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Have you ever traveled home with a backpack full of damp and sweaty hiking gear? Or perhaps you woke up to find the local racoon population digging into your breakfast? Neither situation is pleasant, but triple wrapping your food and gear in plastic bags is both wasteful and ineffective most of the time. That’s why smell proof backpacks are becoming increasingly popular.

The best smell proof backpacks won’t betray you in public and can keep the wildlife at bay when you’re camping and hiking. Fortunately, smell proof backpacks no longer look like mom’s picnic bag so you can use one wherever you go.

Which is the best smell proof backpack for you? We’ve already picked our top five, outlined their key features and listed their strengths and weaknesses; why not see what you think?

What are smell proof backpacks?

Most smell proof backpacks look like regular backpacks; some are designed for hiking, some for urban use, and some for travel. But smell proof backpacks have some extra features that set them apart from regular backpacks. These additional features, such as tighter zippers and technical liners, keep odors from escaping your backpack.

Benefits of a Smell Proof Backpack

Anyone who has travelled on public transport with something smelly in their backpack will already have guessed one of the benefits of a smell proof backpack. It protects you and your fellow passengers from the smell of sweaty gym clothes, wet hiking gear, and whatever you’ve packed for lunch.

However, smell proof backpacks can also be useful when you’re on the trail. Bears and other predators can smell food from miles away, so a smell proof backpack could keep you safe from dangerous wildlife. Likewise, storing your food in a smell proof backpack can help keep rodents away from your camp.

Top 5 Smell Proof Backpacks

With its modern design, smell-trapping technology, and lockable main compartment, Skunk’s Urban Backpack takes the top spot on our list.

The five-layer smell proof technical fabric includes a layer of thermal foil, a foam filter, activated carbon, rip-resistant netting, and a water-resistant outer layer. This technical material, combined with weather-resistant zippers and a Velcro carbon flap, traps odours inside the backpack. The smell-trapping flap also hides a combination lock for the main compartment.

Furthermore, the exterior is water-resistant so you can safely store your laptop in the built-in laptop sleeve. Meanwhile, the padded back and shoulder straps are comfortable and covered with durable netting.

As the name suggests, it’s designed for everyday use rather than outdoor adventures. Although it’s not the best backpack for day hikes, the Skunk Urban backpack offers a decent amount of storage space. The main compartment is large enough for a laptop, college books, and a packed lunch. Plus, there’s a zippered pocket on the outside.

pros
  • Modern design
  • 100% smell proof
  • Lockable
  • Reasonably priced
cons
  • Main compartment is awkward to access on the go

Best Budget Pick: Skunk Mini Backpack

If you don’t carry a lot of gear or you’re looking for a less expensive smell proof backpack, the Skunk Mini is a great option. Although it’s the cheapest on our list, the Skunk Mini offers plenty of useful features.

On the outside, it offers two small zippered pockets on the front and a utility strap for attaching extra gear if needed. Plus, the main 13 x 9.5-inch compartment is large enough for a tablet. Inside you have a zippered compartment and pockets for your keys and mobile. Like the Skunk Urban Backpack, the entire main compartment is secured with a combination lock. It’s also built with the same water-resistant 5-layer smell-trapping materials.

Overall, the compact size of the Skunk Mini, combined with its anti-theft and smell proof features, makes it a sensible choice for urban use and travelling. It’s a bit small for many hikers and won’t fit most laptops; however, it’s lower price tag should appeal to anyone on a budget.

pros
  • Lockable main compartment
  • Available in various colours
  • Water-resistant
  • Cheaper option
cons
  • Small capacity

The Cali Crusher Roll Top Backpack is a great choice for day hikes and outdoor activities. It’s made from durable weather-resistant fabric and fitted with a waterproof zipper, meaning that your gear should stay dry in wet weather. Meanwhile, the activated carbon thermal liner traps odours inside the backpack, making it 100% smell proof.

We like that the main compartment can expand from 18-inches to 24-inches, giving you a huge amount of extra space when you need it. Additionally, the roll-top and shoulder straps are fitted with multiple carabiner loops. These features give you the option of carrying extra gear inside the backpack or attaching items to the outside.

When it comes to organising your gear, two inner pockets and a laptop sleeve should make things easy to find. The Cali Crusher Roll Top Backpack also has a large smell proof pocket on the front and an adjustable chest strap for extra comfort while hiking with heavier loads.

pros
  • Expandable main compartment
  • Waterproof zipper
  • Multiple attachment points
  • Available in multiple colours
cons
  • Issues with the zipper’s durability

The Skunk Hybrid Backpack is the largest smell proof backpack on our list. Measuring 21 x 11 x 9.5-inches, it’s certainly big enough for a weekend away or a longer trip if you pack light.

Its design is actually more similar to a duffle bag because it opens from the widest side rather than the top. This setup might be inconvenient if you need to get something from the main compartment on the go; however, it makes packing a lot easier. Furthermore, there are waterproof pockets on either side for your smaller items.

In addition to the padded backpack straps, this hybrid backpack has an adjustable shoulder strap and classic duffle bag handle straps. There are also portage handles on either end, giving you plenty of carrying options. We like that the backpack straps tuck away inside a built-in compartment, so they’re out of the way when not in use.

The entire backpack is made from military-grade and water-resistant materials, making this hybrid backpack one of the most durable on the market. Skunk’s 5-layer smell proof lining – plus an extra layer of silicone-coated canvas on the inside – along with an additional Velcro carbon cover on the main compartment, keeps odours inside the backpack.

pros
  • Highly durable materials
  • Versatile
  • Weatherproof and smell proof
  • Stylish design
cons
  • Too big for daily use

As one of the best-looking smell proof bags on the market, the Original Hemp Backpack from Dime Bags is something you could use anywhere. The main material is a weave of natural hemp and recycled polyester that’s durable enough to withstand scratches and scrapes and should be tough enough for the occasional day hike. Additionally, the backpack is available in a range of colours.

Putting style aside, the Original Hemp Backpack has plenty of practical features. The backpack is divided into four main compartments with heavy-duty zippers that should withstand slight over-packing. There’s also a hidden pocket for storing your valuables and a 17-inch laptop compartment. On either side, you have an external water bottle pocket and a compression strap that will keep your gear from bouncing when the pack’s not full.

The reason the Original Hemp Backpack doesn’t make our Top Pick is that the backpack itself is not 100% smell proof. Instead, it comes with a removable dual-seal smell proof pouch that fits inside the hidden pocket.

pros
  • Stylish design
  • Lots of compartments
  • Comfortable shoulder straps
  • Versatile usage
  • Contains natural and recycled materials
cons
  • The entire backpack is not smell proof

Frequently Asked Questions

HOW DO SMELL PROOF BACKPACKS WORK?

Most smell proof backpacks are made with multiple layers, one of which is an activated carbon filter (ACF). This filter is highly absorbent and that’s why it’s able to trap the odors coming from your smelly sneakers. However, the activated carbon filter doesn’t work alone. Tight zippers, Velcro flaps, and a thermal foil layer in the linings also help trap odors.

HOW LONG WILL THE ACTIVATED CARBON FILTER WORK?

That depends on how often you use it and what you put inside the backpack. With light use, the filter can work as much as a year, but you’ll need to reactivate it more frequently if you regularly put strong smelling items like gym clothes inside.

CAN I REACTIVATE A SMELL PROOF BACKPACK?

Yes, when the activated carbon filter stops absorbing odors, it’s very easy to reactivate it. Essentially you just need to reheat the filter. The simplest ways to do this include turning the backpack inside-out and putting it under the sun or in a tumble dryer. Alternatively, Skunk recommends using a hairdryer on a low setting for about 5 to 10 minutes.

CAN I WASH A SMELL PROOF BACKPACK?

If your smell proof backpack contains an activated carbon filter, then you shouldn’t wash it as water will ruin the filter. Fortunately, most smell proof backpacks have a water-resistant exterior, so you should be able to wipe off any dirt or sticky things instead of washing the backpack.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are many high-quality smell proof backpacks on the market. Our top picks include five backpacks that would suit a range of people, budgets, and activities. Whether you’re looking for a spacious duffle backpack to take on your travels or a mini backpack for taking your lunch to work, we hope this guide helps you find the right smell proof backpack for you.