As summer wanes and we head into the fall, it’s likely that we’ll want to spend as much time outside as possible before the cold arrives. We’ll sit around the fire pit, sipping wine, and it will be almost perfect—except for the pesky mosquitos that can ruin a lovely evening.
Outer, an outdoor furniture startup, has a solution. The brand has just released a Bug Shield Blanket, which comes embedded with a technology designed to repel insects of all kinds, from mosquitos to ticks. At $125, it’s pricier than most throw blankets on the market, but the brand says it will keep bugs at bay without harsh chemicals. It’s part of Outer’s broader mission of using clever design to let people spend more time outdoors.
Terry Lin, Outer’s cofounder and chief design officer, is a furniture industry veteran. He trained as the Rhode Island School of Design, worked at the design firm Ideo, and served as a head furniture designer at Pottery Barn. Over the years, Lin helped design beautiful and trendy furniture, but he believed there was room in the market for outdoor furniture that actually solved problems. Outer launched in 2019 with outdoor sofas and chairs that came with an OuterShell that allows you to cover the cushions within seconds, protecting them from water and dirt. “We discovered that consumers found it annoying to have to protect their outdoor furniture with elaborate covers that took a long time to put on and take off,” Lin says. “So we developed a simpler solution.”
Bugs were another huge annoyance for customers. Going outside during mosquito season means covering yourself with sticky bug spray or setting up citronella candles. In some cases, people feel it’s too much effort, so they decide not to go out at all. So Lin and his team threw themselves into finding a simple workaround.
They came across a company called Insect Shield, which had developed an insect repellent that could be embedded in fabric. The company uses permethrin, a chemical that has been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe since 1977, and is used in lice shampoos for children and flea dips for dogs. Insect Shield developed a new, proprietary formulation of permethrin that can be bonded into fabric, and has been tested to repel mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and fleas, including those that can carry diseases like Lyme disease or Zika virus. (Insect Shield has also been separately registered with the EPA, which regulates the safety of chemicals on the market.)
Lin liked that the insect repellant was odorless, invisible, and had a strong safety record. Outer incorporated its repellent into what became the Bug Shield Blanket. The Insect Shield is effective at repelling bugs for up to 25 launderings, which should last the blanket’s lifetime. I tested the blanket for a week and immediately noticed how effective it was. The previous weekend, I had a small gathering in my backyard and went to bed with mosquito bites all over my legs and arms. But when I sat in the garden to read a book with the blanket, I remained consistently bite-free.