5 Tips for Dealing With Stinky River Gear

5 Tips for Dealing With Stinky River Gear

Musk, Funk, or whatever you want to call it, river gear seems to acquire a certain odor. Most of the time, guides seem unbothered by their fragrance. However, when guests comment, it might be time to address the smell. 

Where is the Stench Coming From?

Silty river water, sweat, and perpetual dampness create the prime environment for bacteria and mildew to grow on your whitewater gear. Mildew is a type of fungus (yes, fungus) that thrives in moist, humid, and warm environments. AKA, your river gear during the summer months. 

Don’t be alarmed. There are ways to combat the bacteria and fungi that cause that sweet river stench. Here are our favorite tips for keeping your things smelling fresh all summer.

1. Use a Mesh Gear Duffel

Mesh is your new best friend. Storing and transporting your gear in a mesh duffel bag allows air to circulate through your things and keeps moisture from building up. The best duffel for keeping your gear fresh is an all-mesh style bag that doesn’t have a solid bottom. An enclosed bottom holds moisture. 

Choose a mesh rafting bag with UV-blocking material that lets air through but can filter out damaging UV rays. This way, your gear dries without suffering sun damage. Some duffels even have hooks for a shoulder strap and an extra non-mesh pocket where you can pack your keys, wallet, and phone.

2. Dry Your Wet Gear

This one should be obvious, but it bears repeating. Dry your wet gear every day! Hanging it up in the back of a dank locker doesn’t count. Let your PFD, helmet, and other river clothing breathe overnight in the open air. 

Out in the sun is best for killing bacteria and fungi. However, UV rays will damage your gear, fade its color, and shorten its life. If you’re dealing with a particularly smelly piece of equipment, a day in the sun won’t hurt. Most of the time, we recommend drying whitewater gear outside in a shady but well-ventilated area. 

Wet rafting day on the Grand Canyon

3. Avoid Car Storage

Try to avoid storing your gear in your car. Not only does a car not provide enough circulation to remove moisture from equipment, but lingering odor makes the shuttle drive unpleasant. If you have a place to hang your gear in your car, you can get away with this. If not, don’t store gear in your vehicle unless completely dry.


4. Wash Your Gear

When air drying and sun exposure don’t work, you might have to wash your whitewater gear. Household items like baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide work to eliminate odor-causing microbes. Mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s diluted in water can help clean your gear. 

5. Try a Mirazyme Dunk

If washing your gear using traditional methods doesn’t work, a Mirazyme or Sink the Stink bath can help kill bacteria and freshen up your gear. Both products come in highly concentrated solutions; you only need about 1/2 fl oz to 20 gallons of water. Alternatively, you can put water and a few drops into a spray bottle and spray your gear. This works well if you don’t want to run a dunk bath.

Smell Ya Later

There’s nothing like the musk of a river guide. It’s the smell of adrenaline and whitewater. It can even be a source of pride. But, for the sake of those around you, consider one of the above tips to freshen up every once in a while.

How do you keep your whitewater gear from stinking? Or do you have any questions? Let us know in the comments, and share this with your smelly friends.  


By: Megan McPartland


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