For many years, scientists have known that activated charcoal, a common form of carbon left over when wood and vegetation is burned, possessed unique characteristics that gave it the ability to easily adsorb odors and gasses.
Unlike absorption, where a substance diffuses into a liquid or solid to form a solution, adsorption is a process that occurs when a gas or liquid accumulates on the surface of a solid or liquid forming a film of molecules or atoms - much like metal shavings on a magnet. This unique property has made activated carbon a common ingredient in everything from pool filters to military-issued chemical warfare suits for decades.
But it wasn’t until 1992, when Greg Sesselman, an enterprising bowhunter with a background in engineering, first incorporated activated charcoal into hunting apparel. The result was clothing that literally revolutionized the industry. In Sesselman’s Scent-Lok clothing the natural, game-spooking odors that all people produce were adsorbed into a layer of activated charcoal before they could reach a deer’s or elk’s powerful nose. All it took to release odors before another trip afield was a tumble through a warm dryer or a few hours hanging in sun.
While early activated charcoal suits were often stiff and heavy, innovations in manufacturing have allowed Scent-Lok, Scent Blocker and other companies to produce scent-adsorbing clothing that is every bit as comfortable as ordinary hunting clothes. Today, activated charcoal technology can be found in base layers, boots, hats, gloves, backpacks, as well as jackets and pants. In fact, it’s safe to say, you can literally cover yourself from the top of your sweat-soaked head to the tips of your stinky toes in scent-adsorbing fabrics.
But activated charcoal isn’t the only odor-inhibiting material on the market. Several clothing lines aimed at hunters and athletes are manufactured with microscopic nano particles of silver (yes, the same stuff your grandmother’s tea set is made of) infused into the fabric.
Silver ions have the unique ability to interfere with odor-causing bacteria and other microorganisms’ abilities to breathe and reproduce. Like activated charcoal, silver’s unique properties have made it popular for a wide range of uses including soaps, food storage containers, washing machine liners and, of course, many lines of clothing made especially for the scent-conscious hunter.
Unlike clothing impregnated with activated charcoal, which prevents human odor from passing through the garment to an animal’s nose, silver ions only prevent your clothing from acquiring the dreaded stink. But animals can still smell you, because there is nothing to prevent body odor from passing through the fabric.
While innovations in fabric production continue to provide new opportunities for hunters who want to get up close and personal with the game they pursue, it’s still critical for hunters to practice common sense before donning their clothes. No matter how specialized the clothing you wear afield, the smells of sweat, soap, food, gasoline and other common contaminants are always going to alert game to your presence. So to get the most from scent-controlling clothing, be sure to wash with any of the odor reducing soaps on the market, use scentless antiperspirant and always keep your clothing away from strong odor sources, such as gasoline and your morning coffee, before you get to your stand.