By Don Jurries
Pushing yourself for long periods of time on your outdoor adventures usually comes with one major side-effect, body odor. Reducing body odor is therefore big business in the outdoor industry. Numerous companies have attempted to develop effective solutions ranging from the anti-microbial properties of natural fibers, such as wool or bamboo, to fabrics woven with strands of silver and topically applied sprays.
From the Massachusetts-based Sciessent, makers of Agion Active, comes Agion Lava. Agion Lava has actually been around for a couple of years, but has been gaining a lot of traction lately with partnership announcements such as Burlington and the Italian fabric maker Sitip. Agion Lava, an all natural product, works as a fabric finish that absorbs vapor-based odors by using various properties of minerals in lava rocks. These minerals, such as an alumino-silicate called Zeolite, have porous structures that are often used as commercial absorbents, including in water purification and laundry detergents.
I was given a 2 oz. spray bottle by Sciessent during the Outdoor Retailer Winter show back in January. I devised several “sniff” tests to determine whether I could tell the difference. The first was underarm odor. I would spray Agion Lava onto the underarm on one side of a work-out shirt, leaving the other side as a control. I started with cotton and polyester, two fabrics with limited natural anti-microbial properties. At first, I couldn’t tell the difference, until I realized I was being far too gentle with the spray. Once I gave the apparel a more liberal dose, let it dry before wearing it, it became clear that Agion Lava works. After some intense hiking, one underarm smelled of a mix of my sweat and deodorant. The other hardly smelled at all.
I then moved on to fabrics such as wool, with natural anti-microbial properties, and to treated performance polyesters. Here I struggled. While I did notice an improvement in how long it took before odors appeared, I couldn’t tell whether it was the fabric or Agion Lava. I had the same difficulty with shoes. It certainly worked with cotton socks, and I had better luck where the construction of the shoe and insole were untreated synthetics than with more natural fabrics. Leather, however, was particularly difficult as leather is often treated with other antimicrobial applications.
In the end, I simply asked Sciessent, who sent me evidence of laboratory testing on fibres, such as wool. One such test was for the presence of isovaleric acid, a cheesy, sweaty smelling substance that is a common component of foot odor. The lab tests demonstrated significant additional benefits Agion Lava provides in reducing bacteria counts over and above the original fabric. Of course Sciessent is going to send me favorable data, but I choose to believe them based on my personal experiences with their product.
If you are interested in testing Sciessent product for yourself, you can enter into a drawing at the Agion Active website.