What’s the Best Smell?

What’s the Best Smell?

Our little pea brains have nominated sight and touch as our favorite senses, but in fact smell is among the


adventure journal poll whats the best smell

Our little pea brains have nominated sight and touch as our favorite senses, but in fact smell is among the most powerful of the five. It is integral to taste and strongly linked to emotional memory. One whiff on the breeze can transport you back years to an intense and detailed memory of childhood. What then, of its role in nurturing, fulfilling, animating our comprehension and love of the outdoors? Smell surely forms our passions, fuels them perhaps, in ways we can only glimmer.

When I first start thinking about smell and outdoor adventure, my mind got stuck in a loop of three: pine trees, ocean, and campfires. There are, of course, infinite smells and combinations of them, and the more you consider them, the more you recognize — and in doing so, the more you see how they inform and add dimension to our experience. Take just one, for example: new tires for your bike. For the last few years, I’ve tried to keep Nevagals on all my mountain bikes (currently three, but I need a new one), and I ordered a new set online not too long ago. When I opened the box, it smelled like newness, joy, Christmas — the strong tang of virgin rubber blended with an undercurrent of cardboard that made me think of gifts, childhood bicycles, the sensation of traction on a berm, and the inflating promise of the potential of the new. Rather, I didn’t think it — it all washed over me as unarticulated knowledge. A sense that I felt.

My guess is that pine trees, oceans, and campfires will come out on top, but who knows? Pick as many smells as you like, no limits on choice, and let’s see how it all shakes out.



WIN SMITH SUNGLASSES JUST BY VOTING


products_2197_2_218_enlargeThis week, one poll participant will receive a pair of Smith Optics PivLock Overdrive 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, September 1, at midnight PST.

Congratulations to Tom Butz, who wins the Smiths this week!


Photo by Shutterstock


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Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
Showing 97 comments
  • Sinjin Eberle
    Reply

    Some Phat glasses, yo…

  • Jennifer Johnsen-Nazareth
    Jennifer Johnsen-Nazareth
    Reply

    Campfire

  • Michael Eberle
    Michael Eberle
    Reply

    bacon on a campfire

  • Jen
    Reply

    Pine trees, without question.

  • Lauren
    Reply

    Torn between campfire and ocean — how about a Campfire ON the beach?

  • Jon
    Reply

    Oh this is just not fair. I want to pick all of them.

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      Well, you can.

      • Jon
        Reply

        So I can. Figured it was a one and done vote.

  • ben
    Reply

    rain.

  • Casey
    Reply

    Hardest poll to answer so far.

  • Dave
    Reply

    opening the car door in Flagstaff, getting that first clean scent of pine trees, moist soil, and low angle sunlight – yeah, sunlight has smell

  • Emily Brady
    Emily Brady
    Reply

    rainstorms, pine forests, and salt spray

  • Zach Johns
    Reply

    Combo of campfire/sunscreen/bug spray!

  • Jim Bartasavich
    Jim Bartasavich
    Reply

    Emphatically not this (post skunk encounter):

  • Zach Johns
    Zach Johns
    Reply

    Campfire/sunscreen/bug spray combo!

  • Hannah
    Reply

    How is backpacking dinners even on the list.

    • Mark
      Reply

      After enough miles, any food smells heavenly.

  • Eff Ugeyez
    Eff Ugeyez
    Reply

    Desert rain. The smell given off by the creosote plant

  • Glenn C
    Reply

    Food of any kind, except for Brussel Spouts. Definite favorite: BACON

  • Daniel Sullivan
    Reply

    Post rain and river air are tough to beat.

  • Harry Mudgett
    Reply

    Cowboy Coffee. My first choice would have been camping breakfast, but cowboy coffee was the closest to that.

  • billin'
    Reply

    Sagebrush needs to be on the list, particularly after a desert rain. I’m from the West, but spent a few homesick years out in the buggy swamp they call the East The east is nice, but, when I’d revisit the desert and smell the sage, everything about everything important in life reactivated.

  • Ian
    Reply

    After a fun day out on the slopes, hiking up to peaks to get some virgin lines I love a bacon bleu cheese burger and fries to grub up on. Fat kid likey food.

  • Bradley
    Reply

    and the smell of brand new Smith Optics on my face!

  • Landon Cucinotta
    Reply

    Pine Trees in New Jersey’s PineBarrens!!!

  • Rick Dickinson
    Rick Dickinson
    Reply

    Ponderosa pine: bury your nose in the creased bark and smell the vanilla.

  • Jonah
    Reply

    Was going to pick red bull, but it’s not the same smell without the vodka.

  • seth
    Reply

    summer rain on sagebrush … makes me cry every time for want of the good ol’ days.

  • Tomogiro
    Reply

    Babies, really

  • Offmap
    Offmap
    Reply

    summer rain

  • DAVID
    Reply

    This poll could be simplified:
    Outside
    Everything Else

  • chris
    Reply

    almost any outdoor smell that isn’t an office cubicle smell is good …

  • Salie Uon
    Salie Uon
    Reply

    waking up to a spring breeze, while camping in Eastern Montana.

  • Nik
    Reply

    I love the smell of campfires in the morning…

  • John
    Reply

    Definitely a storm on its way into the Sonoran Desert. The creosote scent is the best.

  • Sam
    Reply

    What, no gear funk?

  • Sarah
    Reply

    Campfire is good until all your stuff also smells like it.

  • momo
    Reply

    rotting wetsuit neoprene

  • Matt
    Reply

    Campfire is so freaking cliche. Yes it smells good. Yes it gives you the realization that you are in fact in the outside. BUT! Once home it is freaking hard to get rid of and intrusive. Impending storm for me.

  • Aron Gabor
    Reply

    in the wilderness almost everything smells good :)

  • Adam
    Reply

    Rain!

  • Eric
    Reply

    camp coffee!

  • Nathan Brown
    Nathan Brown
    Reply

    Snow

  • Nathan Brown
    Nathan Brown
    Reply

    Snow

  • Ranger
    Reply

    Mmm cooffee

  • rick
    Reply

    I voted for cowboy coffee, just cuz thats my thing but theres nothing better than the smell of the cool crisp air on the top of a mountain

  • Nick
    Reply

    Really? You put Red Bull on there, but not beer or whiskey?

    Some priorities need to be checked.

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      That’s the problem when your editor doesn’t drink alcohol but has an overly close relationship with caffeine.

  • Kyle Alhart
    Reply

    That smell after a hard rain is hard to beat

  • Travis N Kristin Wenzel
    Travis N Kristin Wenzel
    Reply

    Wood smoke

  • Shannon Walton
    Shannon Walton
    Reply

    stinky polypro

  • Okierover
    Reply

    It’s hard to beat campfire. The smell of the hardwoods burning is primal and elicits a deep longing for a simpler type of life. Here on the plains, the smell of a gully washer coming is also a smell that elicits deep primal urges and raises the hair on your neck. Mainly those that tell you how vulnerable you are.

  • Chris
    Reply

    Pine trees followed closely by whiskey

  • Drew Watters
    Drew Watters
    Reply

    The first air that comes in as you unzip the tent door in the morning…

  • Matt
    Reply

    I do love campfire and pines, but theres something about neoprene I love. Given how many kinds of outdoor adventure one wears it for, for me it’s the smell of of adventuresome possibility.

  • BDC
    Reply

    would have chosen sunscreen… also, whiskey is curiously missing?

  • Mike Fennelly
    Reply

    Storm coming..

  • Jon
    Reply

    Nothing better than the smell after it rains, especially when it quits after 9 months of it in the PNW.

  • Andy
    Reply

    tent farts?

  • Matt
    Reply

    anything on/near the trail

  • Matthew Halip
    Reply

    Eucalyptus in San Francisco

  • Vanonymous
    Reply

    pine trees

  • mbr
    Reply

    BACON!

  • Mike
    Reply

    Sweet river air!

  • Christopher
    Reply

    Ocean!

  • Matt
    Reply

    Trees!

  • Ward
    Reply

    I need some nice riding glasses. Please I live in a house with 4 women – 1 wife – 3 daughters – sunglasses are the last thing I can get.

  • Michael G
    Reply

    Sage always reminds me of the west and brings back good memories.

  • Landis
    Reply

    Campfire. 100%

  • Robbie
    Reply

    crisp mountain air in general brings back a lot of memories.

  • Dave
    Reply

    Nature!

  • Murph
    Reply

    Funny how this poll is right after the smell-in-the-tent post you had last week….
    Grew up on the ocean, and that smell has always energized me.
    Long time ago, my bike rides took me thru some strawberry fields – awesome smells out of there.

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      Funny, that.

  • meep
    Reply

    The pine forests around Skagway Alaska to be exact.

  • Janelle
    Reply

    It’s hard to beat the sugary warmth of hot chocolate.

  • Ross
    Reply

    what about that “old tent that’s been packed in a box for years” smell?

  • Brent
    Reply

    The smell of the river, lake, and rain come out on top for me!

  • Tom
    Reply

    Cowboy coffee combo’d with damp earth, preferably damp sage.

  • Stacey
    Reply

    Jefferey Pines are pretty amazing too smelling like Butterscotch.

  • jake
    Reply

    success

  • brian puccerella
    Reply

    looks like deer valley turkey chili is the way to go.

  • Charlie Lynch
    Reply

    Sweet Sweat

  • Jking
    Reply

    Pine trees…and beer

  • Bear
    Reply

    Should’ve added the smell of Fall when the seasons are changing.

  • Ryan
    Reply

    The smell of biking through a huge strawberry field gets me every year. (Canmore nordic centre)

  • DF
    Reply

    Hot cocoa by the fire

  • Kevin
    Reply

    Went pine trees on this one. Recently moving from New England to the high desert has me missing the abundance of greenery. Also, unfortunately, the smell of campfire has been tainted by wildfires.

  • David D
    Reply

    hello

  • john quinn
    Reply

    SKIN!

  • Jeremy
    Reply

    A dusty trail through a ponderosa forest, just starting to warm under the morning sun…

    OTOH, damp rotting logs smell pretty evocative, too.

  • Mick
    Reply

    Before and after a storm are great.

  • Max Shredroom
    Reply

    Yeah I voted for sweat, but not just any sweat. The fresh sweat of your lover for sure. Followed by tuberose, as I so fondly remember the Leis she always puts around my neck when I get to visit her on Maui. With respect. _____________\_

  • Mike B
    Reply

    Rain ftw!

  • Helen
    Reply

    Where is warm semi-dry grass? Or the smell of bananas with Nutella straight out of the campfire?

  • luke
    Reply

    pine by far, but all good smelling stuff

  • Brian
    Reply

    Campfire is my favorite but oddly the two most powerful memory evoking smells for me are the tarred timbers of a dock and second hand smoke. They remind me of fishing at the lake with the old guys.

  • oliver
    Reply

    I love that Deer Valley Chili is on the list. I didn’t vote for it, but it is amazingly good, in a class by itself. The smell that has always taken me back is wetsuit rubber.

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