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De-Bed-Bugging your Camino Gear

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Time of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
This post is now also available as a handy PDF in the resources section here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/resources/de-bed-bugging-your-camino-gear.483/

*************

As I just went again through the whole procedure, I thought I write it all together and post it here. Some of the methods here are also useful on the camino, to minimize the risk and help to reduce the bed bug population on the camino.

Why should you de-bed-bug your gear after the camino?

Bed bugs are a reality on the camino (more so on the Frances, but I have also seen bitten pilgrims on other caminos) and there is a good chance that some of them are hiding somewhere in your gear waiting to hitch a hike to your home and the last thing you want to have at home is a bed bug infestation! Even one 'pregnant' bed bug or a few eggs that hatch can be enough to cause huge problems and costs later on. Because of this I treat my whole gear as potentially bed buggy ;-) Here my step by step plan:

Before traveling back

Things like the Compostela and souvenirs I bought are getting immediately double packed in sealed plastic bags to avoid any bug attaching itself to them before bringing them back to the albergue/hotel and in contact with the rest of my gear.

I discard items that I don't need any longer/are not any longer useful. The less I take home, the less I have to decontaminate. These 'holey' socks that aren't useful anymore or the info sheet from the museum, all this kind of stuff goes into the rubbish bin before traveling home.

Packing for unpacking. The less you have to sort through things at home, the lesser the likelihood that you inadvertently spread bugs or eggs around. In the ideal case you should take everything only one time out of the backpack and then directly deal with it. So all that can be washed and dried at high temperatures is in one bag, all that needs to be frozen in another etc. And yes, all these are double packed. (Explanation later) Some things can't be packed that easily as they need to be at hand during travel (passport, boarding passes etc.) but the more organized your stuff is the easier is the job at home.

On arrival at home

Optional, but very advisable if you think there is the risk that there are bed bugs in your pack. Ask the person that picks you up at the airport or similar to bring two large rubbish bags and tape to double pack your back pack and all your other gear in to avoid that the car gets infested during the travel home.

Put all your gear and the clothes/shoes you are wearing in the bath tub. Alternatively, if you arrive late at night and/or can't deal with it immediately, leave outside/ in the garage well wrapped up in rubbish bags and sealed with tape.

Take a long hot shower and wash your hair and put on fresh 'non-pilgrim' clothes from home. Bed bugs don't stay on humans, so that one is a bit of an psychological step ;-) But do put the clothes that you are wearing in the bath tub or in a sealed bag in the garage or similar.

Before I come to my actual decontamination process, first one important question:

What kills bed bugs?

There are two main ways of killing bed bugs and their eggs in a non-toxic way: Heat and cold. The following numbers are from a German study done for/by the public health service in Berlin:

30min of 45C/113F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

72hours of -18C/-0.4F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

Obviously these temperatures have to be achieved first and then maintained continuously at least for these time periods. That is the reason I try to go over these minimum values whenever possible.

I use the highest possible washing/drying temperature for at least 1,5h and leave things for at least a week in the bottom of our chest freezer.

Why I am not using Permethrin

Or any other spray for that matter … First of all, permethrin is highly toxic to cats, we have a cat. So no permethrin allowed in our household.

Second, bed bugs worldwide are getting more and more resistant to permethrin and similar substances, so it is not a 100% foolproof method either.

When using low/high temperatures to kill bed bugs and eggs you can make sure that you achieve and exceed the necessary time and temperature (remember to allow for additional time until all is heated/frozen to the core). With chemicals you can't be sure that it really reached each corner.

So looking at all this I now open my rubbish bags and backpack and every item or prepared bundle goes straight into the washing machine or freezer. Those that go into the freezer keep obviously one of their sealed plastic bags on (only the second one gets removed) and those that go into the washing machine obviously without plastic ;-) Make sure when you handle things not to shake them wildly or do anything else that would scatter bed bugs or eggs in your home. Use a plastic bucket or similar for transportation and don't forget to rinse it thorougly with hot water after use.

Clothing that can't be washed at temperatures higher than 45C/113F gets frozen for a week and then washed at lower temperatures.

We don't have a tumble dryer at home, but on the camino I use one at every possibility.

Books, papers and anything else that can be frozen goes straight into the chest freezer, removing the outer bag of the two plastic bags first.

Clothes that can be washed at higher temperatures get washed at them at a cycle that lasts at least 1,5 hours.

Rubbish bags and other things that need to be discarded (tape, bags etc.) get taken straight to the bin outside.

Shoes – can be frozen.

Tummy bags, money belts and similar can be both frozen and washed.

Backpack, walking sticks, rain gear – get hand washed/soaked at high temperature in the bath tub and dried outside in the sun if there is any.

Basically I sort everything out in the bath tub and it ends up directly in the freezer or in the washing machine.

Rinse bath tub thoroughly after you are done.

Which leaves, in my case, the electronics. Over the years I have had many conversations with travellers and other bed bug experts and the general consensus is that electronics are not typical hiding places for bed bugs. But I do freeze and/or wash their cases and give phone etc. a good wipe. For really desperate cases, see below.

The other two methods that kill bed bugs are Diatomaceous Earth and CO2. DE works only if the bugs get in direct contact with it as it 'scratches' their 'skin' and leads so to their death by dehydration. So it is not really useful for de-bed-bugging your camino gear. Just mentioned for completeness ;-) or if you have a book or souvenir you can't freeze or wash/heat. Then place item with a bit of DE in a transparent, double sealed plastic bag, shake well and leave for at least 2 weeks.

CO2 is a gas that can be used (only by professionals!) to de-bug electronics. Normally electronics are not a typical hiding spot of bed bugs but if you want to be 110% sure you could double-pack them in strong plastic bags and seal them and give them to a professional exterminator to be treated. Do not try CO2 treatment at home as it is a) toxic in higher concentrations and b) you can't monitor the necessary level easily. Leave CO2 and other gases / chemicals to the professionals, please!

So far, with this methods used, I have successfully avoided to introduce any bed bugs to our home, despite having been bitten several times on various caminos.

Buen Camino sin chinches, SY
 
Last edited:
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Thanks for that SYates!
I did same (except for the electronics bit) and - so far - have kept my home bb free.
I did find a dead one in ...my hat when I took it out of the
freezer :eek::eek::eek: Yuk!
Were you bitten on the Camino?
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
An excellent summary! This should be posted in the resources section.

If you follow this procedure, then you can relax, because you have done your best and this is not ebola virus.
We really do need a laugh button.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Time of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
I am happy to convert it to a PDF tomorrow and upload it to resources, but I wonder how many people are looking their for bed bug info :confused:

SY
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Time of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Not at all, but add a link to this thread to it as the source please. Thanks, SY
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house
 
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SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Time of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Do you have friends or family with a proper freezer? To heat things up (sorry for the pun!) you can place all things that can stand the heat in black rubbish bags and place that against a nice reflecting white wall in plain sun light (you should have a lot of that, correct?). Alternatively you could just go back to ye'ole times and boil or washing on a stove/in a pot over a fire. Or use a cauldron over an open fire (sorry for that joke!).

Can you get Diatomaceous Earth in Costa Rica?

If you need more help/tips I am happy to brainstorm solutions, SY
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house
At least you have the hot sun at your disposal! I have to admit that in my impatience, I have occasionally used my oven. But that obviously needs to be done with great care and only for selected items! My oven is quite new and I trust its thermostat. I preheat it at the lowest temperature, which is 170F (77C), put things in, turn off the oven after a few minutes, and leave for an hour until it has cooled down.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Time of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Oh, uh, monitoring that is a wee bit tricky, isn't it? As you have to keep things (heated to the core) at >45C for at least 30 min. But if anything else fails, why not? And there is always the microwave, but please be very, very careful what you put in that one! SY
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Oh, uh, monitoring that is a wee bit tricky, isn't it? As you have to keep things (heated to the core) at >45C for at least 30 min. But if anything else fails, why not? And there is always the microwave, but please be very, very careful what you put in that one! SY
You are absolutely right. At 70C, less time would be required, but I tend to repeat the process to be sure. And I don't really recommend this method.
 
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domigee

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 CF
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house

Are there any self-service launderettes, you know, with big dryers you could use?
(Sorry if it's a dumb question, I've never been to Costa-Rica...)
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Time of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Or chemical dryers? BTW how do people wash things that need to be washed on hot (fabric diapers or kitchen towels) in Costa Rica? SY
 

Joodle

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF May 10th- June 21st 2016
VDLP March-April 2017
CF coming up April-May
I am happy to convert it to a PDF tomorrow and upload it to resources, but I wonder how many people are looking their for bed bug info :confused:

SY
Add it to your great Book SYates!! I just finished reading your book again, to make sure I am well prepared. It is full of excellent ideas and packing lists.
 
A two-part workshop that guides you into creating a credencial and shares it online
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Latecomer

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
VDLP (Sept 2015)

CF SJPDP-SdC+
(Sept/Oct 2018)
Despite not having any bites or other direct evidence of infestation, I did something similar.

I put EVERYTHING (except my phone) in heavy duty garbage bags in the garage when I got home. I immediately took a hot shower. I removed my phone case, inspected the phone, and washed the (plastic and rubber) case in hot water. The next day I hot washed and dried all my clothes and sleeping bag.

Then, while I understand this might be controversial.. I left all remaining items (pack, hat, poles, rain gear, headlamp, first aid stuff, etc.) in the heavy duty garbage bags (still in the well ventilated garage) and added Dry Ice.
I used about 4 lbs of Dry Ice that I bought at the local grocery store (for about 75 cents a pound). I have since noticed that many of the big stores in California have it near the check out stands in small locked freezer.

The safety warning I would be most sensitive to would be not carrying a large amount of Dry Ice in the passenger compartment of a car with the windows rolled up. If you have never handled Dry Ice or are nervous about it, then you may not want to use this procedure (but then also don't use it to create spooky effects on Halloween).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23025189
http://www.mypmp.net/2013/09/12/how-to-kill-bed-bugs-in-luggage-backpacks-purses-and-more/
https://www.continentalcarbonic.com/dry-ice-safety.html

The treatments gave me an extra level of comfort that I was not bringing bedbugs into the house..
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
Do you have friends or family with a proper freezer? To heat things up (sorry for the pun!) you can place all things that can stand the heat in black rubbish bags and place that against a nice reflecting white wall in plain sun light (you should have a lot of that, correct?). Alternatively you could just go back to ye'ole times and boil or washing on a stove/in a pot over a fire. Or use a cauldron over an open fire (sorry for that joke!).

Can you get Diatomaceous Earth in Costa Rica?

If you need more help/tips I am happy to brainstorm solutions, SY
DON'T know of Any friends with a big freezer
I DO know a bit about removing bed bugs after my stint as hospitalero in Rabanal. We dealt with, if remember well, 12 cases in 2 weeks. We had a strict protocol to adhere to. I won't go through it all here (Guacelmo had both a washing machine and dryer, obviously with temperatures up to, well I guess nearly boiling point - can't remember
exactly to what temp European washing machines reach).
The back packs were put in black plastic bags and left in the field in the sun fir as long as possible.
Are there any self-service launderettes, you know, with big dryers you could use?
(Sorry if it's a dumb question, I've never been to Costa-Rica...)
Never seen a self service launderette so here.☹️
Or chemical dryers? BTW how do people wash things that need to be washed on hot (fabric diapers or kitchen towels) in Costa Rica? SY
No idea how someone deals with their nappies (diapers) here, should they have cloth ones. All my 5 Costa Rican born grandchildren were not bought up very ecologically and used disposables!
Kitchen towels get washed with everything else in a cold wash. Horror of horrors? That's how it's done here!
Diatomaceous earth? Not sure.
Don't have a cauldron, nor place to make an open fire☹️( thinking of Asterix here)!
Well, so far, I've walked the Camino ( various Caminos) 8 times and have been lucky. No bed bugs, neither for me nor for Adriaan!
Anyway, after my experience at Guacelmo, I was idly checking out bed bugs on the Internet and came across a quiz 'do you know your bed bug' - or words to that effect.
Did the quiz and got 17 out of 20, so was quite pleased with myself!
SY - your post was fantastic! Really!
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house
Oven? With a meat thermometer and the oven door open, as you would if drying herbs? Or boiling clothes like you would very stained items?
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
Post Camino I will either be staying in a hotel in Madrid or possibly with a friend of a friend there, or elsewhere in Spain. I certainly don't want to spread bed bugs to any of those places. What would be the best protocol for me?
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Post Camino I will either be staying in a hotel in Madrid or possibly with a friend of a friend there, or elsewhere in Spain. I certainly don't want to spread bed bugs to any of those places. What would be the best protocol for me?
Well, you may not bring to pick up bbugs in hotels, and even the private home. My first encounter with them was in Hong Kong, speding a week in a lovely elegant flat in Happy Valley o_O.

But what you can do is as suggest above when you get to the friend of a friend's, and launder your clothes there, if possible, or pack it all up in a plastic garbage bag you will be carrying with you, in another bag you will leave putside the door, and take your clothes to be laundered. Shoes get wrapped up in a plastic bag from the flat, etc.
 
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trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
I will be bringing a suitcase with me that I will leave in Madrid while I'm on the Camino. I should have everything that I need in there for my post Camino days, so I could leave my backpack outside the flat.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
I will be bringing a suitcase with me that I will leave in Madrid while I'm on the Camino. I should have everything that I need in there for my post Camino days, so I could leave my backpack outside the flat.
In a platic bag you will buy at the local grocery store. Perfect solution. And with your walking boots.
 
How to Successfully Prepare for Your Camino
This book's focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared.
A two-part workshop that guides you into creating a credencial and shares it online

Pruden

Pilgrim of life
Time of past OR future Camino
October 2012 Camino Francés Sarria /Santiago.
November 2013 Camino Francés
León to Sarria
June 2014 Camino Francés San Juan Pie de Port to Logroño.
November 2016 Camino Frances ,Logroño to León.
Last time after my Caminos I put everything on a big plastic bug , then leave it for 2 days in the trunk of my car on the hot sun in middle Spain !!
It really get very high temperatures and every leaving creature or egg get kill or destroyed life on them.
Of course it have to be sealed very well ,( even I put some anti bugs spray on it).
 

Laura Olsen

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Planning a trip in september 2016
Thank you. This is very helpful. Just what I needed. And good advice not only for the camino but for traveling lots of places.
 

Helen Avoca

Slow walker.
Time of past OR future Camino
Planning to finish to Chemin Le Puy in April 2022.
This post is now also available as a handy PDF in the resources section here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/resources/de-bed-bugging-your-camino-gear.483/

*************

As I just went again through the whole procedure, I thought I write it all together and post it here. Some of the methods here are also useful on the camino, to minimize the risk and help to reduce the bed bug population on the camino.

Why should you de-bed-bug your gear after the camino?

Bed bugs are a reality on the camino (more so on the Frances, but I have also seen bitten pilgrims on other caminos) and there is a good chance that some of them are hiding somewhere in your gear waiting to hitch a hike to your home and the last thing you want to have at home is a bed bug infestation! Even one 'pregnant' bed bug or a few eggs that hatch can be enough to cause huge problems and costs later on. Because of this I treat my whole gear as potentially bed buggy ;-) Here my step by step plan:

Before traveling back

Things like the Compostela and souvenirs I bought are getting immediately double packed in sealed plastic bags to avoid any bug attaching itself to them before bringing them back to the albergue/hotel and in contact with the rest of my gear.

I discard items that I don't need any longer/are not any longer useful. The less I take home, the less I have to decontaminate. These 'holey' socks that aren't useful anymore or the info sheet from the museum, all this kind of stuff goes into the rubbish bin before traveling home.

Packing for unpacking. The less you have to sort through things at home, the lesser the likelihood that you inadvertently spread bugs or eggs around. In the ideal case you should take everything only one time out of the backpack and then directly deal with it. So all that can be washed and dried at high temperatures is in one bag, all that needs to be frozen in another etc. And yes, all these are double packed. (Explanation later) Some things can't be packed that easily as they need to be at hand during travel (passport, boarding passes etc.) but the more organized your stuff is the easier is the job at home.

On arrival at home

Optional, but very advisable if you think there is the risk that there are bed bugs in your pack. Ask the person that picks you up at the airport or similar to bring two large rubbish bags and tape to double pack your back pack and all your other gear in to avoid that the car gets infested during the travel home.

Put all your gear and the clothes/shoes you are wearing in the bath tub. Alternatively, if you arrive late at night and/or can't deal with it immediately, leave outside/ in the garage well wrapped up in rubbish bags and sealed with tape.

Take a long hot shower and wash your hair and put on fresh 'non-pilgrim' clothes from home. Bed bugs don't stay on humans, so that one is a bit of an psychological step ;-) But do put the clothes that you are wearing in the bath tub or in a sealed bag in the garage or similar.

Before I come to my actual decontamination process, first one important question:

What kills bed bugs?


There are two main ways of killing bed bugs and their eggs in a non-toxic way: Heat and cold. The following numbers are from a German study done for/by the public health service in Berlin:

30min of 45C/113F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

72hours of -18C/-0.4F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

Obviously these temperatures have to be achieved first and then maintained continuously at least for these time periods. That is the reason I try to go over these minimum values whenever possible.

I use the highest possible washing/drying temperature for at least 1,5h and leave things for at least a week in the bottom of our chest freezer.

Why I am not using Permethrin

Or any other spray for that matter … First of all, permethrin is highly toxic to cats, we have a cat. So no permethrin allowed in our household.

Second, bed bugs worldwide are getting more and more resistant to permethrin and similar substances, so it is not a 100% foolproof method either.

When using low/high temperatures to kill bed bugs and eggs you can make sure that you achieve and exceed the necessary time and temperature (remember to allow for additional time until all is heated/frozen to the core). With chemicals you can't be sure that it really reached each corner.

So looking at all this I now open my rubbish bags and backpack and every item or prepared bundle goes straight into the washing machine or freezer. Those that go into the freezer keep obviously one of their sealed plastic bags on (only the second one gets removed) and those that go into the washing machine obviously without plastic ;-) Make sure when you handle things not to shake them wildly or do anything else that would scatter bed bugs or eggs in your home. Use a plastic bucket or similar for transportation and don't forget to rinse it thorougly with hot water after use.

Clothing that can't be washed at temperatures higher than 45C/113F gets frozen for a week and then washed at lower temperatures.

We don't have a tumble dryer at home, but on the camino I use one at every possibility.

Books, papers and anything else that can be frozen goes straight into the chest freezer, removing the outer bag of the two plastic bags first.

Clothes that can be washed at higher temperatures get washed at them at a cycle that lasts at least 1,5 hours.

Rubbish bags and other things that need to be discarded (tape, bags etc.) get taken straight to the bin outside.

Shoes – can be frozen.

Tummy bags, money belts and similar can be both frozen and washed.

Backpack, walking sticks, rain gear – get hand washed/soaked at high temperature in the bath tub and dried outside in the sun if there is any.

Basically I sort everything out in the bath tub and it ends up directly in the freezer or in the washing machine.

Rinse bath tub thoroughly after you are done.

Which leaves, in my case, the electronics. Over the years I have had many conversations with travellers and other bed bug experts and the general consensus is that electronics are not typical hiding places for bed bugs. But I do freeze and/or wash their cases and give phone etc. a good wipe. For really desperate cases, see below.

The other two methods that kill bed bugs are Diatomaceous Earth and CO2. DE works only if the bugs get in direct contact with it as it 'scratches' their 'skin' and leads so to their death by dehydration. So it is not really useful for de-bed-bugging your camino gear. Just mentioned for completeness ;-) or if you have a book or souvenir you can't freeze or wash/heat. Then place item with a bit of DE in a transparent, double sealed plastic bag, shake well and leave for at least 2 weeks.

CO2 is a gas that can be used (only by professionals!) to de-bug electronics. Normally electronics are not a typical hiding spot of bed bugs but if you want to be 110% sure you could double-pack them in strong plastic bags and seal them and give them to a professional exterminator to be treated. Do not try CO2 treatment at home as it is a) toxic in higher concentrations and b) you can't monitor the necessary level easily. Leave CO2 and other gases / chemicals to the professionals, please!

So far, with this methods used, I have successfully avoided to introduce any bed bugs to our home, despite having been bitten several times on various caminos.

Buen Camino sin chinches, SY
Thank you so much for this comprehensive advice. Regrettably I needed it.
 
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2022 Camino Guides
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Dancing Rain

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Salvado (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Bed bugs have cost me a fortune. They are the reason we bought a chest freezer, and now I keep going out and buying food and filling it up....
We put everything in bags - then in the bath - then went & bought a two-pack-sized chest freezer to keep in our garage. Great purchase - worked well & since then has had multiple uses.
 
F

Former member 99942

Guest
For those who have used permethrin, have you seen good results? I’ve had great results with it with bugs in the US. Curious how it works on bed bugs.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
For those who have used permethrin, have you seen good results? I’ve had great results with it with bugs in the US. Curious how it works on bed bugs.
Sandy, this thread has not been active since 2019, but if you read the first post you will see that bed bugs are becoming resistant to permethrin. Bed bugs hide in nooks and crevices. Permethrin sprayed directly on a bedbug might kill it, as will a number of other things, but will not kill the bugs that manage to hide. And they can multiply very quickly.

The first post is still current information. Recommended reading.
 
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Sirage

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Time of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago (2005), Porto to Santiago (2007), Vezelay for 200 kms (2009), From Seville, May (2015), Le Puy to Sangüesa (2016), Norte-Primitivo (Sep-Oct 2016)
Backpack, and anything else, tightly sealed in a large black garbage bag, left in the sun in a sheltered spot - sunroom, front window of car, sun facing verandah if enough sun when you get home. Technically minded can put a temperature probe (when not in your roast) in the bag if concerned about under or overheating.
 
F

Former member 99942

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Sandy, this thread has not been active since 2019, but if you read the first post you will see that bed bugs are becoming resistant to permethrin. Bed bugs hide in nooks and crevices. Permethrin sprayed directly on a bedbug might kill it, as will a number of other things, but will not kill the bugs that manage to hide. And they can multiply very quickly.

The first post is still current information. Recommended reading.
I read it. Thank you.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
Thank you for your post SY. I will refine my preparations and add a couple of options based upon your research!

So, I have been bitten on 7 of 9 Caminos, usually more than once on a camino and almost always in bed. I am a magnate for them. (Btw, none of them appeared to be living in beds but coming from the walls.) Despite my encounters, I have been fortunate and careful to never bring them home.

Now, I don’t use permethrin anymore ….but I do put everything in plastic including our backpacks thanks to a post by @C clearly. On some caminos, if we send a bag ahead via Correos then that bag gets deeted each and every morning before Correos and it is put in plastic at night.

I am very cautious about BBs and have significant reaction to them. Before I return from departure city, I get rid of unnecessary papers, clothing and gear. I seal the disgarded items in plastic and put them in the garbage. I also used Deet on my baggage before flying home. I seal all my clothing in new plastic bags and discard the old ones.

Before departing for my caminos I leave a change of clothes in a sealed plastic bag in my garage. As soon as I get out of my car rental, I go into the garage, put all my clothing and gear into a plastic black bag which I seal tightly with silver tape and rubber bands. Then I put on the new clothes, immediately take a shower, then put the new clothes I had been wearing into another bag as well and too leave them in the garage for six months or when the weather gets warmer leave them in the black plastic bags out on the sunny patio table for a week. I wipe my ipad as best I can and put my it into a clear plastic bag sealed well and leave it in the house for a month or two.

So far so good.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Some of you might remember the couple that spent the night on the mountain between Orisson and Roncesvalles a few years back. Well, she got bedbugs in her house a year AFTER the Camino (a friend brought them in) - and swears she got rid of them by spraying them with 91% alcohol. She says it took a few weeks, but it killed them on contact and eventually they were gone. Not saying it will work or not. Just telling the story.

Personally, permethrin has worked for me - or I've been lucky.
Whichever, I spray the outside of my pack and the outside of my sleeping bag every trip.
If nothing else, it makes ME feel better.

The only time I've been bitten was on my very first Camino when I did not spray anything.
 
F

Former member 91017

Guest
Like others here, I do keep my things in dry-cubes inside my pack.

I carry reactine/citerizine for my own allergic reactions (which are awful).

I've been known to, and will continue to, toss my pack and contents into one of the *large* machines in the public laundromats... hot as it will go. Then everything into the dryer (my stuff is a combination of merino and tech fabric. Nothing has ever shrunk). I do this about once a week.

When I get home:
I change clothes in my mudroom/laundry.
Everything goes into the washer/dryer and what doesn't fit stays outside until the next cycle and goes in then. Yes, I have a *very* large washer (it's a front loading LG and it's the biggest beast I've ever seen, but only 1" taller than the old Maytag it replaced.
And because I'm so allergic and really fear an infestation, I then put everything that has come through the wash into the chest freezer for 2-3 weeks (timing is really just that I forget about it until I go to get a chicken or something...
I also stay away from insecticides and repellents because I don't want any negative systemic reactions to them. Deet triggers my asthma... I can't even imagine what permethrin would do, and it's been repeatedly established as ineffective with bed-bugs.
Also, I only get the first page of SY's guide... can't seem to download the full PDF. Anyone?
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
swears she got rid of them by spraying them with 91% alcohol. She says it took a few weeks, but it killed them on contact and eventually they were gone.
I can imagine that soaking a bedbug with 90% alcohol might kill it. The problem would be in finding and treating every bug before it reproduces!

Rather like testing and tracing programs for certain viruses!
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
Whichever, I spray the outside of my pack and the outside of my sleeping bag every trip.
I spray the inside and outside of my pack.
Permethrin isn't a bed bug deterrent and won't kill bed bugs on contact. It can, however kill them over time - like an hour or two. Therefore I want to give them ample opportunity to be in contact with permethrin treated surfaces. If they manage to get in my backpack I don't want them coming out alive.

This video shows how bed bugs react to a permethrin treated surface.

 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Time of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
put everything inside a plastic bag and put it in a big walk-in or chest freezer. Leave it in there over night. The next day, gently take it out and let it thaw out very slowly. Whatever critters/eggs are in there will be dead.
 

BombayBill

Still Learning
Time of past OR future Camino
September 2022 Norte Primitivo
Off topic but curious….this thread is the only thread that appears in my What’s New with a Push Pin icon to the right. I am familiar with the bell icon which indicates a Watched thread but what is the Push Pin mean? How is it created or mollified?
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
Off topic but curious….this thread is the only thread that appears in my What’s New with a Push Pin icon to the right. I am familiar with the bell icon which indicates a Watched thread but what is the Push Pin mean? How is it created or mollified?
A push pin indicates a "sticky" thread - usually one that remains near the top.

You can see that this thread and two others are "stickies" in the Equipment subforum.

 
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C clearly

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Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Is it something the mods create to remind us of important info?
Not so much as a reminder, but it is helpful for people who are browsing different forums from the list of forums. If you click "Forums" on the bar at the top, choose a forum, and then scroll down past the sub-forums to the listed threads. The "pinned" ones (aka "sticky") appear at the top. They are chosen by moderators as being particularly useful threads.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 CF
put everything inside a plastic bag and put it in a big walk-in or chest freezer. Leave it in there over night. The next day, gently take it out and let it thaw out very slowly. Whatever critters/eggs are in there will be dead.
It does work! When I got all my things out of the freezer, dead bugs fell out of …. my hat!!! 😱😁 (But I was so worried I left it all for longer than a day…)
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
Personally, permethrin has worked for me - or I've been lucky.
Whichever, I spray the outside of my pack and the outside of my sleeping bag every trip.
If nothing else, it makes ME feel better.
Me, too, and yep, it does make me feel better, although it apparently does take a few hours to kill them. I've never yet been bitten, although I have seen a few bedbugs in the morning when lights are turned on; twice on beds opposite mine, twice crawling up walls.
 

C clearly

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Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
put everything inside a plastic bag and put it in a big walk-in or chest freezer. Leave it in there over night.

I was so worried I left it all for longer than a day…
I use my freezer for bedbug control, too. My back pack fits in quite nicely if I don't have it stuffed full. Here is a reference on the effectiveness of freezing for killing bedbugs. A key sentence is:
  • Freezers set to 0°F are effective in killing bed bugs, but the things you are freezing must be left in the freezer for at least 4 days.
I have a regular fridge with a freezer drawer on the bottom, and have checked that the temperature goes down to about -15 C (5F). So I leave things in my freezer for another day or so. It's possible that a walk-in or chest freezer is colder, so the required time would be less.
 
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domigee

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022 CF
I use my freezer for bedbug control, too. My back pack fits in quite nicely if I don't have it stuffed full. Here is a reference on the effectiveness of freezing for killing bedbugs. A key sentence is:
  • Freezers set to 0°F are effective in killing bed bugs, but the things you are freezing must be left in the freezer for at least 4 days.
I have a regular fridge with a freezer drawer on the bottom, and have checked that the temperature goes down to about -15 C (5F). So I leave things in my freezer for another day or so. It's possible that a walk-in or chest freezer is colder, so the required time would be less.
I have a big chest freezer in the garage and it did the trick 😉
If people reading this don’t have access to a big freezer, as mentioned before, a hot tumble dryer will work very well too.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
A 65-75% diesel fuel mix lightly sprayed on all gear and clothing works well at killing bedbugs. Afterwards spread them outside in the sun for a couple weeks to let the smell dissipate.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Didn’t you use an oven once??

I have a very dim memory of a post you wrote about the stiffening board of a backpack … and an oven …
Hahaha. Good memory, but not quite accurate!

I have very carefully used an oven for some items, but I never recommend it! However, I ruined the backpack in a hot tumble dryer - with the tumbling motion, constant bending in a curve, and the heat, the backpack stiffener insert developed severe scoliosis. I have since learned that the plastic stiffener can be removed (although it is very hard to put back).

After I ruined the panel, I called Osprey to ask if I could buy a replacement panel. They said No, but they would send me a new backpack. The guy asked what I had done to cause this, and I told him the truth. He said "Well, don't do that again." They still gave me a new pack and I am a firmly committed Osprey Talon 33 user.
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
. I have since learned that the plastic stiffener can be removed (although it is very hard to put back).
I removed mine to wash the pack and was having a devil of a time putting it back together. Then I tried getting the cloth part of the backpack wet. When it was wet it stretched enough to get back on.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
This post is now also available as a handy PDF in the resources section here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/resources/de-bed-bugging-your-camino-gear.483/

*************

As I just went again through the whole procedure, I thought I write it all together and post it here. Some of the methods here are also useful on the camino, to minimize the risk and help to reduce the bed bug population on the camino.

Why should you de-bed-bug your gear after the camino?

Bed bugs are a reality on the camino (more so on the Frances, but I have also seen bitten pilgrims on other caminos) and there is a good chance that some of them are hiding somewhere in your gear waiting to hitch a hike to your home and the last thing you want to have at home is a bed bug infestation! Even one 'pregnant' bed bug or a few eggs that hatch can be enough to cause huge problems and costs later on. Because of this I treat my whole gear as potentially bed buggy ;-) Here my step by step plan:

Before traveling back

Things like the Compostela and souvenirs I bought are getting immediately double packed in sealed plastic bags to avoid any bug attaching itself to them before bringing them back to the albergue/hotel and in contact with the rest of my gear.

I discard items that I don't need any longer/are not any longer useful. The less I take home, the less I have to decontaminate. These 'holey' socks that aren't useful anymore or the info sheet from the museum, all this kind of stuff goes into the rubbish bin before traveling home.

Packing for unpacking. The less you have to sort through things at home, the lesser the likelihood that you inadvertently spread bugs or eggs around. In the ideal case you should take everything only one time out of the backpack and then directly deal with it. So all that can be washed and dried at high temperatures is in one bag, all that needs to be frozen in another etc. And yes, all these are double packed. (Explanation later) Some things can't be packed that easily as they need to be at hand during travel (passport, boarding passes etc.) but the more organized your stuff is the easier is the job at home.

On arrival at home

Optional, but very advisable if you think there is the risk that there are bed bugs in your pack. Ask the person that picks you up at the airport or similar to bring two large rubbish bags and tape to double pack your back pack and all your other gear in to avoid that the car gets infested during the travel home.

Put all your gear and the clothes/shoes you are wearing in the bath tub. Alternatively, if you arrive late at night and/or can't deal with it immediately, leave outside/ in the garage well wrapped up in rubbish bags and sealed with tape.

Take a long hot shower and wash your hair and put on fresh 'non-pilgrim' clothes from home. Bed bugs don't stay on humans, so that one is a bit of an psychological step ;-) But do put the clothes that you are wearing in the bath tub or in a sealed bag in the garage or similar.

Before I come to my actual decontamination process, first one important question:

What kills bed bugs?


There are two main ways of killing bed bugs and their eggs in a non-toxic way: Heat and cold. The following numbers are from a German study done for/by the public health service in Berlin:

30min of 45C/113F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

72hours of -18C/-0.4F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

Obviously these temperatures have to be achieved first and then maintained continuously at least for these time periods. That is the reason I try to go over these minimum values whenever possible.

I use the highest possible washing/drying temperature for at least 1,5h and leave things for at least a week in the bottom of our chest freezer.

Why I am not using Permethrin

Or any other spray for that matter … First of all, permethrin is highly toxic to cats, we have a cat. So no permethrin allowed in our household.

Second, bed bugs worldwide are getting more and more resistant to permethrin and similar substances, so it is not a 100% foolproof method either.

When using low/high temperatures to kill bed bugs and eggs you can make sure that you achieve and exceed the necessary time and temperature (remember to allow for additional time until all is heated/frozen to the core). With chemicals you can't be sure that it really reached each corner.

So looking at all this I now open my rubbish bags and backpack and every item or prepared bundle goes straight into the washing machine or freezer. Those that go into the freezer keep obviously one of their sealed plastic bags on (only the second one gets removed) and those that go into the washing machine obviously without plastic ;-) Make sure when you handle things not to shake them wildly or do anything else that would scatter bed bugs or eggs in your home. Use a plastic bucket or similar for transportation and don't forget to rinse it thorougly with hot water after use.

Clothing that can't be washed at temperatures higher than 45C/113F gets frozen for a week and then washed at lower temperatures.

We don't have a tumble dryer at home, but on the camino I use one at every possibility.

Books, papers and anything else that can be frozen goes straight into the chest freezer, removing the outer bag of the two plastic bags first.

Clothes that can be washed at higher temperatures get washed at them at a cycle that lasts at least 1,5 hours.

Rubbish bags and other things that need to be discarded (tape, bags etc.) get taken straight to the bin outside.

Shoes – can be frozen.

Tummy bags, money belts and similar can be both frozen and washed.

Backpack, walking sticks, rain gear – get hand washed/soaked at high temperature in the bath tub and dried outside in the sun if there is any.

Basically I sort everything out in the bath tub and it ends up directly in the freezer or in the washing machine.

Rinse bath tub thoroughly after you are done.

Which leaves, in my case, the electronics. Over the years I have had many conversations with travellers and other bed bug experts and the general consensus is that electronics are not typical hiding places for bed bugs. But I do freeze and/or wash their cases and give phone etc. a good wipe. For really desperate cases, see below.

The other two methods that kill bed bugs are Diatomaceous Earth and CO2. DE works only if the bugs get in direct contact with it as it 'scratches' their 'skin' and leads so to their death by dehydration. So it is not really useful for de-bed-bugging your camino gear. Just mentioned for completeness ;-) or if you have a book or souvenir you can't freeze or wash/heat. Then place item with a bit of DE in a transparent, double sealed plastic bag, shake well and leave for at least 2 weeks.

CO2 is a gas that can be used (only by professionals!) to de-bug electronics. Normally electronics are not a typical hiding spot of bed bugs but if you want to be 110% sure you could double-pack them in strong plastic bags and seal them and give them to a professional exterminator to be treated. Do not try CO2 treatment at home as it is a) toxic in higher concentrations and b) you can't monitor the necessary level easily. Leave CO2 and other gases / chemicals to the professionals, please!

So far, with this methods used, I have successfully avoided to introduce any bed bugs to our home, despite having been bitten several times on various caminos.

Buen Camino sin chinches, SY
God help us! A very thorough and intriguing article! I have never had to deal with the little divils but there is always a first time AND for the first time someone is coming with me in April, who is prone to getting bit by critters! Do you have any advice for those of us who have a tendency to stand on their own bootlaces, trip over their own feet and wind up in the caca de vaca ? I mean, God alone knows what's living in THAT lot! :)

Take care and buen camino

Samarkand.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
I removed mine to wash the pack and was having a devil of a time putting it back together. Then I tried getting the cloth part of the backpack wet. When it was wet it stretched enough to get back on.
@trecile, have an Osprey "trampoline back" style pack. Are you and @C clearly speaking of this style or another? I have never immersed mine in a washing machine, but do not recall a removeable panel.
 
F

Former member 99816

Guest
This post is now also available as a handy PDF in the resources section here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/resources/de-bed-bugging-your-camino-gear.483/.

CO2 is a gas that can be used (only by professionals!) to de-bug electronics. Do not try CO2 treatment at home as it is a) toxic in higher concentrations and b) you can't monitor the necessary level easily. Leave CO2 and other gases / chemicals to the professionals, please!
There is nothing to fear from CO2 except that if you touch it with bare skin it will cause a serious freeze burn. Also, though it might cost only $1 or $2 a pound at the grocery store, you can't buy just a pound.

CO2 is an extremely effective insecticide against bugs in grain. According to USA Emergency Supply: "dry ice takes as little as 10% carbon dioxide concentration over a period of a month or so to kill insects. The higher the concentration, the faster it kills them, reducing this time to hours rather than weeks at near 100% concentrations."

Based on my reading, I would suggest dumping all your gear into a trash can along with a pound of dry ice. Then put a garbage bag over the top and pull it down the sides, leaving it loose at the bottom. The dry ice will evaporate and since CO2 is heavier than air, it will fill the trash can from the bottom, pushing the old air up and out. This will yield near 100% concentration of CO2 and kill all insects in a few hours.

And, though I'm speculating here, it will be a painful death.
 
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F

Former member 91017

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I removed mine to wash the pack and was having a devil of a time putting it back together. Then I tried getting the cloth part of the backpack wet. When it was wet it stretched enough to get back on.
Great tip! I do recall Spouse having a real struggle with his insert somewhere between Foncebadon and Sarria…. I will tell him for next trip! I don’t think my Osprey Lumina has an insert, but I will go check…
 
F

Former member 91017

Guest
God help us! A very thorough and intriguing article! I have never had to deal with the little divils but there is always a first time AND for the first time someone is coming with me in April, who is prone to getting bit by critters! Do you have any advice for those of us who have a tendency to stand on their own bootlaces, trip over their own feet and wind up in the caca de vaca ? I mean, God alone knows what's living in THAT lot! :)

Take care and buen camino

Samarkand.
Have the prone person carry a powerful 2nd gen antihistimine (I use citirazine; others use loratidine). You have to start taking it for 24-48 hours before hand for it to become effective, but as a bite generally lasts for 2 weeks on me, the wait is worth it. On the first day when a bite shows up I hit it with the Benadryl stick for localized treatment of the itch and inflamation.

What I understand of the bites is that those who say “they don’t bite me” are mistaken. Bed bugs bite everyone. But only some of us have the histamine reaction to them. Because they do not carry infections, I do not care if I can take medications to suppress any reaction. Once I’ve had my first bite, I just take the antihistamine daily until the end of the trip. And then I can enjoy the camino as those who do not react do. The only risk from the bites is that one scratches so much that an infection sets in. Getting rid of the itch gets rid of that threat.

There’s really no way to avoid encountering them in the high season on the trail.
 

Marbe2

Active member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
Have the prone person carry a powerful 2nd gen antihistimine (I use citirazine; others use loratidine). You have to start taking it for 24-48 hours before hand for it to become effective, but as a bite generally lasts for 2 weeks on me, the wait is worth it. On the first day when a bite shows up I hit it with the Benadryl stick for localized treatment of the itch and inflamation.

What I understand of the bites is that those who say “they don’t bite me” are mistaken. Bed bugs bite everyone. But only some of us have the histamine reaction to them. Because they do not carry infections, I do not care if I can take medications to suppress any reaction. Once I’ve had my first bite, I just take the antihistamine daily until the end of the trip. And then I can enjoy the camino as those who do not react do. The only risk from the bites is that one scratches so much that an infection sets in. Getting rid of the itch gets rid of that threat.
Besides the antihistamine, 2nd generation, I too, do use a Benadryl stick,as Soon as I get bitten and treat the bites 3 or 4 times a day to prevent me from scratching.. I never travel without these two treatments!
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
Are you and @C clearly speaking of this style or another? I have never immersed mine in a washing machine, but do not recall a removeable panel.
Mine is an Osprey Talon 33. I don't think that the panel is intended to be removed normally - it has a zipper with no pull tab, which I expect is intended to discourage removal.

I am not worried about immersing my back pack in hot soapy water, and I do this in a tub after every Camino. However, I am now hesitant to put it in a rotating cylinder to be agitated!

I would suggest dumping all your gear into a trash can along with a pound of dry ice. Then put a garbage bag over the top and pull it down the sides, leaving it loose at the bottom. The dry ice will evaporate and since CO2 is heavier than air, it will fill the trash can from the bottom, pushing the old air up and out. This will yield near 100% concentration of CO2 and kill all insects in a few hours.
I will consider this next time I arrive home from the Camino and happen to find a pound of dry ice sitting around sublimating. (Thanks for the opportunity to use that word 😅.) [Edit: I am joking. I think I will pass on the dry ice idea!]

Bed bugs bite everyone.
I don't know if we know this, But for sure they bite a lot of people who never know it. It is like the tree falling in the forest with nobody there to hear it.
 
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F

Former member 91017

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Bed bugs bite everyone.

I don't know if we know this, But for sure they bite a lot of people who never know it. It is like the tree falling in the forest with nobody there to hear it.

Let me put it differently: there is zero evidence that they discriminate. But we do know that not everyone reacts to bites. Travelling with my spouse in exactly the same locations and sleeping side-by-side in bunks shoved together -- no apparent bites for him, complete agony for me.

See: https://www.bedbugsinsider.com/why-do-bed-bugs-not-bite-everyone/#:~:text=Bed bugs typically bite everyone,else's bed, but not yours.&text=There are many reasons why,one person and ignore others.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Latest: Rota Vicentina '19; Portuguese '19.
I am not worried about immersing my back pack in hot soapy water, and I do this in a tub after every Camino.
I do similar, although outside in the driveway with soapy water, using a hose sprayer on both inside and out. I then hang it on a strung up line in the sun. When dry I hang it in the garage for a week or two.
 

henrythedog

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
X
After my first Camino, when I had merely mentioned the possibility of bed-bugs to my dear wife I wasn’t allowed in the house until I had stripped (we live in the country; it’s normal) and every fabric item had gone in the incinerator.

I look like a tramp on Camino - my stuff is cutting-edge circa 1985 - so this wasn’t a big deal. If the absence of bed bugs is the test, then it worked.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
I do similar, although outside in the driveway with soapy water, using a hose sprayer on both inside and out. I then hang it on a strung up line in the sun. When dry I hang it in the garage for a week or two.
I wash my whole backpack outside as well. Inside and out. They're really quite durable. Warm soapy water, garden hose and have a brush I scrub it down with. If there's any bugs, leaves, carcasses, crumbs etc it all comes out. Have done that with both my REI and Deuter packs. Hang them in the sun to dry and after drying I spray them down with a scotchgard type waterproofing spray. Let dry and store with the rest of my Camino gear. I have had the packs for years and have done that many times.
 

gianine

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
May, 2022.
This post is now also available as a handy PDF in the resources section here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/resources/de-bed-bugging-your-camino-gear.483/

*************

As I just went again through the whole procedure, I thought I write it all together and post it here. Some of the methods here are also useful on the camino, to minimize the risk and help to reduce the bed bug population on the camino.

Why should you de-bed-bug your gear after the camino?

Bed bugs are a reality on the camino (more so on the Frances, but I have also seen bitten pilgrims on other caminos) and there is a good chance that some of them are hiding somewhere in your gear waiting to hitch a hike to your home and the last thing you want to have at home is a bed bug infestation! Even one 'pregnant' bed bug or a few eggs that hatch can be enough to cause huge problems and costs later on. Because of this I treat my whole gear as potentially bed buggy ;-) Here my step by step plan:

Before traveling back

Things like the Compostela and souvenirs I bought are getting immediately double packed in sealed plastic bags to avoid any bug attaching itself to them before bringing them back to the albergue/hotel and in contact with the rest of my gear.

I discard items that I don't need any longer/are not any longer useful. The less I take home, the less I have to decontaminate. These 'holey' socks that aren't useful anymore or the info sheet from the museum, all this kind of stuff goes into the rubbish bin before traveling home.

Packing for unpacking. The less you have to sort through things at home, the lesser the likelihood that you inadvertently spread bugs or eggs around. In the ideal case you should take everything only one time out of the backpack and then directly deal with it. So all that can be washed and dried at high temperatures is in one bag, all that needs to be frozen in another etc. And yes, all these are double packed. (Explanation later) Some things can't be packed that easily as they need to be at hand during travel (passport, boarding passes etc.) but the more organized your stuff is the easier is the job at home.

On arrival at home

Optional, but very advisable if you think there is the risk that there are bed bugs in your pack. Ask the person that picks you up at the airport or similar to bring two large rubbish bags and tape to double pack your back pack and all your other gear in to avoid that the car gets infested during the travel home.

Put all your gear and the clothes/shoes you are wearing in the bath tub. Alternatively, if you arrive late at night and/or can't deal with it immediately, leave outside/ in the garage well wrapped up in rubbish bags and sealed with tape.

Take a long hot shower and wash your hair and put on fresh 'non-pilgrim' clothes from home. Bed bugs don't stay on humans, so that one is a bit of an psychological step ;-) But do put the clothes that you are wearing in the bath tub or in a sealed bag in the garage or similar.

Before I come to my actual decontamination process, first one important question:

What kills bed bugs?


There are two main ways of killing bed bugs and their eggs in a non-toxic way: Heat and cold. The following numbers are from a German study done for/by the public health service in Berlin:

30min of 45C/113F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

72hours of -18C/-0.4F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

Obviously these temperatures have to be achieved first and then maintained continuously at least for these time periods. That is the reason I try to go over these minimum values whenever possible.

I use the highest possible washing/drying temperature for at least 1,5h and leave things for at least a week in the bottom of our chest freezer.

Why I am not using Permethrin

Or any other spray for that matter … First of all, permethrin is highly toxic to cats, we have a cat. So no permethrin allowed in our household.

Second, bed bugs worldwide are getting more and more resistant to permethrin and similar substances, so it is not a 100% foolproof method either.

When using low/high temperatures to kill bed bugs and eggs you can make sure that you achieve and exceed the necessary time and temperature (remember to allow for additional time until all is heated/frozen to the core). With chemicals you can't be sure that it really reached each corner.

So looking at all this I now open my rubbish bags and backpack and every item or prepared bundle goes straight into the washing machine or freezer. Those that go into the freezer keep obviously one of their sealed plastic bags on (only the second one gets removed) and those that go into the washing machine obviously without plastic ;-) Make sure when you handle things not to shake them wildly or do anything else that would scatter bed bugs or eggs in your home. Use a plastic bucket or similar for transportation and don't forget to rinse it thorougly with hot water after use.

Clothing that can't be washed at temperatures higher than 45C/113F gets frozen for a week and then washed at lower temperatures.

We don't have a tumble dryer at home, but on the camino I use one at every possibility.

Books, papers and anything else that can be frozen goes straight into the chest freezer, removing the outer bag of the two plastic bags first.

Clothes that can be washed at higher temperatures get washed at them at a cycle that lasts at least 1,5 hours.

Rubbish bags and other things that need to be discarded (tape, bags etc.) get taken straight to the bin outside.

Shoes – can be frozen.

Tummy bags, money belts and similar can be both frozen and washed.

Backpack, walking sticks, rain gear – get hand washed/soaked at high temperature in the bath tub and dried outside in the sun if there is any.

Basically I sort everything out in the bath tub and it ends up directly in the freezer or in the washing machine.

Rinse bath tub thoroughly after you are done.

Which leaves, in my case, the electronics. Over the years I have had many conversations with travellers and other bed bug experts and the general consensus is that electronics are not typical hiding places for bed bugs. But I do freeze and/or wash their cases and give phone etc. a good wipe. For really desperate cases, see below.

The other two methods that kill bed bugs are Diatomaceous Earth and CO2. DE works only if the bugs get in direct contact with it as it 'scratches' their 'skin' and leads so to their death by dehydration. So it is not really useful for de-bed-bugging your camino gear. Just mentioned for completeness ;-) or if you have a book or souvenir you can't freeze or wash/heat. Then place item with a bit of DE in a transparent, double sealed plastic bag, shake well and leave for at least 2 weeks.

CO2 is a gas that can be used (only by professionals!) to de-bug electronics. Normally electronics are not a typical hiding spot of bed bugs but if you want to be 110% sure you could double-pack them in strong plastic bags and seal them and give them to a professional exterminator to be treated. Do not try CO2 treatment at home as it is a) toxic in higher concentrations and b) you can't monitor the necessary level easily. Leave CO2 and other gases / chemicals to the professionals, please!

So far, with this methods used, I have successfully avoided to introduce any bed bugs to our home, despite having been bitten several times on various caminos.

Buen Camino sin chinches, SY
I came across bed bugs when I lived and worked in west Africa in 2014/15. I did not have enough freezer space to freeze much of anything. I purchased a bed bug heater/killer from amazon to use for my luggage ahead of my return. It was waiting at home for me upon my return. It had a thermometer to insert into the middle of my baggage and I kept it at temp longer than necessary, however if you’ve ever been bitten, you would understand my paranoia! I found a few dead bed bugs amongst my things when it was finished. It was worth the money and was hassle free.
 
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