I heard that light colors attract less insects than dark, that dark colors could be warmer, and I was advised against wearing white in the jungle. Where can I get a comprehensive list of the effects different colors will have in a tropical jungle environment? Do these effects differ in different environments?

  • Why were you advised against white?
    – Lost
    Mar 6 '12 at 17:51
  • @LBell I don't know. I was hoping some answers would talk about this...
    – Shawn
    Mar 9 '12 at 5:10
  • Well - per my answer, white will make you more visible... and shows dirt faster ;) Was just curious if whoever advised you against it had their reasons.
    – Lost
    Mar 9 '12 at 6:39
  • Added about more to my answer about light colors and heat.
    – Lost
    Mar 9 '12 at 6:46

According to one study of one species of mosquito, "attractiveness was found to vary inversely with their reflectivity or brightness, although the different textures represented in the series tended to obscure the generalised relationship" (Brown 1954).

Meaning the brighter the clothing, the less attractive for one species of mosquito found in Canada... I can't find any more recent studies, or any that extend this to tropical mosquitoes / bugs.

I can offer, however, personal experience from two years working in the tropical rain forest of Borneo: they are gonna get you.

Whether there is a significant reduction in mosquitoes, black flies, or leeches that stems from wearing different colors, I have not noticed... and since it only takes one malaria (other disease) infested mosquito biting you to infect you, your best bet is to use a DEET based repellent.

As far as other impacts go, bright colors make you more visible to animals and birds, thus reduce your chances of seeing them. Dark colors, camouflage and the like can help increase your odds of seeing the illusive rain forest residents. That reason alone informs my wardrobe choice.

And although conventional wisdom says lighter colors will keep you cooler - this only is a factor where there is sunlight. Dark colors absorb more light/heat than light colors which reflect more. However, in the tropical "jungle" sunlight is not much of an issue - and you will be hot/sweaty regardless of what color you wear.

Brown, A. W. A. Studies on the Responses of the Female Aëdes Mosquito. Part VI.—The Attractiveness of Coloured Cloths to Canadian Species. Bulletin of Entomological Research 45, 67-78 (1954).

  • For most fabrics, dark color will not only absorb, but also emit more infrared light. This means, that it should actually cool you more than light colors in the absence of (direct) sunlight. I don´t know, how much impact this effect has, though. May 23 '14 at 6:52

I always try to take khaki/dull green/brown/grey colors in nature - it is much better for birdwatching - the birds will notice you less than if you wear e.g. dark blue (tested on myself), and I think also dark black. So not only light/dark but also color matters - and I think khaki might be pretty light and still cryptic. THe whole thing is complicated by the fact that birds have different vision (they have 4-5 basic colors apart from our 3), so what is the same color for us is not necessarily the same colour for them, but basically it seems to work.

Also, it is better for your safety - you will not be so easily spotted by people.

All this is not only valid for clothes but also for your accessories, like bag. It might be pretty tricky to buy an inconspicuous bag without any stupid reflexive crap!

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