Hi everyone. This is not really a news story, but rather a public service announcement, or maybe just some helpful hints from a fellow photographer on shooting out in the Everglades. After Saturday's field trip to Mahogany Hammock to view the Perseid Meteor Shower, it surprised me how many people didn't realize just how brutal the mosquitoes can be out in the Everglades. I can't make it any more clear than this: It's mid-summer, in the hottest, most humid state, in the largest swamp in the world, there will be LOTS of mosquitoes, among other critters. When we warn people to bring all the mosquito protection you've got, we really mean it! The mosquitoes will swarm your head, your camera, around anything warm, and then they go for their dinner - your blood! Be sure you're protected next time.
Now, I'm not an Everglades expert like Robert, far from it, but I have spent my fair share of time out in the 'Glades, and I'll tell you what I like to bring with me for protection. You can pick and choose what works for you. If you have something you'd like to add to my list, let me know! I'll certainly add it. Now for the disclaimer...
DISCLAIMER... THIS IS IN NO WAY A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF TOTAL PROTECTIVE DEVICES/APPAREL. THIS IS ONLY ONE PERSON'S CHOICES. THESE ARE ONLY RECOMMENDATIONS. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND CHOOSE WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES. SFNPCC IS NOT LIABLE NOR RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR USE OR MISUSE OF THESE ITEMS LISTED OR OMITTED.
1) Bug spray - a MUST have. Off, Cutter, which ever brand you like, I like one that has at least 20-25% Deet. You may choose one to fit your needs; with or without Deet. But bring a lot, a full can. Spray and reapply often. Even spray your clothes. They bite through clothes, even jeans!, trust me on that.
(As far as clothing, light colored clothes seem to be less attractive to the bugs. I've also found that a tighter weave makes it harder for them to bite through. Long sleeves and long pants, basically to have less exposure. I used to wear long sleeve t-shirts, but have since bought moisture-wicking cooling fishing style shirts in long sleeves and light colors. The jury is still out but I see these style shirts on many of us.)
2) Thermacell - another MUST if you want to survive mosquitoes any time in the Glades. It works wonders against mosquitoes and biting flies! Seriously, it does. Only time it won't be as effective is if it's windy or if you're moving around a lot. Stay in one spot and it works great. Get a group where everyone has one, it'll be even better! The Thermacell works by heating up a pad which emits a 'scent' that masks our own human scent to mosquitoes and other biting flies. Package says a 15' x 15' area. They are sold in many places, Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, and even online at Amazon. Here's a link to the Thermacell on Amazon. For $25, you can't beat the protection. Find one, make sure you have replacement pads and fuel cells and don't leave home without it!
3) Bug Suits (jackets, pants, gloves, head wear). I own the Classic Double Guard Bug Tamer Plus Parka and gloves, and an "Outdoor Research" brand hat with head net. I have only worn the jacket once (it's quite warm, and I just bought it) but it worked wonders! I would for-sure wear it if I was say... walking through the Everglades, or in a cypress dome; or any time I'd be moving around a lot. This physically keeps the bugs off of your skin with a double layer of breathable nylon mesh. If you'd rather not use bug spray because of the chemicals, or would rather wear something more natural but not as effective as Deet sprays, get the jacket or even the entire outfit. Robert Chaplin sells them. Check out his website for them or do a google search for them online. This isn't a plug for Robert's items, I'm just telling you where you can find it. He may even have them in stock. I personally bought mine from the distributor as I didn't think Robert had my size. I bought mine from Shannon Outdoors Inc. I highly recommend having one along. It may be hot, but I'd rather be a little warm than be bitten by mosquitoes. I keep it in my vehicle, just in case the spray and Thermacells don't work.
4) Snake-proof Boots - Yes, snakes. The Everglades... heck, all of Florida is full of snakes. Four in particular that are lethal, venomous, and live in South Florida. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin, and Eastern Coral Snake. Read more about them here. I did an extensive search online for snake boots last year. My biggest fear in the 'Glades is snakes. (I've done extensive research on those as well.) In particular, snake bites. Most bites tend to be on the fingers/hand/arms (due to people trying to pick them up or touch them) or feet/lower leg (by accidentally stepping on them). NEVER try to pick one up, not even if it's dead. Just stay away from them. If you see one, move away. The reason to wear snake proof boots, just in case we accidentally step on one. As we approach an unsuspecting snake, most will try to flee, unless we come upon them by surprise or corner them, and accidentally step on them. This is where the snake proof boots are a lifesaver, literally. Even if I NEVER see a snake in the wild, the price of these boots are worth it for nothing else than some peace of mind. The boots I bought are "Irish Setter Men's 2875 Vaprtrek Waterproof 17" Hunting Boot" sold at right around $200. These are not, by all means, the best nor the most expensive, not the least expensive, but what I have chosen for myself. I urge you all to do your own research and choose for yourself what is suitable.
5) Last one... A cooling towel. For times when its REALLY HOT, and you're out in the elements during the day (or even night), they REALLY come in handy. Heck, a hand towel from your kitchen or bathroom will do in a pinch. Anything that you can pour water on will cool you off.
This list of items will NOT protect you from everything lurking around in the Everglades. Snake boots cannot fully protect you from a snake bite, but its better than bare skin. Bug jackets won't insure a bite free experience, but it will keep most from doing so.
For those of you who need to be told not to suck the big metal straw that sticks out from underneath your car, snakes can bite in other locations not covered by your boots. Its just highly unlikely. Always be aware and always be vigilant. Your bug suits will not protect you from snakes. Just thought I'd mention it.
Bring along with you what will make you most comfortable. If you have a weak bladder, bring a portable potty (yes, they make them) or a 5 gallon pail with a liner. Get hungry? Bring snacks. Be sure your electronics are fully charged. Phones will drain fast trying to find a signal where there is none. Be prepared for that. I keep a bag of "stuff" in the car at all times. Some zip lock baggies, baby wipes, paper towels, mitten warmers, spare cans of bug spray, spare plastic grocery bags, spare "anything you need in case you run out". But always, always, bring plenty of water, more than you think you'll need. Keep some in a cooler with ice to drink. Bring a few gallons to wash with if needed, to pour on your cooling towel. Whatever may arise. You just never know.
In closing, I hope this little list has opened your eyes to some of the things available that you may not have even known to think of. Some of these things aren't cheap. Photography isn't cheap. Just do your research, be respectful, and always be prepared. The Everglades isn't the Wonderful World of Disney, more like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (for you younger people, National Geographic). But if you're prepared, it can be a very enjoyable experience. Especially when with the SFNPCC.
Enjoy the Everglades!!