The Market Ticker
Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Outside Thoughts]
2017-04-19 05:00 by Karl Denninger
in Outside Thoughts , 244 references
[Comments enabled]  

I keep seeing all sorts of crap on social media regarding ticks and insect-born disease (specifically, Lyme in the context of ticks) along with "recommendations" that are typically coming from extreme environmental jackasses that will not protect you whatsoever.

Of course it's not just ticks.  Mosquitoes are not just an annoyance, although in the US until recently that was all it was.  In much of the world mosquitoes carry yellow fever, dengue, malaria and more.  In the US we now have Zika (minor but real risk) but in terms of relative harm on a world-wide basis mosquito bites do a hell of a lot more harm than do ticks.

Second, contrary to popular belief ticks are not mostly propagated by deer.  Yes, they're part of the tick "circle of life" but if you want to know where the problem really comes from it's mice.

Most animals really don't like ticks on them and will try to groom or scrape them off, with varying degrees of success.  For reasons nobody I've seen explain with any degree of authority mice appear to not give a damn even when their faces are covered in the things, which means they get to exchange blood with said mouse and cross-infect one another.  Thus, where mouse populations are a problem ticks are sure to follow.

Controlling your risk when outside comes down to a few options, and IMHO there's only one that really works in a high-infestation of aggressive insect area, which I'll get to.

Worst and damn near worthless are the so-called "natural" products with eucalyptus oil and similar.  Don't waste your money.  Not only will they not keep mosquitoes off you they won't keep biting flies or ticks off either.  Mosquitoes and biting flies (along with most other flying insects that bite such as no-seeums) home in on carbon dioxide exhaled by animals and an alcohol, octenol, that is inherently in the breath of mammals. That's how they find you, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it as all mammals have it in their breath.  The so-called "odorish" repellents such as eucalyptus attempt to "poison" this homing mechanism by making you stink, basically.  While it does have some impact it's minimal.

In the category of "mostly works" is DEET-based repellents.

DEET works by targeting the actual receptors in the insect.  Is it perfect?  No, and among other things biting flies often ignore it entirely.  It's reasonably safe but you have to apply it essentially everywhere you have exposed skin and on clothing, because the bugs will bite through clothing that is not thick enough to prevent it.  There is no practical physical barrier option in warm weather because clothing thick enough to prevent a mosquito bite or a close-fitting enough to prevent a tick from getting inside is impossible to wear for any length of time in warm or hot weather.  DEET also will damage many synthetic fabrics.

In short DEET based repellents work to a material degree, they're reasonably safe, they're an option, but they're stinky, they require high-percentage coverage of skin and clothing to be effective, and some insects (specifically biting flies) will ignore repellents made with it.

None of these repellents do a thing for you once an insect finds you.  They simply reduce the probability of the insect's "homing mechanism" working.  In a place with enough of them you're still screwed; they'll reduce but not stop bites.  If a tick gets on you you will get bit even if covered in DEET.

This brings me to the only logical answer: Pyrethrum.

Pyrethrum is a pesticide derived from a naturally occuring chemical in the chrysanthemum flower.  Well over 100 years ago it was noted that a number of indigenous people of Asia and parts of Europe were using an extract from said flowers as an anti-lice treatment.  The molecule responsible was isolated and is now synthesized and available in a number of forms for various types of pest control.  It is the active ingredient in "de-lousing" shampoos for kids.  It is a primary component in flea and tick treatments for dogs and other animals, including livestock.  Of note is that it cannot be used on cats as it is highly toxic to them when in liquid form, but the dried residue is not dangerous to them -- only the liquid.

Again, I will note: The liquid will kill your cat.  It's safe once fully dry but the liquid must not be stored or used where a cat can get into it as fluffy will quickly become an ex-fluffy if it does.

What's especially noteworthy in this context, however, is that it is not a contact repellent but is instead applied to clothing and kills the insects that come in contact with it.  They also avoid contact to the extent they can; apparently they recognize the hazard.  And finally it doesn't smell; I can detect only a very faint odor although it certainly appears the insects can smell it a long way away and avoid it like the plague!

You can buy it in liquid, trigger-spray form at WalMart, BassPro and other places.  Some (online) places also sell it in concentrated form and it's a good way to save money but pay close attention to the "inert ingredients" -- some forms are intended for outside use and have a petroleum solvent in them, which is to be avoided on clothing for obvious reasons! 

Again, this stuff is not applied to skin -- it's applied to clothing before you wear it and allowed to dry first, which means you need to pre-treat your clothing at least a day or so before use.  The insect-barring treatment remains good for several washings, although it will eventually need to be reapplied.  You can also buy clothing pre-treated with it in a longer-lasting form (they infuse it under high pressure and claim it remains effective for a few dozen washings) called "Insect Shield", and if you really want to get crazy the company that does the treating will treat your clothing for you (send it to them, they treat and send it back.)

So if you want to keep things that bite off you, including ticks, try this:

1. Wear thin but long-sleeve and long-pant clothing.  Clothing exists that is made expressly for this purpose; it's typically constructed of very thin synthetics or very thin merino wool.  I've recently picked up a pair of "Rail Riders" pants which are the cat's ass in this regard in that they have zip open legs that remain protected by a mesh and are pre-treated.  Due to the zip-open nature of the bottom they're as cool as shorts on a hot day but provide more protection on cooler days.  For hiking or just general outdoor excursions they're excellent.  I used to use a technical long-sleeve running shirt for a top but have recently picked up a "technical" nylon, thin (and again, mesh under the pits and back of neck) from REI that I like a great deal.  That I treated as it didn't come already done.  Be aware that these pieces are going to be frightfully expensive, but you only need one or two pair of pants and one or two shirts.  This sort of clothing "breathes" exceptionally well and if you get it wet it will dry in minutes.

2. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, again, treated.  The idea here is to protect your head which is a bitch to examine well for ticks and bites on the head suck anyway.  I have owned a "Tilley Hat" for quite some time and it's great; ventilated at the top, wide-brimmed, water-resistant (not waterproof!) and so far it has held up well through several years of use.  In an extreme biting insect situation you might consider a very thin silk bandana for your neck that you've treated as well although I've never needed it.

3. Wear long, merino-wool socks.  They're good at preventing hot-spots and blisters when hiking, are anti-microbial (read: don't stink inside of 15 minutes), will retain warmth when they get wet and dry reasonably quickly.  You can treat these if you want but I don't; the pants are good enough.

Let me note that since adopting this approach out in the woods I don't get bit at all and I've yet to find a tick on me either.

In addition to being bite-free approaching the problem this way you'll also get a free add-on -- no need for sunblock, since you already are wearing sunscreen in the form of clothing -- which (greatly) beats slathering on the goop.

And finally it's a lot more comfortable and easy to deal with than "traditional" light clothing (e.g. T-shirt and a pair of shorts); it's both warmer in the early morning (when you want it) and believe it or not, cooler in the middle of the day since you both get wicking/evaporation and protection from direct sun heating.

Winner winner chicken dinner!

View this entry with comments (registration required to post)

2017-04-11 18:43 by Karl Denninger
in Outside Thoughts , 425 references
[Comments enabled]  

It's amusing being keto-adapted and going out in the woods for a few days.

When actually hiking it's not impossible to burn up 4,000 calories in a day.  It's utterly trivial to burn up 3,000.  This of course leads to a problem; if you wish to be "isocaloric" (don't gain or lose body mass) you need to carry that much in calories with you.

Walk into any "hiking store" and you will find a ton of carb-heavy crap.

But there's a dirty little secret, you see: Fat has 9 calories/gm while both protein and carbs have 4.

And every single one of those grams you get to haul until you eat it.

It's obvious what choice you should make simply on the fact that hauling mass sucks. It's unavoidable to haul some mass of course but doing so unnecessarily, especially when there's no price penalty is flat-out insane.  This is the one place when it comes to backpacking where you can get rid of carried mass at no additional cost.

There is also a size issue.  Most of the so-called "trail foods" allegedly "fix this" by being sold dehydrated.  Well, that is both good and bad.  The good is that it really does make the size smaller.  The bad is that it does nothing for the caloric density problem that carbohydrates have to start with and it comes with a severe (I'd call it ridiculous) price penalty too.  When you look at the total calories in these packages on a per-dollar spent basis they're outrageously expensive.  The size issue becomes an issue if you hike in places that require a bear canister (or simply want to use one as I usually do as while hanging a bag, if you're intelligent about it, works for bears it does exactly zero to keep critters like mice out of your rations); the smaller canisters, if you don't optimize for caloric density will leave you with a hell of a problem in that you will rapidly find you have a conflict with time between resupply stops and how much fits in the canister, especially if you prefer the smaller size canisters because you don't carry a monster backpack to begin with.

By the way, water masses 8lbs/gallon and nothing can be done about that so using water to "rehydrate" food just means you haul even more mass in the form of water to do that with instead of just drinking it (of course whether the water is in your food or consumed "neat" it still counts toward what you need to remain alive and well.)  On the AT carrying ~3ltrs of water across a couple of containers (never, ever in only one if in the backcountry -- a puncture leaves you in a world of hurt and those sorts of things do happen!) is fairly sane since water sources are generally plentiful but that's still 6lbs.  In places where water is harder to come by or the conditions are nastier (hot and dry + lots of elevation gain, for example) you might need to carry double that or even more to have a reasonable margin of safety.  And don't forget your "make water safe" device(s) -- there are multiple options with my favorite being the Sawyer + Chlorine dioxide drops as that hits a reasonably sweet spot for filtering efficiency, biological kill capability equal to municipal supply since that's what they use (waterborne illness sucks) along with reasonable size and mass.  Just be aware that this approach, like most, will not get rid of chemical contamination (as opposed to biological.)

So what do I eat on the trail?  Two things, mostly: These little sausages made by Dukes that I've found available both at Truck stops (expensive) and, believe it or not, at WalMart (not so expensive), which have no "added chemicals" and rather than being low-fat monstrosities overloaded with protein are intentionally high fat.  There's roughly 700 cals in a 5oz bag, which is very close to optimum.  The only "gotcha" is that the bag itself is larger than it needs to be due to what appears to be an inert gas fill and you can't open them and squeeze it out because without preservatives once oxygen gets to them you have to either refrigerate or eat the contents.  Being pork-based they have a decent amount of protein too, which is important when you're working hard.

The rest?  Nuts.  Pick a type other than peanuts and do not eschew the salt -- you need it to replace that which is lost by sweating as electrolyte imbalance can be severely debilitating or even kill you.  An 8oz "can" (which is to be immediately discarded and the contents decanted into a sandwich or ziplock bag) contains a whopping 1280 calories.  They'll remain safe for a reasonable period between resupply stops once transferred (~4-5 days) and they can be eaten while moving.

So for roughly 1.5lbs I can have right near 3,000 calories, which on a "light" day is isocaloric.  For 2lbs I can be isocaloric at 4,000 calories.  Those who insist on putting carbs in their food are carrying at least another pound a day between resupply stops to have the same caloric content on-trail!  This means that when I have "off trail" days I don't have to gorge myself.  I typically eat my sausage in the early afternoon and eat nothing after about 3pm.  If you do 3 day "small section" hikes that 3lbs doesn't sound like a lot but it's damn close to half a gallon of water in terms of weight and believe me you will notice it.

This comes with another advantage -- other than for coffee, if you want it in the morning (and I do) you don't need cooking gear!  That in turn means you get to leave more mass and volume out of your pack.  Even a tiny folding butane stove, can of fuel and a small pot is going to put at least a pound in the pack and many cooksets are double that.  Just don't ever leave the last two ways (yes, I said two) of making a fire behind -- ever.

If you thru-hike you're going to run into a problem getting those nice little Duke's sausages however -- the gnarly gas station or little IGA in some random town will not have them.  You might get stuck with nut products (including peanut butter, and the "commercial" brands that are available everywhere are loaded with processed oil that's on my personal avoid list.)  But when you can get 'em they're saweet, and for section hiking availability isn't a problem since there's a Wallyworld damn near everywhere these days.

BTW there's another advantage to eating low-carb, high-fat: Your need to do a #2 goes down quite materially as well and that means fewer catholes to dig.  (Here's a hint if you've never done that in the woods before: Put your pants around your knees, both lower and upper parts.  This makes it nearly impossible to **** on your clothing while doing the deed.  You're welcome.)

For those who say this is "crazy restrictive" on food I counter with this: I've never seen anyone, even on a hard-core through-hike, that didn't take "zero days" and stops for resupply and similar; this usually means sleeping in a motel or hostel once a week or so where you can launder your (quite) stinky clothes and remove the stink from you with a shower.  You can't evade this because you need to stop and get more consumables along with dealing with personal hygiene.  So if you crave variety, and some people do, eat the variety then -- and make sure you include something high in vitamin C (e.g. broccoli, etc.)

Incidentally in the last few days I have passed (and been passed coming the other way) several people who were quite-severely out-of-shape obviously attempting a thru-hike on the AT.  I applaud them; they didn't look like they were digging it, especially the ones I saw on severe elevation grabbing sections of the trail, but they were doing it.  If I had actually had time to talk with them for any length of time, and learned that part of why they decided to do it had to do with fitness, I'd tell them straight-up to eat a high-fat, moderate-protein combination of those sausages (approximately one bag) and roughly one tin of nuts daily, showing them what was in my bear can, chawing down on broccoli and similar during their "off" days so as to get the requisite Vitamin C.  By the time they got to Katahdin, assuming they made it, they would have had the "unfortunate" experience of their pants falling off several times over, need at least two new hip belts for their pack (in a smaller size, of course) and no longer be overweight at all.  They'd also have a lifestyle that would keep them in good shape for the rest of their life if they kept with it and after that much time they'd be fully acclimated to not being hungry until noon on top of everything else.

What's not to like about that?

View this entry with comments (registration required to post)

Main Navigation
MUST-READ Selection:
The Bill To Permanently Fix Health Care For All

Full-Text Search & Archives
Archive Access

Legal Disclaimer

The content on this site is provided without any warranty, express or implied. All opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and may contain errors or omissions.


The author may have a position in any company or security mentioned herein. Actions you undertake as a consequence of any analysis, opinion or advertisement on this site are your sole responsibility.

Market charts, when present, used with permission of TD Ameritrade/ThinkOrSwim Inc. Neither TD Ameritrade or ThinkOrSwim have reviewed, approved or disapproved any content herein.

The Market Ticker content may be sent unmodified to lawmakers via print or electronic means or excerpted online for non-commercial purposes provided full attribution is given and the original article source is linked to. Please contact Karl Denninger for reprint permission in other media, to republish full articles, or for any commercial use (which includes any site where advertising is displayed.)

Submissions or tips on matters of economic or political interest may be sent "over the transom" to The Editor at any time. To be considered for publication your submission must include full and correct contact information and be related to an economic or political matter of the day. All submissions become the property of The Market Ticker.