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December 2000

Backcountry Body Odor: What’s That Smell?

Body odor can get pretty bad on the trail. Here's how to make sure you never again hear the words, "What's That Smell?"

Getting Gear To Come Clean

How to make putrid equipment smell as fresh as a daisy

You can bathe, roll in sweet-smelling powder, even stick lilacs in your pockets, but if your gear is pungent, it’s all for naught. Here’s how to de-scent equipment:

  • Dry boots each evening. Pull out the insoles and stick them vertically into the collars of your boots. Remember: Wet feet are smelly feet.
  • Make a camp boot freshener. Take two 4-inch-long pieces of pantyhose and put one inside the other, to create two layers of stocking. Tie a knot in one end and fill the bag with baking soda. Tie a knot in the other end to keep the soda inside the stocking. Put a baking-soda ball in each boot whenever they aren’t on your feet.
  • If your gear reeks, use a gear cleaner. MiraZyme Odor Eliminator is a biodegradable cleaner with enzymes and microbes that prey on the bacteria, molds, and fungi that are making your stuff smell (even skunk scent). It’s recommended for any gear (except sleeping bags) that can be submerged in a bathtub. For a review, see www.backpacker. com/gear. Price: $8.80, 8-ounce bottle. Thunder Wash is a multipurpose soap for cleaning everything in camp. Price: $1.75, 2-ounce bottle. Both are from McNett, (360) 671-2227; www.mcnett.com.
  • Protect your bag with a sleeping bag liner. A liner is easy to remove and wash. You can sew one yourself out of fleece or buy one. Design Salt’s CoolMax Mummy-Liner weighs 9 ounces and costs $39. The Polypro Bag Liner from REI, at $29, is 1 pound 2 ounces. Kelty offers the fleece Light-weight Mummy liner (1 pound 10 ounces) for $60. For $85, you can own Marmot’s 14-ounce Black Magic liner, made of taffeta outside and microfiber inside. Design Salt, (800) 254-7258; www.designsalt. com. Reader service #140. REI, (800) 426-4840; www.rei.com. Kelty, (800) 423-2320; www.kelty.com. Marmot, (707) 544-4590; www.marmot.com.
  • Air out your bag each morning (left). Turn the bag inside out and place it on top of your tent, across a branch, or atop trekking poles.
  • On a long trip, get into camp a little early one night and rinse out your clothes, especially socks and underwear. Hang the laundry on your pack to dry as you hike the next day.
  • Wash the bag at a laundry. Use a large, front-loading washing machine without an agitator; do not dry clean a sleeping bag. Use a mild powdered detergent or a detergent specifically designed for sleeping bags. Try McNett Thunder Down, Nikwax Down Wash, Nikwax Tech Wash, REI Loft II, or Tectron Pro Wash. Read the directions to make sure you can use the detergent on your down or synthetic bag.

    Contact: McNett, (360) 671-2227; www.mcnett.com. Nikwax, (800) 335-0260; www.nikwax-usa.com. REI, (800) 426-4840; www.rei.com. Tectron, (800) 289-2583; www.bluemagic. com.

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