Can Denim Jeans Stop a Rattlesnake Bite?


There’s a reason that rattlesnake bites are taken so seriously. While very few people in the United States die from a snake bite that is due far more to amazing advancements in medicine and the habit of quickly and fully treating snake bite victims as quickly as possible as opposed to snake bites not being dangerous.

denim blue jeans

However, what about people who can’t get quick treatment? Is simply wearing work jeans made from denim enough to protect you from that big rattler’s ire?

Do Denim Jeans Protect You from Rattlesnake Bites: The Answer

So can denim jeans stop a rattlesnake bite? While most of the time the denim isn’t thick enough to completely block a rattlesnake bite, studies have shown evidence that denim doesn’t act as enough of a buffer to limit the amount of venom transferred in a bite.

So in other words, denim jeans won’t stop a rattlesnake bite in its tracks but there’s a good chance it does mitigate the damage and increase your chances of survival and lessen the chances of severe injury.

That’s pretty good work from a favorite pair of jeans!

Denim jeans aren’t magic, but they can help increase your protection if you’re smart about it. How do we know?

The Denim Snake Bite Study

An actual study was done using materials from common articles of clothing that would be worn by people who work, hike, or otherwise need to be in snake country. This study was published in 2009 and is titled: “Denim Clothing Reduces Venom Expenditure by Rattlesnakes Striking Defensively at Model Human Limbs.”

Basically in this study these two Ph.D researchers used latex gloves filled with saline to represent a human hand. These gloves were bitten without any protection, and then they were put in denim covered gloves and were bit by the snakes.

This setup covered a few important points when studying the rattlesnake bites, including:

  • This made the weight, size, and shape mimic a human hand enough that the snakes would react as they would to a person
  • This helped make sure the snake bites would be comparable to a defensive snake bite in a real world situation
  • This let them measure the amount and toxicity of the venom injected with each bite

In other words, this let them do a really great job mimicking the interaction that could lead to a rattlesnake bite in the real world. It makes the data more reliable and trustworthy since it reflects real world situations.

The results?

The study showed remarkably less venom injected into hands covered by denim versus those that weren’t. A full 60% for small rattlesnakes and an even higher 66% for large rattlesnakes, on average.

So while not perfect, that is a really big deal. Especially if you are dealing with rattlesnakes that are especially on the high end of the danger spectrum like the Pacific Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake, Diamondback Rattlesnake, or Mojave Rattlesnake.

This test used the Pacific rattlesnake for its numbers.

So Is Denim Rattlesnake Proof?

I wouldn’t go that far. While the study shows that rattlesnakes connecting with flesh under denim were only able to push through about a third of the intended poison, that is still a painful bite that can cause severe damage or even death if left untreated.

However, if you have a good pair of thick denim jeans to wear with tall leather boots, you’re in really good shape. If you go the extra mile to wear snake proof gaiters then you pretty much have nothing to worry about.

Plenty of other respectable institutions agree with this test and give the recommendations to wear denim, which has also long been lauded for its ability to give some degree of protection from cactus needles and other sharp objects.

This isn’t just about having any type of clothing on. While denim and leather can offer serious protection against the severity of a snake bite, just having normal thin cloth isn’t going to have the same effect.

Factors that affect how much denim protects from snake bites:

  • How big the rattlesnake (and therefore the fangs) are
  • Whether the bite was a dry bite or not
  • What level of venom the rattlesnake put into the bite (warning vs. full defensive bite)
  • Is the denim tight against the skin or a little bit more loose and baggy? the later is better, though close fitting denim is still better than none at all

If you’re looking for clothing that offers protection from rattlesnake bites, or any other snake bites for that matter, then denim is definitely what you want to go with.

Why wear denim jeans?

  • 25% of all rattlesnake bites are dry bites
  • Some bites are believed to only be “partials” where they don’t fully inject all they can – but numbers on this are inconclusive and this is nearly impossible to study
  • Denim reduces venom by over 60%

When you combine all these points, it means that denim really offers some great protection, especially when paired with a solid pair of boots made from leather.

What Denim Jeans Do We Recommend for Snake Protection?

wranglers denim work jeans

The overall simple answer is that any pair of denim work jeans you have that are comfortable, fit well, but have a little bit of space between our skin and the outer surface.

You want jeans that work. That said, if you don’t have a particular favorite pair or preference we are fans of the Wrangler’s Riggs Workwear Jeans.

They’ve got plenty of pocket space, are made from solid denim, and are a great pair of jeans for hard working individuals who want comfort, but still want all the benefits and protection that denim can provide.

In other words, there’s a lot here to like from these jeans. That said, most denim jeans will do, but we like these because they’ve been kind to us during outdoor jobs, so we feel good that they will get the job done.

Rattlesnake Bite FAQ

Q: Can rattlesnakes bite through jeans?

A: Yes, they can. It’s safe to assume that any pit viper has the ability to puncture jeans though some materials more easily than others. The reason denim jeans and tall leather boots are so popular is because of the toughness of those two materials offers at least some protection.

Q: Can snakes bite through leather boots?

A: Most snakes can’t. Only the larger rattlesnakes or vipers will have a chance. This is part of the reason leather boots are recommended with denim jeans, and why almost all snake proof boots are leather based in their construction.

Q: What are the best pants to prevent snake bites?

A: The article says it all. You want work jeans made from heavy denim. They might not be as comfortable as some other options but they reduce the venom from a snake bite by 2/3 – which is definitely a win.

Q: Is there anything as snake bite clothing?

A: There are some things that market themselves as that. Other than protective gear like snake gaiters or snake boots you should take it all with a grain of salt. Good denim pants with good leather boots is a very potent and effective combo, though.

The Final Verdict on Denim Jeans vs. Rattlesnake Bites

Wearing denim jeans definitely beats shorts or non-denim pants when it comes to offering you a bit of protection from a potential snake bite. If you see a large rattlesnake the best move is to always give it its space.

Denim jeans are one of the best pieces of clothing for giving you some additional protection. While it won’t prevent a bite from happening if a snake gets a clear shot at you, it can minimize the damage which will give you the best chance of surviving.

So definitely break out those jeans for your next outdoor work or hiking session!

Outdoor Shane

There's nothing I love more than the great outdoors, but being big on exploring, traveling, off-grid survival, and having survived venomous spider and snake bites - I'm a firm believer that you can enjoy more of the outdoors by being aware and prepared for the dangers you could find there. I'm a life long camper, hiker, angler, and explorer, as well as an Eagle Scout. I hope you enjoy this site and don't let fear keep you from exploring the natural world and all it has to offer!

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