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Do You Wear Deodorant When Hiking?

Body Odor

An editor at Backpacker Magazine contacted me recently to ask how I control body odor when I’m day hiking or backpacking. It’s actually a good question, especially if you’re out hiking with a new “partner” who hasn’t been near you for days at a time.

Do You Wear Deodorant when Hiking?

Please leave a comment with your answer below.

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81 comments

  1. Nope! Although I typically do not use it on a daily basis either…

  2. Not a chance in the sun.

  3. Yes, I do. I bring along a small trial size deodorant and also wash my underclothes/shirts (biodegradable soap) to keep them from getting too ripe!

  4. Ross-Barry Finlayson

    No, I don’t wear deodorant when hiking/mountain-biking, or any other outdoor activity for that matter but, if I am on a long trip – several days/nights – I wash or bathe whenever possible.

  5. No. I don’t bother carrying one.

  6. Your man might not look like me, but he can smell like me, No

  7. Nope. Ever since I thru-hiked in 2012 I completely stopped wearing it all together.

  8. I use a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol to prevent chaffing, for feet and armpits. I started to use that approach when desert hiking since washing with water wasn’t exactly an option and have been using it ever since. Not perfect but good enough.

  9. No, I wash my pits with hibiclens which usually lasts a few days. I keep hibistat wipes in my first aid kit which I’ll use on the trail if getting ripe. Wearing wool helps too.

  10. I tend to bring a travel size, but I find I don’t use it.

  11. No, I just clean up with a wet wipe or a swim.

  12. Nope! I hammock so I marinate in my own smell and it doesn’t bother anyone. I do bring wet wipes which have multiple uses ;)

  13. Yes for dayhikes, I get ready in the morning the same as I would going to work. No for overnights, but I do bring wet wipes which can help a bit.

  14. No. I’ll rinse off sweat and salt at least once a day if able.

  15. On day hikes I do but not on overnights.

  16. In normal life I use deo and will apply it on the day I leave the house but do not carry it. +1 on the wet wipes and their multi-use properties.

  17. what’s deoderant? ;-)

  18. Hardly ever, but I use Dr. Bronner Soap sometimes
    Cheers

  19. I think I figured out who my hiking companions will be!

    I bring a travel size and I do a “wet wipe” bath everyday and I use it.

  20. Newsflash: Wool does not prevent body odor! And now I know why I smell so much body odor on the trail! I always wear deodorant – day hike or backpack. When backpacking, I carry a trial size deodorant for the morning and wipes to clean up with at night. Of course, it also looks like I am one of the only woman respondents so far.

  21. An editor at Backpacker is worried about smelling bad while hiking? Sure, if you’re trying to appeal to people who can’t deal with a little sweat and BO while exercising. But why stop there? You could agree to only camp in places with flushing toilets and hot showers, too. And beds and roofs. If someone can’t get used to humans smelling like humans, or getting a little dirty while playing in the outdoors, maybe they’re looking at the wrong hobby.

    • Have you read Backpacker lately? It is not exactly geared for the hard core long distance hiking enthusiast.

      • I have, actually. And it’s not that they’re geared to the weekend warrior– that would be fine. But I see them as more appealing to their advertisers than to their readers, and that’s annoying. The magazine is generally high on sensationalism (almost every issue has a front-page headline with the words “survival” or “extreme”) and low on good information (when’s the last time you saw even the slightest critical comment in a gear review?). So I’m hardly surprised :)

  22. Yes. I refill a chapstick container and take it along. My sweat smells fine fresh but ages badly. I try to keep my shirts from accumulating perma-stink. That is less an UL consideration and more a budgetary and conservatory one. A little deodorant extends the wearable life of my clothes.

  23. Heck No! Once out for a couple days you can smell the day hikers coming…I almost never notice my stink unless back in society so what’s the point?

  24. I use the salt crystal deodorant. The natural salt minerals inhibit bacterial growth, and a small piece weighs very little and lasts forever. It’s awesome for smelly feet. I also use it daily, and a stick will last more than a year.

    Crystal – Crystal Stick Body Deodorant, 4.25 oz sticks

    Natural Chemical-Free Himalayan Salt Deodorant Bar – Kills Bacteria

    • I use the 1.5oz travel size of the crystal deodorant when backpacking.

      • I use the travel version and it’s revolutionised the experience for people with whom I hike! In the UK you often drop down to civilisation on hikes and it’s nice not to be a reverse pied piper of Hamlin herding terrified people ahead of the wave!

  25. I wear it on day hikes (it’s unscented antiperspirant) but don’t carry it for just an overnight.

  26. Yes, I wear a product that only needs to be applied every 6-7 days. A cream and I apply it at resupply stops after showering. It works great. The rest of me might stink and my clothes might stand up on their own but my pits? Nah.

  27. I sometimes do and sometimes don’t… I certainly won’t look down on someone who does. We all have different “non-essentials” that we carry; for some folks, it’s that unnecessary food item that makes a great post-hike reward, for others, it’s deodorant. I don’t like to stink, personally, and while that might be inevitable when hiking any kind of distance, I always make a point of washing up to mitigate it at the very least.

    For the UL crowd who don’t enjoy the stink (like me), the suggestion above of a lipstick container full of pit-stick is a great one! I’m going to try that for my next distance hike.

  28. Yes, and I try to wash off daily if possible. My armpits aren’t usually the primary source of stink on me if you know what I mean. The valley of death as I call it gets pretty rank at the end of a hot, humid day.

    It’s more weight and trouble to carry deoderant, so I also understand why many people don’t. I just sleep much better when I don’t smell like butt.

  29. Using deodorant/antiperspirant without complete washing is a waste of time as it only prevents odor, it doesn’t make it go away. Since thorough washing of underarms and groin is impractical while backpacking, use of deodorant would also be impractical.

    I find the idea of an Editor at Backpacker Magazine asking about controlling body odor laughable. If anyone should understand that trail funk is a natural consequence of backpacking, it would be them. But that is a measure of how far Backpacker Magazine has sunk in credibility.

  30. Nope. Sometimes I rinse off if water is available, but usually I just smell.

  31. No.

    For a weekend, disinfecting your armpits will stave off the odor for a while. Have a good wash with soap and water followed by some non-alcohol hand sanitizer. The sanitizers based on benzalkonium chloride can do double-duty in your first aid kit. That is the same stuff that is in Bactine.

    Alcohol-based sanitizers dry out your skin and can encourage chafing.

    On longer trips, I do a localized wash with a bandana and soap. The cut-off bottom of a milk bottle is a good basin for washing. I wash socks in it, too.

    Our Scouts don’t bother washing until they’ve experienced summer camp crotch rot, then they are pretty serious about it.

    • Chlorhexidine is the active ingredient in hibiclens. Bugs stay dead for days hence no smell for days. Each wipe will keep the stink away for 3 or 4 days.

  32. Nope. Just another smellable to attrack unnecessary wildlife. It’s comforts me that I may be too stinky for any bear to consider

  33. I wear it on day hikes and the first day of a backpack but don’t bother carrying it with me. I’m gonna stink anyway, what does it matter if my pits stink slightly less than the rest of me? I find it does matter on day hikes though; I’d prefer to be slightly less stinky on the drive home if possible.

  34. I typically carry deoderant on backpacking trips, it only weighs a few ounces and doesn’t take up much space. I also carry Dr Bronner’s soap to bathe when I can… There’s nothing like a bath in a cool river to refresh you after a long day’s hike. At the very least I will rinse off if I can. It’s one of the few extra luxuries I allow myself, that and Almond Snickers.

  35. Another Alumn crystal user here. You can take the smallest piece. I wash the important bits as often as possible but realistically you’re going to smell to some degree whatever – you are exercising after all.

  36. No, but…
    Yes if I’m on a trip with my girlfriend :)

  37. When I leave the house with a backpack the deodorant stays home until I return.
    When my hiking destination has involved air travel I bought some deodorant before boarding my return flight.

  38. I wouldn’t think of it on a backpack. Before day hike/ski/mtb I use a spritz of my daily use pine pump spray. As said earlier it makes synthetic shirts stay much nicer significantly longer. On multi-day trips I usually use merino and don’t even notice any stink. My personal experience has been that the most offensive smell for me is nasty old synthetic shirts.

  39. Hell yeah I do, but I’m a single dude on the prowl and I’ve met nice young ladies on the trail before so it helps the confidence to not smell like rotting trash. Since it sweats out, ditto on the Merino wool, that helps a lot especially when you double it up at night! Also a good soak in some camp fire smoke or a cigar helps a bit if its too cold to wash in a stream.

    Additionally I use a sleeping bag liner to prevent any stank from getting on my down sleeping bags.

  40. Yeh, if I’m out on a day hike, and I put it on in the morning (from home). But not when camping or on multi-day hikes.

  41. Yes! It’s a homemade concoction of Essence of Lime, 100% DEET, and saltpeter. It stings the eyes a bit, but the chicks dig it.

  42. I do wear it. I found Walgreen’s still carry’s TUSSY’s which is a thin pad, I can get away with one a day which I put on armpits and my feet after washing up at night. I put it in my garbage bag and pack it in my bear can if hiking in bear country. I can’t stand crawling into my sleeping bag with dirt and sweat still on me. I use a crystal at home, but good idea to bring one backpacking.

  43. Yes. I started out without it on my first long distance hike. Even with Dr. Bonner sponge baths, I hated smelling myself every day and night and bought a travel size deodorant at first stop to resupply.

  44. No, but I wash nightly with Dr. Bronners and water. My hiking shirt has silver in the threads, designed for hunters.(Scent a Way) No stink on me!

  45. This is a great question and as a female, it is funny to see the overwhelming majority of men do NOT use deodorant. I stopped using anti-perspirant/deodorant a long time ago because of the chemicals…but I do use a mixture of baking soda and cornstarch (sometimes add a little lavender or tea tree oil) that works to cut down wetness and odor–and they both have other uses too.

      • Sprinkle a combo of both in shoes to keep from smelling and help feet dry. Cornstarch helps with chaffing. It can be used as a “dry” shampoo, and baking soda can be used as a wet shampoo–of course, if so many people aren’t using deodorant, most likely, not too many will be concerned with shampoo.

        Baking soda can be put in a gallon ziplock bag with some water to wash funky socks or underclothes. Also, baking soda for brushing teeth/rinsing mouth and it can take the sting out of bug bites.

  46. I’m an ultra light backpacker (9.5 lbs skin out) and refuse to carry anything extra. My one and only exception to that rule is a tiny travel size deodorant that I carried and used my entire AT thruhike, KT, a month long hike in the southern California desert, and also on the Wonderland Trail. I looked into the powders and diy mixtures, but all those were too messy and actually weighed more than my little stick. I tried going without…holy ___! Never again on extended hikes.

  47. Nope, I am in the wilds.

  48. I do not – I’ve tried a variety things to not stink. Though I think that I start to smell sweet after a week or so, though my wife and kids would tell you different. I’m a windows down car ride to the hotel kind guy after my 2 week+ hike pick ups I guess. Latest try was some organic, nature friendly soap to bathe in the streams (as i saw above) I swear I got sand fleas/30+ bits from my nether regions and up :-( not a happy place. Now just stoking the fire every few days/week to smoke out the stink. works great on cloths and skin too (since I roll solo)!

  49. Yes, thanks for not judging those of us who aren’t quite as hardcore as some. For the record, sometimes I use deoderant and sometimes I don’t.

  50. Only takes a sweat rash caused by a build up of salt crystals on the skin to change ones thought pattern about personal cleanliness while out on the trail. I do not carry deoderant per se, but I make sure I wash down every night before I climb in the bag. Besides my skin feels creepy crawly if I do not wash down. It is not difficult, 1/2 cup water, one drop camp Soap, one bandanna 1/2 cup water to rinse and to rinse out the bandanna and your done. The girls like the smell of Dr.Bonners mint. But if you are with a women, research back in the 1990’s has shown that a womens chemical factory is very positively effected by the smell of man sweat. In the study it elevated the womens mood to a happy postive one usually within three days of exposure.

    • Addendum; Years ago, one of the Mail Order Retailers who is still around offered a small plastic container of a deoderant supposed developed by the Russia KGB or something like that was was made from all natural ingredients. But I haven’t seen it on the market in years and years…I bought some and it smelled “Minty” and it worked but as I said I never saw it for sale again..

  51. No way – I normally avoid any of the mainstream brands over concerns for chemicals, and any of the all-natural brands even the “unscented” typically have a distinct order – likely of something a critter might equate to food. I don’t know when people decided that “people smell” was unpleasant, but I’ve found that after being away from all of the artificial chemical smells we’re doused in from bath-to-laundry it’s the fresh hikers that are hard on my nose and I don’t even notice the “stinky” ones like me. I guess the liberty to smell like a human being is part of my backcountry experience.

  52. Anything but rubbing alcohol or the crystal type makes my pits itch. So it’s not a big step to go without. I feel better with at least a spit bath though.

  53. Lol, I’m loving everyone’s comments. I do – but the crystal kind. I don’t like wearing anti-antiperspirant.

  54. No way…I also don’t wear it on daily basis, ever since I started practicing heated yoga I’ve found I don’t need it, not sure if there’s a correlation or just coincidence which coincides with parallel lifestyle changes

  55. Yep. I buy the 1.5oz size of Crystal Body Deodorant and then carry about half of one of those (that’s as small as I can handle if my fingers are wet/cold). Works GREAT. Cheap. Because there’s no reason to alert others to my presence. Plus it earns me a noticeably better level of service from First Responders, bank tellers, and store clerks. Same goes for shaving every day with a .33oz bic razor. If it’s taught as a survival instrument by military survival instructors – that’s good enough for me.

  56. Tip: rubbing a small amount of antibiotic ointment into the armpits is odorless, shows no residue and keeps killing odor causing bacteria for about three days.

    Bonus: it doubles as..well antibiotic ointment for wound care.

  57. We all know that theres nothing better than stinky musky tent sex with strangers while backpacking! ;-) That said, I carry a small travel deodorant while multi daying. Other than that, a nightly dip and some biodegradable soap works wonders. And a morning dip in an alpine lake always wakes you up and helps you start the day a little fresher.

  58. I carry a chunk of the deodorant crystal, which kills off the smell for a while. When we perspire and let it dry there’s salts and sugars left and that’s what stinky bacteria feed on. That rock kills them but they’ll be back soon. They’re easily defeated if you wash them away before your immune system decides to ramp up in response. But once I smell “bad” I know I’ve gone too long. Odds of infection or sickness begin to go up. When we allow layers of dried to build there is a distinct and easily identifiable smell. Often if I run across someone out there and somehow decide I don’t like her/him, often I slowly become aware she/he just smells needs a shower. The nose knows. Good grooming is one of those books-by-its-cover instincts that we come equipped with; if you want the guy at the supermarket in town to take your check, he might be better disposed to trust a non-stinko.

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