Do Smell Proof Bags Really Work? How Activated Carbon Adsorbs Strong Odors

Posted on 07 April 2023

Activated carbon bags can be very effective at neutralizing odors, but whether they are truly "smell proof" depends on the definition of the term. At Abscent, we define a bag as "smell proof" if a trained K9 cannot detect the presence of herb inside of it. Most bags on the market are not truly "smell proof" because they are lined with activated carbon mesh (ACM), which is not regenerative and can eventually become oversaturated with odor. In contrast, activated carbon felt (ACF) is a regenerative material that can release odors when heat is applied to it, making it more effective at neutralizing odors. However, even bags made from ACF may not be "smell proof" if they are not constructed properly and in combination with quality ACF.

Do Smell Proof Bags Work? 

Since 2010 we have continuously been asked whether or not an activated carbon  bag can truly be Smell Proof? The answer is quite simple, yes and no. If this answer seems ambiguous, that is not my intention. In fact, the purpose of this blog is to let you know the real truth and lets just say it's going to get ugly.

How do you define Smell Proof?

This is a very important question, and one that we think most people would answer in the same fashion. We at Abscent have come to the consensus that if a trained K9 is unable to detect the presence of herb inside of a bag, then it is indeed Smell Proof. If this method of testing is an agreeable standard, then 99% of the Smell Proof Bag Brands on the market are simply deceiving their customers and possibly jeopardizing their safety.

What is Activated Carbon & How Does it Neutralize Odors?

Activated carbon, also known as activated charcoal, is a highly porous form of carbon that is treated with oxygen to create a network of small pores and a large surface area. This large surface area and network of pores give activated carbon its unique ability to absorb a wide range of substances, including gases, liquids, and dissolved solids.

When used to neutralize odors, activated carbon works by adsorbing (not absorbing) the odor-causing molecules into its pores. As the air or liquid passes through the activated carbon, the molecules become trapped in the small spaces between the carbon atoms. The carbon then effectively removes the odor-causing molecules from the air or liquid, leaving it free of the unpleasant smell.

Activated carbon is commonly used in air and water purification systems, as well as in household products like air filters, water filters, and deodorizers. It can be made from a variety of materials, including coconut shells, wood, and coal, and its effectiveness depends on factors like the type and quality of the carbon, the amount used, and the specific properties of the odors being neutralized.

What type of Activated Carbon is used in Smell Proof Bags?

Activated Carbon can be found in numerous different forms, but the two most common types of activated carbon found in bags are ACM and ACF. ACM also known Activated Carbon Mesh is basically a screen that is dipped into an activated carbon soup and then air-dried. The main drawback to ACM is that it is not regenerative, meaning it cannot be reactivated with heat. Once the pores of the ACM have been saturated with odor, the bag is effectively useless. In fact, a  bag lined with ACM will inevitably start to smell exactly like the product that has oversaturated its pores. In layman's terms, this means that if you store herb inside of a bag lined with ACM, the bag itself will eventually smell like herb, and you will never be able to get this smell to go away. Another drawback to ACM has to do with how it is manufactured. During the production process, the Mesh is dipped into an activated carbon soup. Unfortunately, when the mesh is extracted from the soup, the carbon doesn't perfectly cover the entire surface area of the mesh. As a result, the ACM has holes where odor can freely travel through because there is not a uniform layer of activated carbon present to trap the odor. So what does this really mean? It means that any bag lined with ACM is not truly a "Smell Proof Bag" and it will definitely not get past the nose of a trained K9. Why do bag manufacturers use ACM if they know it is not truly capable of controlling odor? The simple answer is that it is very cheap to buy and it gives bag brands the ability to maximize profits at the expense of the consumers safety. One brand that exclusively uses ACM in their bags is Revelry Supply. To be kind, Revelry doesn't actually manufacture their bags themselves, they outsource them to China so this could be a reason why their bags are lined with ACM and also why they have repeatedly failed K9 testing performed by @BlazeorBust (You can find videos on our Instagram @abscentdesign where we dissect Revelry bags to expose what they are actually made from and why they are no better than a garbage bag)

Let's move on to ACF, also known as Activated Carbon Felt. ACF is an extremely porous material that is capable of adsorbing and releasing odors. It is a regenerative material, meaning that you can apply heat to ACF and it will release odors that have been adsorbed by the pores within the felt. ACF is commonly made from bamboo fibers that are infused with activated carbon and the production process is integral to its performance. Once the bamboo fibers have been infused they are carefully laminated between two layers of nonwoven. This process is tricky because the fibers must be evenly laid out across the nonwoven such that there are no spaces where odor could possibly travel through without being adsorbed by the activated carbon. The density of the fibers as well as the carbon concentration within the felt will greatly increase or decrease how well the ACF performs. Over the course of the last 14 years we have developed our own proprietary activated carbon felt and it is the ONLY ACF on the market to have repeatedly passed K9 testing. To quickly circle back to our original question, "Do Smell Proof Bags Work? The answer is Yes. When constructed properly and in combination with quality ACF, a handmade bag is capable of beating a K9 and can be honestly labeled as Smell Proof.

Are all bags made from Activated Carbon Felt Smell Proof?

Most bags that are made from Activated Carbon Felt are NOT Smell Proof. As you can see in the Fail List above, nearly all of the quote on quote Smell Proof Bag Brands on the market are NOT actually selling Smell Proof Bags. These Brands may be selling bags that absorb odor, but their products will NOT beat the nose of a trained K9 and in our humble opinion should not be advertised as Smell Proof. This type of deceptive and dishonest marketing only harms the people that these bags are intended to protect. 

What is a Conditional Pass?

A conditional pass means that a trained K9 was unable to detect the presence of herb inside of the bag after an allotted soak period. A soak period is a specific duration of time that we believe falls somewhere between thirty minutes and an hour. A properly constructed Smell Proof Bag is essentially a sponge for odors. When you load the bag with herb, the activated carbon felt immediately starts to adsorb the odor into its pores. Once all the odor has been adsorbed and neutralized by the activated carbon, the odor is essentially trapped and will not be able to exit the bag. We tested three different bags with @BlazeorBust and all three were able to beat his trained K9's after the soak period.

Why are Abscent Bags worth their weight in gold?

Smell Proof Backpack

Abscent bags are handmade by trained technicians in our own facility based in North America. We source the fabric & hardware, we cut the materials, we make sure each Abscent bag is sewn together using the proper layers every time. Our meticulous attention to detail ensures that you are purchasing a smell proof bag that functions as it should and provides you with the peace of mind to travel worry-free. Think of your Smell Proof Bag as a safety belt, if you wear it properly, it could save your ass.  

The Pseudo Competition

We are the Original Smell Proof Bag Brand circa 2010 and in our humble opinion we have no competition within this space. With that said, there are numerous copycat "smell proof" bags available on the market and 99% of them are made in China. Now we are not here to judge and we understand the power of branding, but if you want to purchase cheap wannabe smell proof bags just visit On Alibaba, you will find all the exact same products you are overpaying for here in the United States available for far less than what Skunk Bags, Dime Bags, Raw Bags, Ryot Bags, Revelry Bags, Formline Bags, Cookies Bags, Awol Bags, etc. are charging. You can literally pay a fraction of the cost for the same exact bags these brands are falsely claiming to be Smell Proof.   

Who Performed the K9 Testing?

In April of 2019, a gentlemen by the name of Ryan (@BlazeorBust on Instagram/Youtube) reached out to a large number of Smell Proof Bag Brands and asked them to send in their purportedly "Smell Proof" bags for K9 Testing. Ryan's wife is a K9 handler and she trains dogs to alert to various substances for a living. Based on their testing, Abscent Bags were the ONLY bags to go undetected by their trained canines. The Abscent Ballistic Backpack, Abscent Banker Bag, and the Abscent Pelican Case Insert all passed K9 Testing. They also debunked the myth that single or multiple layers of vacuum seal bags are capable of beating a K9. Vacuum seal bags may help to contain odor, but they are not Smell Proof. Popular storage methods such as mylar bags, turkey bags, stash jars and humidity controlled storage containers all failed K9 testing. It is important to note that an ammunition container did pass K9 testing, though when it was retested after being used for some time, it failed K9 testing. The seal that sits directly underneath the lid of the ammunition container most likely was the source of the failure. 

The Disclaimer

When Abscent was born in 2010, our sole objective was to keep medical patients from becoming victims of illegal search & seizure in the United States. We do not proffer the information in this article to embolden our customers to break laws or risk their well-being by traveling to places where herb is illegal. We simply want to show what our bags are capable of and how they can provide peace of mind. It is important to remember that any bag can be contaminated by sticky fingers or by carelessly leaving the bag in a smoke-filled area. There are no guarantees in life, but there are precautions one can take to avoid unnecessary risk. Safe Travels!



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