Gear review: With turkey hunting open in many places — and the pesky mosquitos that come with being in the woods — G&F editors looked at the redesigned ThermaCell Repeller, now called the MR450 Repeller, and found the new design is an improvement in some ways, and a step back in others.
By John Geiger, G&F Gear Editor, and David Johnson, G&F Regional Editor
Turkey hunters often sit, call, wait and shoot in places where there are lots of mosquitos. They'll tell you that the original ThermaCell Repeller was a truly transformative piece of gear. Press a button on a small unit, and a heating element distributes a cloud of a bug repellent that keeps mosquitos and other flying bugs away.
Hunters are an independent lot, and at first, we at Game & Fish Magazine, were skeptical of the product's claims when it came out years ago. We took it to the woods, and it didn't take long for us to embrace the device.
We found we could hunt in comfort no matter how bad the mosquitos and it didn't alarm deer or turkeys. As long as you were in one place, and the wind wasn't too bad, mosquitos, black flies and no-see-ums stayed away.
Recently, we called it one of the Top 10 best hunting-gear inventions of the decade.
But for 2017, here comes a newly designed ThermaCell. It's called the MR450 Repeller, and the first thing we noticed was that it did not come in camo. While the case's color is no more intrusive than a blued gun barrel, we'd very much prefer to see a camo option for hunters.
In the course of our sport, we end up abusing our gear. It doesn't get placed on a picnic table, but gets banged up against the oak we drop against, or hangs off our vests as we belly-crawl through rocks or a pasture to get close to smart birds. Rugged must be built in.
Thankfully, the new design has held up in the field. Editors at G&F found the new design is an improvement, in some ways, and a step back in others.
First, the step back.
The MR450 now has a slot for a CR123 battery that powers an idiot light that illuminates when the canister is running low.
From Gear Editor John Geiger:
Opening day 2017, I planted myself against a pine before sunrise and turned on the MR450. I was not in a particularly buggy spot, but I turned the unit on to get a feel for it. But later that morning, I reached to the back of my vest to turn it off, and saw a blue light was on. Apparently the butane canister was running low and the so-called "zone of protection" light was attempting to warn me. How long had a light been on? Had a turkey come in quietly behind me, and perhaps saw a blue light? I'll never know, but it bugged me.
Since then, I've pulled that battery out of its slot and use the MR450 without the light. It still functions just like the original because it does not need the battery to light the coil or heat the allethrin-soaked pad.
During testing, G&F editors suggested to ThermaCell that a light might be more useful if hunters could use it to see where they are going when they walk into the turkey woods before first light — and switch it off when it was no longer needed.
Regarding the improvements, we like these redesigned features:
- Rubberized grips make it easier to hold and grab. The original was slick and slippery with gloves or when wet.
- Quieter ignition button means the device no longer snaps when you ignite the heating coil.
- New mounting options let you slide your belt through or clamp into a pack or vest. The new MR450 will fit snuggly into your original holsters, by the way.
All in all, we were pleased to see that the Schwabel Corporation didn't take away the basic features that really make the device an essential piece of gear for turkey hunters. While the lack of camo and an extraneous light bug us, we're anything but repelled by the new MR450.