Outdoor Research Switchback Cap and Sentinel Pants

Outdoor Research's Bug-Free Pants for Women

by Michelle Schusterman Jun 19, 2011
The first thing I did when I took the pants out of the packaging was smell them.

I had to – they have an “Insect Shield,” built-in bug repellant to keep calves and thighs safe from mosquitoes, ants, chiggers and the like. Brilliant. But they had to stink, right? Bug repellant stinks.

The pants just smelled like pants.

Both the Sentinel pants and Switchback cap I was given to review courtesy of Outdoor Research are made with a sun-protective nylon material; the pants provide 50 UPF, the hat; 30. Both have zippered pockets, the hat has an adjustable clasp, and the pants can be washed up to 70 times and retain their bug armor.

Clutching my stink-free new apparel, I looked out at another rainy, chilly Seattle “spring” day and wondered how long I might have to wait to test these clothes out properly.

A few days later I was on a plane to Puerto Rico for a very last-minute, very surprise press trip. The itinerary included zip-lining, walking tours, beach time and hiking, with warnings of hot weather and recommendations for appropriate head gear and sun protection. The pants and hat took up hardly any room in my suitcase; I’m a “roller” rather than a “folder,” and the material for both is incredibly thin. The hat also has a folding brim.

I wore the hat on a walking tour of Old San Juan, shoved it in my purse in the Catedral de San Juan and vainly checked my hair in the glass doors. The band around the inside did a decent enough job of absorbing sweat; hat hair damage was minimal. I took it ziplining, but removed it when my guide handed me a helmet. The hat sailed over a plantation with me, crammed in my pocket.

I wore the pants to the El Conquistador Resort. This seemed hardly the place for the gritty, swamp-like setting required to truly test out bug-repellent pants; this resort put what I’ve seen in Vegas to shame in luxury. After a quick snorkel, I pulled the pants on without bothering to dry off. They were soaked, and after ten minutes of walking in the sun, they were dry. I took advantage of the alone time to wander the island, into the trees. I considered sitting in an ant hill but decided that would be taking research too far.

Nearly two months later and I’ve gotten used to wearing the hat while jogging. I’ve forgotten about the bug-repellent feature; the pants are just pants, nice, light khakis that wash and wear well. Although now that I think about it, I have yet to get a bug bite while wearing them.

Switchback Cap for Women: $25

Sentinel Pants for Women: $85

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