Review: The Original Bug Shirt

On fourteen canoe expeditions north of sixty degrees latitude I have observed several people wearing Original Bug Shirts It wasn’t until my fifteenth arctic journey, on the Mara River last summer, that I bought one.  They are great. I was a knucklehead to have waited so long.  Mosquitoes, tundra flies and bulldogs can make you question whether you will enjoy a canoe trip in the far north.  The Original Bug Shirt is the answer.

Rob Kesselring keeps the bugs off in The Original Bug Shirt Elite.

I have owned a half dozen different headnets, a Deet impregnated bug jacket and even a bee helmet but none of these were as effective or as comfortable as the Original Bug Shirt.  My fear was that the hooded Original Bug Shirt would make it hard for me to turn my head and also require me to wear a baseball cap under the shirt to keep the mesh off my face. But incredible attention to design and an innovative hood adjustment (on the Elite edition) make it possible, comfortable and effective to wear the Original Bug Shirt without a hat.  I also thought the mesh might be too dense, but this did not prove to be true. The large no-see-um mesh panels on the sides of the shirt admit extra air and give you enough circulation to avoid a feeling of suffocation even during a huff-and-puff portage.  It’s still not quite as breezy as a bee helmet, but if she butters her head a mosquito can squeeze through the mesh of a bee-helmet and no-see-ums can zoom through in formation.  At least with the Original Bug Shirt you won’t have any insects inside the no-fly zone.


I appreciated the tight cuffs and tailored fit. On colder bug-free days the whole outfit slips inside its own pocket for safe and compact storage.  My Original Bug Shirt is white cotton. Bugs and warm days go together, making a white shirt preferable to colors that absorb the heat and I like the way cotton breathes.  The white stands out on the tundra, which helps my companions keep track of me but had no spooking effect on 10,000 caribou on the banks of the Mara River. They just looked at me with curiosity.

My companions had the synthetic version of the Original Bug Shirt and were equally happy.  They had no complaints about the breathability of the synthetic material and after a rare arctic thunderstorm I noticed their shirts dried faster.  Had we ever gotten a howling north wind and some respite from the mosquitoes the synthetic versions would likely have packed a little tighter as well.

I only have two complaints with the Original Bug Shirt.  Walking toward the sun you can get a reflected sheen on the mesh and this can obstruct your vision.  Secondly, if you paddle wearing the Original Bug Shirt without a t-shirt underneath, the mesh will start working over your armpits like an orbital sander.

Oh, one more complaint, the Original Bug Shirt is so comfortable to wear that sometimes I forgot I had it on, and I tried to stuff a Powerbar into my mouth without first unzipping the screen!


I recommend the Original Bug Shirt Elite Edition without reservation.  On a summertime arctic canoe trip it is a more critical piece of gear than a water bottle.

The Original Bug Shirt is made in Canada. More information and dealer information can be found at

By Rob Kesselring
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