underwear such as those labeled "ExOfficio" or "EC2 Quik Dri" you can easily get away with taking only two sets because when the excess water is squeezed out after it's washed and rinsed, the garment rolled in a towel like a burrito and squeezed again or stomped on, unrolled and hung, it will dry in only a few hours.

Besides, depending on your activities and production of body odor, it's possible that you could wear a bottom twice before it needs to be laundered. That leaves you washing a top every night, or two tops and a bottom every other night. Or, you can leave off doing laundry until you're down to your last set of clothes and hit a laundromat then. Whichever is easier.

(Tip: Body Mint keeps you, and your clothing, fresher, longer.)

Some travelers enjoy having to hunt down laundry facilities, getting the right change, waiting for machines to be available, and doing their wash. They consider doing laundry as part of their travel experience because the time spent at the laundromat is time spent observing and making acquaintances with local residents or writing postcards or in a journal.

This packing list doesn't take that away because you can still take everything, except what you're wearing, to wash at the laundromat, and you can still add more tops and bottoms that make you use a suitcase too large to carry on, yet still be small enough to be a lot more convenient than what you've traveled with before. You'll be better off, however, subtracting items from this list, such as Dress #2 (D2), rather than adding to it unless it's to add another pair of socks.

The main benefit is that a coordinated wardrobe costs less and makes it easier to dress for the day and evening because everything goes with just about everything else no matter what you plan to do, even if you stay home and don't travel at all.

Bon voyage!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Essential Systems: Personal Attire

Personal Attire is the second of the Fifteen Essential Systems for preparedness, travel, and outdoor activities.

The checklist -

For the E-kit:

1. Face mask, rated N95 or better.

2. Earplugs.

3. Goggles for eye protection.

4. Nitrile gloves.

5. Non-breathable plastic rain gear.

For cool to cold weather, non-cotton clothing as follows:

1. Underwear and socks, tights, or stockings, with 2 extra pairs of wool socks and liner socks.

2. A base layer of thermal underwear, top and pants.

3. Insulating layers that can be worn or removed as needed. This includes a top and bottom and, typically, a sweater. Aim for loose, thin layers that trap air rather than tight or thick layers.

4. A wind and water protective shell such as a jacket or coat that shields you from the environment to include rain gear such as a rain coat, rain suit, poncho, and umbrella.

5. Shoes or boots.

6. Knit scarf, winter hat or knit cap, or ski mask, and gloves or mittens.

7. Sunglasses, a retaining cord or strap, and sun screen.

For warm to hot weather, preferably cotton clothing except for socks:

1. Underwear and socks with 2 extra pairs of socks and liner socks.

2. A base layer consisting of nothing more than a cotton T-shirt.

3. Insulating layer(s) protecting from sun and heat consist of long-sleeved top and long pants or ankle-length skirt.

4. The protective shell for warm weather doesn't require much more than rain gear to protect you from the environment although some locales will require a windbreaker.

5. Flip-flops, sandals, shoes, or boots.

6. Wide-brimmed hat, cotton bandanna, sun screen, and sunglasses with a retaining cord or strap.

7. Insect repellent.

8. Bug head net and/or mosquito netting (optional).

9. Blaze orange safety vest (optional).

10. Traveler's vest (optional).


The E-kit (E = "Exposure") is to protect your airway, eyes, ears, and skin against dust, noise, and hazardous materials. Nitrile gloves are the order of the day to avoid allergic reactions to latex. Get the cheapest plastic rain wear you can find such as those that are sold in pouches small enough to carry in a pocket. You don't want nylon or Gore-Tex® because breathable fabrics are not suitable for this type of protection and since the hazard most frequently experienced by families is a house fire, you hopefully will never have to use it and needn't spend much money on the gear. Having said that, the kit should be with you at all times especially if you live in a location likely to have dust storms or earthquakes (lots of dust) or receive falling ash or poisonous gases from a volcanic eruption.

The E-kit could also be useful to protect yourself from exposure to nuclear, biological, or chemical hazards caused or transmitted by people, but that depends on your knowing when to use the contents. Since the NBC (or BCR for biological, chemical, and radioactive for you Brits) hazards aren't readily detectable by ordinary citizens, it's more likely that by the time you're alerted, it'll be too late for protection and you'll need to seek medical treatment for having been exposed. If you aren't in the affected area, please stay away unless you're First Response personnel or don protective gear as may be appropriate.

The important thing to remember about cool-weather clothing is that it's to protect you from hypothermia and the best materials for this type of insulation are wool, silk, and synthetics. Wool is the best natural fiber because it retains its insulating properties even when wet. Cotton is the worst fabric because when damp, it conducts heat away from the body faster than other fabrics. Only down is worse for insulation than cotton when wet. Whatever material you select, avoid getting it wet, which includes sweating, because moisture speeds loss of body heat.

Conversely, warm-weather clothing is to protect you from the sun and hyperthermia which means that cotton is the best fabric to help keep your body from over-heating. Synthetics are getting better in this regard, but cotton is still king. Wool socks are still good in warm weather because wool keeps germs at bay.

To aid your body's natural cooling system, wet your bandanna and place it under your hat to help the heat escape your scalp, or tie it around your neck. Other areas to wet down are your trunk, front and back, and groin area. Wetting the inside of your elbows and backs of your knees will also help you keep your cool. There are specialty neck bands, caps, and hats that have cooling beads inside that, when soaked in water for only 5 - 30 minutes, expand to help keep you cool without getting you wet for as long as 3 days. Look for brand names such as blüBandoo® and MiraCool™ or make your own using medium-sized polymer beads; you'll need only about 2 teaspoons of beads to make a cooling bandanna for your neck.

For those times when daytime temperatures require you to wear cotton to avoid hyperthermia but evening and overnight temperatures require insulative clothing to prevent hypothermia, you'll need both types of clothing on hand. Even though you may be out only for the day, being prepared means that you'll have a change of clothing that includes a thermal base layer and non-cotton top and bottoms to change into in case you get caught out overnight. Include a knit cap and gloves because, although only about 10% of your body heat is lost through your head instead of the 30% to 45% as previously thought, our heads and hands are much more sensitive to the cold and we need to keep our brains warm to avoid fuzzy thinking that may negatively impact life and limb.

Brightly colored clothing such as blaze orange will help you be spotted by rescuers and prevent you from being shot by hunters. If you're hiking or engaging in photography or bird-watching during hunting season, it's a good idea to cover your pack with a second blaze orange safety vest to avoid getting shot in the back. When I was in Idaho in the fall of 2006, everyone was gearing up with blaze orange because a teen boy had been shot during the previous season while in an open field after harvest. You'd think the clear visibility would have been enough to keep the boy safe, but, unfortunately, it wasn't. One woman said that she had her husband experiment with various bright clothing that he had been using. When he was only a few feet into the woods, even while wearing his favorite red shirt, he blended in so well that he was completely lost from sight.

In case of fire, travelers should dress in natural fibers for a flight or train trip and avoid synthetics because they melt into skin. Because I'm allergic to wool, please be considerate and don't wear it when you'll be sitting next to me or anyone else who might be allergic to it or the nasty chemicals that are used to process the majority of wool products.

Since most airline emergencies don't involve fire but do require evacuation, a traveler's vest is a good accessory to have. Not only do the many pockets minimize what you'll have to carry in your bag, briefcase, or purse, a traveler's vest carries more than the typical waist pack. Should you have to evacuate, which means you shouldn't be taking the time to get anything to take with you, will need both hands free, and shouldn't be hindering other passengers from exiting the plane by taking up space with your personal bag; your essential items will already be on you and ready to go. A journalist's or photographer's vest will also serve.

Gore-Tex® is the best fabric for rain gear if you can afford it because it breathes. If not, look for nylon. I love my Gore-Tex® boonie and wished I could find another that's more fashionable for when I dress up. (I bought another hat a little while ago, but haven't had the occasion to try it out.) I also like the Cascade II poncho that I got from Campmor so much that when it was in my pack that got stolen a couple of years ago, I bought another and immediately stitched on a couple of Velcro® dots to keep the sides from flapping in the wind. If you already have a poncho and dislike the hood, try wearing a baseball cap under it. Not only will the cap's visor help keep the rain off your face, it will help the hood behave better when you need to turn your head. Unfortunately, if it's anything like the hood of another poncho I have that keeps sliding back, I don't know of anything that will help.

Shoes that are quick-drying and anti-microbial are ideal. Hiking boots protect your feet and ankles and are water-resistant. Sandals and flip-flops, while cool and comfortable, don't provide much protection from dirt, insects, or snakes. However, they don't take much room and a pair should be included for a change of footwear and for shower shoes or to wear to the pool or beach.

A ski cap takes the place of a knit cap and scarf because it covers the face, ears, and neck as well as head. It may be rolled up if only a cap is needed. I got mine in blaze orange.

Convertible mittens are great because they give both the warmth of mittens and the dexterity of fingerless gloves. Concerned that I might forget and leave mine behind somewhere, I got them in blaze orange, too, then got another pair in black for dress occasions.

You need sun screen whenever you're outdoors for any length of time. Clouds don't block ultraviolet light or prevent sunburn as many tourists in Hawai`i discover to their dismay on overcast days. Even though you wear a hat, you still need to apply sun screen because snow, water, sand, and expanses of concrete reflect the sun's rays up under hat brims. Check the label to ensure that the product shields from both UV-A and UV-B rays.

If you don't want to give up your favorite baseball cap for a wide-brimmed hat, tuck an edge of the bandanna under your cap to make a skirt that covers your neck and ears.

Sunglasses are a must to protect our eyes from developing cataracts or other problems. Here in the U.S., all sunglasses are required to protect from UV rays. Ideally, we'd all wear wraparound styles to protect unshielded light from entering from the sides, but since the fashionistas reign...

In regards to insect repellent, you should be aware that the popular ingredient, DEET, will melt plastic and is reputed to lower the efficacy of sunscreen by as much as 33%. You'll need to apply sunscreen first, as usual - at least a half hour before going outdoors, and use a higher SPF rating, and wash your hands thoroughly after applying a DEET product to prevent melting your plastic storage containers, your compass, and even your clothing, if it's made of recycled plastic. Combo products containing both sunscreen and insect repellent need to be used judiciously since DEET shouldn't be reapplied every few hours like most sunscreens. The CDC recommends using separate products to be safe.

Ultrathon™ contains DEET, but since the 3M Company figured out how to make a single application last as long as 12 hours, Ultrathon™ contains a lower concentration of DEET than other products. Please use with caution, anyway, because I don't know if the concentration is low enough that it won't melt plastic or irritate some people's skin the way that other products containing DEET have done.

Alternatives to DEET are Picaridin and the plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus that should not be used on children under 3 years of age. Permethrin is another effective product that's applied to clothing and gear instead of directly onto skin. Spray Permethrin onto clothing and other material and let dry before wearing or using; it will last through laundering for several weeks.

While long clothing may be preferred to using chemicals against the bugs, unless the clothing is loose and thick enough, mosquitoes will bite right through the fabric. Younger children, especially babies in their carriers or strollers, would be better protected by mosquito netting. A bug head net should be big enough to wear over your broad-brimmed hat with extra-fine netting to keep out no-see-ums, biting midges, and sand flies, etc., and may fold up small enough to stick in a pocket.

This system should be one of the easiest to assemble because you're likely to have nearly everything already, they're readily available, and several of them are low-cost. Just set some of your older clothing aside for your emergency pack and get whatever other items you need.

[The previous article in this series is "The Essential Systems: Navigation."

The first article in this series is "Preparedness: Introducing the Fifteen Essential Systems."]