You roll up to your campsite, unload your gear, put up your tent and … what’s that smell? It’s like some funky blend of feet, dirty clothes, mildew, and rotten food. How can that be? Or you may have started out your trip smelling only the great outdoors but by day 5 climbing into your tent is like climbing into an 8th grade boys’ locker room. Ugh.
Here are a few ideas on how to keep your tent smelling like a relaxing spa (you did take this vacation to unwind, didn’t you?) instead of a dirty clothes hamper mixed with wet dog.
Dirty clothes – Bring a stain stick, or other fabric stain treatment, and treat any stains in your clothes as you take them off. If they’re wet, hang them up outside to dry and take them off the line only after they’ve dried completely. Put them in a plastic bag and store them in your car, if you can. If you can’t put them in your car, make sure the bag is sealed tightly (with a twist tie) and store them in your tent.
Bedding – Unless you’re camping in the desert, your bedding will get damp in the night. You’ll also be sweating in your bedding and by this time your anti-perspirant may have reached critical failure. All of this means you have smelly bacteria trying to build up in your bedding. It’s not as noticeable during mid-day, but at night when you are sliding into bed – yeah, you’ll notice it then. Right when you get up in the morning open up your bedding and air it out. If you can hang it outside to dry in the sun, do so. If not, flip it over every few hours during the day to dry it out. After you get home and wash your bedding, pack it away with dryer sheets.
Your tent – Proper air circulation is key to keeping your tent fresh. During the day, as long as you’ll be near by and there’s no rain forecasted, take your rainfly off your tent. If your tent is too large to make this practical, open all the windows and doors (keeping the screens shut against bugs). Put your rainfly back on at night to cut down on morning dew. Here’s an important tip so don’t neglect this – when you get home make sure to unpack your tent and hang it until it is completely dry. I know, you think it was dry when you packed it away. You are wrong. The bottom of the tent may have been damp, moisture from your breath could be coating the inside roof of your tent, or a small amount of dew could still be on it. Trust me, unless you were in the desert, your tent is damp. A damp tent packed away for a year is a stinky tent. Dry it out for at least a full 24 hours. And of course, sweep your tent and sponge off any dirt or food or drink spills. That should go without saying, right? Then pack it away with dryer sheets or those odor eater balls people put in their shoes.
You – You may or may not be showering on your camping trip. I don’t camp places where I can’t shower. Even so, you’ll be dirty by the time you go to bed. A quick wipe down with wet wipes on your face, under your arms, your hands, feet, and your ahem private areas is needed. Not only will you smell better, you’ll feel better and get a great night’s sleep.
Lamyka, in traditional Hawaiin dress, outside her beautiful tent.
If you really want to get a great night’s sleep try some aromatherapy. I was fortunate enough to camp with the owner of Haumea Botanicals, the lovely Lamyka, who came all the way from Hawaii to Minnesota and broght with her some of her amazing Butter Parfums. Rub some lavender Butter Parfum on your neck and chest before you slide into bed and you’ll drift into a peaceful slumber. It’s made from kukui nuts, beeswax, and real essential oils so it doesn’t feel greasy nor will it build up into a bad smell in your bedding. It stays fresh and light. I have 8 of the scents and I love them!
What about you? What tips do you have for keeping your tent (and self) smelling great?