Sure, we want to make sure they get the memo that we’re not for dinner, but here’s the straight dope on insect repellent: It damages gear. From helmets to harnesses, and from ropes and webbing to your GoPro camera, the stuff in the spray repellants, including the natural, non-DEET ingredients, does a number on all of the important stuff that keeps everyone safe on the cliffs and trails. Not only that, but it introduces chemicals into the natural watershed.
The most common type of bug bite where we do our wet rappels is from mosquitos. If you’re not usually bothered by mosquito bites, we recommend skipping the repellent before and during your time on the trails and cliffs. If you know that even a few bites will cause you some severe swelling and suffering, the alternative that your Rappel Maui guides offers are chemical repellent wipes that you can apply more precisely to the skin, without also dousing your gear.
For those of you who are hesitant to skip the repellant while rappelling take note: There is no malaria or dengue fever on the Islands (which was not the case at Burning Man this year), so the risk of going au natural is at least limited to some itching. Wearing a long-sleeved rash guard and/or leggings is definitely helpful, both for staying warm in chilly water, and keeping the bites to a minimum. If you do find yourself with a welt or two, your guides will also carry a product called After Bite, which is brilliant at taking the itch and sting out when applied directly to the bite site.
Whichever method you decide to use during your time sharing the rainforest with all of its inhabitants, stay communicative with your guides about how you’re doing throughout your trip. They’re your ambassadors to the Maui outdoors, and are there to make sure you have a fantastic day.