What’s the Worst Smell?

What’s the Worst Smell?

Ah, the irony of the great outdoor experience. It’s Sunday morning on a powder day and you can’t wait to


Ah, the irony of the great outdoor experience. It’s Sunday morning on a powder day and you can’t wait to inhale face shots and fresh air. But first comes one of the nastiest olfactory gauntlets known to man — 11-minute imprisonment in a ski tram filled with burping, farting, hungover, alcohol-reeking skids who wear putrified unwashed long underwear, fetid ski socks, and have chronic particulate and mangy dog hair clinging to their nappy woolen hippy hat. And somebody has a bacon and onion breakfast burrito shoved in their parka pocket. And Red Bull spilled on their shirt. It’s a wonder no one hurls.

And speaking of hurling, have you even been on a turbulent plane and had a nearby passenger blow chunks? Or taken a bus ride across Central America and your seatmate doesn’t just smell like goat, he is a goat? Or done your pre-race business in a hot house porta-potty sweltering in the summer sun?

For all the refreshing, soul-rejuvenating, and delightful aromatherapies the adventure world has to offer, there are an equal or greater number of smells that make you recoil in disgust — many of which, it turns out, come directly from you. Decomposing bike chamois, anyone?

So which is the worst? Pick up to three. Extra credit if you name names in the comments.


WIN SMITH SUNGLASSES JUST BY VOTING!

This week, one poll participant will receive Smith Optic’s Ridgeway sunglasses. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) — all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, December 16, at midnight PST.

Congrats to Levi Kepsel, winner of the shades!

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Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
Showing 68 comments
  • Hotmann
    Reply

    Too many terrible smells there…but I chose composting toilet. Having to spend a night downwind of one will just about kill you.

  • Shawn
    Reply

    A lot of “quality” candidates, but the composting toilet takes the so-called prize.

  • Matt
    Reply

    Toilet takes it but I’m sad barefoot sneakers aren’t listed.

  • Chris
    Reply

    funky bottle really burns the nostrils

  • Clay
    Reply

    I agree with Matt, there are not many smells that can compare to my Vivo’s.

  • Alpentalic
    Reply

    REI garage sales should be on that list

  • Kevin
    Reply

    Gotta go with pre-race porta-john. MAN, those are vile – all the special cocktail race food plus fast-food breakfast on the way…

  • Santiago
    Reply

    stinky stuff

  • Harry Mudgett
    Reply

    Porta potty!

  • joe
    Reply

    Gotta be the toilet. Although it may depend on the meals before the dutch oven farts…

  • Garrett
    Reply

    A rotting carcass is unbearable whether it is as small as a mouse or as big as a moose.

  • Spencer
    Reply

    I’ve had countless near vomit moments in the pre-race porta potty time. It will forever be the worst!

  • Claire
    Reply

    almost all of those are yacking material

  • Nik
    Reply

    Voted for rotting carcass just to choose one on the list. One smell that is not listed and worse than all of them is patchouli oil. That stuff might be worse than the whole list combined.

  • Trap
    Reply

    Being an educator in today’s world where as educators we need to be parents as well the body odor and dirty clothe odor some students arrive to school in is an absolute shame. Growing up in a 10′ x 50′ trailer and barely having enough for food, my mom never let us go hungry or leave dirty or wearing dirty clothes. I just do not understand today’s thought process on the whole being clean issue.

  • Kelly Gault
    Reply

    I’d add cooked brocoli and cat spray to that list 😉

  • KatieSue
    Reply

    I’d have voted for climbing shoes but the shoes without socks option only showed after I voted. Dutch oven farts and freeze dried food stink the worst as a combo.

  • Keith
    Reply

    I’d vote for *post* race porta potty — after it’s had time to bake/ferment/ripen in the sun all day.

  • Bryan
    Reply

    They’re all awful…

  • Tony Fitzsimons
    Reply

    rotting carcass, this summer someone disposed of some birds at the trailhead, it outclassed every other foul odour by a great distance, we skipped post ride beers it was so bad!

  • Matt
    Reply

    The dutch oven tent…found at the REI garage sale

  • Brett
    Reply

    Unwashed base layers after a damp 4 day backpack have a funk all their own, especially in the sock department. Although, the more I think about it, the port-a-pot’s can be especially rank, too

  • whispering
    Reply

    We spent part of our honeymoon in a yurt in Alaska which was outfitted with a composting toilet … I really don’t appreciate what the association with that smell ruined for me. Also, spent a few summers as a wilderness instructor. Unwashed sleeping bags after freezdried food is enough to keep most any animal or self respecting human out of those ‘dutch-oven’ tents!

  • deejaygee
    Reply

    Left-over cooler funk

  • Doan Pendleton
    Reply

    My 12 year old sons climbing shoes and feet after a 6 hour climbing competition..

  • GOOG
    Reply

    stinkfoot…

  • J Radochia
    Reply

    I’ve taken a few too many swigs out of contaminated water bottles in my day, worst thing ever.

  • kyle
    Reply

    dutch oven camping farts! holy hell these are hands down the worst kinds of farts. is it the metric ton of salami and trek mix?

    this definitely goes hand in hand with the unwashed sleeping bag. cause sometimes it’s just too cold to unzip, and for a split second, you thought the warmth that fart might give you outweighed the toxicity of it.

    and of course, pre race portas. beef stew. there’s something to be said about perfecting the graceful movements of taking off your bib and jersey in a 1’x1′ space while holding your breath. and managing to walk out that porta door still looking like a little racer boy.

  • Andy
    Reply

    I wouldn’t want to follow myself up a skin track after a night of cheap beer and mexican.

  • kl5
    Reply

    Shudder.

  • Aidan
    Reply

    the pre race porta potty takes the cake

  • Lee
    Reply

    Stale campfire clothes are pretty gnarly too.

  • Sarah
    Reply

    I was eating my lunch when I read the first paragraph… I’m done eating now.

  • Dan
    Reply

    I see 5.26% of respondents have been skunked.

  • Karen Kennedy
    Reply

    Skunk isn’t so bad. . .from afar, but up close and in your face. PHEW! It just stays, and stays, and stays. . .

  • ben
    Reply

    whew. composting toilets can just be foul.

  • Tina
    Reply

    Polypro and wetsuits/neoprene in general can both REALLY hold an odor.

  • Tim
    Reply

    Driving down the mountains to Bakersfield, “Sweet-smelling toilets” built by the feds, and road-kill beaver.

  • Andy
    Reply

    Ever pass over some roadkill while riding on a summers day? Takes the breath straight from your soul. Enough said.

  • Ed
    Reply

    Nothing is worse than my sons goalie gloves. They never dry out, makes my eyes water.

  • Dan Murphy
    Reply

    Composting toilet. In the 80’s, there was an experimental toilet on the way up Mt Whitney that was absolutely brutal.
    Doug A’s ski boots – we had a guy in our ski house years ago whose ski boots were the worst. We made him keep them in a special closet and he never brought them inside the car. He told us his whole family was like that.

  • JMC
    Reply

    Farts, dutch or eles, are the worst!

  • Steven Threndyle
    Reply

    Dog sprayed by skunk… even worse. Seriously, it is eye watering. Many of these smells, if self identified are OK (because my Dutch oven farts don’t stink, but your old polypro could make a horse faint). And furry stuff in a hydration tube? Well, that VISUAL, and you could do a WHOLE LIST of those, as well.

  • Jill
    Reply

    unwashed, musty, got-slightly-damp-and-never-dried-properly, sweat and ski sock filled sleeping bag! ugh.

  • dv
    Reply

    Tony Goymerac’s car after a two day drive from Jacksome Pole to Roger’s Pass.

  • Levi K
    Reply

    The composting toilets at Camp Muir are the ultimate worst.

  • Reckless
    Reply

    Stinky stuff!!!

  • Jeff
    Reply

    Funky water bottles cause too much psychological disturbance.

  • JH
    Reply

    dead bodies in a trunk during the summer

  • jason prosser
    Reply

    Dead rotting roadkill skunk. Can be savoured from many miles away and lingers in the car for many miles after. Especially when the Spring Sun gets working.

  • Donald
    Reply

    A group of people in a car post trip that haven’t showered yet.

  • colby
    Reply

    hate wet dog and b.o. kinda smells the same after a while

  • craig
    Reply

    So called “breathable waders” after 100 days on the water can be ripe, but I’m voting toilet…

  • Anthony
    Reply

    Nothing comes close to a 3rd world/developing country sewage system.

  • Matt
    Reply

    Vomit! I can’t handle the smell of cured bile! Rotting carcass is a close second though.

  • Patrick
    Reply

    A dead, rotting, snake nest underneath your couch.

  • Eric
    Reply

    Why do I always seem to eat beans on camping trips?

  • Len Jarrett
    Reply

    While I admit that the portajohn “ranks” high, putrid fish really pushes my purge button!

  • Pancho
    Reply

    Nothing worse than an unexpected whiff of gross polluter

  • Mike Duggan
    Reply

    got to be wetsuits after a few days of sitting in the bin in the back of my car

  • Katy
    Reply

    The Tea House bathroom, heck, the entire tea house, in Gorak Shep, Nepal!!! Entire place is an outhouse.

  • Hayden Beck
    Reply

    melting plastic, not nessesarily bad, but it means your gear may not work quite as you planned

  • Oliver
    Reply

    stale ciggy smoke and stale beer in my buddy’s ancient toyota, so nasty……

  • Chris
    Reply

    BO … especially when it can be avoided with the help of some ‘can of 1,000 showers’.

  • G
    Reply

    dutch oven tent/sleeping bag farts are terrible, but also inescapable. the damp wetsuit left in the trunk for a while is a close second

  • Ryan White
    Reply

    Can I add in “Hong Kong” and more specifically “Medicine Shops of Hong Kong”?

  • robyn rybarski
    Reply

    I wish you had a other space. I cannot stand the smell of diesel exhaust.

  • steve
    Reply

    The absolute WORST thing I ever smelled? I was working in a surgery suite and they opened up a guy with peritonitis. Nothing in your list comes close.

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