We’re not an hour into a five-day Bowron Lakes canoe trip and I’m already second-guessing bringing my 65-year-old mother and nine-year-old daughter. Paige, the latter, is almost in tears (and overboard) swatting and dodging dive bombing deer flies. I can hear my mom, Broda, in the other canoe, cursing. My dad and me, experienced with bugs, accept the misery in silence.

Things only get worse once we approach shore for our first portage. Before we hit sand, a cloud of mosquitos greets us with a low-level hum. Even with DEET bug spray, the portage is hell. The only reason I don’t tuck my tail and paddle for the nearest lodge is because of my secret weapon – the Nemo Bugout.

As soon as we get to our camp for the night I unfurl the green tarp and tie out its corners. And just like that we have a bug-free zone. Cascading off the four sides of the square tarp is 72 inches of No-see-um bug mesh. Two zipper doors gain access to the buzz-free sanctuary. With a couple of stumps in position for seats, I see smiles return to the faces of two of the most important people in my life. Phew.


Over the next few days, everyone gets used to the harassment on the portages. Paige even finds zen with the kamikaze deer flies on the lake. It seems bugs are more bearable when you know there’s an escape waiting in camp.

The Nemo Bugout trumps other tarps when it comes to rain, too. I have the nine-by-nine version (it also comes in 12 by 12). The 81 square feet is plenty for four of us to cook, eat, and play cards without feeling cramped. When a thundershower rolls through, the 75-denier polyester ripstop fabric roof blocks it all. But it’s when the wind whips up, blowing a light shower sideways into camp that I fall in love with the Bugout even more. Where the rain would blow right under a normal tarp, the bug mesh stops most of the drops and some of the windchill.

Bugout with bug net rolled up

After that Bowron trip I don’t go canoe camping without the Bugout. On a not so buggy Ontario canoe trip with a gang of kids in tow it became a play room/fort – no parents allowed. On a lightweight trip with three buddies we leave the tents at home and just slept under the tarp, pinning the bug mesh right to the ground with anchor loops running along the base. When the bugs are absent we roll up the netting. Weighing under five pounds and packing to the size of an average three-person tent (16 inches by 8 inches) it’s even, in bug country, backpackable. And I never get sick of the envious looks when we’re laughing under it in a mosquito-filled front country campsite.

If only it would fit over a canoe.

Amazon • $250  (both sizes available)

Backcountry • $187 (12′ x 12′)

REI • $250 (9′ x 9′)

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