Home » Hiking Vacations » How to Smell-Proof a Backpack

How to Smell-Proof a Backpack

Have you ever noticed an unpleasant odor coming out of your backpack after a long hike? Well, the answer is probably yes, and it’s more common than you think. Backpacks trap all sorts of smells as they are constructed out of fabrics such as polyester or nylon that offer very little breathability. As a result, a backpack gathers odors from its contents, leaking liquids, spilled food, its surroundings, or your sweat.

Don’t worry; we’re here with the best hacks that can help you to make your bag odor-proof to make the best out of your hiking journey.

How Do I Keep My Backpack Smell-Proof?

There are tons of different ways to make a backpack smell-proof. 

Whichever method you opt for, it should completely eliminate the odor and allow you to carry smelly items inside the pack.

Below are a few tricks and tips to make your backpack smell proof.


Using a Washing Machine

Washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get rid of a foul odor. Simply rinse your backpack with water to eliminate the smell. Some backpacks should be hand-washed while some are fine with machine washing. Be sure to check the recommendation prior to washing it. Dry your backpack at room temperature to avoid any deformation. Make sure to place it away from any heating device as the heat can damage or burn the fabrics. You can either soak the entire backpack or just the shoulder straps to eliminate the smell of sweat.

Here are some ways to smell-proof your backpack without washing it.

Baking Soda vs. Foul Odor

Baking soda is renowned for its absorption properties. However, when there’s a spill inside the backpack, cleaning out the residue won’t always eliminate the smell. After all the adhesive is swept away, add a half cup of baking soda inside the compartments and side pockets and close the zipper. Next, shake the bag quickly to make sure the baking soda covers the whole backpack. Leave the bag idle for 48-72 hours. After that time, open the backpack and pour all the baking soda out, and voilà!! You got yourself a smell-free backpack. This method is perfect for driving the skunk’s smell out of your duffle bag or backpack.

Use Coffee Grounds to Sweep Away the Smell

Coffee Grounds

Not only do they taste great, but they are also amazing at consuming odor from tight places. Pack multiple paper towel balls with coffee grounds and place them inside the foul-smelling area, and zip close the pockets. Let the coffee grounds absorb all the foul smell prior to cleaning them, putting the backpack to use again. The unpleasant odor will be replaced with a pleasant aroma of coffee. 

Carbon Filters or Activated Carbon

Absorbing challenging odor is the carbon filter’s forte.  If you have ample time on your hands, this approach will work wonders in absorbing challenging odor from inside a backpack. In an old pair of nylon leggings, place multiple carbon filters to prevent the charcoal from rubbing off. Once washed, place the carbon filters in the interior of the affected pockets and close the double zipper. 

Allow the backpack to sit for five to six days while the carbon filters consume the unwelcomed odor.

Vanilla Extract and Waded Newspaper 

This method is known to absorb the unpleasant smell within the newspaper and leaves a fresh vanilla odor. Wad up multiple newspapers and scrub the edges with vanilla extracts. Put these moist newspapers inside the enclosed pouch and leave it for 2 to 3 days to absorb all the odor into the paper fiber.

White Vinegar 

Cleaning with Vinegar

These everyday use Ingredients eliminate odor present outside the backpack without damaging the water-tight sealant.

Mix one part white vinegar into three parts warm water and pour it in a spray bottle and spray the liquid on the outside of the backpack until the fabric is damp, and hang it outside to dry.

After two days, when the smell is gone, fetch the backpack and use it agai.

Rubbing Alcohol

The high alcohol levels subdue the smell on the spot—mix water and rubbing alcohol in equal quantity and pour it inside a spray bottle. Next, spritz down the outside of the backpack and hang it outside to air dry. Once it’s dry, bring it inside and put your smell-proof backpack to use.

Lysol for the Smell

Lysol Cleaning Spray

Lysol is a standard solution for removing smells. Often used as a disinfectant, Lysol not only neutralizes the smell but also kills toxic microbes and bacteria.

Apply Lysol to any surface, interior or exterior. Lysol is a great choice when you want to drive unpleasant smells out of your shoulder straps. Just wait until the solution dries, and you’ve got yourself a smell-proof backpack.

Kitty Litter to Smell-Proof Your Backpack 

Not only does kitty litter soak up dampness, but it also removes smells. Place the backpack into a box or a huge plastic bag and fill it with kitty litter. Let the bag sit for a week until the smell disappears.

Some Common How-to’s

Removing Mildew Odor From Backpacks

A mildew smell often grows when you store a backpack in a high moisture area for a long time. It is necessary to eliminate the mildew smell so that the backpack can remain functional since the products that you’ll carry inside the bag will also absorb the foul smell.

Unzip all the compartments, bottle holders, and side pockets and sprinkle baking soda into every opening of the backpack. Next, zip all the compartments shut and let the baking soda sit overnight. Shake the backpack vigorously the following day to remove the baking soda.

Top off a bowl with a gallon of warm water and add one teaspoon of laundry detergent and stir the water to foam. Later, dip a small cloth into the water and press the excess water out and wipe the entire backpack. Leave the bag outside to air dry, and you’re done.

Removing the Odor of Cat Urine From a Backpack 

Cats are habitual creatures that often use their litter box or other areas to urinate. When a cat is sick or stressed, young or old, it urinates in places other than its litter boxes. 

It’s recommended to wash your backpack immediately if you found that your cat has peed in it. 

The smell of your cat’s urine often stays even after washing the backpack. Follow these steps to get rid of it and to make your backpack smell-free.

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the exterior and interior of the backpack.
  • Moisten cotton balls using essential oil and place them inside the plastic bag with the backpack.

The Right Bag Makes All the Difference

Give a thought to the fabrics and materials when you’re shopping for a good backpack. For example, backpacks with a nylon exterior will protect personal items and make them smell-proof. Sometimes, the size of a backpack also contributes to the safety of its contents.

Purchase a medium-sized backpack with multiple main compartments and side pockets to dissimulate the items inside. Pick the one that is well-sealed and water-resistant and highlights combo lock and adjustable straps.

Profile Picture For Hayden Wall
Hayden Wall

Hayden is the founder of Travel Gear Discounts and tries to vacation as much as possible. He loves finding the latest travel accessories that will make getting out easier and planning the perfect weekend getaway.