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Q: I work at an outdoor gear retailer. Recently, a customer asked me a puzzling question. She said, “My son vomited in our tent, and we cleaned it up as best as we could, but should I replace the tent before camping in bear county in New Mexico?” I asked several other resident campers at the store, and we all agreed the tent should be replaced. Is this correct? Would you be able to smell the remnants, and would you be attracted to remaining scents of old vomit?—Tava, via email
A: Ouch. Sounds like someone’s favorite camp chili didn’t sit so well with our young camper here. But that doesn’t mean mom and pop have to run out and buy a brand new tent.
While I could indeed be attracted to the remnants of this poor young man’s rough night, it’s not like he sprayed it with permanent salmon scent (unless he, uh, did). Assuming they put the tent through a proper and thorough cleaning procedure when they got home, it’s possible to remove all traces of food odor, however strong. Here’s a refresher in tent cleaning basics.
Meanwhile, I hope our young camper gives backpacking in bear country another shot—and maybe this time, he can keep dinner down.
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