Toiletries are often overlooked in any sort of depth, relegated in many blogs to simple, quick checklists with a standard kit, but this is a great place for travel hacks, not to mention more healthy and sustainable options that could also save you money. I tend to be very picky about toiletries and choose to bring a full supply with me on short or extended travel rather than picking them up at my destination. While this takes up some space, I feel the space-to-reward ratio is worth it to me. I prefer natural ingredients which can’t always be found at your destination. For example, I have issues with regular deodorant which burns horribly if I have it on in the ocean. I also look to buy sustainable products when I can. Lastly, wouldn’t it be great to avoid liquids altogether and not have to take out your toiletries going through airport security?!
This post aims to provide some hacks, healthy, and creative solutions in the way of toiletries and related items for your trip that applies to air travel, international or domestic, and even camping for many items. This list is not exhaustive, but what I find to be the most important or items you may not have thought of or heard about. You can find more items on my various gear pages.
Hair Products: Lush Soap Bars
One of my more recent discoveries has been Lush Cosmetics, though the company has been around awhile. My girlfriend loves the store and I hadn’t paid much attention since she would usually just walk out with bath bombs. That is until I discovered all of the other products they sell, including soap bars! High quality ingredients great for your hair and skin, incredible scents, non-liquid, and they last for months! While the up front cost may seem high, depending on how often you wash your hair and how much hair you have, these could last at least several months. For me, with short hair, washing every other day, these easily last 3-6 months. I have a shampoo bar and conditioner bar. Both smell amazing.
Tip: You may not actually need to wash your hair with soap every day, and it might be better too. Do an experiment. This will not only save your hair, but also your wallet and supply. Also, don’t pack them with your macarons!
Tip: They sell tins as carrying cases which are handy and much better than plastic bags. Letting them dry out and not get constantly wet in the shower will prolong their life. My preference is the Matador FlatPak Soap Bar Case. I can fit both in one of these.
Body Products: Bar Soap
While Lush also sells a plethora of body soaps, they’re made in bulk and thus broken off pieces are quite big making them difficult to travel with. Of course you could always try and reshape them yourself at home. But in general, bar soap is the perfect way to get clean. It’s non-liquid, can be used on your body, face, hair (though shampoo/condition soaps are much better), and even sink/shower laundry. I wouldn’t use nicer expensive soap to do laundry, you can get hotel or cheaper soap for that. The only real addition I’ll offer here is to seek out goat milk and oatmeal based soaps. I’ve found they feel much better and leave the skin more hydrated. It makes a difference, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to shower everyday (e.g. camping, homestay). You’ll no doubt find great brands at farmer’s markets, health food stores, and possibly even main line grocery stores. Certainly bath and body stores.
Tip: Find a size that stows nicely into a second Matador FlatPak Soap Bar Case.
Soap Case: Matador FlatPak Soap Bar Case
As mentioned above, the best way to carry soap bars is the Matador FlatPak Soap Bar Case. The is the best travel purchase I didn’t know I needed. I have two, one for shampoo and conditioner, the other for bar soap. What’s cool is that it completely contains the moisture preventing your stuff from getting all wet and soapy, while also being breathable, allowing the soap to dry out, avoiding mushy soap when packed away wet. What’s more is that this breathability also emits the wonderful soap scent, so you can actually put this in your pack (or wherever) to help cover up odors. After days, weeks, months of travel, things definitely start to smell funky. Since it has a rolltop, you can also attach it to the outside of your pack or put it in your toiletry bag. The company offers other toiletry products as well.
Washcloth: Lunatech Travel Washcloth
I have always used a washcloth, though not everyone does. And they’re particularly difficult to find in Europe. This particular recommendation is a pretty neat travel hack I discovered. This particular washcloth is made of special material that makes your soap lather up nicely, dries fast, and most impressively never smells! I’ve literally never washed it, after years of use, and no odor whatsoever. It’s magic. Admittedly a little rough on the skin, I think it feels nice to exfoliate your skin or otherwise clean off grime or dirt from the day. I’ve personally never found it uncomfortable. I’ve also used this to clean my shoes, backpack, and anything else that gets dirty. It’s strong and very easy to clean, exceptionally multipurpose I bring on every trip.
Tip: While this dries incredible quickly, like under an hour, if you’re in a hurry, attach it to your pack with a carabiner like you would a travel towel to let it dry out.
Deodorant: Herban Cowboy
I was thrilled to have found this deodorant. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum which is supposed to be terrible for you and can cause a host of issues. Many natural deodorants don’t protect well or for long. This stuff works great. It seems to hold out for the day, smells great, and I have no issues with salt water making my arm pits feel like they’re on fire. Another alternative is Alvera which I used previously, but didn’t work as effectively, requiring periodically reapplying. Everyman Jack is also good.
I don’t have a specific brand or recommendation for this, other than definitely carry a medical kit when traveling! Size it according to your trip. For example, I will take a small 1-day kit with basics like bandages, disinfectant, and stuff like that which fits nicely in my daypack. Additionally for longer trips and especially for camping, I’ll use a larger, maybe 3-day weekend kit that includes more ample supplies, in terms of quantity and variety. Some pain medication may also be handy, along with gloves, tweezers, and gauze. Just look for basic kits at any travel or outdoors store. Or of course a pharmacy or online. These are great to have around the house regardless in the event of an emergency. Search out ones that are travel friendly which provide only the essentials, take up less space, are airline friendly (no scissors), and have attachment points.
Tip: Get one in a waterproof case to keep everything dry and usable.
Motion Sickness: Dramamine
I’m pretty sensitive to motion sickness and can’t go out on a boat without something or I’ll be spending the entire time over the side. In terms of effectiveness, ease of use, portability, and cost, my go to is Dramamine. I take it with me on every trip, whether being seaside or not. It’s also helpful with planes, trains, cars, vans, and any other type of transportation if I’m not driving and it’s a bumpy or windy ride. Some people swear by sea bands, but they don’t work for me on the water.
Tip: Go for less drowsy or take it when you’re going to be on a long bus or train ride, as I will often fall asleep if I’m not doing something active. I’ve taken before going diving with no issues being drowsy while in the water. For boats I take a whole table, for roads, I take a half.
There are also two other items worth noting. Transderm Scop (scopolamine) is a patch that lasts up to 3 days and is applied just behind the ear. It’s waterproof so you can go swimming or bathe with it on. It’s absolutely magical and was the only thing that allowed me to survive my trip to the Galapagos Islands when we were on the boat for a couple days. I still felt a bit queasy at times, but never threw up. It’s important to note that once I took it off and we were stationed on land, I was sick for about 24 hrs. I’m not sure if this applies to everyone, but it’s not uncommon, so I would suggest planning to possibly be out of commission the day you take it off. In my opinion, it was well worth 1 day of this versus 3 on the boat. I would STRONGLY encourage you to discuss with your doctor just in case there may be side effects with any medications or health conditions specific you. The other option that I recently ordered is the Reliefband which works like sea bands with an additional electric pulse that suppresses the need to vomit with the onset of motion sickness. I will be testing this out on an upcoming trip. They offer 3 versions, the newest sport model is waterproof.
Sunblock has recently come up on my radar, particularly for two reasons. The first is that as the climate and ozone layer changes, the sun’s rays become stronger and more harmful. Furthermore, if you’re at the equator or other places where the sun is strong in general, you should absolutely apply sunblock on exposed skin if you’re exposed for more than 30 minutes without shade. Second, many brands of sunblock are destroying ocean and river wildlife. In particular reefs are dying all over the ocean due to coral bleaching and this is a huge hit on wildlife, not to mention the beauty of the ocean. So I’ve been seeking reef friendly sunblock to use when engaging in watersports. I imagine they’re probably also better for you own body and skin anyway. Australia seems to be a leader in this category and offer many options, some of which are sold in the states and elsewhere. This is one brand I’m experimenting with, but there are many others on the market you can explore.
Toiletry Bag: Sea to Summit Toiletry Bag
I picked up the smaller size to save on some space, as it fits better in my various backpacks, but they also offer a larger size. It has many pockets for all the things listed here and then some. The main compartment fits nicely the above mentioned bar soaps and deodorant as well as travel size toothpaste. You can fit tons of small things for nail care, sewing items, and medical items.
Tip: I use this in conjunction with a transparent silicon quart size bag which is flexible and can hold my liquids that I can quickly pull out if I have any and supplements any extras or items that don’t fit in the main toiletry bag. I find this to be a more modular approach combining two smaller bags, making it easier to fit everything. Plus it rolls up to only what’s put into it.
Tip: I wouldn’t normally recommend this, but you could latch this to the outside of your pack when going through airport security or otherwise if not worried about it being smashed or ripped off if you need the space inside your pack for other things.