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5 Tips to Keep Your Climbing Bag from Smelling Like Sweaty Feet

Updated: May 31

There are few smells worse than well-worn climbing shoes. There’s not a nice way to put it: they reek. It’s a fact that your feet sweat and that climbing shoes hold the odor spectacularly well. There are two types of climbers when it comes to storing these sweat vessels:

 

●     The ones who clip their boots to the outside of their bag to air out

●     The ones who immediately throw the sweaty pairs into their climbing bag and leave them until the next climbing session.

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The first type of climber is arguably wiser, but for various reasons (bag type, personal preference), clipping your shoes to the outside of your climbing bag might not work. So, if you’re the second type by choice or circumstance, keep reading to prevent the odor of your shoes from permeating into your climbing bag.

 

Before diving into the tips, you may wonder what causes the stinkiness. The actual culprit is bacteria that grow when dead skin mixes with sweat and is left in the shoe to fester over time.


5 Tips to Keep Your Climbing Bag Odor Free

climbing bag


  1. Have a separate shoe bag. 

It's not just about the smell; it’s about keeping your climbing gear in top condition. Storing your shoes in a separate bag is a practical solution. It’s organized and effective. There’s no need to store your shoes elsewhere, but opt to use a second, smaller bag for your shoes. Make sure it can seal relatively well with velcro, a zipper, or a Ziploc mechanism. Place your shoes in this second bag and then place the smaller bag into the larger one. That isn’t guaranteed to keep the smell contained in the smaller shoe bag, but the bag should help reduce the stench permeating amidst the rest of your climbing gear.


  1. Invest in shoe deodorizers.

There is a whole market for deodorizers. And rightly so; they’re great for absorbing the sweat and thus limiting the ability for bacteria to fester. One of the most popular ones among climbers is the Boot Bananas. But, if you want a cheap, DIY odor eater, opt for a dryer sheet in each shoe. Make sure to change the dryer sheets every week or two (depending on how often you climb or wear your shoes). These simple solutions have been proven to work, giving you the confidence that your climbing gear will stay fresh and odor-free.

 

  1. Take your climbing shoes out of your bag at home.

Removing your climbing shoes from your bag as soon as possible is an easy way to keep your climbing bag smell-free. Ideally, you’ll do this at home, where you can leave them in a garage or mud room that’s relatively cool and dry. Warm and humid environments will only increase the intensity of the smell. It may also be helpful to store them in a sealable storage container, even at home, so your mudroom or garage doesn’t smell like sweaty feet.

 

You can also store your shoes in a sealable bag in the freezer. The cold environment will prevent bacteria growth. But keeping them in a sealed bag is essential for hygiene purposes and to avoid an existing stank from impacting your frozen berries or ice cream.


  1. Wash them every 1-2 months.

You can wash climbing shoes by hand or on a delicate, cold wash cycle. Always air dry them to protect the rubber. If washing by hand, use a gentle, scent-free soap and cold or lukewarm water. You can use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean the rubber but to help reduce the odor, you’ll want to soak them in the soapy water for 30-60 minutes before rinsing and letting air dry. The frequency with which you may opt to wash your shoes will depend on how frequently you are climbing and how much your feet sweat.


  1. Chalk your feet.

If sweat is causing smelliness, the goal should be to absorb it before it can seep into the fabric of your climbing shoes. Just like chalk absorbs moisture from your hands, it can absorb moisture from your feet. It may feel weird, but putting chalk on your feet and between your toes before putting your feet into your shoes will help decrease the moisture that ends up in your climbing shoes during a session.


When you sign up for rock climbing, you sign up for stinky feet to some degree. But, the smell doesn’t have to build up until you are afraid of unzipping your climbing bag for fear of the onslaught to your nostrils or judgment from other climbers. Adopting one or more of the five tips will not only keep your climbing shoes and the rest of your climbing gear as fresh-smelling as possible but also extend their lifespan. Deploying all five tips (having a separate shoe bag, investing in shoe deodorizers, taking your climbing shoes out of your bag, washing them routinely, and chalking your feet) may take a few extra minutes. of your day and a few extra dollars upfront. But, it will work wonders in sparring your sense of smell from a potentially putrid on-slaught. Hopefully, these tips are helpful, and if you have any questions or other odor-killing hacks to share, please comment below!

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