How to deodorize your backpack without washing it

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Backpacking

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Ah, the trusty backpack—carrier of camp gear, food, snacks, and, unfortunately, that unmistakable funk that seems to have taken up permanent residence between the fibres.

Washing it seems like a chore, and let’s be honest, who has the time for that between the million other things we’re juggling?

It turns out, with a few clever tricks and household staples, you can banish those odours and make your backpack a place where only your belongings (and not a funky stench) linger.

Why your backpack stinks

A dirty backpack on the grass

When you unpack after a trip, you might notice your backpack doesn’t smell as fresh as it did when you set out. Let’s tackle what causes these odours and what they might be.

Sources of backpack smells

Your backpack often becomes a catch-all for sweat, food, dirt, and other elements when you’re on the move. Humidity and moisture can lead to mildew, while food residue and spills might attract bacteria, resulting in unpleasant smells.

The fabric of your backpack absorbs these odours over time, especially during longer trips or in warm weather.

Types of odours

Different sources can cause a variety of smells ranging from musty to downright stinky.

Musty odours often come from mold or mildew, especially if your backpack has been stored while still damp.

More acute smells can be the result of food going bad or sweaty clothes being zipped in for too long.

Each type of odour points to a specific source and might need its own method for deodorization.

Quick odour removal tips

Febreze fabric refresher

After a long backpacking trip, your backpack may not be smelling its freshest.

Here’s how to tackle the odour quickly and effectively.

Airing out the backpack

Hang your backpack outside in a well-ventilated area.

Fresh air can work wonders in removing unpleasant smells.

Spot cleaning

Identify any spots with lingering smells and clean them with a damp cloth and mild soap.

Be sure to target areas like straps and pockets where sweat can accumulate.

Using fabric fresheners

Spray a fabric freshener inside your backpack to neutralize odours.

A quick spritz of Febreze Fabric refresher on your backpack can leave it smelling clean without a wash.

Natural deodorizing methods

Natural deodorizers baking soda lemon and essential oil

After a backpacking trip, you might find your backpack smelling less than fresh.

Let’s tackle that with some natural deodorizers.

Baking soda technique

Start by sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda inside your backpack.

Let it sit overnight to absorb the odours.

Essential oil solutions

Mix a few drops of your favourite essential oils with some water in a spray bottle.

Lightly mist the inside of your backpack and let it air out.

Activated charcoal use

Place a packet of activated charcoal inside your backpack.

The charcoal will help to naturally absorb and neutralize odours.

DIY deodorizing sprays

A DIY spray bottle

After your backpacking trip, your backpack might be a bit smelly.

Homemade citrus spray

You can make a fresh-smelling spray with just a few ingredients.

Squeeze the juice of a lemon or orange and mix it with water.

Vinegar and water mix

Vinegar is great at neutralizing odours.

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.

Vodka-based spray

Vodka isn’t just for cocktails; it’s a natural odour eliminator.

Fill a spray bottle with vodka and a few drops of your favourite essential oil.

Long-term odour prevention

To keep your backpack smelling fresh after your adventures, focus on how you store it, maintain it regularly, and use moisture absorbers.

Proper storage practices

Store your backpack in a cool, dry place when you’re not using it.

This prevents mildew and mould, common sources of bad smells.

Regular maintenance

Air out your backpack frequently.

This helps to disperse any lingering dampness and odours.

Use of moisture absorbers

Place moisture absorbers inside your backpack compartments.

These can help tackle excess humidity which often leads to odours.

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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